What’s new in food: Hiking for Hunger heads west

BACK AT IT: Local couple and avid hikers Micah and Keeka Grant-Tomlinson are gearing up for their next thru-hike fundraiser for MANNA FoodBank. This time, they are headed west to trek the Pacific Crest Trail. Photo courtesy of MANNA FoodBank

After raising $32,000 for MANNA FoodBank in 2021, local residents and avid hikers Micah and Keeka Grant-Tomlinson are gearing up for their next big thru-hike benefit for the local nonprofit. Unlike the initial undertaking, which involved the couple traversing the Appalachian Trail, this time around they are headed west to cover the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail.

The goal for this latest trip, which begins Wednesday, April 12, is to raise $40,000 for MANNA, an organization that both Micah and Keeka previously worked for. As with their inaugural fundraiser, the trek is part of the pair’s own charity organization, Hiking for Hunger. Money raised will come from individual donors, as well as support from sponsors such as Food for the Sole, ElevenSkys and Sparks in the Forest.

The couple will kick off the campaign at Mountain Inspiration Apparel in downtown Asheville on Friday, April 7, at 6 p.m. The event, which is designed as a casual celebration for supporters, will be an opportunity for Micah and Keeka to answer questions, as well as celebrate with drinks and food provided by Red Fiddle Vittles.

“We are thrilled about Hiking for Hunger and what a full circle moment it is for MANNA,” says Kelly Schwartz, the nonprofit’s special events manager. “Being former MANNA staff, we know they have an even deeper understanding of hunger in our mountains and the positive impact every mile they finish has on our neighbors.”

Micah and Keeka were working at the food bank when the pandemic hit. That’s when they decided to get married, as well as clear their schedules in pursuit of their dreams of hiking the Appalachian Trail. But they didn’t want to completely abandon MANNA’s 40-year mission of ending hunger.

“We were planning on leaving our jobs, but we didn’t want to quit supporting our neighbors in need in Western North Carolina,” says Micah. “We saw how popular thru-hiking was becoming and we recognized the culture around thru-hikers sharing their hikes on social media, many of them drawing large followings. We thought that we could use our social platforms as thru-hikers to increase awareness around food insecurity and raise money to help put food on people’s plates.”

The couple chose their latest West Coast trail because it will help them achieve a personal milestone of “triple crowning,” which involves finishing the Appalachian, Continental Divide and Pacific Crest trails.

Micah and Keeka are preparing for the challenges of the hike, which include possible encounters with bears, drastic temperature changes and the threat of wildfires. Their plan is to begin at the southern terminus of the trail near Campo, Calif., and finish by mid-September, before the risk of substantial snow.

The couple hopes their $40,000 goal will be achieved within that five-month window.

“Thousands of people in WNC are experiencing food insecurity,” says Micah. “The challenges of putting food on the table are getting harder and harder for folks as inflation rises and the cost of living goes up. MANNA is having a harder time sourcing food, and food is costing more due to supply chain challenges. Everyone deserves access to nutritious food, and no one should go hungry.”

For more information, visit avl.mx/cjn.

Farmers markets spring up

Signs of spring in Western North Carolina include budding flowers, the appearance of robins and the opening of regional and local farmers markets. Year-round markets are also switching to regular seasonal hours.

Below are updated hours for markets located in Buncombe County:

    • Asheville City Market: Saturdays starting April 1, 9 a.m.-noon, avl.mx/bfk.
    • Black Mountain Tailgate Market: Saturdays starting May 6, 9 a.m.-noon, avl.mx/ck5.
    • East Asheville Tailgate Market: Fridays starting April 7, 3-6 p.m., avl.mx/c5v.
    • Enka-Candler Tailgate Market: Thursdays staring May 4, 3-6 p.m., avl.mx/ck6.
    • North Asheville Tailgate Market: Saturdays starting April 1, 8 a.m.-noon, avl.mx/bei.
    • River Arts District Farmers Market: Wednesdays starting April 5, 3-6 p.m., avl.mx/9ki.
    • Southside Community Farmers Market: first Sundays starting May 7, noon-3 p.m., avl.mx/ck7.
    • Weaverville Tailgate Market: Wednesdays starting April 5, 3-6 p.m., avl.mx/ck8.
    • West Asheville Tailgate Market: Tuesdays starting April 4, 3:30-6:30 p.m., avl.mx/bwh.
    • WNC Farmers Market: Daily, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., avl.mx/5br.

    A tea tour

    The owners of Pop Bubble Tea are hoping to uplift Asian culture in the community through Poppy’s Asian Tour.

    Poppy, the business’s cartoon otter mascot, will lead customers on a tour of Asian countries via a monthly release of specialty bubble teas. New drinks, which will be released on the first Thursday of each month, will feature flavors inspired by that month’s highlighted country. Pop’s co-founders will also spotlight local Asian businesses in conjunction with the releases.

    Co-founder Eva Peterson says it’s important to build relationships with the community and hopes the tea tour will help promote fellow businesses — as well as build awareness of Asian cultures. “We want Poppy’s Asian Tour above everything to spread love through delicious, authentic bubble tea,” says Peterson, who is originally from Hong Kong. “It is also a chance to honor Asian culture as well as link customers to more Asian businesses and groups in our community.”

    The tour will begin Thursday, April 6, featuring Thai milk tea and South Asheville restaurant Khao Thai Cuisine. Korea will have the spotlight on May 4, followed by Japan on June 1, Taiwan on July 6, and Hong Kong on Aug. 3.

    Pop Bubble Tea is at 640 Merrimon Ave. Hours are Wednesday-Monday, noon-8 p.m. For more information, visit avl.mx/bk5.

    Top chefs

    Last month, culinary students from A-B Tech Community College competed in the American Culinary Federation’s Southeast Region national qualifying competition in Overland Park, Kan., and came home with top honors.

    The team, which won Best Student Team, will head to New Orleans in July to compete in the national contest, marking the college’s 14th appearance as a competitor. Roman Nourse, 2022 team captain, won Southeast Student Chef last month and will compete for National Student Chef of the Year. Patricia (Paty) Santibanez won Southeast Student Pastry Chef.

    “It was a very tough competition; the level of the individual and schools competing were the best in the country,” team coach and chef instructor Chris Bugher says in a press release.  “The team has worked so hard over the last few months and poured their literal blood, sweat, and tears to earn their way to the national competition in New Orleans this July.”

    For more information, visit avl.mx/cjo.

    BBQ on deck

    David Brown wanted a place to sit and drink a beer while listening to friends play music after a 12-hour workday. His solution was to add a deck, or what he refers to as “a postage stamp of a stage,” to his 10-year-old restaurant in Candler.

    Doc Brown’s BBQ, known for its Carolina-style barbecue and Southern sides and sauces, will start hosting musicians on the deck Monday, April 10. Every Monday will be an open mic night in partnership with The Franklin School of Innovation, “so aspiring musicians can get some experience playing in front of people in a welcoming environment,” says Brown.

    Other musicians booked for April include Kevin Smith, Hope Griffin and Eric Congdon. Open mic nights will take place Mondays from 6-8 p.m., and local musicians will perform Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7-9 p.m.

    “This is a Candler thing, mainly for the folks who have had to move westward in the process of gentrification,” says Brown. “It’s a service industry thing — that’s why [we chose] Monday through Wednesday. We’re all about not getting the word out — because everyone out here already knows.”

    Doc Brown’s BBQ is at 1320 Smokey Park Highway in Candler. Hours are Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. For more information, visit avl.mx/cjp.


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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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