Get to know the region through its foodways, artisanal producers, farms, fests, and more
PHOTO: Beech Mountain Brewing Company
There are plenty of places to throw back a cold one in WNC, including these novel and new ventures
Ginger’s Revenge - Asheville
Though most ginger beers are nonalcoholic, Ginger’s Revenge offers the tasty exception. Their spicy brews (which are naturally gluten-free) come in a spectrum of flavors, like Honey Chamomile and Pear Rosemary. 829 Riverside Dr., Suite 100, www.gingersrevenge.com
Ben’s Tune Up - Asheville South Slope
Beer aficionados will undoubtedly find themselves on Asheville’s South Slope—a three-block radius just south of downtown that’s dense with the city’s breweries, including one for sake. Ben’s Tune Up, a beer garden and restaurant decked in salvaged auto parts, serves up Ben’s American Sake made from American rice and mountain water. 195 Hilliard Ave., www.benstuneup.com
Eurisko Beer Company - Asheville South Slope
South Slope’s youngest brewery promises to be both “wonderful and strange,” but not in the ways you might expect. “These days, the more simple you go, the weirder it is,” says owner and brewmaster Zac Harris, who promises lots of Belgian and farmhouse style ales. 255 Short Coxe Ave., euriskobeer.com/
Whistle Hop Brewing Company - Fairview
This brewery takes “train hopping” to the next level. The crimson train car houses a tasting room for Whistle Hop’s uncommon offerings (like the gluten-free Green Tea Mint Lager), but head outside for a round of disc golf or badminton on the grounds. 1288 Charlotte Hwy., whistlehop.com/
Turgua Farmstead Brewery - Fairview
You won’t be surprised to find locally sourced ingredients in these sudsy beers, since the brewery and tasting room are located on a true farmstead. 27 Firefly Hollow Dr., turguabrewing.com/
Beech Mountain Brewing Co. - Beech Mountain
It’s one of the only U.S. breweries located in a ski area, and come summertime, it’s the perfect place to crack a cold one after biking the resort’s extensive trails. 1007 Beech Mountain Pkwy., beechmountainresort.com
Peaks & Creeks Brewing Co. - Brevard
After pouring from a “tasting truck” outfitted with taps, Peaks & Creeks recently opened its brick-and-mortar micro-brewing location in the industrial complex-turned-venue and art district, Brevard Lumberyard, where it serves up a best-selling IPA and seasonal beers like the Biking Viking Blueberry Blonde. 212 King St., Ste. B; peaksandcreeksbrewingco.com/
Homeplace Beer Co. - Burnsville
As ABVs and IBUs continue to rise, Burnsville’s newest brewery has gone against the grain with its dedication to sessionable beers, specializing in lagers, table beers, and the occasional malty, English-style brew. 6 South Main St., Area C, homeplacebeer.com/
FESTS FOR ALL
Asheville has earned its designation as a food town—having received three 2018 Good Food Awards plus recognition as one of Zagat’s “30 Most Exciting Food Cities in America 2017”—and the city’s specialized festivals have all sorts of eaters and drinkers celebrating
Organicfest - August 26, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
This all-day event exalts organic fare, of course—but also all the other organics you can incorporate into your life, from cotton to cleaning products. Pack Square Park, 80 Court Plaza. Free. organicfest.org/
Asheville VegFest - September 2, 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
Vegans, barred from typical festival food like turkey legs and saucy ribs, revel in this annual celebration presented by the Asheville Vegan Society. Pack Square Park hosts dozens of plant-based vendors offering samples such as No Evil Foods’ Comrade Cluck ‘No Chicken’ and local ice creamery The Hop’s scoops of nondairy treats. Pack Square Park, 80 Court Plaza. Free. ashevillevegfest.com/
Brewgrass Festival - September 15, noon–5 p.m.
Asheville sends off summer in the same way she greets it: with plenty of beer and music. Founded in 1996, Brewgrass reigns as Asheville’s oldest craft beer showcase and pairs the tang of the beverage with the twang of local bluegrass. Memorial Stadium, 30 Buchanan Pl. brewgrassfestival.com/
The rich valley farmland of WNC is fertile ground for agricultural ventures—crops, of course, but also creamy, sometimes stinky, cheese. The WNC Cheese Trail highlights some 15 cheese-makers across Appalachia from Robbinsville to Jefferson, bringing attention to the little-known artisans who are preserving their craft and their land alike.
PHOTO: English Farmstead Cheese in Marion
Take a gander at the map and set your route. Each destination has a special story to tell. Black Mountain’s Round Mountain Creamery, for example, also houses a Grade A Dairy, while English Farmstead Cheese in Marion is planted on land that’s been in the family for generations. There are several creameries clustered in the idyllic lowland of Fairview, including Blue Ridge Mountain Creamery, which offers an in-depth tour of operations and sells glasswork by proprietor Victor Chiarizia.
