Small bites: Asheville Bread Festival celebrates rye

BREAKING BREAD: The theme for this year's Asheville Bread Festival is "A Celebration of Rye." But plenty of other types of loaves will be available at the gathering's Bread Fair at New Belgium Brewing Co. Photo courtesy of Asheville Bread Festival

Cathy Cleary is no stranger to the Asheville Bread Festival. The local writer, cookbook author and former West End Bakery owner has participated in all 13 of its previous gatherings. But this year’s event — which run Saturday-Sunday, May 5-6 — marks a shift for Cleary. For the first time, she and Carolina Ground’s manager Jennifer Lapidus have joined forces to co-organize the 14th annual festival, taking over the duties previously held by co-founders Steve Bardwell and Gail Lunsford.

As in years past, the Asheville Bread Festival will feature workshops with local, regional and national bakers, cookbook authors and flour mill operators. A majority of the sessions, which will be held at locations in and around Asheville, correspond with the festival’s theme: A Celebration of Rye. Topics range from rye pie dough to German rye bread, from Scandinavian rye to naturally-leavened rye bagels. Tickets are required for all classes.

While rye may be the focus for many of the workshops, all varieties of loaves and pastries will be available to sample and purchase at the gathering’s Bread Fair, which runs 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, May 5. Free and open to the public, this year’s event takes place at New Belgium Brewing Co. The venue is a first for the festival, which previously operated out of A-B Tech.

Along with offering a change of scenery, Cleary says New Belgium provides a chance to further educate people about the similarities between two seemingly different industries. “The historical connection between beer and bread is huge,” she says. “Beer producers and bread bakers use a lot of the same products. It’s grain, yeast and fermentation.”

The Bread Fair will conclude with a panel discussion and tasting with Stanley Ginsberg, author of The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America, followed by a ticketed dinner featuring three mobile wood-fire pizza ovens with three teams of bakers rolling out signature pies.

Festivities will wrap up on Sunday with a six-hour Master Class on Rye, led by Harry Peemoeller and Lionel Vaitnet with Ginsberg. Professional bakers can inquire about tickets by emailing carolinaground@gmail.com.

In addition to the workshops, fair and dinner, Cleary says one of the major missions of this year’s festival is to help create greater awareness and support for sustainable local grain production. Through a partnership with Slow Food Asheville, the Asheville Bread Festival will donate a portion of this year’s proceeds to help Western North Carolina farmers buy seed grain to grow for flour.

But ultimately, Cleary says, the weekend event is about coming together in celebration of bread. “I’m very excited about gathering together all of the knowledge from the professionals that are coming from around the country,” she says. “And the spirit of collaboration that ensues when you get groups of people with knowledge on a particular subject together in the same place. “

The 14th annual Asheville Bread Festival runs Saturday-Sunday, May 5-6. For tickets and details on workshops, times and locations, as well as pre-festival events, visit ashevillebreadfestival.com.

A Field Guide to Mushrooms of the Carolinas

On Thursday, May 3, writer Michael Hopping, co-author of A Field Guide to Mushrooms of the Carolinas, will discuss his new book at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, 55 Haywood St. The collection offers user-friendly identification tools for those interested in the 650 mushrooms found in the Carolinas, with information on mushroom edibility and toxicity. On Saturday, May 12, at 3 p.m., Hopping will lead an additional talk at Firestorm Cafe & Books, 610 Haywood Road.

Michael Hopping will present his latest book at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 3. For more information, visit avl.mx/4wa. For additional information about his talk at Firestorm Cafe & Books, visit avl.mx/4wb.

The James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour dinner

Posana Restaurant will host the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour dinner series Thursday, May 3. The six-course meal will feature plates prepared by Posana chef and owner Peter Pollay along with Katie Button of Cúrate and Nightbell, John Fleer of Rhubarb, Atlanta-based chefs Ford Fry of Ford Fry Restaurants and Craig Richards of St. Cecilia and chef Digby Stridiron of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Stridiron Group.

The James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at Posana, 1 Biltmore Ave. Tickets are $120-$180. For more, visit avl.mx/prtr

Why We Cook

Table restaurant will host its second Women’s Dinner: Why We Cook event celebrating women in the service industry. The evening will feature plates prepared by Table’s Laura Kregnel along with Charleston chefs Elizabeth Schultenover of Felix and Emily Hahn of The Getaway, Olive Boys of The Rooted Juicery + Kitchen of Cincinnati, Ohio, and Chelsi Hogue of Greenville, S.C.’s The Anchorage. Drinks will be prepared by bartenders Andrea Seng of The Waterbird, Jen Splain of The Imperial Life and Lexi Rae of MG Road. The evening will conclude with music from DJ Lil Meow Meow at The Imperial Life Cocktail Lounge, located above Table.

Women’s Dinner: Why We Cook runs 6-9 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Table, 48 College St. Tickets are $75 per person. Price does not include drinks and gratuity. To RSVP, email info@tableasheville.com or call 828-254-8980. Additional events will takes place at The Imperial Life, 4:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. For more information, visit avl.mx/4wc

FED Talks: The Magic of Fermentation

Meg Chamberlain of Fermenti Foods and Sarah Archer of Serontonin Ferments will lead the latest FED Talks series, hosted by Rhubarb and Edible Asheville. The event features a demonstration on how to make ginger and turmeric pink sauerkraut, and guests will be able to sample an array of fermented foods and small plates from Rhubarb. The workshop is suitable for those new to fermentation as well as experienced cooks seeking fresh inspiration and ideas.

The Magic of Fermentation runs 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Rhubarb, 7 S. Pack Square. Tickets are $28 per person. To learn more, visit avl.mx/3a2.

WakuWaku Eatery grand opening

WakuWaku Eatery will host its grand opening Monday, May 7. The Japanese homestyle restaurant, owned by Naomi Mikami, is at 674 Merrimon Ave. It occupies the former site of a Jersey Mike’s sandwich shop. (For more, see “New in the Neighborhood: Growing North Asheville Restaurant Scene Targets Locals,” Xpress, March 21.) For updates, visit waku2eatery.com.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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