What’s new in food: Mardi Gras arrives with multivenue extravaganza

MARDI ON: Let the good times roll with a number of Mardi Gras celebrations happening around town. Photo courtesy James DeStio Photography

Mardi Gras returns to Asheville starting Sunday, Feb. 19, for a multiday, multivenue extravaganza celebrating all things indulgent and exuberant.

The annual Asheville Mardi Gras Parade kicks off this year’s festivities at 3:05 p.m. on the South Slope. The procession begins on the corner of Southside and Coxe avenues and will make its way toward Buxton and Banks avenues before circling back down Coxe Avenue.

Afterward, Burial Beer Co., 40 Collier Ave., will continue to let the good times roll through a number of exclusive draft beer offerings, food and beverage specials, king cake and live music from Asheville Second Line and The Big EZs.

“Mardi Gras is an Asheville tradition and community celebration on the South Slope,” says Phil Cassella, Burial’s head of marketing. “The Mardi Gras and New Orleans culture is a huge piece of the inspiration behind the Burial brand, and it’s one of our favorite annual events. We want all folks to come out and participate in whatever they feel most comfortable with.”

The Queen’s Ball wraps up the evening at the Funkatorium, 147 Coxe Ave., 5:30-10 p.m. The event is free to attend and will feature live music and a cash bar.

The imbibes and good vibes pick back up on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 21, for a number of Mardi Gras festivities around town, including another beer-fueled party at Burial’s Forestry Camp, 10 Shaky Oak Drive, beginning at 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, St. Gerard House hosts its 13th annual Mardi Gras Party on Fat Tuesday as well from 6-8 p.m. The event costs $50 per person and takes place at the Galaxy Room, 175 Biltmore Ave. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit local families with children on the autism spectrum. “Along with beads and booze, the Galaxy Room will be serving up the ‘Best of the Bayou,’ a full-on Cajun dinner compliments of Daddy Mac’s Down Home Dive,” says Callie Davis, director of development and community engagement at St. Gerard House. avl.mx/cdw.

Metro Wines, 169 Charlotte St., is also hosting a French Fête Extraordinaire, 4-6 p.m. Feb. 21. Chef Sam Etheridge will prepare a four-course Mardi Gras meal. Each dish will be paired with a distinct Johnson Brothers/Mutual wine. Tickets are $45 per person. “Celebrating Mardi Gras with great New Orleans-inspired food and perfectly paired wines is a great example of our philosophy: wine is about food, family, friends and community,” says Metro Wines co-owner Gina Trippi. avl.mx/cdv

For more information on the Asheville Mardi Gras Parade, visit avl.mx/cdy.

Celebrating Black culinary history

UNC Asheville welcomes culinary historian and author Adrian Miller as part of the university’s Thomas Howerton Distinguished Professor Speaker Series, Diverse Roots at the Common Table: Culinary Conversations in the American South. Miller’s lecture, “Southern Black Chefs in the White House,” takes place Wednesday, Feb. 22, 6 – 7:30 p.m. at the Blue Ridge Room inside Highsmith Student Union.

“Over time, the contributions of African American culinary artists have become a hidden history,” Miller says in a press release announcing the event. “I want people to truly understand how influential these cooks were and continue to be.”

Miller’s books have twice won a James Beard Award in the Reference and Scholarship category. He’s also featured in the 2021 Netflix documentary High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America. FurthermoreMiller previously served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton during his administration and as the deputy director of the President’s Initiative for One America. The lecture will draw directly from Miller’s 2017 book, The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas.

“I think people will be surprised to learn the extent to which Black chefs blended the culinary ingredients, techniques and traditions of West Africa, Western Europe and the Americas from fine dining to more vernacular cooking, especially the foods introduced from Africa,” Miller elaborates in the same release.

UNC Asheville is at 1 University Heights, Asheville. Books will be available for purchase at the event through Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café. Those who wish to attend via Zoom may pre-register at avl.mx/cee.

