On March 17 I visited Asheville, NC to attend the Asheville Bread Festival. The festival, which was started in 2004, is held annually. This was hopefully the first of many more visits to the festival.
On Friday before the festival, my wife and I flew to North Carolina and spent the evening with none other than my kneading student EY. The 3 of us drove to the festival Saturday morning. We arrived with an hour and a half before our first classes. During this free time we perused the various vendors.
Of the vendors, most were selling bread – all kinds of bread. A couple were selling jams/butters. One vendor was an outdoor oven designer/builder. Another was selling a book on the science of bread baking. And one vendor was selling flour. I estimate 20 vendors were showing products. One of my favorite vendors was Beulah’s Bavarian Pretzels. The proprietor spent quite a bit of time speaking with us and gave us tips on handling lye when baking pretzels. They are currently renting time at a commercial kitchen to bake their goods – I had no idea that sort of thing was possible. And the pretzels we purchased from them were fantastic and did not last very long! Beulah’s Bavarian Pretzels was not the only vendor without a store front. At least 3 vendors from which we purchased goods did not have store fronts. One of those, Tara Jensen, from Smoke Signals has a website – just like this one – and that’s it. Nothing more. My wife and I shared one of her delicious watercress pesto with whipped chevre puff pastries prior to our first class.
All-in-all, I really enjoyed the time we spent speaking with and perusing the work of all these fabulous artisans. I really wish the festival was longer – maybe 2 days. And I can’t wait to go back next year!
In the near future, I will add parts 2 and parts 3 to the trip report to cover the two classes that I attended: ‘Milling for the Home Baker’ and ‘Pretzels and English Muffins.’
A few side notes: the Asheville Bread Festival website left a bit to be desired (and apparently I was not the only one who felt this way). In an effort to convey the course descriptions, the time of the courses, and the location of the course, the website’s attempt at an all-in-one solution proved to be confusing. A simple spreadsheet table to cover the time of the courses and locations would have solved the confusion. Another opportunity for website improvement: The festival location. This year was held at the A-B Tech campus. For those not living in North Carolina, A-B Tech stands for Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. And most importantly, the address for the college is 340 Victoria Road, Asheville, NC 28801.