What’s new in food: Summer rolls in with a fish fry on Fourth of July

ON A MISSION: Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church's pastor, William Hamilton, and his daughter JeNaya Hamilton are bringing back the Fourth of July fish fry to raise funds for the century-old Mars Hill church. Photo courtesy William Hamilton

Members of the 104-year-old Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church in the Long View community of Mars Hill don’t know for sure when their traditional Fourth of July fish fry started. But for several years the annual event has been on hiatus.

Last November, Mount Olive received word of their acceptance into a grant program administered by Partners for Sacred Places to support much-needed renovations to the aging church building. The award will require the church to raise funds to match the grant amount. On learning this, the Rev. William Hamilton, called to Mount Olive’s pulpit in 2017, says he knew resurrecting the fish fry was the perfect way to kick off the campaign.

“The building we are in now is nearly 70 years old, built when the first one was torn down,” Hamilton explains. “The roof needs repairs, the tile floor in the fellowship hall needs to be replaced, and we want to switch out the old furnace to save money.”

The $10 plates at the Fourth of July Fish Fry will include whitefish filets dredged in a secret recipe known only by church elders, along with sides of coleslaw, baked beans and hush puppies. Desserts, also made by members of the congregation, will be sold separately. Hamilton gets close to giddy thinking of them. “Oh man, so many kinds of desserts. I can’t remember them all, but lots of cakes for sure.”

The Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church Fourth of July Fish Fry begins at noon at Mars Hill City Park,690 Park Drive, Mars Hill. For more on Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church, visit avl.mx/9ms.

Friends reunion

The Friends group is reuniting — not Rachel’s, Monica’s and Phoebe’s “Friends,” but the Asheville chapter of Ben’s Friends, the national support group for people in the hospitality industry struggling with addiction. Founded in 2016 in Charleston, S.C., the local group began in 2019, meeting weekly at Posana restaurant. When COVID-19 closed restaurants and prohibited in-person gatherings, all chapters nationwide pivoted to virtual meetings. Briefly last summer, the Asheville chapter, led by chefs Paul Cressend and Andrew McLeod, resumed meeting at District 42, before returning to online sessions during the winter and spring.

On June 14, the chapter convened for the first time at its new location at A-B Tech inside the Magnolia building, the main facility for the school’s much-touted culinary program. “I went to A-B Tech, and I also drank a lot when I was in culinary school,” says McLeod. “It would have benefited me to know there were people making different choices and living a different lifestyle while maintaining their professional path.”

McLeod adds that while virtual meetings were helpful in navigating the unique challenges of the pandemic, in-person meetings and making human connections are key to managing sobriety. “The opposite of addiction is connection,” he explains. “It is a different experience sitting in a room with someone, making a friend, exchanging numbers, and going out for coffee after.”

Ben’s Friends Asheville meets Mondays, 10-11 a.m., in the main dining room of the Magnolia building on the A-B Tech Asheville campus, 340 Victoria Drive.

In a jam

When Tupelo Honey’s 16 nationwide locations pivoted to takeout-only in March 2020, many employees were temporarily out of work. To assist its furloughed staff, the restaurant turned to one of its more popular menu items. “Using biscuits, we found a simple way guests could give back while also enjoying biscuits at home,” says chief operating officer Caroline Skinner.

Biscuits for a Cause was cooked up last summer as a $4 appetizer of two cathead buttermilk biscuits with blueberry jam and whipped butter, available at all stores, as a tasty way for guests to support the company’s employee relief fund during COVID-19. That initiative transitioned to the Biscuits for a Cause 501(c)(3) foundation, which has raised over $500,000 since its inception. Grants are generally capped at $3,000, and the average amount requested is $1,000 to $2,500.

“We’ve used the fund to support team members that had unexpected transportation issues, like one whose car was totaled and was not reimbursed by insurance,” says Skinner. “Additionally, BFAC has supported employees with unexpected medical issues, treatments such as surgeries and ER visits.”

The success of the foundation and decision to continue disbursing grants to assist employees in crisis beyond COVID-related needs has led the company to form a board of directors to help Tupelo Honey’s human resources department manage the guest-driven relief fund.

Tupelo Honey, 12 College St. and 1829 Hendersonville Road, avl.mx/9m7

Piece of cake

Shana McDowell has been baking and selling custom cakes, cupcakes, cookies, brownies and sweetbreads from her AVL Cake Lady shop on New Leicester Highway since March 2019. The pandemic hit the business hard, and though she kept baking, she also did a lot of thinking about the future.

“Foot traffic has always been a challenge there, and COVID really hurt it,” says McDowell. “As things started to open back up and people were getting out and about, I felt I needed to get out where the people are.”

In early June, McDowell opened what she calls a permanent AVL Cake Lady popup in Building 2 at the WNC Farmers Market on Brevard Road. “We built everything on wheels so we can move it all around,” she says of the family effort that includes her daughter, Elizabeth McDowell, and Shana’s father, Walter Brannan, the face behind the counter at the market location.

Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., the new location sells banana bread, blueberry crumble, pound cake, mini-pies, cookies, brownies and banana pudding, all made in the Leicester Highway store, which remains open 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

AVL Cake Lady, 34 New Leicester Highway and WNC Farmers Market, Building B, 570 Brevard Road, avl.mx/9ma

Beer today, gone tomorrow

Erin Jordan literally worked her way from the ground up to become Archetype Brewing’s head brewer in 2020, the only woman to hold the position in Asheville. “I’ve been there since it was a dirt floor and helped finish the buildout,” she told Xpress earlier this year, shortly after accepting bronze and silver medals and the title N.C. Belgian-Style Brewery of the Year at the prestigious New York International Beer Competition.

Now Jordan is bidding adieu to Archetype and will take her talents to Charlotte’s Resident Culture Brewing Co. “We’re devastated to lose Erin,” says Archetype co-founder Eric Casanova. “Erin is an incredible talent, and I’m sure she will make us all proud in her next step in her journey.”

Jordan will work with the recently hired assistant brewer and brewing intern before she departs in July. In the meantime, Archetype is looking for a new head brewer. “The rare opportunity we’re offering to applicants is thrilling, but my heart is broken to lose such a powerful, competent, creative, kind woman,” adds co-owner Corina Casanova. “We’ll miss Erin’s energy, but we’ll surf this change together.”


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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