What’s new in food: A chocolate collaboration celebrates ‘momtrepreneurs’

MOUNTAIN MAMAS: French Broad Chocolates co-owner Jael Skeffington, center, invited other mothers who run local businesses to collaborate on a chocolate collection. Photo by Jill Schwarzkopf

French Broad Chocolates co-owner Jael Skeffington says she loves a “good airplane brainstorm.”

On a recent flight to Washington, D.C., Skeffington says she was reflecting on all the talent within the Asheville community, when she brainstormed the idea of a collection of bonbons celebrating mothers who’d also founded local businesses. She knew she had to work quickly if she wanted the product out in time for Mother’s Day, so she reached out to six women with whom she had partnered before. Each one got on board immediately, and the Mountain Mamas Collection was born.

The chocolates feature flavors inspired by Katie Button, CEO and co-founder of Cúrate; Ginger Frank, founder and co-CEO of Poppy Hand-Crafted Popcorn; Jess Reiser, CEO and co-founder of Burial Beer Co.; Cristina Hall Ackley, co-founder and president of Ginger’s Revenge; Chemist Spirits’ mother-daughter team of Debbie Word, founder, CEO and co-owner, and Danielle Donaldson, co-owner; and Skeffington herself.

“I admire each of [these women] for their courage, kindness, passion and dedication to growing both as humans and as leaders,” says Skeffington. “It was magic. The fact that we each had the same window of availability in such a short time frame was a small miracle. We had a lot of fun.”

Skeffington says she designed each flavor as an homage to the women and their businesses. “For example, Katie Button’s bonbon is Rosemary Honey Caramel, inspired by Cúrate’s berenjenas con miel, which is a delicate, fried eggplant drizzled with honey and rosemary. Mine is probably the most random,” she laughs. “It’s simply two of my favorite flavor obsessions, coffee and cardamom, in dark chocolate.”

Other chocolates in the collection include Salted Caramel Popcorn, Red Wine & Chocolate, Ginger & Orange Peel and Negroni Caramel.

Skeffington says although running a business while raising kids presents challenges, it can be done with support and encouragement. “Ask for help! Lose the guilt!” she advises. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you’re never giving enough — to your family, or to your business and team. But you are modeling to your kiddos all that is possible — if you give your heart and your creative energy to something you believe in.”

French Broad Chocolates has locations at 10 S. Pack Square and 821 Riverside Drive. For more information, visit avl.mx/cni.

A new menu for M.O.M.

In 2019, Sam Kosik, owner of Mother Ocean Seafood Market, was selling fresh seafood in the parking lot of Vinnie’s Neighborhood Italian restaurant on Merrimon Avenue when he received the bad news. His business loan for a permanent location across the street had been declined.

“That four-lane road I’m looking across just became 16 lanes,” Kosik told a customer at the time. To Kosik’s surprise, the customer, whom Kosik wishes to remain anonymous, offered to loan him the money he needed to build the business.

In March, the market celebrated its three-year anniversary as a brick-and-mortar. And on May 2, the menu, which features daily specials, added some new items.

Chef Christopher Cox, whom Kosik met while Cox owned and operated the Montford Pull Up, creates dishes that use the market’s seafood, which is delivered daily, as well as local ingredients such as vegetables from tailgate markets and locally made products like DJ’s Pickles, Lusty Monk Mustard and Sunburst Trout Farms trout. Menu items include a Caesar salad with smoked trout and goldfish crackers, a Cuban sandwich made with alligator sausage served on bread from Geraldine’s Bakery, and ahi tuna poke with quick-pickled veggies and Cox’s signature General Tso’s sauce.

Mother Ocean still sells seafood at several tailgate markets such as the West Asheville Tailgate Market on Tuesdays from 3:30-6:30 p.m., April through November. The Merrimon Square storefront, which offers lunch daily, is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Mother Ocean Seafood Market is at 640 Merrimon Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/ba9.

Baking for Ukraine

On Saturday, May 13, a bake sale will be held at Pink Dog Creative from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. to benefit Ukrainian National Women’s League of America. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go toward the nonprofit’s Humanitarian Aid Fund for Ukraine, devoted to helping women who have lost their husbands in war, assisting elderly women without families and finding and returning kidnapped Ukrainian children to their families. The sale, organized by Asheville artist Andrea Kulish with community organization AVL4Ukraine, will feature baked goods made by members of the local Ukrainian American community, as well as other supporters in the River Arts District.

Items for sale include Ukrainian specialties such as classic Kiev cake, which consists of layers of hazelnut meringue and rum-infused buttercream, topped with a chocolate icing. There will also be oreshki, which are traditional shortbread cookies filled with dulce de leche and hazelnuts, as well as a variety of other treats, both Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian.

Although Kulish has organized several fundraisers for Ukrainian organizations in the past year, this will be her first bake sale. She said she was inspired after reading about other successful bake sales organized by UNWLA branches around the United States. “This is a delicious and fun way to share Ukrainian culture,” she says. “Plus, everyone loves cake and cookies, right?”

Kulish is a member of UNWLA and hopes to start an Asheville branch of the organization. She invites those interested to reach out to her or visit the bake sale.

Pink Dog Creative is at 344 Depot St. For more information, visit avl.mx/xmasjbo.

California wine dinner

Asheville’s Metro Wines will host a dinner with California’s Ancient Peaks Winery owner Karl Wittstrom on Wednesday, May 17, at 6 p.m. Local chef Sam Etheridge will prepare dishes to pair with the wine and evoke “summertime vibes,” says Metro Wines co-owner Gina Trippi.

Guests will be greeted with an amuse-bouche and a glass of Ancient Peaks sauvignon blanc, followed by a four-course dinner with wine, served family-style. Menu items include Sunburst Trout Farms rangoons with fermented mango; a tomato and watermelon gazpacho with fresh buffalo milk mozzarella and ramp pesto; Heritage Farms Cheshire Pork ribs with charred corn and shrimp potato salad, pork belly hush puppies and black garlic barbecue sauce; and a grilled beef tri-tip, wild mushroom and scallion “short stack” with sundried tomato butter, pomegranate syrup and ramp chimichurri.

“Ancient Peaks has an event in Knoxville the night before and thought why not add on a trip to Asheville,” says Chris Curtis, who works with distributor Winebow Imports. “What with the Asheville food and wine scene being nationally recognized and Metro gaining a reputation beyond the city limits as well, Metro was the obvious choice for a partnership.”

The dinner, which is $89 plus tax, will be held at 41 N. Merrimon Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/cnj

Breakfast in Burnsville

Burnsville has a new option for breakfast: Hot Mess Food Truck. Opened on March 13, the truck serves breakfast using meat from Burnsville’s Double J’s Meat Processing, eggs from a local farm and coffee from Dynamite Roasting Co. in Black Mountain.

The name was inspired by the co-owners’ outlook on life. “Our lives are anything but normal, and we wanted a name that was fun, wasn’t traditional and didn’t tie us to a particular food,” says co-owner Jessica Marks. “Hot Mess was thrown out, and we all instantly knew it was the right name for us.”

Marks and her partner started a breakfast truck because mornings were the only time they had available, as other jobs occupied the rest of their days.

“We are just a couple families coming together to take a dream to reality,” says Marks.

The truck currently has a spot in front of Appalachian Handicraft. The team is also available for catering and special events.

Hot Mess Food Truck is open Monday through Friday from 5:30-10:30 a.m. at 1724 West U.S. Highway 19E, Burnsville. For more information, visit avl.mx/cnk.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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