CUISINE: Epicurean festival showcases Asheville’s best-kept secret
When millions of food and wine lovers put Asheville, N.C., among their Top 10 food and wine destinations in the U.S., the secret was finally out and this vibrant and eclectic mountain city became a must-visit, must-taste culinary hot spot.
It wasn’t that long ago that The Huffington Post named Asheville one of the “Top 10 Undiscovered Local Food Cities.” The honor has been accompanied by high-profile visits from luminaries such as President and First Lady Obama, Anthony Bourdain, and the cast and crew of the blockbuster film “The Hunger Games.”This August the 2012 Asheville Wine & Food Festival brings together the best regional, national, and international wines, local craft beer and spirits, exceptional restaurants and local artisanal foods for three days of palate-pleasing indulgence. The event will be held in the heart of the city, where festival-goers will find a treasure of independent, farm-to-table restaurants.
The epicurean adventure starts August 23 as two culinary teams face off in a contest to determine the Best Chef in Western North Carolina. After months of hot competition in the WNC Chefs Challenge, the last teams standing will have one hour to win the coveted award.
Friday, August 24, will feature sips and samples of luscious desserts and confections, sparkling and dessert wines, and specialty cocktails and spirits at the historic Grove Arcade. Members of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association will commemorate this celebration with banners outside their restaurants. Take the opportunity to dine locally at any participating AIR restaurant, and save room for dessert at SWEET, with tickets only $35 each.
Festivities continue on August 25 with the Asheville Wine & Food Festival Grand Tasting. Featuring more than 300 wines, creations prepared by the area's top chefs from Curate and Chef Mo’s, and samples of gourmet, artisan food products such as Lusty Monk Mustard and Imladris Farm jams, the celebration promises to be the largest gathering of regional, national, and international wines and local delicacies that Asheville has ever seen under one roof.
There will also be a Mixologist contest, an amateur wine judging competition, cooking demonstrations that include pairing wine and spirits, countless opportunities to meet, greet, and learn from area culinary experts, and plenty of tasty products to purchase and take home. And with a Beer City USA area in one corner, saluting Asheville’s thriving craft beer scene, and a Spirits Central area in another, featuring the region’s newest distilleries, there’s something for every taste.
VIP tickets for the Grand Tasting are $65 and grant admission starting at noon before the event opens for regular ticket-holders at 1:30. Besides beating the crowds, these tickets provide full access to the VIP Lounge where full pours of wine and food samplings will be served. General admission is $45. Proceeds from the festival benefit the nonprofit Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and its Growing Minds initiative, a program that works to connect farms and schools and to provide children positive experiences with healthy foods, including farm field trips, nutrition education, school gardens, and local food in cafeterias.
For more information and to reserve tickets for any of the Asheville Wine & Food Festival events, visit ashevillewineandfood.com.