What’s new in food: Diwali lights up Asheville

BRIGHT LIGHTS: Mehfil, Dilbar and Chai Pani are among the local Indian restaurants with plans to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. Photo from iStock

Diwali, a festival of lights, is among India’s largest holidays, celebrated by Hindus, Jains and Sikhs. But as local Indian chefs and restaurant owners will tell you, the gathering transcends religious lines and is recognized by people of all faiths around the world.

On Monday, Oct. 24, a number of Asheville’s most prominent Indian restaurants will honor the holiday with authentic Indian cuisine, themed drink specials and fun festivities.

Chai Pani will deck out its restaurant with decorative lights, lamps and flowers, as well as bring back a number of old favorites that aren’t always on the menu. Guests will also receive gift bags filled with homemade sweet treats at the end of each meal.

“Diwali is like combining Christmas, New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July all in one,” says Molly Irani, co-founder and hospitality director of the Chai Pani Restaurant Group. “It’s one of the holidays that unites many religions in India, so regardless of one’s culture or background, Diwali is a time to celebrate, share and to love.”

Al Singh, owner of both Mehfil and Dilbar, is planning “something special” at both restaurants for all to enjoy, regardless of background or religious affiliation. Each guest will be given a complimentary welcome drink upon arrival. Next, diners will be able to select from a list of buy-one-get-one appetizers. A free dessert will also be offered at the end of each meal.

“This is a day when all communities come together and celebrate as one,” says Singh. “We want to celebrate this event with our fellow residents, customers and visitors in our beloved town of Asheville.”

Visit your favorite local Indian restaurant’s websites and social media feeds for additional information on this year’s Diwali celebrations.

BBQ & Barn Dancing

Music, dance and food collide at Hickory Nut Gap’s latest Barn Dance on Saturday, Oct. 22, 6-9 p.m. Greenville’s West End String Band scores the evening with a varied selection of bluegrass, Americana and honky-tonk-inspired tunes.

Buxton Hall BBQ will be serving Brunswick stew, pulled pork sandwiches and a variety of sides for the evening’s groovers and shakers.

“The thing about the barn dance that connects with Buxton the most is that this is a community-focused event with a well-respected farm,” says the restaurant’s general manager, Brandon Grogan. “I bet if you asked most people what kind of food would be served at an event like this, they’d probably say barbecue — so it just makes sense.”

 Hickory Nut Gap Farm is at 57 Sugar Hollow Road, Fairview. Kids 4 years old and younger get in free; admission for those 5 years and older costs $8 each. A family pack of four tickets is available for $28. Visit avl.mx/c29 for additional information.

Chili dog chow down

What lengths are you willing to go to in order to prove your fandom for the almighty frankfurter? If you’re feeling lucky, you can prove just how coney crazy you are by competing in Dalton Distillery’s chili hot dog eating contest on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 1 p.m.

The name of the game is to eat as many chili dogs and their buns (with water as your only beverage) within three minutes. The winner will be based solely on the number of dogs chowed down within the allotted time. A $200 prize is up for grabs to the first-place winner, and second place will receive a Dalton’s Distillery mug as well as two tour and tasting vouchers.

Owner Adam Dalton will supply the dogs as well as a variety of drink specials, such as $8 hot buttered rum, $7 bloody marys and two for $5 chocolate coffee rum pudding shots available throughout the event. Franny’s Farmacy, the distillery’s next-door neighbor, will be passing out free samples of its hemp products and coupons.

“Adam Dalton’s wife, Katherine, makes a delicious chili that we want to share with the community,” says distillery manager Emily Spear. “We wanted to do something a bit different and add chili to the hot dog competition. Much like our spirits, we like to take something traditional and put our own twist on it.”

Dalton Distillery is at 251 Biltmore Ave. There is a $10 entry fee to compete. Contact daltondistillery@gmail.com to register for the competition. 


The cheese stylists of Asheville Charcuterie Co. and the craft beer connoisseurs of Catawba Brewing Co. on South Slope join forces on Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 6:30 p.m. for a special Halloween-themed charcuterie-making workshop.

