Jen Gordon, manager of downtown’s recently opened Iron Hen Café, lists some of her favorite plates. For breakfast, she likes the cinnamon French toast with steel-cut oats. When it comes to lunch, she’s torn between the Holly Grove Farms goat cheese salad and the pimento cheese melt with bacon and tomato. For dinner, there’s the Cajun cream gravy and spicy country sausage, or maybe the shrimp and grits — another toss-up. And of course, there’s always the Hickory Nut Gap Farm burger.
Gordon notes that 85 to 90 percent of Iron Hen’s products are sourced in North Carolina. She adds that the Greensboro-based restaurant’s new local venue is “working toward getting closer to 80 percent sourced in Asheville.” Currently, its regional providers include Annie’s Bakery, Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Imladris Farm and PennyCup Coffee.
In 2008, Lee Comer opened the original Iron Hen in Greensboro with the motto “Fresh. Local. Good.” The Asheville restaurant, its second location, launched with a soft opening in mid-August and held its grand opening on Sept. 27. The Asheville menu currently borrows much from its flagship, but Gordon says she is in the midst of some changes, including a forthcoming brunch menu, that will make the offerings “more Ashevillecentric.”
The opportunity to expand the Iron Hen occurred when the new Hilton Garden Inn reached out to Comer with the goal of partnering with an independent restaurant. Gordon says the pairing is an ideal match in many ways, but there is one challenge — that Asheville residents may not realize it’s an independent café serving locally sourced products. “We’re definitely trying to break out of that stigma,” she says. “For locals, it’s a great, centrally located downtown spot, perfect for folks that work downtown.”
Iron Hen Café is inside the Hilton Garden Inn, 309 College St. Hours are 6 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. For details, visit ironhen.com.
The Vegan Experience at The Block off Biltmore
The Vegan Experience will celebrate its new location at The Block off Biltmore with a launch party on Friday, Sept. 30. Chef Velvet Jacobs says her childhood spent at her grandmother’s farm in Wilmington was her initiation into cooking. “My grandmother taught me that anyone who came to our table to eat became family, and I have carried that lesson with me throughout my career,” she says in a promotional pamphlet. Her menu will include items such as a tempeh BLT, hummus and vegetable sandwich, grilled chic’n sun-dried tomato penne, Velvet’s vegan nuggets and more. The restaurant’s opening celebration will include performances by recording artists Monifah and Ayanna Gregory.
The Vegan Experience is inside The Block off Biltmore at 39 S. Eagle St. Hours are 5-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday with brunch service 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Prices range from $5-$12. The ticketed debut party is at 10 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. VIP tickets cost $25 and include a meet-and-greet with Monifah and the chef as well as an autographed photo. For details, visit vsvegan.com. For tickets, visit veganexperience.ashevillepride.eventbrite.com.
Wine pairing dinner at Local Provisions
Virginie Rolland was born in Pomerol, France, and studied winemaking in Napa Valley and Argentina. She now operates Virginie Rolland Selections, a New York City-based French wine import company that will partner with Metro Wines for a pairing dinner on Thursday, Oct. 6, at Local Provisions. The event will pair four French wines with farm-to-table food courses from Local Provisions chef Justin Burdett. In a press release, Rolland says, “I do all the selection myself in order to offer my customers great wines balancing fine quality with respect of the environment and good value.”
The dinner begins at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6, at Local Provisions, 77 Biltmore Ave. Tickets are $75 plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 424-7815 or visit localprovisionsasheville.com or opentable.com.
Middle Eastern Friendship Dinner at Folkmoot
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya and Iraq will all be represented at Folkmoot’s Middle Eastern Friendship Dinner on Friday, Sept. 30. The event, hosted by Folkmoot and Western Carolina University’s Office of International Programs and Services, will include a traditional meal of lamb, chicken, rice, vegetables and hummus. All components of the meal will be prepared by Middle Eastern students from the university’s International Program. In addition to the dinner, the event will offer attendees a chance to learn Middle Eastern dances, Arabic writing and how to eat with one hand.
The Middle Eastern Friendship Dinner runs 6-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, at Folkmoot USA, 112 Virginia Ave., Waynesville. Tickets in advance are $15 for adults, $10 for kids; tickets at the door are $18 for adults, $10 for kids. To buy tickets, visit Folkmoot.org or call 452-2997.