What’s new in food: Picklepalooza debuts on National Pickle Day

IN A PICKLE: Don Paleno, left, and Justin Dewalder, the D and the J in DJ's Pickles, gear up for the first annual Picklepalooza on Nov. 14 at Blue Ghost Brewing. Photo courtesy DJ's Pickles

National Pickle Day is a big dill for Don Paleno and Justin Dewalder, the “D” and the “J,” respectively in DJ’s Pickles. To celebrate the holiday, the local small-batch pickle company has partnered with Blue Ghost Brewing Co. to host the inaugural Picklepalooza. The event takes place Sunday, Nov. 14, 3-7 p.m., at the Fletcher brewery. Admission is free, but $5 donations to benefit the Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity will be accepted on-site and via a link on the event page.

Planning for the festival began in February, the same month DJ’s Pickles officially launched. The company’s origin, however, dates back several years. In the summer of 2018, Paleno opened Chef Don’s Gourmet Snack Wagon. With a heavy focus on sandwiches, Paleno developed a recipe for a pickle to garnish the entrees. The Silly Dilly — a hybrid between a dill and a bread-and-butter — became so popular people began asking to order them as a side and later requested them by the pint.

At the time, Paleno remembers being a little annoyed. “I was like, ‘Look, I’m selling sandwiches, not pickles.’”

Chef Don’s Gourmet Snack Wagon, however, didn’t last. But the legend of the pickle lived on.

“Justin asked me one day if I still had the recipe for the pickle, and I did. It was in pencil with measurements like ‘a handful of fresh dill,’” Paleno remembers.

The pair made a batch and gave some jars to friends, who came back and asked for more jars to give to their friends. Just like that, Paleno and Dewalder were in the pickle business, building it one jar — and many buckets — at a time.

“Trout Lily Deli & Market, the New York Butcher Shoppe and the Hungry Ghost food truck at Blue Ghost buy them by the bucket for their sandwiches,” Paleno says. Meanwhile, pint jars are sold at tailgate markets, the WNC Farmers Market and in specialty shops in WNC.

The Silly Dilly is the company’s flagship pickle, but it has since added spicy En Fuego pickle chips and Basil Balsamic Beets, which Paleno swears have converted avowed beet haters. They also carry Silly Dilly salad dressing and Dilly Butter.

All those products will be available for tasting and purchase at Picklepalooza. The gathering will also have a pickle eating contest, pickle juice shooters (nonalcoholic), kids’ activities, live music and pickleball. Additionally, Blue Ghost has created a Gose-style pickle beer, Kinfolk food truck will have fried pickles, and swag will include glass Christmas pickle ornaments.

Blue Ghost Brewing Co. is at 125 Underwood Road, Fletcher. For more information on Picklepalooza2021, visit avl.mx/aqt.

Independence Day

The big news to rock Asheville’s restaurant industry occurred the final week of October and was neither trick nor treat: Jane Anderson, executive director of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association since 2013, announced she was taking flight from the organization whose membership increased by over 150% during her tenure.

In a newsletter to members on Oct. 27, Anderson said, “The sign of a good leader is knowing when to step aside. It is clear to me that the challenges our independent restaurants face in a post-COVID world require fresh thinking and leadership.”

Chef Michel Baudouin, a founding member of AIR, says the group is sad to see her go, noting Anderson’s steady hand, communication skills and strong community relationships, particularly vital during the pandemic.

“When you’ve been herding cats for nine years, it will wear you out,” he says. “The last two especially have been tough on everyone, but she used the relationships she built to stay ahead of it. She has worked with the city, county, fire department, labor board, health department and liquor board — and AIR members — all behind the curtain. I think her next job could be a juggler in a circus.”

Anderson has not indicated any desire to go under the big top but says she is keeping her window open to opportunities. The search for Anderson’s replacement has begun with the goal to have an executive director in place the first quarter of 2022.

Smoky Bear

In 2020, Cheryl Antoncic and Jamie “Bear” McDonald drove their supersized Bear’s Smokehouse food truck down from their home base in Connecticut and parked it in front of the building they purchased on Coxe Avenue in South Slope. Their arrival marked the first location for their Kansas City-style barbecue outside the Nutmeg State.

One year later, they are bringing their baby back ribs and burnt ends to Sweeten Creek Brewing on Sweeten Creek Road. Diners can chow down on those specialties as well as slow-smoked brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken and jalapeno-cheddar sausage. The new South Asheville location will also include a vegan and gluten-free impossible meatloaf option.

Sweeten Creek Brewing is at 1127 Sweeten Creek Road. For more, visit avl.mx/ar0.  


Nate Whiting and Ryan Brower, who worked together years ago at Luella’s Bar-B-Que, were chewing the fat one night about opening a business of their own. Whiting, who spent the last nine years as a company chef for Farm Burger, says that despite neither having any Lone Star State roots, they were fired up about Texas-style brisket.

This summer the pair hunted down a reverse flow smoker in Sneed, Ala., picked it up in a parking lot in Chattanooga, Tenn., and hauled it back to Asheville. After extensive research on sauces, smoke time and trim, the two quietly launched Iron and Oak Brisket Co. in August, under a tent outside of Riverside Rhapsody Beer Co. in Woodfin.

“We don’t consider ourselves masters of brisket yet but we’re working hard at it, and people are loving it,” says Whiting.

Iron and Oak’s still-developing menu also includes pulled pork, ribs on Fridays, Texas hot link sausages from Southside Market & Barbeque in Austin and sides. Current hours are Thursday, 3-8 p.m., and Friday–Sunday, from noon until sold out.

Riverside Rhapsody is at 995 Riverside Drive. For updates on Iron & Oak’s menu and hours, visit avl.mx/aqu.

Bird in hand

Thanksgiving is still two weeks away, but turkey lovers need to act fast if they don’t want to be standing in line at Cracker Barrel, come Nov. 24.
Zadie’s Market in Marshall is taking pre-orders for small, medium and large fresh or frozen Joyce Farms turkeys for pickup Nov. 19- 24. avl.mx/aqv.

The Chop Shop Butchery has already sold out of turkeys but is offering poultry alternatives like pheasant, quail, duck and rabbit. avl.mx/aqw.

Leave the cooking to the professionals and get a cider-brined bird or the whole meal shebang from Luella’s Bar-B-Que. avl.mx/aqx .

Black Bear BBQ promises to make Thanksgiving easy-peasy with an email order placed by Tuesday, Nov. 16.  avl.mx/aqy.

Global fermentation

Chris Smith, author of The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration and executive director of Utopian Seed Project, calls Sandor Katz a legend in fermentation circles and his James Beard Award winning book, The Art of Fermentation, “biblical.”

Smith will interview Katz about his new book, Fermentation Journeys in a virtual presentation by Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 6 p.m.

“I’m very excited to be ‘in conversation’ with Sandor,” says Smith. “I enjoy his thoughts on fermentation beyond the practical food stuff and interested in talking about connection and how things like fermentation, bacteria and food are a way to see the sameness in people instead of the otherness.”

To purchase a book and register for the live stream, visit avl.mx/aqz.



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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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