Participants will be guided on how to cut artisan cheeses into spooky shapes and learn how to perfectly fold salami to create a salami rose. Participants can also customize their boards with a number of Halloween-themed add-ons. The boards will be created to pair with the Catawba’s new King Don’s Pumpkin Ale.

“At our Spooky Halloween Workshop, guests are encouraged to dress in their favorite costumes and come out for some cheesy fun,” says Asheville Charcuterie Co. owner Lindsey DiMartino. “We plan on everyone leaving with a little more knowledge and a little more happiness than they came with.”

Catawba Brewing Co. is at 32 Banks Ave. The event is $85 per person. Visit avl.mx/c28 for tickets and additional information.

Foods and tunes

Southern chef and Asheville native Annie Pettry, in collaboration with Citizen Vinyl and DJ Isaac G, hosts her variation on the recurring Turntable Supper series on Monday, Oct. 24, 5:30-8 p.m.

Pettry is a 2020 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast, a two-time Food & Wine People’s Best New Chef nominee and a previous contestant on “Top Chef,” seasons 14 and 16.

The evening’s four dishes, notes Pettry, “will showcase the versatility of different ingredients by using all parts to capture the full essence of flavor. Similarly, the musical [hip-hop] pairing will explore this concept with the versatility of sound, by showing how the sounds or the ingredients of a song have been sampled and used to create new songs.”

A portion of the Turntable Supper’s proceeds will benefit the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

Citizen Vinyl is at 14 O. Henry Ave. Tickets cost $120 per person with an optional $20 wine pairing add-on. Visit avl.mx/c2a for tickets and information.

Burmese Bites & Bonfire

Chef Yunanda Wilson’s roaming Burmese pop-up series, aThoke Lay, makes its next stop at Smoky Park Supper Club on Friday, Oct. 21, 4:30-7:30 p.m., for Burmese Bites & Bonfire.

The aThoke Lay concept, translating to “little salad,” allows Wilson to keep things fresh and varied with a rotating menu offering playful twists on traditional Burmese flavors. The latest menu, which is completely gluten- and soy-free, will feature aloo kyaw (herb potato chips topped with red chilies and roasted peanuts), mohinga (catfish soup with lemongrass, rice noodles, egg and split pea crackers) and mont lone yay baw (boiled rice balls accompanies by candied pistachio nuts and coconut flakes).

Spirits and other beverages will also be available for purchase. A cup of complimentary Burmese hot milk tea will be awarded to the guest who brings the funniest or most unique mug to the event.

Smoky Park Supper Club is at 350 Riverside Drive #3141. Tickets are $60. Visit avl.mx/c2b for tickets and information.

Festive fall cheeses

Looking to add a little fall flavor to your next cheese board or picnic on the parkway? Darë Vegan Cheese recently rolled out a trio of new seasonal products to help you do just that by weaving in the tastes of autumn through collaboration with fellow local businesses.

Available as a cheese wedge, the new Asheville Chedda’ flavor is concocted from a base of cashews, coconut milk and handmade chickpea miso before receiving a generous dose of Green Man Brewery’s flagship ESB special amber ale. Veggie cream cheese starts from the same base that is mixed with red and green bell peppers, carrots, onion and celery then combined with “magic garlic dust” from Well Seasoned Table.

Have a sweet tooth too? The new Mocha Cookie Crunch plant-based cheesecake is infused with espresso beans from Dynamite Roasting Co. to provide a rich, yet balanced dessert spread with a minimal caffeine kick.

Darë Vegan Cheese is at 12 Locust Cove Road, Weaverville. Visit avl.mx/c27 for additional information.

Mayfel’s under new management

Mayfel’s, the downtown restaurant serving Louisiana-inspired Southern cuisine since 2003, is now operating under new ownership for the first time since its founding.

Sherrye and Anthony Coggiola, who also own The Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village, purchased the restaurant from original owner Loretta Woolley in early October. Despite the changing of hands, the new Mayfel’s regime promises to keep things more or less the same.

“This place has some great history, so we’re not trying to change much,” says General Manager Scott Kitchen. “We’ll be keeping most of the same menu with a couple of tweaks here and there.”

Mayfel’s is at 22 College St. Visit avl.mx/c2d for hours of operation and menu options.


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