After being closed for over a year, Thirsty Monk recently celebrated the reopening of its flagship location downtown on the corner of Patton and Coxe avenues. CEO Barry Bialik says the downtime was well spent improving Monk’s award-winning Belgian-style beers, expanding its line of cocktail-inspired Holy Water Hard Seltzers, creating new craft cocktails and completing some sorely needed functional and aesthetic upgrades, including remodeling, repainting, reroofing and refinishing the century-old wood floors.
“We’ve been open there 13 years, and as our business model changed, our aesthetics didn’t keep up,” says Bialik. “It was past due, and we took advantage of the time we had.”
A three-floor boozy circus was staged July 21 — Belgian National Day — to welcome customers back. At Top of the Monk, patrons bellied up to the bar to tipple the craft cocktails curated by newly promoted General Manager Kala Brooks. At street level, Thirsty Monk’s taproom offered the full lineup of the brewery’s Belgian-rooted modern ales and Holy Water seltzers.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Bialik and crew christened the new Delirium Bar, featuring internationally iconic brews from Belgium’s Huyghe Brewery and Averbode Abbey, such as Delirium Nocturnum, La Guillotine and the top pull of the night, Delirium Tremens, a golden strong ale. Other rare Belgian brews will rotate through Delirium’s repertoire as available. Cocktails are served on all three floors of the business.
“Thirsty Monk was historically a destination, and then as downtown changed, it became one of those places people intent on having a beer in every brewery checked off their list,” says Bialik. “We want to go back to being a destination again.”
Thirsty Monk, 92 Patton Ave. avl.mx/a2x .
A.J. Gregson, chef and co-owner with Autumn Pittman of Black Bear BBQ, has a wall full of awards from various culinary competitions he has participated in over the years, including Asheville Wing War, the Epic Tempeh Reuben Challenge and Asheville Food Truck Showdown. But he is happy to participate in — and hopeful about bringing home another accolade from — the inaugural Out of the Box: Community Supported Agriculture Challenge.
The Iron Chef-redolent contest is one of 10 Chow Chow events scheduled for August, the penultimate month of the redesigned Asheville Culinary Festival that debuted in 2019 and was COVID-canceled in 2020.
Out of the Box will take place Thursday, Aug. 12, 5:30-8:30 p.m., under one of the covered open-air sheds at the WNC Farmers Market, 570 Brevard Road. Gregson, cooking with Matt Kovitch, will compete against chefs Jeremy Salig from No Evil Foods and Jay Medford of Storm Rhum Bar; Paul Cressend of Paulie Boy Enterprises with an assist from Don Palerno of DJ’s Pickles; Luis Martinez, most recently of El Gallo, with local food writer Mackensy Lunsford.
“I’m a big fan of Jay’s flavors so he’ll definitely keep me on my toes for this,” Gregson says.
Each team will receive two CSA boxes with ingredients to cook three items for tasting. Produce will be supplied by Mountain Food Products; Hickory Nut Gap Meats will provide the protein. Teams also have access to products from Spicewalla and Sunburst Trout.
Additionally, chefs are encouraged to forage products from vendors inside the WNC Farmers Market buildings. Students from A-B Tech’s culinary program will be on hand to assist each team. The winners will be determined by popular vote.
As another component of the event, Meghan Bosley of Mountain Food Products, Annie Louise Perkinson of Flying Cloud Farm, Ali Casparian of Bounty & Soul, Jenn White of Hickory Nut Gap Meats and April Jones of Pinehurst Farmers Market will lead a discussion about the CSA model.
Old Europe Pastries moved into its location at 13 Broadway on Friday, Aug. 13, 2010. No bad luck ensued. Now, 11 years later, classically European-trained pastry chef and founder Melinda Ventro, along with her son and business partner, Bence Ventro, have announced plans to move across the street to 18 Broadway.
“We were not able to get a long-term lease with our current landlord but really loved where we are downtown, so when the building across the street came up for sale, it was a stroke of luck,” says Bence. “We will more than double our square footage and build a real kitchen, and not the converted hallway we have now.”
Renovation is already underway at the new location. Bence says they hope to be open in the new space by spring 2022.
Old Europe Pastries, 13 Broadway, avl.mx/a2z.
In good taste
Taste of the South magazine recently named Well Seasoned Table, a Candler-based seasoning company, to its 2021 Taste 50 list.
“We were thrilled to be selected as one of the South’s most influential tastemakers,” says Sarah Wickers, the company’s CEO and founder. “Food plays such an important role in Southern culture that to be part of this list is such an incredible honor.”
In addition to its paw paw sugar, Taste of the South magazine commended Well Seasoned Table’s bloody mary seasoning and toasted okra sea salt.
The entire Taste 50 list is in the July/August issue of Taste of the South magazine. WST products can be found at avl.mx/a35.