What’s new in food: Jamaican specialties arrive at the Asheville Mall food court

CARIBBEAN FOOD: Mother-and-son team Donna Jones and Kemar Moulton celebrate the opening of the new Jamaican restaurant Island Pan at the Asheville Mall. Photo by Jennifer Castillo

“Cooking and feeding others have always been deep in our family,” says Donna Jones. “My dad and mom taught us all.”

Family is a key ingredient at the new Jamaican restaurant Island Pan, which Jones’ son, Kemar Moulton, opened in the Asheville Mall food court on April 1. Jones and other family members, all of whom emigrated from the Caribbean island, will pitch in to help cook Island Pan’s Jamaican dishes.

Jones first arrived in Asheville in 2009, working at the Biltmore Estate; two years later, Moulton joined his mother in WNC, starting his own cleaning business. Jones says she and her son have always cooked for friends, but as word of their jerk and curry chicken spread, they began filling preorders a couple of times a week.

“We got so much encouragement from people who love our food, telling us we need to open our own place,” Jones explains. “Kemar signed the lease on the space in the mall food court in January and has been working on getting it ready since.”

In addition to traditional jerk chicken, Island Pan serves barbecue jerk chicken, fried chicken and fried plantains. The restaurant also has oxtail, slow-cooking the meat to fall-from-the-bone tenderness and adding butter beans, tomatoes and carrots for a deeply flavored stew.

Jones reports that on opening weekend, oxtail proved the most popular item. “It’s not easy to find it in Asheville,” she says. “It was what most of the people came for.”

Island Pan is at 3 S. Tunnel Road, Suite FC-3. Hours correspond with mall hours. For more, visit avl.mx/bf4.

Cultural exchange

On Friday, April 22, Ayni51 will host its latest vegan Peruvian food pop-up dinner at Blue Ridge Hemp. Co., 61 1/2 N. Lexington Ave. Created by Caro Gutiérrez, who uses the pronoun they, the pop-up debuted Feb. 24 with a sold-out, five-course dinner at West End Bakery. During the event, Gutierrez and their partner, Crain Gutiérrez, who also uses the pronoun they, discussed the culinary and cultural history of Peru. Caro staged two more pop-ups in March at the same location.

Before moving to Asheville in January, Caro worked as an artist and set/lighting designer for more than 15 years in Peru. During that time, they began home cooking to explore veganism. In September 2020, Caro and Crain met online. In late 2021, Crain invited Caro to lecture on the legacy of queer art in pre-Columbian Peru at Crain’s Trust Studio, a multidisciplinary art space they founded in South Slope in 2020. Shortly thereafter, the couple married, and Caro joined Crain in Asheville.

The 51 in Caro’s business represents Peru’s phone code, they explain; “ayni” is a Quechan term meaning “Today for you, tomorrow for me.”

“It’s a philosophy that means reciprocity in the community,” Caro explains. “With Ayni, I want to create community and show my culture.”

Ultimately, Caro hopes to move into a food truck. Wherever they land, guests can expect to taste four foundations of Peruvian cuisine: aji amarillo peppers, lime, cilantro and potatoes.

“In Peru, we have more than 3,000 types of potatoes,” says Caro. “We do magical things with them.”

Learn more at avl.mx/bf8.

Hola Oaxaca

Chef Luis Martinez, who has been staging pop-up dinners and partnerships since leaving El Gallo last summer, will present another of his popular OaxaCalifornia dinner pairings on Wednesday, April 20, with Botanist & Barrel cidery at its downtown tasting room.

“The pairing makes so much sense to us,” says Lyndon Smith, co-founder of Botanist & Barrel. “We want the entire experience to revolve around different expressions of mole, which is Luis’ specialty.”

Tickets for the four-course dinner are $105 per person, including beverages paired by Botanist & Barrel co-founder and certified pommellier Amie Fields.

Botanist & Barrel is at 32 Broadway. To purchase tickets, visit avl.mx/bfp.

Table talk

With the Wednesday, April 13 opening of Grateful Table Café & Provisions in Canton, locals and visitors can take a seat at an indoor table for breakfast or lunch or pick up locally sourced products to cook for their home table. Before moving to WNC in 2017, owner Jeanne Forrest operated three bakery/cafes in Las Vegas. She signed the lease for two adjoining Main Street buildings in January.

“The buildings connect on the interior,” says General Manager Abigail Anzelmo. “One side will have some groceries, a deli, ice cream and our kitchen. The other will have the counter to order food, which we will bring to you, and just over 30 seats.”

Grateful Table will also offer several choices of hot dinners to take away, with leftovers packaged the next day into individual containers and frozen for reheating at home. Cinnamon rolls, cakes and pies will be baked on-site; wine and beer will also be available for purchase.

Grateful Table Café & Provisions is at 473 Main St., Canton. For more information, visit avl.mx/bfc.

