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Food Blog Forum Asheville: Day 2

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Day two of Food Blog Forum showcased the Asheville food scene from farm to fork. We arrived at Highland Brewing Company to what essentially amounted to a sea of food and beer.

At 11 a.m.

On a Tuesday.

To say I was happy is an understatement.

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Creative. Delicious. All-around amazing. I am not sure how to best describe the food at the tasting event, but any of those will do. I hope I have struck the right balance between enjoying it in the moment and sharing it with you here.

Top Row:

Montadito en Escabeche by Cúrate – Toast with mussels, a roasted tomato and garlic vinaigrette, and pickled seaweed.

Appalachian Okra by Green River Pickles -  Slightly spiced with cayenne peppers and garlic. Enjoy straight up or stuffed with pimento cheese.

Sunburst Mountain Trout by Red Stag Grill – Trout paired with seasonal vegetables and topped with heirloom tomato jam and lemon balm creme fraiche.

Middle Row:

Mimosa Fried Chicken Biscuit by Biscuit Head - More than fried chicken on a biscuit, their signature dish includes sriracha slaw, sweet potato chai butter, and cheerwine bacon. A personal favorite.

Citrus Kale Salad by Green Sage Cafe - Kale with beets, carrots, avocado, and raisins.

Duck Liver Pate by King James  Public House –  Served with pickles on lavash (a crisp flatbread). Quite possibly the prettiest dish of the day.

Bottom Row:

Foraged Mushroom Gratin by The Market Place - Mushroms, roasted shallots, and a parmesan herb crust served atop crostini. Another personal favorite.

Duck Terrine Biscuit by The Junction – Duck leg and liver terrine on a buttermilk biscuit, peach-pepper jelly, shaved jalapeño. This was a crowd favorite.

Dessert Empanada by The Cantina  - Stuffed with strawberry cheesecake and topped with a Nutella molé sauce.

Not pictured but another personal favorite was the sweet corn pudding with spicy peppers from 12 Bones Smokehouse. An Asheville local told me 12 Bones maked the best barbecue in the city.

Want to make some of these dishes at home? Download a sampling of Asheville Recipe Cards. (They may take a while to load, but they will eventually.)

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There were other food artisans present as well. Remember French Broad Chocolates from Day 1? They were there with trays of caramels and tiers of Mocha Stout cupcakes made with Highland’s Black Mocha Stout. It got me thinking about my Oktoberfest menu

One of the more interesting experiences I had was provided courtesy of the Asheville Bee Charmer. They brought their honey tasting bar of local and artisan honey with them, providing me the chance to try honey varieties like nothing I had every tasted. I started with a honey from Idaho that was derived from Fireweed, which is an herb common to the Pacific Northwest. I then tried a honey form Oregon that tasted like vanilla marshmallows.

Tastes do not typically move me to much emotion beyond the spectrum of “that was really good” or “I didn’t much care for that.” This honey, however, moved me. I wanted to try them all but moved along out of fear of a sugar coma.

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So that was Highland. A little about the brewery, by the way. Highland was established in 1994 and the first brewery to open in Asheville since prohibition. It is now one of 19 breweries in Asheville. I have only visited five, so I guess you could say I have some work to do.

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Our next stop was Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Husband and wife duo Jamie and Amy Ager operate the farm, and Jamie took time out of his day to talk about what goes on there. The farm offers grassfed beef, pork, chicken, and turkey, as well as you-pick berries. In a few weeks, they will have apples, a corn maze, and a pumpkin patch. I got the sense that the Ager’s are passionate about what they do and are committed to their community.

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We traipsed through the field to find the cows.

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 Found ‘em!

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Looking Glass creamery was our final stop. When I heard the word “creamery,” I immediately thought, “ice cream!” Nope, not this creamery.

Founded in 2009 by Jennifer and Andy Perkins, Looking Glass creamery makes cheeses from both cow and goats’ milk. The Ellington pictured in the bottom left is an ash-coated goats’ milk cheese. It placed second at the American Cheese Society competition in 2012. Impressive.

I also tried their Chocolate Lab cheese (pictured center) and Ridgeline (pictured right). I was glad I left my wallet on the bus, or else I probably would have bought each one.

Cheese is not their only forte. Looking Glass also makes small batch caramel sauces, and they graciously provided a jar of Carmelita goats’ milk caramel sauce to Food Blog Forum attendees. I am saving mine for apple dipping. At least that’s the plan for now. I could very well end up eating it straight out of the jar, depending on how the week continues.

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 They had a lot of hops growing too.

In addition to the cheese, we were treated to sake by Blue Kudzu, trout by Sunburst Trout Farm, and bread by Farm & Sparrow wood-fired bakery.

And that was the day. Festivities continued into the night with a culinary tour of restaurants downtown, but I had to hit the road to work the next day. That was my excuse anyway. Missing out really just gives me a reason to go back. Sooner rather than later.

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{Photo Credit: Explore Asheville}


Get the Recipes 300x139 Food Blog Forum Asheville: Day 2

Food Blog Forum Asheville: Day 1

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Technically, this is Pre-Day 1 and Day 1 in the same blog post, else I run the risk of running you off with my thoughts about Asheville. I took myself on a vacation for a few days last week to attend my first Food Blog Forum conference.

