Those who attended the 2019 inaugural Chow Chow were treated to a cornucopia of food and wine experiences, showcasing the tastes of Southern Appalachia. From immersive hands-on workshops with top chefs to the three-day Pickled in the Park Grand Tasting in Pack Square Park, the lively events celebrated local makers, nationally recognized chefs and Asheville’s multi-cultural, multi-dimensional food and beverage purveyors.
The inaugural Chow Chow was the happy collaboration of some of the best chefs, restaurateurs, brewers, distillers, culinary experts and food-related artisans of Asheville. The anticipated 2020 Chow Chow event could not be presented due to the pandemic.
Chow Chow Reimagined
Chow Chow 2021 was developed in 2020 when no one knew when large events might return. It was reimagined as a series of summer events between late June and September with 19 in-person events and numerous virtual events.
It’s a deeper dive into how we get food and the people who work in the industry.
“We see Chow Chow as an opportunity for deeper conversations around Southern Appalachia and the culture and foodways that exist here,” said Jess Reiser, Chow Chow board president.
While the format may differ from the inaugural Chow Chow, this year’s series of events will continue to celebrate food in the Southern Appalachian region.
The 2021 events also cover a spectrum of racial justice, climate change and food justice.
“I think to be a true foodie you should have the interest and education of where and how your food came to be,” said Sydney Rubin, co-owner of Hominy Farm Homestead and Bread, one of the 2021 Chow Chow participants.
The 2021 Chow Chow kicked off June 27 with a sold-out Appalachian Pride Brunch at Salvage Station.
Here’s a look at some of Chow Chow events happening soon.
• July 10 — Sobremesa
Sobremesa in Spanish literally means “over the table,” but describes the tradition of families and friends lingering over a meal to chat.
To honor of Asheville’s Latinx/Hispanic community, this event celebrates the food traditions from Mexico to Argentina.
Hector Revilla, sous chef at Benne on Eagle, is one of the participating chefs. He feels this event will “allow people to go on a food vacation without having to travel.”
“Sombresa would be a good experience for all who want to experience local Latin food,” Revilla said. “I think there will be a good representation of several Latin countries, giving a sample of their culture. Many times, Latin food gets clumped together, even though each country has unique dishes. This will be a great way for people to get to know our traditions through our food.”
Revilla, of Venezuela and Colombian heritage, plans to serve tequeños, a South American version of a mozzarella stick; Piquillo peppers stuffed with braised chicken; Cachapa, a fresh corn griddle cake topped with braised beef and cheeses; and obleas with arequipe — “essentially a dessert bar.”
Sombresa is noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, July 10, at Salvage Station, 468 Riverside Drive; tickets are $125.
• July 10 — Pollinating Metamorphosis
Pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds, ensure the health of millions of plant species, as well as the health of humans, who depend on the plants for sustenance. The event features Kim Bailey, founder of Milkweed Meadows Farm and Phyllis Stiles, founder of Bee City USA discussing the need for a metamorphosis in how humans handle the land. A five-course dinner will delight attendees at an open-air pavilion at the Olivette Farm along the French Broad River.
“Pollinating Metamorphosis has a very clear message that we feel resonated a lot with Hominy Farm’s mission,” said Sydney Rubin, co-owner of Hominy Farm, a 100% plant-based bakery that uses only locally and organically grown grains.
“It’s important for foodies, especially, to realize the ways that we can help or hurt these crucial species simply by the way we live and eat,” Rubin said. “There shouldn’t be a disconnect from the farmer to the chef to the plate, and I think this event will connect a lot of dots for a lot of people.”
At the event, Hominy Farm will serve a wood-fired filled canapé “that marries our cultural heritage with Appalachian flavors and local ingredients that require pollinators to exist,” Rubin said. “We’ll also be serving a fresh summer gazpacho and serve sourdough breads that will highlight the work of our incredible involved chefs.”
Pollinating Metamorphosis is 5-9 p.m., Saturday, July 10, at Olivette Riverside Community & Farm, 1069 Olivette Road, Asheville; tickets are $200.
• July 22 — Great Grains
Grains are central to many foods — from bread to spirits to beer. Celebrating the WNC regional grain shed, the event will educate attendees, while serving tapas and drinks.
“Great Grains will bring light to the incredible work that farmers and millers are doing in our community to preserve agricultural diversity and solidify a local food economy,” said Susannah Gebhart, founder of West Asheville’s OWL Bakery. “Hopefully, participants will be able to taste exactly that contribution with all of the talented chefs, bakers, brewers and distillers’ creative use of locally grown and heirloom grains.”
For the event, OWL Bakery will serve malt cream and fig tarts in buckwheat shells; heritage oat flour cake with stonefruit and buckwheat millet streusel; and heirloom polenta puff pastry vol-au-vent with savory corn cream and maque choux.
“I’m excited to see the Chow Chow new extended format this year, with a longer time for people to explore more deeply the ways in which our community intersects and is knit through food, agricultural heritage, and the environment,” Gebhart said.
Great Grains is 5:30-8:30 p.m., Thursday July 22, at Highland Brewing, 12 Old Charlotte Hwy., #200; tickets are $125.
• July 24 — A Find Dining Experience
Billed as true taste of wild Appalachia, the event will cover how to look for wild bounty and the use of these plants for culinary and medicinal purposes. This is a forage-to table event, serving tapas and wild edibles, such as pickled ramps and wild mushrooms, plus beverage samples.
Chef William Dissen, of The Market Place Restaurant in Asheville, will lead a discussion on foraging with noted experts Chris Bennett and Tyson Sampson.
A Find Dining Experience is noon to 3 p.m., Saturday, July 24, at The Foundry Hotel, 51 S Market St, Asheville; tickets are $125.
And There’s More
Chow Chow will present many more mouthwatering and educational events through Sept. 26.
Check out The Grass is Greener, July 24, at Forestry Camp, for a cocktail hour and five-course meal paired with wine, beer and spirits.
In the Virtual Series, on Aug. 5, watch celebrated chef Katie Button of Cúrate, guide virtual guests through making paella. Chow Chow attendees from 2019 will remember, with pleasure, the large-scale paellas Button and Chef José Andrés made during Pickled in the Park.
On Aug. 28, enjoy flights and bites at Cultivate Cocktails’ new space at 25 Page Ave., Suite 103, while learning about Carbon Harvest, a new initiative to help farmers adopt carbon farming.
“Chow Chow has done a lot to adapt to the times,” Hominy Farm’s Rubin said. “I think this unique structure actually makes these events a lot more personal and educational for the guests.”
Adding to the new structure of the Summer of Chow Chow is pricing.
Tickets start at $15 for virtual programs, and will be $50, $75, $125 or $200 for in-person, depending on the event.
Chow Chow is a nonprofit, with ticket sales going to support local chefs, beverage professionals, artisans, farmers and those who participate in the event.
For more information on Chow Chow events and to purchase tickets, visit www.exploreasheville.com/chow-chow-culinary-festival.