Food Life, a new magazine here in Asheville hired me to attend and write about the Grande Tasting at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, which I did.
Then their publishing schedule got delayed, and my piece was no longer topical, so it got cut.
Yes, I haz a sad when they first told me, but iz okay, really. I can’t argue with their logic, and they paid me anyways! Whoop whoop! Plus, the piece is posted below, here on my delicious blog, for anyone who might care to read it.
I had a 1,000 word-count limit, and was discouraged from using swear words of course. I submitted this as a “first draft” and didn’t know what to expect in terms of the editor’s response. She took it as is! I was surprised and psyched!
Later, we had lunch at White Duck Taco, downtown. Nice lady, great conversation, good tacos!
Anyhoodles, here’s the piece, as I submitted it, back in August.
ASHEVILLE WINE AND FOOD FESTIVAL
with Stu Helm: The Food Critic
PHOTO ©2014 FOOD LIFE MAGAZINE
Well, now don’t I feel like the luckiest little Food Critic on Earth right now. As I write this, I am still basking in the glory of two 100% free VIP passes to three days of food, wine, food, booze, food, beer, food, hard cider, food, food, and FOOD. Plus baked goods! Yeah, man, that’s right, I scored the hottest emeffin’ tickets in town, and was able to take my GF Dawn to all three of the delicious events that comprised the 2014 Asheville Wine & Food Festival.
Those three events were:
ELIXIR – An evening of cocktails and competition, featuring local and regional distillers, manufacturers, restaurants and bars. Even the Aloft hotel was there mixing up a concoction that Dawn called a “glorified Daiquiri,” while other patrons of the sauce told me it was their fave beverage of the night. Top honors from the judges were given to The Junction, which is my total neighborhood jam, right down here in The River Arts District! I love those guys, so I was psyched!
SWEET – The following evening at the Grove Arcade — one of the most beautiful buildings in Downtown Asheville — Sweet featured pastries, confections, and sweet things of all kinds, as well as wine, beer, hard cider, and distilled spirits. I knew more of the vendors at this event than at Elixir, because I don’t drink, but I am constantly shoving sweets into my face-hole with both hands in the various bakeries and cafes in and around A-town, so I know most of the bakers by name. The very first people I saw as I walked in the door were my friends Karen and Vincent Donatelli from Karen Donatelli Cake Design. “Hey-ey! Kar-en! Vinnay! Whazzup, Yo?”
THE GRANDE TASTING – This was the big event (as the name suggests), and was held at the Civic Center, where it seemed like hundreds of thousands of hungry hungry hippos had gathered to scarf down freebies and get lit one sample-sized-sip at a time. I was right there, among the greedy masses, grabbing tiny cups of lobster salad two-at-a-time, reaching in between drunk old ladies to insure that I get my fair share of fake meat, and all the while taking pictures of everything that moved or stood still.
“Can I take your picture?” I asked nearly every single vendor I could get close to. French Broad Chocolate Lounge? Forget about it, I didn’t ask. I couldn’t! There was a crowd of hardcore chocolate fiends in front of their table a quarter mile thick. I held my iPhone up high, snapped some shots from the nosebleed section, and moved on, fighting the crowds through the narrow Civic Center corridors… holy %$#@, those crowds.
It was like pushing your way through a heard of zombies who still eat food and not human flesh. I wanted to kill, die, kill in that order, over and over again. I guess I’m not what you’d call a people person. The more people, the less of a person I become. I started rapidly morphing into Grendel about two seconds after walking through the doors, but the constant promise of more free eats kept me going. Nom… nom… nom… Dawn and I were like Mr. & Ms Pac-Man as we ate and drank our way through the narrow, congested corridors, trying samp after samp, until we both wanted to explode. Wakka wakka BOOM!
Here are some highlights from the day:
• The afore-mentioned “fake meat” from No Evil Foods was outstanding. I’m not a vegetarian — I once said that I would eat a deep fried kitten on a stick if it was delicious enough — but I loved this stuff and I would totally eat No Evil Foods’ non-meat products again any time. Plus, their stickers said “Hail Seitan!” So, I gotta love that.
• That lobster salad was real, and was no joke. It was from a venue I’d never heard of called Vue 1913. I’ll have to hunt them down because this stuff was fantastic. Very light and tangy and refreshing. While tucking into my second cup, I turned to Dawn, all bug-eyed, and said “We’s eatin’ free lobster!” Yeah, Man, I love this Food Critic gig!
• WATER!!! While the rest of the event-goers partied hardy with everything from Champagne to moonshine, I was soops grateful that the Mountain Valley Spring Water people kept the corridors of the dead well stocked with cases of free bottled water. Gulp gulp gulp… so thirsty… gulp gulp… breath…
• Even though I thought I might never eat another sweet again after overloading on sweets at Sweet, I was, of course, craving sweets, so I had a tiny piece of the coconut cake from Blackbird Restaurant. Okay, I may have had two tiny pieces…. and maybe they weren’t so tiny. Eff it. Gim! Cake! It was SO GOOD!
• Dawn and I sat in the bleachers for the whole hour-long Chefs’ Challenge, watching with interest, enjoying the antics of the dual emcees, and mercilessly shredding every single other person in that entire auditorium. Ha ha! That’s just how we do. It is how we amuse ourselves. We don’t mean no harm. No one heard us. No human feelings were actually hurt during the bitch-fest portion of the program. But holy @#$% , there’s nothing more annoying-slash-entertaining to us than a giant room full of people.
“Look at this dumb-ass in the striped shirt over here. Sit the &@# down, already.”
“No %$#@, right? And what’s this stupid &%$ waving her arms around for?”
“Get a grip, Lady.”
“Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Aw, C’mon, Asheville, we love ya! Almost as much as we love all of the fantastic food in this town!
Nom nom wakka wakka BOOM!
Asheville Wine & Food Festival, you crazy dream-wrapped-in-a-nightmare of killer food and crushing humanity, we’re already looking forward to next year!
• What’s with people who don’t want their picture took? Most of the vendors were willing, some even posed for my camera, but a couple made frowny faces and hid behind stacks of organic crackers and what-not. What’re you, in the witness protection program? SMILE!
• Coffee?!? There was a surprising lack of coffee at this joint. I need my %$#@ing coffee, or I get headaches, that can lead to werewolfism. People get hurt, and it’s not my fault.