What’s new in food: Faux Lox Foods launches in Asheville

LOXA LOVE: Brendan and Seva Kotlus tested multiple recipes and methods before launching Faux Lox Foods, a plant-based vegan alternative to conventional lox. Photo courtesy Brendan Kotlus

Peanut butter and jelly, shrimp and grits, beans and greens — everyone has a favorite food pairing. For New Hampshire native Brendan Kotlus, it was bagels and lox. “Growing up in the Northeast, I probably ate bagels and lox weekly,” he says.

But when he turned 17, Kotlus decided to pursue a vegan lifestyle. “Lox is one of the few things I’ve really missed,” he says of the now 13-year-old decision.  “It was very hard to give that up.”

Over the last year, however, Kotlus and his wife, Seva, have worked to satisfy that long-held craving — developing a carrot-based lox recipe that they first began tinkering with in their home, before renting a space in the Blue Ridge Food Ventures commercial kitchen. In December, Brendan delivered the first round of 8-ounce packages of Faux Lox to the West Village Market, where it joins fellow Asheville-made Darë Vegan Cheese and Roots Hummus.

Since that time, Faux Lox Foods has expanded its local reach, finding cooler space in French Broad Food Co-Op, Hendersonville Community Co-Op, Brookside Health Foods and Food Matters Market in Brevard.

Meanwhile, all three Green Sage Café locations will also begin carrying the product this month. “I think the Faux Lox made with carrots is one of the coolest new plant-based foods to hit the market,” says Randy Talley, owner of Green Sage. “It’s great to have a fishy-flavored plant-based lox that looks, tastes and eats great!”

The three cafes intend to offer a vegan version of its avocado lox breakfast sandwich, as well as pho lox tacos with honey lime slaw, avocado, sriracha sauce and chimichurri mayonnaise.

In addition to landing in more retail stores, Faux Lox’s business plan for 2022 is to continue developing new products. “I have ideas for a couple of other things that don’t exist in vegan sections of markets that I think will do well,” says Brendan. “We are having fun working on recipes.”

To learn more about Faux Lox Foods, visit avl.mx/b1n.

Love story

Media personality Samantha Brown has a life to envy — traveling to locations all over the world to visit local attractions and sample regional cuisine, all while getting paid to do it. The fifth season of the two-time Emmy Award-winning series Samantha Brown’s Places to Love kicks off in easy-to-love Asheville. Airing on PBS Saturday, Jan. 8, the 30-minute episode features several local stops, including Brown’s visits to the Biltmore Estate, The Block, Chai Pani, Eda Rhyne Distillery and Citizen Vinyl. Some of the episode’s featured locals include DeWayne Barton of Hood Huggers International, Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani and producer Gar Ragland, founder of Citizen Vinyl.

For more information on the series, visit avl.mx/b1p.

Love, Italian style

Local artist David Skinner invites residents on a vicarious trip through Ciao Asheville’s latest “Italy Off the Beaten Path” series, hosted by Metro Wines. Designed to spotlight lesser-known Italian areas, the latest event will focus on Spannocchia, nestled in the Tuscan hills about 25 miles west of Siena. No stranger to the area, Skinner hosts annual painting workshops in the town at a 12th-century estate that now operates as an organic working farm. In his presentation — which includes a small wine tasting of a red and white representative of the region — Skinner will share the history of the estate, discuss local foods and wines, and announce details of his next painting workshop in summer 2022.

The latest class takes place Thursday, Jan. 13, 5:30 p.m. at Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte St. Tickets are $10. Reserve a spot by calling 828-575-9525 or visit avl.mx/b1q.

Growth spurt

After 18 months of virtual presentations and hybrids events, the Organic Growers School 29th annual Spring Conference is returning to fully in-person, Friday, March 18-Sunday, March 20 at Mars Hill University in Mars Hill.
Cameron Farlow, executive director of OGS, is urging interested participants to take advantage of the early-bird registration discount, touting the excitement over the new collaboration with Mother Earth News. “We’re particularly excited about the opportunities this collaboration opens up for participants to learn and share innovative farming, gardening and living techniques,” she says in a release announcing the partnership with the veteran media group.

The conference will offer more than 100 practical and regionally appropriate workshops on organic growing, sustainable living, an exhibit stage for author talks, a Mother Earth News bookstore and more. People who sign up before Monday, Jan. 31 will save $30. Register for the full weekend or specific events at avl.mx/8xd.

Church family

In a recent Facebook post, Newton Clark III, owner of Chiesa, an Italian restaurant in Montford, announced the August closure caused by staffing issues would be permanent. In the announcement, he said: “It is no secret that the last two years have brought many challenges and changes that none of us could have ever imagined. We have made the difficult decision to close Chiesa permanently. …. There are few jobs that give you the privilege of sharing a meal with friends and family, meeting new people and celebrating significant life events every night of the week. We have worked hard to deliver a nightly memorable experience that would provide ‘food for the soul.’”

Housed in a former church, Clark tells Xpress that Chiesa’s well-earned reputation as a neighborhood restaurant was aided by the innkeepers of a dozen nearby bed-and-breakfasts, who regularly sent guests to dine there.

After making the announcement, Clark says he and his wife have been overwhelmed by the community response. “I’m so grateful for all the love and compassion,” he says. “I loved what I did, and this wasn’t how I saw it ending. That said, Chiesa was a church, and at one point I worked in a Christian bookstore, where they’d say, ‘If you want to see God laugh, tell him your plans!’”

Open and shut

In other opening news, after an extensive renovation that closed the restaurant for five months, Green Sage Café’s downtown location reopened in mid-December at 5 Broadway. Green Sage stores are also at 633 Merrimon Ave. and in South Asheville at 1800 Hendersonville Road.

Meanwhile, in South Asheville, Early Girl Eatery has opened its third location at 1378 Hendersonville Road. Breakfast, lunch and dinner can be enjoyed indoors, on a patio and in a temperature-controlled covered porch. The other two Early Girls are at 8 Wall St. and 444 Haywood Road, with plans to expand to Charlotte location come spring.

December also saw multiple restaurants announce temporary closures due to ongoing staffing issues, COVID exposures and challenges finding tests and test sites. This is expected to continue into January, particularly post-holiday traveling and gathering. Local eateries and the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association recommend checking social media or calling your planned destination in advance to check winter operating hours.

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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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