What’s new in food: WNC Farmers Market ramps up for spring festival

NO FORAGING NECESSARY: The WNC Farmers Market will feature ramps, a wild garlic native to the Appalachian region, in many forms at its annual spring festival. Photo by Andy Hall

The WNC Farmers Market is throwing a two-day celebration of spring in Western North Carolina.

The second consecutive Spring Festival & Growing in the Mountains Plant Sale will take place on the 36-acre property from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23. The event will include local farmers, growers, makers, musicians and food trucks, and will highlight ramps and strawberries.

“Our spring festival is the culmination of what makes spring so special here in WNC — the growers and makers,” says Ellerslie McCue, marketing specialist. “Our market is home to many talented growers who focus on native and local plants, and [they] love to share their passion. Here, you’re buying local from local.”

The market will provide locally grown ramps and strawberries to participating food trucks, such as The Spotted Banana, Taqueria Muñoz and The Smokin’ Onion. DJ’s Pickles, located in Market Shop A, will also be serving pickled versions of the featured crops, as well as made-to-order menu offerings from its deli.

Patrons can check out local musicians, including 2 to Toot, Old Tyme Pickers and Asheville Junction under the breezeway between market shops A and B, as well as underneath truck shed 2 on Saturday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

Other activities include large tick-tack-toe, cornhole and a children’s activities section next to the food trucks.

The festival will also mark the opening of market shop C, with new permanent vendors Locals Seafood and Heaven’s Gate Orchard.

McCue says she is excited to share in the celebration. “Spring is such a joyful time filled with new growth, potential and color,” she says. “I love meeting and connecting with the people who share our love for buying local.”

The WNC Farmers Market is at 570 Brevard Road. For more information, visit avl.mx/cl6.

Breaking bread

Along with ramps and strawberries, another annual festival will take place throughout the Asheville area.

After a four-year hiatus, the Asheville Bread Festival returns and will feature events including a bread fair, lectures and hands-on workshops in multiple locations on Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23. The two-day event is an opportunity for bread enthusiasts and professional bakers to break bread together, improve kitchen skills, share ideas and network within the artisan bread community.

This year’s festival coincides with Earth Day, which is no coincidence, says Jennifer Lapidus, festival organizer and founder of local mill Carolina Ground. “From the environmental implications of rebuilding regional grains communities and sustainable food systems to the broader understanding of sustaining the baker lifestyle, we are exploring the theme of sustainability throughout our programming,” she says.

Most activities take place Saturday, beginning with the bread fair at New Belgium Brewing Co., where local and regional artisan bakeries will offer samples and sell their breads and pastries. Also featured will be booths from local and regional flour mills, as well as an assortment of baking and culinary books available for sale. Saturday’s schedule includes hands-on workshops and lectures by featured guest artisan bakers at various locations in and around Asheville and Hendersonville as well.

For the first time, one of the offered classes, Whole Grain Latin American Baked Goods: The Nutritional Benefits of Whole Grains in Bread and Pastries, will be presented in a bilingual format, casting the spotlight on baked goods from Latin America and in turn allowing the festival to evolve from a Eurocentric movement into something broader and more diverse.

This year marks 19 years since the festival’s inception, but four years have passed since the festival last occurred due to COVID-19. One thing that has risen since the last festival is a wave of interest in baking sparked by the pandemic, producing avid home bakers as well as new baking businesses.

“We have been on a four-year hiatus, so I think more than anything it is about coming together — seeing old friends in the baking community, making new friends and inspiring one another,” says Lapidus.

For more information, including a complete list of workshops and locations, visit avl.mx/cl7.

A gathering of buds

The Asheville Hemp Festival returns for its third year, taking place in Pack Square Park from Thursday, April 20, to Saturday, April 22.

“In honor of the hemp plant and the benefits of what it has to offer, we are getting our community together yet again to continue to celebrate and educate all the wonderful benefits hemp has to offer,” says festival director Beau Ballard in a press release.

The alcohol-free festival will feature exhibitions from local hemp farmers, musicians, artists, glassblowers and activists. There will also be food and beverages that are made with CBD and other legal derivatives of hemp-cannabis.

Dozens of bands will perform throughout the festival. Highlights include The Snozzberries, Fractured Frames, Granola Funk Express and Dirty Dead. There will also be workshops and seminars, with a special presentation by Ed Rosenthal, cannabis activist.

“One of our main goals is to make something accessible and engaging for the whole community, family [and] friends,” says Ballard in the same press release.

Pack Square Park is at 80 Court Plaza. For more information, visit avl.mx/cl8.

Eat, drink, sleep

Another hotel is slated to open in downtown Asheville, this time with roots in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

The Restoration Hotel Asheville, owned and operated by Charleston-based Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, is a boutique hotel with 60 guest rooms, featuring four event spaces and four food and beverage outlets — with indoor, outdoor, street-level and rooftop seating.

The April 20 grand opening will begin with free coffee at the hotel’s coffee bar The Rise, with java from local purveyor High Noon Coffee Roasters. The day will also include a Burgers and Brews lunch special at The Exchange, a full-service restaurant and bar. Meanwhile, local breweries on-site will be serving beers from 11 a.m-3 p.m. In the evening, a DJ will play music in the solarium; and the rooftop bar, The Observatory, will be open to the public. The opening celebration will end with a band playing in the basement bar, The Draftsman, from 8-11 p.m.

The hotel operations and culinary staffs are hoping to attract both tourists and locals with their take on Appalachian-influenced food and beverage.

“Our ideal crowd is a mix of both locals and tourists,” says Anders Anderson, managing director of strategic investment.This is something we’ve been able to accomplish in Charleston, and we believe we can accomplish the same here in Asheville.  With The Draftsman, we want the majority of our patrons to be locals.”

The Restoration Asheville is at 68 Patton Ave. For more information, visit avl.mx/cla.

A toast to Hendersonville

Hendersonville will highlight its wineries and cideries, as well as its culinary culture, during the inaugural Cider, Wine & Dine Weekend, which takes place Friday, April 21, to Sunday, April 23.

More than a dozen venues will participate in the weekend, which is filled with tastings, tours, food features, live music and vineyard hikes. Approximately 50 events are scheduled to take place throughout the weekend.

The weekend is designed to encourage patrons to visit the vineyards, orchards and tasting rooms, many located in the Blue Ridge countryside to see where these wines and ciders begin their journey from field to bottle. Participating wineries are part of the Crest of the Blue Ridge Henderson County AVA, the state’s newest wine region. The cideries draw on decades of apple-growing heritage and utilization of fresh fruit from area orchards.

“These cideries and wineries work hard all year to make these craft beverages,” says Michelle Owens, executive director of Henderson County Tourism Development Authority. “Often customers only experience the finished product, which is great, but it’s nice to have an opportunity to educate visitors about where these drinks begin in the orchards and vineyards, and help them understand, firsthand, the amount of work, care and passion that goes into every sip.

“Wines and ciders made here in Henderson County have ties to our long agricultural heritage,” Owens adds. “We created a weekend to encourage people to spend multiple days going out into the countryside to see our abundant orchards and vineyards, so they have a better appreciation for the places where these beverages originate … farm to glass.”

The event is designed to coincide with apple blossom season in the orchards and bud break in the vineyards, which both signal the beginning of a new crop. Events are both free and ticketed.

For more information, visit avl.mx/cl4.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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