Small bites: Pretzel Fest at Whistle Hop Brewing Co.

THE PRETZEL MAN CAN: Steve Michael works around the clock, tackling a full-time job during the day and making pretzels late into the night at his pretzel factory in Black Mountain.
THE PRETZEL MAN CAN: Steve Michael works around the clock, tackling a full-time job during the day and making pretzels late into the night at his pretzel factory in Black Mountain. Photo by Kat Lyons

When Steve Michael first arrived to Asheville in 2015, the Pennsylvania native noticed something missing at nearly every bar and brewery he visited: pretzels. “In western Pennsylvania, you can’t get away from them,” he says. “Down here it seemed odd that we had all these breweries and nobody making hard pretzels.”

By January 2016, Michael, who was working as a mechanic at the time, had launched Asheville Pretzel Co. with business partner Bert LeRiche. “My brainchild was to put the seasoning inside the dough,” he says. “That way you didn’t have to get it on your fingers. But I found out later that yeast doesn’t like anything in there with it.” Eventually, Michael discovered the right balance that allowed the two to coexist.

On Saturday, May 13, the Asheville Pretzel Co. will hold its second Pretzel Fest. This year’s event will take place at the Whistle Hop Brewing Co., which opened its caboose taproom in Fairview in December. All three pretzel flavors — the original, which uses malt for a sweeter taste; a garlic, onion and chive blend; and a sriracha-based recipe — will be available for guests to sample.

In addition to its pretzels, the company will offer guests its latest creation, which Michael describes as a mashed potato chip. “It’s unlike any potato chip you’ve ever had,” he says. “The flavors [onion, salt and pepper] are inside [the chip], just like with our pretzels. And we bake them in our oven, so they’re not fried.”

Along with the free samples, the Asheville Pretzel Bandits will perform. The bluegrass band is made up of part-time Asheville Pretzel Co. employees Shawn Hagan, Mitch McConnell and John Fullam. Beer will also be for sale.

Michael says the festival is a chance for people to celebrate the pairing of pretzels and beer. He also considers it an excuse to take a day off. While the Asheville Pretzel Co. has its products in over 30 Ingles grocery stores in the region, as well as a number of local breweries, shops and movie houses throughout Western North Carolina and the Greenville, S.C., area, Michael still works a full-time job on top of his evenings and weekends spent making pretzels.

His dream is to eventually turn Asheville Pretzel Co. into his primary gig, but he compares that process to a freight train. “It takes so much to get it moving, but once you get it rolling, you can’t stop it,” he says. “I think we’ve pulled away from the station, and we’re pushing down the hill.”

Pretzel Fest runs 2-6 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at Whistle Hop Brewing Co., 1288 Charlotte Highway, Fairview. The event is free and family-friendly. For details, visit avl.mx/3oq

Posana supports ASAP’s Growing Minds program

On Thursday, May 18, Posana will hold its ninth annual benefit dinner in support of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. The restaurant will donate all proceeds from its special one-night-only a la carte menu to the nonprofit’s Growing Minds program, which provides funding to area schools and preschools for school gardens, tastes tests, visits to farms and classroom cooking. Featured dishes will include ingredients from area farms and purveyors, including beets, eggs, local cheeses and greens. “Hosting a benefit for ASAP’s Growing Minds program was one of the very first things that the Pollays [Posana’s owners] did when they opened their restaurant nine years ago,” says Emily Jackson, program director at ASAP. “That speaks volumes about them and their desire to build a healthy community.”

The dinner takes place Thursday, May 18, at Posana, 1 Biltmore Ave. For reservations, call 828-505-3969 or visit posanarestaurant.com.

Postero dinner benefits St. Gerard House

Hendersonville’s Postero will host a five-course dinner to support St. Gerard House, a nonprofit based in Hendersonville that serves individuals with autism spectrum disorder. The dinner will feature seared pierogi with goat’s milk ricotta and leeks, Sunburst trout, pan-roasted corvina and she-crab bisque, Border Springs Farm lamb and crispy berry meringue. “My mother, Lani, was a special needs teacher,” says Jason Reasoner, Postero’s owner and chef. “We also have a member of our Postero family that has an autistic child, so the St. Gerard House and its mission are special to us.”

The dinner runs 5:30-9 p.m. Thursday, May 18, at Postero, 401 N. Main St. Reservations are required. The dinner is $85 per person with 30 percent of the evening’s sales going to the nonprofit. For more details, visit avl.mx/3on.

James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour at The Market Place

Award-winning chef William Dissen will host the James Beard Foundation’s Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner at his Wall Street restaurant, The Market Place. Along with Dissen, the evening will feature a menu crafted by acclaimed chefs Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar Restaurant (Oxford, Miss.), David Bancroft of Acre Restaurant (Auburn, Ala.), Nina Compton of Compere Lapin Restaurant (New Orleans) and Eric Gabrynowicz of Asheville’s Tupelo Honey. According to a press release, the six-course dinner will offer guests “the rare opportunity to interact with the participating chefs throughout the evening and savor specially designed tasting menus complete with wine and beverage pairings.”

The dinner begins at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, at The Market Place Restaurant & Lounge, 20 Wall St. Tickets are $175 and include tax and gratuity. Visit avl.mx/3or for tickets, or call The Market Place at 828-252-4162.

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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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