This Asheville Food Festival Increases Access To Appalachian Fare

In Asheville, North Carolina, Appalachian cuisine is a cause for celebration. Buttery cornbread, flaky apple pie, barbecued everything ... you get the idea. As a city known for its Appalachian fare, Asheville is sharing its culinary knowledge — and tasty dishes — at this year's Chow Chow Food and Culture Festival, which will occur from September 7 to 10.

It's no coincidence that the festival shares a name with the South's beloved chow-chow relish. Popular across southern Appalachia, authentic chow-chow is all about combining ingredients you happen to have on hand. By the time winter arrives, you're left with a unique condiment, indicative of its geography. "Everything about [chow-chow relish] is distinctive to its origins — from the vegetables grown, to the fact it's pickled, which is a way of preservation," Larry Crosby, general manager at The Foundry Hotel, one of the festival's partners, told Tasting Table. "It's the perfect name for the festival because it highlights our wonderful western North Carolina bounty and the art of preserving the culture which makes us unique and special."

As for how the festival plans to share that culture, of course the food speaks for itself, but there will also be seminars held at the Foundry Hotel. The culinary itinerary isn't just for a select few. The festival boasts a lineup with varying price points and opportunities for access including ticketed events and others that are open to the public, all of which share Appalachian culture in the best way possible: through the stomach.

Chow Chow celebrates Appalachian cuisine

The Chow Chow festival is selling tickets to events of all kinds, with both lower and no-cost options.  Visitors can purchase pay-as-you-can tickets and learn about everything from okra to plant-based cheese. Each of the festival's events correlates to its signature themes: cultivating, preserving, innovating, and collaborating. As such, there will be food trucks and a makers market with artisans selling cookware, kitchenware, sauces, spices, and more. Attendees can expect to eat, drink, and learn, whether you're interested in the intersection between malts and climate change or all things fish fry.

The main stage at Pack Square will host a tasting bazaar (tickets required). Some highlights will include presentations on the future of beverages and how we can optimize our health through what we drink, tips on running a sustainable food business, regenerative farming, and a keynote presentation on apples in the South by Diane Flynt, founder of Foggy Ridge Cider.

Signature events include an opening night Appalachian BBQ party, which will incorporate the evolution of barbecue as curated by James Beard Award-winning author and historian Adrian Miller. An adults-only Appalachian pride drag brunch will feature food and drink from regional queer and queer-friendly establishments. And on opposite sides of the culinary spectrum you'll find a multi-course dinner brought to life by seven James Beard Foundation-recognized chefs on Friday night as well as a six-course dinner focused around the history of the TV dinner on Saturday. Tickets can be purchased on the festival website.