As is often true, some of the best destinations are off the beaten path. “Yellow Branch Farm & Pottery is run by a husband-and-wife team,” says Cheese Trail executive director Katie Moore of the creamery located the furthest west in Robbinsville. “She makes beautiful pottery, and he makes some very good cheeses. Plus, their farm is gorgeous.” wnccheesetrail.org/
The hills are alive in Western North Carolina, not just with music, but with tasty, native plant life. Alan Muskat’s Asheville-based No Taste Like Home Foraging Tours are designed to reveal and revel in the fruits of Appalachia. Foragers can sign up for a Saturday, Sunday, or Wednesday tour; after meeting at a secret location, they travel into the dense forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains to hunt for nature’s bounty.
There are all sorts of edibles along the “eaten” path, from greens and berries to mushrooms and nuts. In early summer, berries (like mulberries and blackberries) and mushrooms (chicken of the woods and reishi) take center stage; by the end of the season, seeds such as lambs-quarter and fall’s fruits (like apples and persimmons) take the lead.
Once their baskets are filled, students finally get to tasting. They can choose to wield pots and pans to prepare their own finds, or pass them along to the chefs at one of four award-winning Asheville eateries, such as Rhubarb and Vue 1913.
If you’d prefer to sip rather than snack on your foraged finds, Muskat is offering a new cocktail series this season. In the monthly “grass-to-glass” classes, imbibers hunt for the fruits and herbs that go into shrubs, syrups, and bitters for future cocktails. Tours: $75, $30 kids; Wildcrafted Cocktails class: $75. notastelikehome.org/
PHOTO: You won’t be able to pass up the delectable offerings of hand-crafted chocolates, truffles, and other confections after touring the French Broad Chocolate factory in Asheville
GET YOUR CHOCOLATE FIX
The air is sweet in Asheville’s South Slope, thanks to the rich aroma coming from French Broad Chocolates. See and smell for yourself—the factory hosts tours for any and all cocoa connoisseurs. On Saturdays and Sundays, guides walk guests through the facility on free 10-minute jaunts on the hour and half hour between 2 and 5 p.m.
For true chocoholics, there’s a more comprehensive tour every Saturday at 11 a.m. that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the bean-to-bar process. “First, you’ll learn about where our chocolate actually originates,” says lead chocolate maker Evan Ackerman. “Visitors watch a short presentation on our cacao-sourcing practices while sampling single-origin chocolate from three countries. The terroir of each country gives a specific flavor profile to the bean, which we coax out through the bean-to-bar process.”
The tour ends with another tasting, this time of French Broad’s signature truffles, but not before participants are made privy to the ins-and-outs of the company and its products. “Folks get to experience the smell of the beans roasting, witness the beans being winnowed and milled into a paste, and finally see how the bars and truffles are molded,” Ackerman adds. “It is a full-on sensory experience.” 21 Buxton Ave. Saturday tour: $10. frenchbroadchocolates.com/
Select your favorite fruits and veggies from the region’s dozens of farms and orchards and take them back to Charleston for canning and pickling (or road-trip snacking)
Graveyard Fields - Canton
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Haywood County, a rugged 3.2-mile looping trail leads to Graveyard Fields, where wild blueberries grow in juicy abandon come late August. Graveyard Fields, Blue Ridge Pkwy. (Milepost 418); hikewnc.info/
Trickle Creek Farm - Mill Spring
If you’d rather harvest from more manicured bushes, this fifth-generation, family-owned farm has pick-your-own black- and blueberries beginning in June.
3620 NC-9, tricklecreekfarmnc.com/"
PHOTO: The Orchard at Altapass in Spruce Pine
The Orchard at Altapass - Spruce Pine
This historic orchard has heirloom apples ripe for picking in late summer and early fall, as well as a lengthy nature trail and a monarch butterfly preservation program. 1025 Orchard Rd., altapassorchard.org/
DASH & DINE
Asheville may be a hub for gastronomic exploration, but gourmand visitors would be remiss to discount Western North Carolina’s smaller towns. Even if you’re staying in the mountains’ central hub, these restaurants are worth the drive
PHOTO: Find distinctly modern and worldly fare at Artisanal in Banner Elk.