Gather ’round the garden

The 55th annual Winter Vegetable Conference and Trade Show will be held Wednesday, Feb. 22, to Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Crowne Plaza Resort. Organized by the N.C. Tomato Growers Association and N.C. State University Cooperative Extension, the conference is the largest commercial vegetable grower event in the region, featuring educational programs put together by vegetable extension specialists and agents at the N.C. State cooperative extension.

Pest management, tomato breeding and food safety are among the issues that will be addressed. Representatives from agricultural companies and businesses supporting the industry will be on-site to educate and network, and a sponsored lunch and award program will be featured Feb. 23.

The Crowne Plaza Resort is at 1 Resort Drive. Tickets are $90 per person and include annual N.C. Tomato Growers Association membership dues. Visit avl.mx/cdt for additional information.

Slices at Shakey’s

The Original Papa Nick’s, a family-run business serving pizza and homestyle Italian food for over 50 years in Mars Hill, has announced a new partnership with Shakey’s, a local watering hole. Announced earlier this month on social media, the partnership will invite Shakey’s thirsty patrons to pair their drinks with hot, fresh Papa Nick’s pizza seven days a week from 4 p.m.-2 a.m.

This news comes coupled with confirmation that the Papa Nick’s second location at French Broad Brewery has ceased operations. “We have three kids, and trying to run a restaurant in Mars Hill and a restaurant in Asheville was really wearing on our family, especially on our children, so we decided to prioritize our family over the business,” says Sean Turner, who co-owns The Original Papa Nick’s alongside his wife, Murph.

The Turners decided to take a different approach for their new venture, pre-cooking and freezing their stone-baked pies, which Shakey’s can finish off in its oven. “The most exciting thing for us is the new method we have come up with to sell pizza without having to be present all the time,” says Sean.

Shakey’s is at 38 N. French Broad Ave., Suite 300. The Original Papa Nick’s Mars Hill restaurant is at 15 College St.

Geraldine’s next generation

Fred and Rosemary Dehlow, owners of North Asheville’s Geraldine’s Bakery, which opened in 2013, sold their bakery to Alexandra “Zan” Maddox in January.

“Rose and Fred have been here helping me get started over the past month, so it’s been a real team effort. Now they’re fully retired,” says Maddox. “I am so fortunate that all the staff has decided to stay on. I could not have hand-picked a better staff. We are going to continue to bake the same pastries, Danishes and cakes that Geraldine’s is known for.”

A graduate of UNCA, Maddox left Asheville in the ’90s to attend Florida State University College of Law. After building her family, her law practice and a successful track record of business ownership, Maddox decided the time was right to return to Asheville. “I happened upon Geraldine’s with my mother and daughters and just fell in love, then I decided to take a leap into the bakery business,” Maddox details.

While she plans to make the place her own over time, Maddox’s current priority is consistency.

“I’m hoping all the Geraldine’s regulars feel that the quality and the atmosphere of the bakery remains the same,” Maddox says. “In the future, I hope to expand the outdoor seating and possibly expand the breakfast and coffee menu, but I want to keep the small-town, local bakery feel.”

Geraldine’s Bakery is at 840 Merrimon Ave. Visit avl.mx/cdu for hours of operation and additional information.

West End’s new beginning

The West End Bakery is now under new ownership following a purchase by Stephanie Hand and her partner Don Hutchins in December.  “We are both professional culinary-trained chefs with a combined 50 years of industry experience,” Hand says.

When the original bakery owners (Cathy Cleary and Krista Steams) made the decision to sell, Hand and Hutchins jumped at the chance to helm the Haywood Road staple. “Everyone has a West End Bakery story. It’s an institution,” exclaims Hand.

The new owners have introduced a rotating menu featuring sweet treats such as bright pink doughnuts with Pop Rocks sprinkles and red velvet cookies. The latest options also include savory pastries for people on the go, such as shredded pork milk buns, carne asada on blue corn masa biscuits and chicken pot pie.

“The West End Bakery is something that existed before us and will grow beyond us, too,” Hand reflects. “We have big ideas and vision but also understand the importance of this not being about us. This is for the Ashevilleans.”

The West End Bakery is at 757 Haywood Road. Visit avl.mx/cdr for additional information.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on Feb. 14. 


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