Coffee talk

The American Legion Post 70 Coffee Shop welcomes veterans and active-duty military personnel to come by for coffee, doughnuts, conversation and camaraderie. “Our effort is to duplicate similar services that have been successful in other communities to help vets and service members find sanctuary and spend time together,” says representative Wally Lee. He adds that the Department of Veterans Affairs provides shuttle service from the nearby Charles George VA Medical Center to the post.

American Legion Post 70 Coffee Shop is at 103 Reddick Road. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

RAD move

In 2015, Lyric Antio’s first summer job in Asheville was as a market assistant at the River Arts District Farmers Market. “RAD was my introduction to local farms, and since then I have oriented my life to being as close to my food as possible,” she explains. “RAD was the beginning of it, and it seems important to return at this time.”

At the end of March, Antio took over the position of RAD market manager and is preparing for the year-round market’s May 4 move from inside Plēb Urban Winery to the large gravel lot next to the building. Spots for vendors will double, and applications are now being accepted for the outdoor market season running through October. For an application, visit avl.mx/bfs.

River Arts District Farmers Market is at 289 Lyman St., Wednesdays 3-5:30 p.m. and until 6 p.m. May-October.

Market place

As communities emerge from strict COVID-19 policies, Buncombe County’s Community Engagement Markets are returning to pre-pandemic models with in-person gatherings. The markets — which offer free food, medical services, information about mortgage, rental and weatherization assistance and other resources for those in need — were created in 2013 as a partnership between MANNA FoodBank and the Buncombe County Community Engagement Team. Other organizations such as United Way, Bounty and Soul, the YWCA and Asheville Buncombe County Christian Ministry have since joined in.

Markets are held on various days at more than 10 locations. To view the complete list, visit avl.mx/bfe.

Les-ter Farmers Market

Speaking of markets … Les-ter Farmers Market reopens Wednesday, April 13. In its second year, the market features about 20 local farmers and vendors.

In a press release, co-founder Jessica Wilbur states, “I’m so excited to see this market grow and bring our community together. Shopping at the Les-ter Farmers Market is a great way to keep dollars in our local community, support local artisans and farmers and have a great time coming together with neighbors.”

The market takes place every Wednesday, 3:30-6:30 p.m. at the Leicester Community Center, 2979 New Leicester Highway. Rain or shine.

Bunny trail

Locally-made Easter-themed and seasonal spring treats are hopping their way from bakeries and tailgate markets to buyers’ baskets.

  • Parents of toddlers may be weary of the “Hot Cross Buns” children’s song, but no one tires of the real thing. City Bakery buns have risen again, scented with cardamom and topped with turbinado sugar and an orange glaze cross, available at both locations, 60 Biltmore Ave. and 88 Charlotte St., through Saturday, April 16.  avl.mx/bfh
  • Whisk, Candler’s drive-thru bakery, will have cardamom orange brioche dough hot cross buns with golden raisins and currants, by advance preorder for larger quantities and single sales through Saturday, April 16.  801 Smoky Park Highway. avl.mx/bfi
  • Pastry chef Beth Kellerhals will have hot cross buns, pineapple upside-down cake squares and whole coconut cream pie with raspberry jam Friday, April 15, at the East Asheville Tailgate Market, avl.mx/bfj, and Saturday, April 16 at Asheville City Market, North Market Street, downtown. avl.mx/bfk
  • Beeswax and Butter has reached capacity for preorders of its whimsically shaped and decorated macarons but will have some for sale as singles and boxes on a first-come, first-served basis at Asheville City Market and East Asheville Tailgate Market, as well as the West Asheville Tailgate Market, on Tuesday, April 12, avl.mx/bfn, and at the RAD Market, Wednesday, April 13. http://avl.mx/bfm
  • Marjory Rockwell reports her bean-to-bar Conjure Craft Chocolates is making dark chocolate eggs filled with white and milk chocolate bunnies and chicks, as well as dark chocolate bunnies filled with peanut butter ganache. Conjure can be found Saturday mornings at ACM and the North Asheville Tailgate Market at UNCA avl.mx/bei.
  • OWL Bakery owner Susannah Gebhart has unveiled her spring and holiday menu, featuring a 9-inch fresh berry tart with pastry cream; spiced white chocolate babka knot with orange zest and spices; rose and mint-scented wheatless chocolate torte; and a 6-inch, four-layer carrot cake garnished with crystallized herbs. OWL 295 Haywood Road. avl.mx/bfo
  • At Jargon restaurant, executive chef Ryan Kline has added three carrot-forward desserts to his spring menu: gluten-free and vegan passion fruit carrot cake with miso caramel and black sesame ice cream; Basque-style carrot goat cheesecake; and pecan streusel with honey poached carrots and candied carrot tops. Jargon 715 Haywood Roadavl.mx/9hw

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About Kay West
Kay West began her writing career in NYC, then was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, including contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. In 2019 she moved to Asheville and continued writing (minus Red Carpet coverage) with a focus on food, farming and hospitality. She is a die-hard NY Yankees fan.

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