Unbeknownst when I set out, I was about to get spoiled.

It started with a bit of self-indulgence. Because I can get to Asheville in a matter of two hours and a few odd minutes, I headed up well before the Sunday evening start time. My sights were set on some beer and general afternoon wandering.

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First stop: Wicked Weed

I sipped a flight of Peach Habanero, Black Currant dubbel, Coolcumber, Serenity wild ale, Milk It milk stout, and Bliss Belgian tripel and wolfed down a turkey sandwich with peach, brie, and dijon mustard. The winner of my flight taste test was the Bliss tripel with the Peach Habanero close behind. Although I picked a favorite, there was not one of the six I did not like.

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Second stop: Lexington Avenue Brewery

My flight here included the Malt-n-Pepper saison, The Goat smoked saison, Waves of Grain amber, Hop Burst pale ale, Eleanor’s Rye red ale, Cello Out cherry porter. My favorite was the Waves of Grain, with the Malt-n-Pepper and Cello Out following close behind. I also took a long, hard look at the lemon beignets before I decided to leave well enough alone. But since dessert was on my mind…

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Third stop: French Broad Chocolate Lounge

I picked up a small box of chocolates and the most delicious iced tea – with peppermint and tulsi basil- that I have ever tasted. I think I liked it so much because it was like nothing I have ever tasted.

As of this writing, I have yet to indulge in one chocolate. Nestled in that box are a Thai truffle, lavender honey caramel, vanilla bourbon caramel, white jasmine truffle, fig and port truffle, and fresh raspberry truffle.

Later that night, French Broad Chocolates gave us a 17.9 ounce (i.e. giant) chocolate tablet. I have no idea what I am going to bake with something this special, but I think it would go lovely in a Fondant au Chocolat.

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{Photo credit: Explore Asheville}

Finally, the reason I was in Asheville to begin with arrived. At the evening reception, I had the opportunity to meet new people and to connect with others I “knew” only from email or Facebook. I got the chance to socialize with  three other Charlotte-based bloggers and connect with others across from the country. They included:

Plus there were appetizers, beer, wine, moonshine, and a bag filled with artisan food products made in Asheville. Win-win-win-win-win. Score a win for yourself and download the recipe cards. (It may take them a minute, but they will load).

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The next day dawned, and off to the conference I went. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say I learned quite a bit. The conference was set up with four speaker sessions followed by speakers’ round tables (with a lovely lunch in between, of course).

The overall theme of the day was “just ask.” If you need help, ask for it. You may hear “no” or receive no response at all, but frankly, that puts you no worse off than you were before. Right?

In a similarly-themed piece she shared just this week, Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “The funny thing is that rejection is not so bad… a glorious failure can sometimes be more life affirming than a cautious win.” I know a thing or two about glorious failures.

Moving on…

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To end the day, we headed off to tour the Biltmore House. Our tour was billed as “food history with a side of  Downton Abbey”, so we got a look at not only the dining room but also the butler’s pantry and kitchens.

And for whatever reason, the fine folks at the Biltmore (where photography is not typically allowed) turned us lose with our cameras. Come along with me on a brief photo tour:

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Our lovely tour guide Lee in front of a Flemish tapestry.

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 The tapestries in the sitting area.

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Ceiling Montage

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The gorgeous atrium.

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The dining room table…

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…and, for perspective, the dining room.

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The tour ends…

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…and dinner begins.

Day one was packed full of information, food, and general fun. Day two included a brewery, a farm, and a creamery.

More to come.

{I shot all photos from this trip on my iPhone. I edited some with Instagram and others with Snapseed.}

Get the Recipes 300x139 Food Blog Forum Asheville: Day 1

Cheesecake-Stuffed Baked Peaches

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This is what happens when butter, sugar, and cream cheese collide with peaches and hang out under extremely warm conditions for half an hour. Firm, beautiful, yellow-fleshed peaches transform into soft, lovely, golden dessert bombs.

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Some days (seemingly, an increasingly rare number of days), I love the chance to write. Other days, I have nothing to show but desert. I blah, blah, blah on and on for the sake of assuming blog readers want to read my gabby chat.

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But who needs words when you can have dessert? Enjoy!

Cheesecake -Stuffed Baked Peaches
  • For the Peaches
  • 6 peaches
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • For the Cheesecake Filling
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  1. Halve and pit the peaches (you can also peel them if you like), then take a thin slice off of the rounded edge of the peach so it will sit flat on a baking sheet without rolling around.
  2. Dip the flesh side of each peach half in the melted butter, then dip the buttered side in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
  3. Place the peach halves so the cinnamon-sugar sides face up.
  4. Prepare the filling by beating the softened cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla together until smooth.
  5. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into each peach pit. If the impression left by the pit is shallow, you may want to use a melon-baller or spoon to make deep enough to hold the filling.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F or until light golden brown. Best when served warm.
I had about a tablespoon of the cinnamon-sugar mixture leftover. You may want to adjust the amounts accordingly, or just store the leftovers for another use.