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Sample Asheville's best at Wine and Food Festival



8/20/2012 - Sample Asheville's best at Wine and Food Festival
by Amanda Phipps

Visitors can meet renowned chefs while enjoying tasty treats and music during Asheville, N.C's fourth annual Wine and Food Festival from Thursday through Saturday.

Festival founder and director Bob Bowles created the festival in 2009 to celebrate local chefs, wineries and farmers, according to the festival's website. He said the goal of the festival is to "promote local agriculture, particularly wineries," and local food producers.

The 2012 festival is sponsored by WNC magazine and has been named one of eight most original festivals in the U.S. by the New York Post, Bowles said.

With visitors ranging from the cast of "The Hunger Games" to President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, The Huffington Post named Asheville, N.C., one of the "Top 10 Undiscovered Local Food Cities," according to the festival's website.

Festival guests can enjoy three days of indulgence in the best foods in the heart of downtown Asheville.

Events include the third annual Chef's Challenge finals at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Century Room on the Park, above Pack's Tavern, 20 S. Spruce St. Four of the top chefs from 14 teams across North Carolina will compete for the title of Best Chef in Western North Carolina and a winner will be revealed. Challenge finale tickets are $99 and include six plated dinners from the chefs and two drinks, wine or beer.

The four remaining teams are returning champion Nate Allen of Knife & Fork, Stewart Lyon of Boca, David Ryba of Inn on Biltmore Estate and Jason Roy of Lexington Avenue Brewery.

Judges include John Batchelor, restaurant critic for the Greensboro News and Record; Southern Living Magazine senior food writer Donna Florio; Mackensy Lunsford, food writer for Asheville's Mountain Xpress; and founder of the Seasonal School of Culinary Arts Susi Gott Seguret.

From 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday at The Grove Arcade, 1 Page Ave., guests can taste desserts, sparkling and dessert wines and cocktails from 27 of the area's chocolatiers and dessert makers, while enjoying music by Kat Williams during SWEET. Tickets are $35.

From 1:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday, guests can taste more than 300 wines and sample local foods, such as Lusty Monk Mustard during the Grand Tasting in the U.S. Cellular Center, 87 Haywood St. General admission is $45.

VIP passes are $65 and provide early entry to the tasting at noon and access to the VIP lounge, where wine and food will be served.

During the tasting, guests can watch the final judging of the Amateur Wine Marker Competition at 1 p.m. The competition "helps a lot of people who may not be commercial wine makers to understand how appreciated their wines are," Bowles said.

Culinary Demonstrations will be held from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

The first Local Spirits Mixology Competition is at 2 p.m. during the Grand Tasting. Each contestant will have 10 minutes to prepare a cocktail using no more than six ingredients. They will be judged on eco-friendly awareness, originality, presentation, name of cocktail and taste. The winner will join winners from other contests in a master distilling class and barrel-tasting weekend at the Troy & Sons Distillery in Asheville.

"The Local Spirits Mixology Contest provides a great opportunity to showcase creativity and skill in bartending," Marco Garcia, event director and mixology master at Sazerac, a downtown Asheville cocktail bar, said in a written statement. "We're looking forward to watching these competitors turn fresh ingredients into innovative signature cocktails to become the Local Spirits winner."

The Fashion and Food Runway which starts at 3 p.m. will feature the latest culinary designs for chefs and dinner ware by designers such as Sandra Hardy.

Guests can meet some of Western North Carolina's top culinary authors during the book signing beginning at 3:30 p.m. Authors include Ashley English, who is author of the "Homemad e Living" book series, and Debby Maugans, author of "Small-Batch Baking." The festival ends at 5 p.m.

The festival benefits the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project's Growing Minds Farm-to-School Program, which provides resources and training to farmers, chefs, school nutrition staff, parents and teachers. The organization is dedicated to educating children where their food comes from and helping people to develop healthy eating habits.

After guests have their fill of wine, Bowles encourages them to visit downtown restaurants and "enjoy all that Asheville has to offer."

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