What’s new in food: We Give a Share rebrands as Equal Plates Project

FULL PLATES: Equal Plates Project chefs Kendrick Burton, left, and Kikkoman Shaw package locally sourced meals made in the Southside Kitchen that will be delivered to homebound residents in the Southside community and beyond. Photo by Madi Holtzman

Less than two months after assuming the role as director of We Give a Share, Madi Holtzman nervously approached founding board member Elizabeth Sims with the idea to change the local nonprofit’s name to better reflect its mission to “Make all plates equal.”

Sims supported the idea, and in June, Holtzman presented her proposal to the board to rename the nonprofit Equal Plates Project. The proposal received unanimous support.

Since its 2020 launch in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the newly rebranded nonprofit has connected farmers experiencing a surplus of produce with Southside Kitchen. The latter, through initial funding from the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville, purchases the produce and uses it to prepare fresh meals for homebound public housing residents. The kitchen prepares lunches for students at numerous schools, as well.

Though Equal Plates Project’s partnership with the Housing Authority concluded last fall when the nonprofit assumed the kitchen’s lease, a grant from the WNC Bridge Foundation has allowed Southside Kitchen chefs Kikkoman Shaw and Kendrick Burton to continue meal production for public housing residents through the summer.

In late August, the kitchen will also begin making daily lunches for five schools: Asheville PEAK Academy, The Franklin School of Innovation, Evergreen Community Charter School, Francine Delaney New School for Children and Verner Center for Early Learning

To help subsidize the low U.S. Department of Agriculture free/reduced-price school lunch reimbursement rates and continue the Housing Authority resident meals beyond summer, EPP has created the catering program, One-to-One, which is being marketed to groups, gatherings and meetings

We offer catering of prepared foods at a price point comparable to other casual catering operations,” Holtzman explains. “We have planned the pricing with a margin that will allow us to provide one free meal to the community for every meal purchased. If we cater a meeting of 20, we will prepare food for 40.”

Vegan curried lentils, homemade cornbread, watermelon, greens and arugula salad were among the catered items served during a recent WNC Food Justice Planning Initiative meeting. Other menu options include zesty chicken, Looking Glass Creamery mac and cheese, and cucumber salad.

“We continue to rely on local farmers and producers,” says Holtzman. “Our partnership with them is pivotal to our mission. We met recently with the Buncombe Partnership for Children, and that conversation made me realize the demand for healthy, quality meals for preschool children is enormous, and I really see us evolving into more of that as we grow.”

Holtzman says that with the school year starting, the nonprofit will need more volunteers in the kitchen on weekday mornings. Interested parties are invited to contact her directly at madi@equalplatesproject.org.

For more information, visit avl.mx/bvs.

Thai one on

Chefs Madeline Redo and Trevor Musick moved from Austin, Texas, to Asheville in March 2020, about two weeks before COVID-19 shut down every restaurant in town. The two did eventually find jobs — she at OWL Bakery and Musick at Bargello and Leo’s House of Thirst.

But the pandemic pause also gave them time to focus on starting a pop-up business, Cassia, that specializes in the pair’s interpretations of Asian cuisine. Cassia tested the waters in February at DSSOLVR and hosted an encore a month later.

As its reputation has grown, Cassia has expanded, with regular pop-ups now taking place at four breweries — Cellarest Beer Project, New Origin Brewing, Turgua Brewing and DSSOLVR.

Well before arriving in WNC, the couple traveled through Asia for two months, sampling foods, snapping photos and taking notes in their journals in Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

“We love those foods, the use of ingredients and styles of cooking,” Musick says. “Asian food has such bold, intense flavor profiles that hit all the sweet, salty, spicy and sour notes and balance so well.”

Each pop-up has four to five menu options, but people will almost always find sweet potato firecrackers. “Imagine sweet potato fries meet spring roll,” says Redo. Another popular item — fueled in part by a mesmerizing five-second video on their Instagram account — is a pork stir fry with a fried egg.