Artisanal - Banner Elk
Set on the grounds of Diamond Creek Golf Club, Artisanal has all the trappings of a barn: a sculptured horse dominates the lounge, reclaimed barnwood lines the walls, and wide doors open to scenic fields. Yet the menu is anything but down-home or rustic: tuna tartare comes dressed in kimchi remoulade and compressed cucumber, swordfish is served with lentil hummus and Swiss chard, and all are plated with elegant panache. 1200 Dobbins Rd., (828) 898-5395, artisanalnc.com/
The Best Cellar - Blowing Rock
As you might expect, The Best Cellar does, in fact, have a wine cellar (you can even dine within its wooden walls), but the name actually originates in the restaurant’s humble beginnings as a basement sandwich shop more than 40 years ago. Don’t let that dissuade you from dining in this now-upscale eatery, which found a new home in The Inn at Ragged Gardens and a new menu with classic entrees and lots of generous, shareable desserts like the Mile High Banana Pie. 203 Sunset Dr., (828) 295-3466, ragged-gardens.com/blowing-rock-restaurant
The Gamekeeper Restaurant & Bar - Boone
The Gamekeeper was slinging local, organic fare long before phrases like “farm to table” came into vogue. The restaurant’s approach to modern Southern comfort food is naturally inclined to sourcing locally, and the quality of the fresh, humanely raised ingredients is evident in the rich entrees. 3005 Shulls Mill Rd., (828) 963-7400, gamekeeper-nc.com/
Cyprus International Cuisine - Highlands
Cyprus’s inventive and eclectic menu has made it a Highlands mainstay for more than 15 years. A partnership with Marker Mountain Farms means the food is always fresh, and award-winning chef Nicholas Figel’s regular trips to the ethnic markets in Atlanta keep the dishes innovative and diverse. Though dictated by the seasons, the menu features global favorites such as Mechoui pit oven lamb (North Africa), Burmese curry pork (Thailand), and fish à la meunière (France). 332 Main St., (828) 526-4429, cyprushighlands.net/
Star Diner - Marshall
Marshall has the kind of old-fashioned charm you’d expect of extra-small-town Appalachia (the population doesn’t quite break 1,000), and Star Diner fits right in. Chef Brian Sonoskus (previously the longtime executive chef of Tupelo Honey) adopted the town’s vacant Gulf gas station, decked it out in whimsically antique decor, and designed a classic chophouse. 115 N. Main St., (828) 649-9900, facebook.com/StarDinerandGreeniesTaxi/
The Library Kitchen & Bar - Sapphire
Over its 154 years, the oldest structure in Sapphire Valley has led many lives: farmhouse, private dining club, and today, eatery of award-winning, Michelin-star trained chef Johannes Klapdohr. The Library retains its farm heritage in simple decor but explores the 21st century in New American dishes such as crispy duck leg confit with blood orange sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and organic Georgia ginger syrup. 184 Cherokee Trail, (828) 743-5512, librarykitchenandbar.com/
Over Yonder - Sugar Grove
Chef Andy Long’s menu proves food doesn’t have to be breaded, fried, or sugar-dusted to be called Southern. His dishes fully embrace both the region’s Appalachian heritage and more recent inclinations with locally sourced foods prepared both thoughtfully and with a nod to tradition. Try North Carolina Cheshire pork bratwurst for lunch, pan-fried rainbow trout for dinner, and boozy cocktails for always. 3608 Hwy. 194 South, (828) 963-6301, overyondernc.com/
FOLLOW WINE-DING ROADS
For centuries, winemakers have planted their vineyards on the slopes of hills to take advantage of the terrain’s natural elements, like improved drainage, sun exposure in summer, and protection from frost in winter. Today’s vintners are no different, making Western North Carolina a popular locale, especially in the central counties of Henderson and Polk.
Hendersonville’s Burntshirt Vineyards boasts award-winning wines with dozens of accolades in spite of its youth (the vineyards were planted in 2009). The picturesque winery offers wine tastings and tours seven days a week. Just down the road, neighbor Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards has also netted its share of awards, but the real winner here is the view: acres of vineyards roll out from the tasting room patio, where sippers lounge in Adirondack chairs.
One county down is Polk, where vineyards grow like, well, vines. After a 20-year career as Florida Everglades tree farmers, Karen and Bob Binns traded in their nursery for grapes. Today their latest venture, Parker-Binns Vineyards, is home to an award-winning winery and tasting room where locals gather for weekly live music performances. Further south, Russian Chapel Hills Winery’s name is a nod to the Russian Orthodox chapel, St. Anna, which overlooks the winery’s lush rows.
Burntshirt Vineyards: 2695 Sugarloaf Rd., Hendersonville, burntshirtvineyards.com/
Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards: 588 Chestnut Gap Rd., Hendersonville, saintpaulmountainvineyards.com/
Parker-Binns Vineyards: 7382 NC-108, Mill Spring, parker-binnsvineyard.com/
Russian Chapel Hills Winery: 2662 Green Creek Dr., Columbus, russianchapelhill.com/