Last weekend a couple good friends and I went to the Asheville Food and Wine Festival sponsored by WNC magazine. It was belly-bulging day of tasting! We sampled regional wines, dishes from local restaurants, and many specialty food made right here in Western North Carolina.
The main event was the finale of the WNC Chef's Challenge, a hometown rendition of Iron Chef America, where chefs faced-off to create the most lavish meal in one hour's time. The competition progressed through the summer and the final two chefs battled for bragging rights Saturday afternoon. The finalists were Chef Rick Boyer from The Inn on Biltmore Estate and Chef Stewart Lyon from Curras Nuevo Cuisine.
In the end, Chef Boyer won the title. As I'm a little partial to Curras restaurant--I totally think it was rigged! But I do have to say, all the dishes looked excellent! Congratulations to both competitors for your valiant efforts!
Out of the 75+ booths, there were a few standout companies I'd like to share with you!
Winter Sun Farms~ Winter Share is a company that provides frozen fruits and veggies from local, organic, sustainable farms throughout the winter months. So if the produce is frozen, why wouldn't you just buy it at the grocer, you might wonder? Let me repeat the LOCAL, ORGANIC, and SUSTAINABLE comment above. This means your produce was frozen at its peak and comes from small farms in your area. When you participate in the share, you are supporting your local farmers, helping the environment, and getting a healthier product! Plus, with every box of goodies you get recipes for using them. It's brilliant!
Click the link to find out if Winter Share is available in your area!
Smoking J's Hot Sauce Company is a family business in Candler, NC focusing on high quality "fiery foods." They are best known for their Mango-Habanero Hot Sauce, but also produce fantastic BBQ sauces, salsas, and dry rubs! They grow most of their own crops on a small environmentally-minded farm and meticulously cook up their goodies in small batches.
The Habanero Sauce delivers a surprisingly delicate balance of flavors, not over powered by the habaneros. It's one of those foods, that regardless of the heat, you just can't stop eating.
As a true lover of spice, I think Smoking J's Hot Sauce reigns supreme!
Imladris Farm is nestled in beautiful Fairview, NC and has been in the family for seven generations. Walter and Wendy Harrill hold themselves to a higher standard of sustainable agriculture. Their home-grown preserves are a testament to this philosophy and are featured in several area restaurants, including Sunny Point Cafe, Green Sage and Early Girl Eatery. The first time I tasted Imladris' "Berry Best Jam" in a restaurant, I ran home to look it up. Yes, it's that good!
Along with berries, Imladris farms goats, laying hens, and rabbits. Rabbit meat is highly praised in the culinary world for flavor, but also boasts: Extremely low cholesterol and fat. A higher percentage of protein than beef, chicken, or pork. Rabbit meat is all white meat, and is suitable for most individuals with special dietary needs.
You can find the Harrills at the North Asheville Tailgate Market on Saturdays where they sell preserves, ice cream, rabbit meat, lamb or goat meat, and eggs!
French Broad Chocolate Lounge in the heart of downtown, has quickly become an Asheville icon. Specializing in 'all things chocolate' this cozy little den provides a vast array of cakes, cookies, chilled dessert, coffees and hand-crafted chocolates! The French Broad Chocolate Lounge is known as a favorite late-night hangout, and another example of areas residents taking their passion for food to unbound levels of greatness!
Truthfully until the festival, I had never tasted Chocolate Lounge truffles! Of course, I had consumed nearly every other delicacy on their menu (the mocha stout cake multiple times), but hadn't made it to the truffle case. Considering myself a truffle snob, I was thoroughly dazzled by the quality of the truffles--dense, devilishly smooth, and packed with flavor. I know exactly what I'm ordering on my next trip to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge!
Need a taste? The Chocolate Lounge SHIPS!
Blessed Botanicals makes the most glorious organic teas and culinary blends you've ever seen, tasted, or smelled! This small company in Burnsville, NC takes pride in careful attention to detail. Every herbal blend is perfectly balanced for flavor and health benefits. My favorite tea is the MY LAST NERVE blend, an aromatic culmination of mint, lavender and lemongrass (among other herbs) that is soothing after a long day and even offers headache relief! I drank more than my share of MY LAST NERVE when my kids were babies!
The spice rubs were new to me, and I was thrilled to find such superior quality culinary blends! They are marvelous for enhancing proteins, veggies, sauces, and dressings. A must-have ingredient for any kitchen!
And now for the GIVEAWAY!
I have SEVEN prizes to offer you!
4 winners will receive Smoking J's Habanero Hot Sauce, Imladris Farm's Specialty Preserves, and French Broad Chocolate Lounge Truffles!
2 winners will receive Gifts Bags from Blessed Botanicals including four culinary blends: Salt of the Earth, Planet Garlic, Clemon Celery Salt, and Lazy River Rub.
PLUS~ 1 local winner will receive a Free Farm Tour (for a family of 4) at Imladris Farm and Fresh Rabbit Meat (half a rabbit.)
1. Subscribe to A SPICY PERSPECTIVE by RSS, Facebook, Twitter, or Email.
2. Leave a comment telling me how you subscribed AND if you live in the Asheville area!
*All participants MUST live in the continental U.S. and have a permanent address (No PO Boxes, please!)
*Readers may enter until 12 noon (EST) on September 1st, 2010.
*Winners will be selected by random drawing (involving an iridescent wizard hat and two cute giggling kiddos) and announced in an evening post September 1st.
*Once selected, participants will need to provide a shipping address to receive their winnings!
*If a winner does not respond by September 8th, 2010, a new winner will be selected.
*The local resident awarded the Imladris Farm tour and rabbit meat will receive further instructions for pickup. (No, I won't be shipping rabbit meat...can you imagine?)
That's it! Make sure to SUBSCRIBE and leave a comment!
~And don't forget to check out these incredible companies!