Redo and Musick have been invited to participate in the Chow Chow event, From Our Hearth to Yours, taking place Saturday, Sept. 10, 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., at Smoky Park Supper Club.

Cassia’s next August pop-up is Friday, Aug. 19, 4-8:30 p.m., at Cellarest, 395 Haywood Road.

For more on upcoming events, visit avl.mx/bvl.

Fit to be pie-d

Pre-pandemic, All Day Darling’s occasional pizza nights were big hits, but when General Manager (and previous pastry chef/baker) Ashley Cort decided to bring them back this spring, she had a problem. The restaurant had replaced its deck oven, where the pizzas were previously baked, with another piece of equipment.

“We could not make pizzas in a regular oven,” she says.

Cort reached out to friend Sam Grossman, owner of Snacks & Co. Pizza, who had a Forno Bravo wood-burning pizza oven on wheels.

On March 19, Grossman pulled his oven to the Montford Avenue location, and he and All Day Darling staged Equinox Pizza Night, a resounding success that sold over 100 pizzas.

Following the event, Cort suggested to All Day Darling owner, Jacob Sessoms, that they continue the feature on a regular basis. Sessoms agreed, and Grossman, who was moving back to Northern California, offered to sell them his Forno Bravo oven.

While Cort has experience making wood-fired pizza from a previous job at Walnut Schoolhouse in Marshall, Sessoms is currently learning how to operate the restaurant’s newest piece of equipment.

All Day Darling plans to offer three types of 12-inch pizzas, as well as special gluten-free items from the kitchen. The goal, says Cort, is monthly pizza nights, as well as collaborations with other local bakers such as Mother’s Heidi Bass.

For updates on pizza nights and other collaborative pop-ups, visit avl.mx/bvr.

Night life

Breakfast for dinner is so common, so why not offer brunch after dark for very late risers? On Saturday, Aug. 20, at 7 p.m. Asheville Drag Brunch will bring the queens to Biscuit Head South for a special nighttime performance. Expect plenty of biscuits, as well as an alcoholic beverage or nonalcoholic beverage included with the $25 ticket (or $40 with the addition of a bottle of bubbles). All profits will benefit Umoja Health, Wellness & Justice Collective.

Biscuit Head South is at 1994 Hendersonville Road. For more information, visit avl.mx/bvm.

Tea-d up for fall

The dog days of August have everyone dreaming of crisp fall weather, and Asheville Tea Co. is prepared for it with the release of its fall 2022 seasonals brews. Two of the three are brand-new blends: Pumpkin Pie Chai and Ginger Turmeric. The third, Spiced Apple Butter, is a longtime autumn favorite. Each blend features locally sourced ingredients from Rayburn Farms in Barnardsville. For more, visit avl.mx/bvq.

Asheville Tea has also partnered with Bountiful Cities for a 100% locally grown herbal blend of loose-leaf tea with lemongrass, lemon balm, blue cornflower and calendula. Proceeds from sales will be donated to Bountiful Cities, a local nonprofit dedicated to teaching sustainable agriculture skills and sharing resources to promote social justice and economic resilience.
For more, visit avl.mx/bvp.

Pan handled

La Bodega de Cúrate, Katie Button and Felix Meana’s all-day, two-story café, multiexperience restaurant, wine and pintxo bar, has added two more opportunities for guests to fully immerse themselves in Spanish cuisine from executive chef Matt Brown.

The Paella Experience is geared to groups of six to 16 diners seated together to enjoy four courses, including paella and dessert. A la carte dishes can be added, but all members of the group must partake of the set menu. Reservations are required 24 hours in advance for the $55 per person meal (not including 7% tax and 20% gratuity added to the bill).

The Chef Tasting also requires all pre-reserved diners (two to six people) to participate in the “journey through Spanish pintxo culture.” Wine pairings chosen by wine director Jessica Salyer can be added (for an additional cost) to the $65 per person tasting, plus tax and gratuity.

La Bodega de Cúrate is at 32 S. Lexington Ave. Reservations for the experiences can be made at avl.mx/bu3.


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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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