Some people might be daunted making their food truck debut for one of Asheville’s most highly regarded chefs and his entire staff. But JT Noah and Kevin Ogren, co-owners of Smasheville, were happy to launch at John Fleer’s staff party at Cascade Lounge in late October.
“We joined a Facebook group for food trucks, and the manager of Rhubarb saw us and asked if we would cater their staff party,” Noah explains. “It was the first service we did with the truck. We thought chef Fleer would try the burger, but he got the chicken sandwich and told us he really liked it.”
Though Noah and Ogren are proud of their fried chicken sandwich — using more flavorful thigh meat rather than breast — they hang their hat on their beef. A cheerfully painted sheet metal burger fabricated and painted by Ogren’s brother Shane rides atop the truck and announces its arrival.
The partners and the truck are all originally from Minnesota. Ogren and his girlfriend, Jes Werkmeister, are classically trained chefs who have worked in fine dining in Minneapolis, Florida and Georgia. Meanwhile, Noah has cooked primarily in resorts and country clubs on Lake Superior’s North Shore. They talked about opening a food truck some years ago, but it wasn’t until this spring that Ogren lured Noah to Asheville, where he and Werkmeister were living and working.
“We decided to go for it,” Noah says.
But actually hitting go proved a frustrating process of paperwork and obstacles. The delays, however, allowed the pair to work on Smasheville’s menu and find a beef purveyor, Shipley Farms Beef of Vila. “They do dry-aged beef,” says Noah, “and we grind our own burger meat from their rib-eye, brisket and chuck.”
The titular Smasheville burger is a double patty, smashed on a 500 degree grill (“It’s all about the sear,” says Noah), flipped, topped with white American cheese and put on a toasted Geraldine’s bun with waffle-cut dill pickles made in house.
Smasheville is at Wedge Brewery Co., 37 Paynes Way, throughout December. For a complete schedule and menu, visit avl.mx/awz.
Katie Button‘s new original series, “From the Source,” recently debuted on Magnolia Network, with new episodes released every Friday. The show follows the Cúrate owner and chef as she searches the origin and stories behind particular food ingredients. So far, she has visited Abundant Seafood in Charleston, S.C., Chapel Hill Creamery in Chapel Hill, Lee’s One Fortune Farm in Marion and Green Heart Farm heritage apple orchard in Hot Springs.
Button says a more recent episode exploring the Western North Carolina Center for Honeybee Research was especially meaningful. “I am particularly excited about the honey episode, which is a tribute to the late Laurey Masterton, a local chef in Asheville who was very influential to me and who passed away from cancer a few years after Cúrate opened.”
Initial episodes are focused on the region around Asheville, but as the series progresses, Button will travel farther afield.
To learn more, visit avl.mx/ax1.
The Merry Mischief Bakers, a five-person team from Phoenix repeated their 2020 Grand Prize Win at the 2021 National Gingerbread House competition at the Omni Grove Park Inn with their elaborate “Christmas Around the World” carousel. The 29th annual event returned to an in-person gathering after last year’s virtual contest.
There were 12 winners overall among four age-determined categories; more than 120 entries were scored by a nine-judge panel, including Omni Grove Park Inn’s executive pastry chef, John Cook.
“The competitors spend countless hours getting their pieces just right, and it shows,” he says. “The innovation and skill level of the categories go up every year. It’s exciting to watch competitors rise through the ranks from the child category through the youth/teen categories and eventually into the adult category.”
The dozen winners are being revealed one at a time on Omni Grove Park Inn’s social media pages through Sunday, Dec. 12, which is National Gingerbread House Day. The display at the hotel can be viewed anytime by in-house guests through Jan. 2. Nonguests can view the displays on Sunday after 3 p.m. and anytime Monday-Thursday. A portion of the proceeds from the $25 self-park fee will go to local nonprofits.
The Omni Grove Park Inn is at 290 Macon Ave. To learn more, visit avl.mx/ax2.
It’s been a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am six months for Nine Mile restaurant. This summer the restaurant introduced a trio of signature hot sauces developed by co-owner and chef Aaron Thomas. In October, it learned the line was nominated by USA Today 10Best editors as a contender for the paper’s “best holiday gifts ideas for foodies.” And after a month of online voting by readers, Nine Mile’s hot sauces came in at No. 1.
According to co-owner June Thomas, online orders have tripled since the results were published Nov. 19. The sauces can be found at all three Asheville Nine Mile restaurants as well as online at avl.mx/ax3.
Some people make lemonade when life hands them lemons; Italians make limoncello. On Wednesday, Dec. 15, Howard Rampersaud will offer a class at Metro Wines Asheville about the Italian liqueur and how to make it at home. He’ll also share a taste from his personal batch.
Metro Wines Asheville is at 169 Charlotte St. The class is $10 and limited to 20 attendees; should the first class at 5:30 p.m. fill up, a second will be added. For tickets, call 828-575-9525 or visit avl.mx/ax4 .
Eat, drink, shop
Because no one should have to shop without fortifying provisions, Ginger’s Revenge and Leo’s House of Thirst are hosting holiday markets on-site, encouraging people to buy local while quaffing holiday cheer and bites.
Leo’s Maker’s Market, with local vendors, wine by the bottle or glass and a snack menu, will be staged 2-8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 14.
Holiday Market at Ginger’s Revenge is taking place Saturday, Dec. 11, 2-8 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 12, 2-7 p.m. The event will feature jewelry, house plants, spices, botanical skin care products, gluten-free and vegan baked goods and Ginger’s Revenge ginger beer. Meanwhile, Saturday’s featured food truck will be Bear’s Smokehouse BBQ, while The Trashy Vegan will roll in for Sunday’s market and serve 2-6 p.m.
Garden & Gun magazine’s annual Made in the South awards were recently announced. Over the decade-plus since the series launched, Asheville makers have snagged eight awards. This year, Anneliesse Gormley’s one-woman shop Spoon + Hook was runner up in the craft category.
More recently, Asheville became the big winner with the announcement from the magazine and Explore Asheville of a yearlong collaboration that will bring the Made in the South awards celebration to the city next fall.
“This kind of collaboration helps us shine a spotlight on the passion and inspiration of our community’s top creators, makers and craftspeople and their independent businesses,” says Vic Isley, CEO of Explore Asheville.
That spotlight will shine bright in four Garden & Gun editorial print spreads in 2022 celebrating Asheville artisans, producers and entrepreneurs.
More than 80 Asheville makers are featured in Explore Asheville’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide. “The online guide makes holiday shopping in your pajamas by the fireplace even cozier when you know you’re purchasing from local people and supporting local jobs,” says Whitney Smith, Explore Asheville’s content director.
The 2021 Holiday Gift Guide can be found at avl.mx/ax9.
Off the chart
Famously shouty English chef Gordon Ramsay had to tone it down when Asheville Market Place owner and chef William Dissen took him fly-fishing in Saluda for an episode of Ramsay’s National Geographic series “Uncharted.” The visit seems to have left an impression on Ramsay, who recently announced he is partnering with Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort for his first Gordon Ramsay Food Market. Seven concepts by Ramsay — including Fish & Chips, Truffles Pub and Catch Café & Raw Bar — will be housed in the expansion of the resort and provide over 100 new jobs in early 2022.
A hiring event will take place Wednesday, Dec. 15, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, 777 Casino Drive, Cherokee. For additional information, check the resort’s December calendar listing at avl.mx/axx.
Editor’s note: The article was updated on Dec. 9.