Small bites: Cajun Cookoff returns for 10th year

ROYAL TREATMENT: Former Asheville Mardi Gras king and queen Robert Bone and Sara Widenhouse get the royal treatment at last year's Cajun Cookoff. This year's event takes place Sunday, Jan. 21, at the Salvage Station. Photo courtesy of Asheville Mardi Gras

Garlic, paprika, parsley and cayenne pepper will be among the ingredients in the mix at the 2018 Cajun Cookoff. Entering its 10th year, the fundraiser benefits Asheville Mardi Gras, an all-volunteer, community-based arts and culture organization. Event communications director Michael Franco says the cook-off is the group’s “most important fundraiser of the year,” supporting the annual Asheville Mardi Gras parade, which takes place Sunday, Feb. 11.

As in years past, the 2018 cook-off will feature around a dozen professional and amateur chefs. The crowd will select winners for best overall, best vegetarian, best dessert and best amateur. At press time the list of participating venues included HomeGrown, Oyster House Brewing Co., Sweet Monkey Café, Luscious Liquid Ice Cream, Bebettes Beignets & Coffee and Biscuit Head.

Biscuit Head co-founder Jason Roy notes that the 2018 event will mark the restaurant’s fourth year participating in the Cajun Cookoff. “We love being part of the fun, and we are excited about all the wonderful people and costumes,” he says. “But most of all, we are excited to try everybody’s amazing food — from boudin to jambalaya, smoked frog leg gumbo to praline.”

Along with Cajun plates, there will be live music from Zydeco Ya Ya, prize giveaways and a canned food drive for MANNA FoodBank. “It’s a wonderful community event that helps support the Mardi Gras parade and showcases some of what is best about living in Asheville — food, fun and friends,” says Roy.

The Cajun Cookoff runs 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21, at the Salvage Station, 468 Riverside Drive. The tasting portion of the event runs 1-3 p.m. Tickets are $5 for Asheville Mardi Gras members; $15 for nonmembers. For more information and tickets, visit

Vegetarian potluck at Firestorm Books & Coffee

Firestorm Books & Coffee will host a community vegetarian potluck Saturday, Jan. 20, as part of a weeklong block party. Participants are asked to bring a vegetarian dish that can be easily shared; gluten-free is a plus. According to the event’s Facebook page, the party is a chance for the community to come together a year after President Donald Trump’s inauguration “to reconnect to the roots from which their movements draw strength, discuss the path ahead and gather resources for prisoners, relief efforts and ongoing struggles.”

“Potlucks are a familiar and practical demonstration of our politics as anarchists being grounded in voluntary participation, direct action and cooperation — there’s no need for central authority, everyone’s needs get met organically, and it all happened without violence or policing,” says Firestorm’s Libertie Valance. “We hope that participants in this month’s block party leave with a renewed sense of possibility, strengthened community connections and a resolve to seize the initiative in the struggle against capitalism and the state. Also, a new recipe. I hope that everyone takes home a killer new recipe.”

The community vegetarian potluck runs 6-7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 20, at Firestorm Books & Coffee, 610 Haywood Road. For details and a schedule of block party events, visit

Our Global Table

Chai Pani, Cúrate, Little Bee Thai, Out of the Blue Peruvian Fusion and Sri Cred Food Truck are among the 19 local restaurants and chefs offering internationally themed small plates at the Our Global Table fundraiser Saturday, Jan. 20, at Habitat Tavern and Commons. All proceeds benefit Pisgah Legal Service’s Justice For All Project, which provides legal assistance to low-income immigrants and refugees in Western North Carolina.

Our Global Table runs 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, at Habitat Tavern and Commons, 174 Broadway. Passport tickets that include small-plate tastings are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. For details and tickets, visit

Winter Beer Dinner Series, Part 1: Cuban Comfort Food

Over the next three months, Smash Events Inc. and Twin Leaf Brewery will team up for a series of winter beer dinners. The first gathering will feature Cuban cuisine with a choice of three or five courses of offerings including a deconstructed Cuban sandwich charcuterie board, a mini-arroz con pollo pot pie and arroz con leche. “The thing that makes this event really fun for us is the fact that our chef, Nestor Teran, is able to … share his take on some of the food that he grew up eating in Miami,” says Ashley Teran, owner of Smash Events Inc. A Valentine’s Day-inspired dinner will be scheduled in February, and an Irish-inspired menu is being planned for March.

Winter Beer Dinner Series, Part 1: Cuban Comfort Food begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, at Twin Leaf Brewery, 144 Coxe Ave. Tickets are $55 for a five-course meal or $35 for a three-course meal. For tickets, contact Ashley Teran at or Twin Leaf Brewery at

Purification cooking class

Epione Clinic for Integrated Healing will hold a purification cooking class Tuesday, Jan. 23, led by nutrition health coaches Susan Kranz and Marcia Moon. The event will focus on clean-eating strategies and will include cooking demonstrations and samples.

The purification cooking class runs 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 23, at Epione Clinic for Integrated Healing, 19 Zillicoa St. Unit 3. Tickets are $20 per person. To register, visit

Dine Out for ArtSpace at Mamacitas

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, Mamacitas will donate 20 percent of its daily sales to ArtSpace Charter School. According to Robin Allred, the school’s community partnership chairperson, dine-out events are an important component of the school’s fundraising strategy. ArtSpace is planning future dine-outs at Bonfire Barbecue and Gypsy Queen Cuisine.

Dine Out for ArtSpace will run 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, at Mamacitas, 77 Biltmore Ave. For details, visit

Winter Pop-Up series at Knife & Fork

Knife & Fork in Spruce Pine will host its annual winter pop-up series throughout January and February. Themes for upcoming dinners include Thailand — The Land of Smiles, 5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Jan. 24-27; The Yucatan Peninsula, 5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 2-7; A Feast of Love, 5-9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14; and The Streets of India, 5-9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, Feb. 21-24. Brunch will also be served 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays Jan. 28-Feb. 25.

Knife & Fork is at 61 Locust St., Spruce Pine. For more information, visit


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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