Buzzworm news briefs

Sticking around

The StickHouse Grille has opened a second Asheville location at 640 Merrimon Ave., about three-and-a-half miles north of their two-month-old restaurant at 645 Biltmore Ave. The locally owned chain, headed up by Savoy owner Eric Scheffer and Geri Wolff of Market Works International, plans to expand to at least 15 eateries across the region over the next few years.

The new restaurants represent the latest trend in the fast-food trade — taking the convenience of short-order food upscale. The idea is to offer better-quality meals to people on a drive-thru time frame. StickHouse customers make three choices: one of six meat/fish options; one of eight “world flavors” sauces; and one of 10 sides. The shish kebabs are cooked to order and served up in just a few minutes, both eat-in and to-go. Meals run from $6 to $8.50 (plus beverage and/or dessert). Beverages include grilled limeade, tea, soft drinks, beer and bottled water.

The sauces were developed by chefs at Sheffer’s acclaimed Savoy restaurant, known for its dedication to experimentation and fresh food (nary a freezer on the premises). The StickHouse sauces, says Sheffer, are a direct result of the exceptional culinary freedom accorded the Savoy staff (which operates on a team approach, rather than a head chef dictating to kitchen underlings). Sheffer hopes that same dedication to culinary excellence can be translated to a world in which speed often trumps gourmandise.

The Biltmore StickHouse Grille (255-0105) is open Mon. through Sat. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and noon to 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Merrimon branch (254-2100) is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sun. through Thur. and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat.

— Cecil Bothwell

This is not a bedtime story

As if Bram Stoker’s Dracula, complete with shiny Hollywood ending, wasn’t creepy enough, author Elizabeth Kostova upped the ante with her debut novel. The Historian (Little, Brown, 2005), at more than 600 pages, probes the legend of 15th century Romanian Prince Vlad the Impaler, whose infamy eventually transformed into the bloodsucking count we all know and fear. Truth, in this case, is quite possibibly more gruesome than fiction.

After a decade in the making, Kostova’s book took off like a bat out of Transylvania, landing the author a $2 million advance and holding ground on the New York Times best-seller list for months. Sony Pictures recently bought the movie rights for $1.5 million, planning to give Interview with the Vampire a run for its money.

But big-screen sensibilities aside, the impetus for the book was rooted in a simple memory. While hiking in Western North Carolina with her husband, the author recalled her father’s Dracula stories and suddenly wondered: What would happen if the vampire overheard a dad telling tales of the bloodthirsty count? She immediately sat down — right there on the trail — and jotted seven pages of notes.

And, as luck would have it, Kostova’s husband hails from the same part of the world as the author’s muse (Vlad the Impaler, lest you forget his name), so he was able to check the book’s details for accuracy.

In fact, not only did Kostova’s inspiration for her best-selling work come from an experience in WNC, so did her marriage, in a roundabout way. Both the writer and her Romanian-born husband, Georgi Kostov (in Romanian custom, when a woman takes her husband’s name she adds a feminine ‘a’ to the end) were students at Warren Wilson College. So, on Saturday, Dec. 3, Kostova returns to her alma mater to present the Harwood-Cole Memorial Lecture, entitled “Journeying East: Literary Travelers in Eastern Europe.”

Expect accounts of globetrotting across several of the countries vampires may (or may not) have roamed, as well as a reading from The Historian. The event begins at 4 p.m. in the Canon Lounge in the at Warren Wilson’s Gladfelter Student Center. There is no charge, but early arrival is recommended.

For more information, call 771-3061.

— Alli Marshall

Animal magnetism

They’re survivors. Not the reality TV-show kind, but the real thing — little hurricane evacuees plucked from the Gulf Coast-flood scene and brought to WNC by the Animal Compassion Network.

Two of them, Seymour and Wilbert, are kittens that were among the smallest of the rescue animals to find their way to foster homes here. According to their temporary keepers, they love to play and snuggle with the household’s 3-year-old human, who gets to carry them around like rag dolls. Their original owners were never located, so hopefully Wilbert and Seymour soon score a permanent abode.

But they’ll be only two of a sizable number of displaced pets on hand when ACN holds their upcoming adoption fairs. Many local animals in need of adoptive families will be there too.

The fairs will take place at PETsMART, which is located in the Wal-Mart shopping center off Swannanoa Road, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on two upcoming Saturdays, Dec. 3 and 17 (dogs outside; cats inside).

The adoption fee for ACN dogs and cats includes spaying/neutering, vaccinations, a free month of veterinary insurance, and microchipping with lifetime registration. As part of the fairs, ACN will also provide low- and no-cost spay/neuter vouchers to all pet owners.

ACN’s cats and kittens may also be seen at PETsMART seven days a week, and are available for adoption every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m., on first and third Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on other Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m.

ACN, the largest no-kill animal welfare organization in WNC, can be contacted at 258-4820. To learn about becoming an ACN volunteer, see the “Giving Back” column in this issue’s Holiday Guide section.

— Nelda Holder

Raising AIDS awareness

A coalition of local organizations is staging a wide array of events in early December — including walks, an auction, a food drive and a special theatrical production — to commemorate World AIDS Day (Thursday, Dec. 1).

Through the third quarter of this year, nine new cases of HIV/AIDS infection have been reported in Buncombe County, down from 11 in the same period in 2004 and 13 in 2003, according to the North Carolina Division of Public Health. The actual number is almost certainly higher, Executive Director Ron Curran of the WNC AIDS Project told Xpress, since many local people seek diagnosis outside the county (principally in Charlotte, which reported 254 new cases during the same period).

Worldwide, there were 37.2 million adults and 2.2 million children living with HIV at the end of 2004, and 4.9 million people became newly infected with the virus that year, according to United Nations estimates. About half of all victims contract the disease before age 25 and die within 10 years. Some 95 percent of people with HIV/AIDS live in developing nations.

Avert.org, a global activist organization, has sponsored World AIDS Day since 1988 to raise money, increase awareness, educate the public and fight prejudice concerning the disease. “World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away and that there are many things still to be done,” states the group’s Web site. The theme for this year’s event is “Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise.”

This year, the Western North Carolina World AIDS Day Committee, local AIDS service organizations, A-B Tech, the Buncombe County Health Department, Nazareth First Baptist Church and WNC Community Health Services will co-sponsor an AIDS Walk along downtown Asheville’s Martin Luther King Drive on Saturday, Dec. 3. Participants are asked to bring a nonperishable food item or monetary donation for Loving Food Resources (a service of WNC AIDS Project) as a token entrance fee. Participants will assemble at 1 p.m.; the walk will begin at 1:30 p.m. A memorial service (3-5 p.m.) will include music by youth groups.

Asheville’s Scapegoat Theatre will present The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told by acclaimed playwright Paul Rudnick at the Asheville Arts Center, 308 Merrimon Ave., Dec. 1-3 and 8-10 at 8 p.m. The play is a gay/lesbian journey through the centuries, from the Garden of Eden to post-AIDS Manhattan. (For details, see “Smart Bets” elsewhere in this issue.)

Tickets for the Friday, Dec. 2, performance are also good for admission to “The Most Fabulous Gala and Silent Auction Ever Held,” which will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the theater. The auction will feature works donated by local artists as well as light hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided by The Wine Guy and Laurey’s Catering. The proceeds from all these events will benefit local AIDS organizations.

Tickets for the theater production are $15.75 ($26 for the Dec. 2 auction/show); they’re available online (scapegoattheatre.org) or at the box office.

— Cecil Bothwell

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