Small bites: Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest returns with competitions, tastings and workshops

CHEESEHEAD: Sandie Rhodes poses at last year's Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest. On Sunday, April 23, the festival returns to celebrate cheeses of all kinds sourced from everything from cows and goats to sheep and even elk.
CHEESEHEAD: Sandie Rhodes poses at last year's Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest. On Sunday, April 23, the festival returns to celebrate cheeses of all kinds sourced from everything from cows and goats to sheep and even elk. Photo by Cindy Kunst

While the third annual Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest is still a ways down the road — the event, at Highland Brewing won’t take place until Sunday, April 23 — those interested in attending should consider buying tickets in advance. “It’s a very popular fest,” says Rachel Brown, the event’s marketing coordinator. She adds that day-of tickets are limited in number and higher in price.

As in years past, the festival will feature cheesemakers and producers, both locally based and from neighboring areas and states. “We try to promote Southern cheese,” says Brown, “specifically cheesemakers in the western part of the state. … Most people don’t realize that we have as many cheesemakers as we do.”

Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery, Cane Creek Creamery, English Farmstead Cheese, Looking Glass Creamery, Oakmoon Farm & Creamery, Round Mountain Creamery, Spinning Spider Creamery, Three Graces Dairy and Yellow Branch Farm & Pottery will be among the local participants at the festival.

Cheese samples will be offered throughout the day, and guests will also have the opportunity to try a variety of mustards, jams, jellies, breads and chocolates. “Anything you want on a cheese board or cheese plate you can find,” Brown says.

Competitions, pairings, workshops and demos will be offered as well. Highlights include the Cookin’ with Cheese 2017 competition, a cheese and cider pairing event with Nobel Cider, a class on Making Mozzarella at Home and Charcuterie 101 led by local expert Meredith Leigh. Melt Your Heart food truck will sell its signature grilled cheese sandwiches at the event.

In a change from previous years, guest judges will not determine the winners in the 2017 competitions — instead, the crowd will cast ballots. In order to participate, however, guests are required to purchase an extra $5 ticket. The additional fee will ensure that enough samples are made for all voters. In addition to crowning the victor of the Cookin’ with Cheese event, the audience will determine the winner for the Battle of the Boards 2017.

This year’s event also focuses on expanding its kid-friendly activities. “We’re really trying to make it where everyone of all ages has something to do at Cheese Fest,” Brown says. The kids tent will feature a number of games, including Mouse Trap, as well as cheese-themed word searches and puzzles. There will be a butter-making session, too.

New additions aside, the Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest remains an event aimed at celebrating the local cheese scene and connecting members of the community. “Pretty much all of our makers are in one place,” says Brown. “It’s really easy to walk around, find a new local cheese, talk to people, talk to makers and put a face to the cheese.”

The Carolina Mountain Cheese Fest runs noon-4 p.m. Sunday, April 23, at Highland Brewing Co., 12 Old Charlotte Highway. Tickets are available now. General administration is $14. Admission is free for children ages 12 and younger. Same-day tickets are limited and will cost $20. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the nonprofit WNC Cheese Trail. For details and to buy tickets, visit avl.mx/3j8.

Gan Shan Station hosts Izakaya Pop-Up

An izakaya is a type of Japanese bar that offers small plates and snacks. San Francisco chef Khan Kogure of Izakaya Renato will bring the format to Gan Shan Station in the six-course Izakaya Renato pop-up dinner on Sunday, April 9. Highlights from the menu include Kogure family kimchi with Napa cabbage, dried squid, salted shrimp, daikon, dried persimmon peel and Fuji apple; Tokyo turnips with mizuna, spring onion, sweet vinegar and mustardy miso; Japanese roasted green tea panna cotta with hojicha syrup and almond cookies. One glass of Bushido sake is included with the meal, while additional Japanese beer, craft cocktails and wine are available for purchase.

The Izakaya Pop-Up will offer seatings at 5 and 7 p.m. Sunday, April 9, at Gan Shan Station, 143 Charlotte St. Tickets are $60 per person, plus tax and gratuity. To make reservations, visit avl.mx/3j2.

Revelry: Downtown Food Truck Rally

The Grubbery Food Truck, Sunshine Sammies, the Purple People Feeder and Shakti Shiva are among local vendors participating at this year’s Revelry: Downtown Food Truck Rally. The all-day event takes place at the Asheville Masonic Temple on Saturday, April 8. Local beers from the Asheville Brewers Alliance will be for sale as will cocktails prepared and served by Sovereign Remedies’ bar staff. Entertainment will include live music and stand-up comedy, and there will be face painting and a bounce house for kids. Proceeds from the event will benefit local nonprofits Brother Wolf Animal Rescue and Our VOICE rape crisis service.

Revelry: Downtown Food Truck Rally runs 11:30 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Asheville Masonic Temple, 80 Broadway. Ticket options include $10 general admission or the $35 Movable Feast, which comes with samples from each truck plus dessert and a drink. Parking will be available at Hometrust Bank, Four Points by Sheraton and Renaissance Asheville Hotel. For details on handicapped parking, call 828-226-2810. For tickets and additional information, visit avl.mx/prtj.

Closings

Nectar at 853 Merrimon Ave. and Bandidos Latin Kitchen at 697 Haywood St. have both recently closed. On Wednesday, March 17, Nectar posted a farewell status on its Facebook page that read: “Hello Asheville, Nectar Cafe is officially closed. Thank You for all the support. … Cool things coming soon to 853 Merrimon Ave.” On Friday, March 15, Bandidos posted a brief farewell on its Facebook page as well that read, “Goodbye friends.” Neither business owner was available for comment.

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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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