What’s new in food: Pop Bubble Tea kicks off second Asian tour

POP CULTURE: Pop Bubble Tea co-founders Eva Peterson, right, and Ashley Garrison, left, pose with Chue Lee of Lee's One Fortune Farm, whose farm and native Laos are highlighted with a special drink on Poppy's Asian Tour this month. Photo courtesy of Pop Bubble Tea

Bubble tea — or boba, the Taiwanese drink with tapioca pearls — is fun, refreshing and trendy. But Pop Bubble Tea co-founder Eva Peterson has also found a way to make it educational and community-building. After a successful 2023 debut, Peterson is set to launch the second Poppy’s Asian Tour, a monthly bubble tea series, on Thursday, April 4. 

On the first Thursday of each month through Aug. 1, Pop Bubble Tea will release a new bubble tea flavor highlighting an Asheville-based individual, business or organization with ties to an Asian country. The April 4 release is a lemongrass-ginger black milk tea with toasted rice powder, celebrating Laos and Tou and Chue Lee, owners of Lee’s One Fortune Farm. The toasted rice powder is made from rice grown on the Lees’ farm. “And lemongrass-ginger is a very common tea in Laos,” Peterson explains. 

The 2023 tour featured local groups associated with Peterson’s native Hong Kong plus other Asian locations she had visited on her travels. But this year, the partnerships were inspired by her work with the Western North Carolina Asian American and Pacific Islanders community and its inaugural AVL Asian Culture Festival in January. 

“I was a guest speaker for the festival, so I had more opportunities to meet different, amazing people and learn their stories and what they are doing,” says Peterson. “So this year for Poppy’s Asian Tour, we wanted to focus on some of those people and their businesses and organizations and feature their perspective on what food and drinks make them feel connected to their homeland.”

The next stops on the 2024 tour will be: the Philippines with community activist Stephanie Harper in May; Korea with Tracy Hopkins of Dare to Rise and CoThinkk in June; the indigenous Montagnard people of Vietnam with Rich Enuol of Across the Sea Foundation in July; and India with Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani Restaurant Group in August.

As with any international adventure, customers who journey on Poppy’s Asian Tour receive a special passport whereby they can track their stops with stamps commemorating each drink they’ve sampled. “I was a social worker in Hong Kong for a long time, and I always did a lot of public education,” Peterson says. “I hope through this process, people can learn more about the countries and these local organizations and businesses.”

Pop Bubble Tea is at 640 Merrimon Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/bk5.

New rooftop brick-oven pizza restaurant

Soprana Rooftop Cucina opened March 27 on the rooftop of downtown’s new Embassy Suites by Hilton hotel.

Soprana’s menu focuses on brick-oven pizzas featuring ingredients from local farms and food businesses. The Asheville Pizza, for example, is made with pepperoni from The Chop Shop Butchery, and A Smokin’ Hot Honey Pie highlights products from Asheville Bee Charmer.

“Our local ranchers, farmers and makers are part of what makes the Asheville food and beverage scene so special, and we wanted that to come through with every bite at Soprana,” says executive chef Jeffrey Stanford in a press release. 

The Italian-inspired menu also offers soups, salads and small plates with wine, local craft beers and cocktails made with locally distilled spirits. Soprana joins E’Terie, the hotel’s lobby-level bar and grill, which has a menu of snacks, burgers, sandwiches and entrées.

Soprana is open daily for dinner 5-10 p.m. at 192 Haywood St. For more details, visit avl.mx/dim.

A new spin on an old favorite

On Sunday evenings in April and May starting April 7, Cultura executive chef Eric Morris will deliver his unique take on the breakfast-for-dinner concept. Waffle Home, the latest installment in the restaurant’s ongoing Cease and Desist dinner series, will riff on the offerings of a familiar U.S. diner chain with a special four-course menu. 

An iceberg lettuce garden salad and pecan waffle with chicken butter and blackened maple syrup are the prelude to the main course of pork chops, T-bone steak or eggs, and hash browns made to order with toppings of choice — options ranging from cheese, onions or grilled tomatoes to sausage gravy and chili. Dessert is a Dr Pepper ice cream float, and the menu also includes the coffee- and rum-based Road Map to Happiness cocktail (which can also be made without alcohol).

Past Cease and Desist concepts have included The Melting Cauldron, P.J. Chong’s, Pizza Shack, Panda Excess, Fred Lobster and Cook-N among others.

Cultura is at 147 Coxe Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/dih.

Lowcountry boil at Hickory Nut Gap Farm

Hickory Nut Gap Farm will host a Lowcountry boil Sunday, April 7, 3-7 p.m., in its Big Barn event space. Food will include fresh Outer Banks shrimp and a raw oyster bar from Locals Seafood, Hickory Nut Gap pasture-raised sausages and desserts from Mount Patisserie. Wine pairings will be provided by plēb urban winery. Live music will be performed by Jones Boy Trio. Tickets are $85.

Hickory Nut Gap Farm is at 57 Sugar Hollow Road, Fairview. For tickets and more information, visit avl.mx/dif.

Downtown tour and cooking classes

In March, AVL Mountain Kitchen and AVL Free Walking Tours announced they will collaborate to offer a downtown Asheville culinary experience that includes a two-hour guided tour ending with a one-hour cooking class and lunch on Eagle Street. 

The tip-based tour highlights Asheville history and culture with stops at breweries, distilleries, cafés and historic sites. The cooking classes, which can be booked with or without the tour, cost $35 each and happen at 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., Thursday-Saturday. All food is scratch-made with a rotating menu that includes items such as fresh pasta with pesto or marinara sauce, Alfredo pork dumplings, vegetarian gyoza, falafel and chicken shawarma, pad thai, butter chicken with basmati rice, fried chicken with collard greens and more.

For more information, visit avl.mx/dil.

New horizons for chef Elliott Moss

After 17 years in Asheville, chef Elliott Moss has announced plans to move elsewhere in the Carolinas for new adventures. On March 19, the chef shared on social media that after the end of April he and his wife, Jennifer, will relocate to begin a “new job, new career and new life.” The post provided few details but shared that Moss will continue to work with whole-hog barbecue and will also be learning some new skills. Further information, it said, will be coming soon.

Originally from South Carolina, Moss moved to Asheville in 2007 to help open The Admiral in West Asheville. In 2015, he partnered with Chai Pani chef and owner Meherwan Irani to open whole-hog concept Buxton Hall Barbecue, then left the restaurant in 2022 to launch Little Louie’s and Regina’s, both of which he left in 2023. Moss has twice been nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef Southeast award.

Editor’s note: The Pop Bubble Tea story was updated on April 3, 2024, to include the business’ full name on all references.


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