Imagine your self…
Dining on mussels Parisienne in a shady courtyard on a late afternoon, the aroma of crepes and the sound of a soulful clarinet resonating off the brick buildings. Strolling along artists’ studios on your way to meet friends for a hand-crafted brew in the River Arts District, before watching an old movie shown broad-side on a bed-sheeted truck. People-watching from your sidewalk table, enjoying the sights and sounds of happy pub-cyclists and witnessing street buskers charm with lively bluegrass music or classical with an electronic twist. Content after an autumn day of hiking along garnet and gold mountain ridges, stopping for espresso and a dessert of dark sipping chocolate made from bean to bar at a local chocolate factory. After enjoying live music performed by your favorite nationally acclaimed artist, sipping a craft cocktail on a rooftop bar, watching a slowly setting sun melt into the ancient blue mountains.
Pull up a chair and join us…
What is Foodtopia?
It’s what we call our food scene in Asheville, where a community of culinary collaborators share their creativity, passion and local flavors to craft an experience that will nourish your soul.
Synonymous with the independent spirit of the Mountain South, Foodtopia is where culinary creativity meets the skill and labor of the farmer. It’s a culture of tailgate and farmers markets where chefs, farmers, artisan food makers, cheese-makers and bakers know and support one another and where the food and drink in independent restaurants, micro-breweries, and cideries are savored, honored and celebrated. The result is a welcoming community table set for residents and visitors alike.
Asheville, North Carolina – the world’s first Foodtopian Society is a community that has come together with all aspects of the food chain to create a synergized kinship. This kinship is the model for phrases like: Farm to Table, Slow Food Movement, etc. We not only embody this approach to life and food but we love to talk about it as well! To share this concept is like sharing a bond with someone you just met – the excitement of a great new friend who loves to hear what you have to say and vice versa.
First of all, no one truly planned this; it came about because of like-minded people from different back grounds all fell in love with Asheville. Asheville itself draws something out of people – call it creativity, joy of life or inspiration – it stimulates us. So you take Peter Marks who runs the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) or Mark Rosenstein who opened The Market Place restaurant or Jamie Ager who owns and operates Hickory Nut Gap Farm or Jeff Piccirillo who is the Executive Director of Food & Beverage at The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa or Michel Baudouin, owner of Bouchon bistro, who is one of the founders of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association (AIR). Each of these individuals approached his life / job / career from different backgrounds and mindsets – yet each one contributed to developing Asheville as a Foodtopian Society. It wasn’t their goal, but because they were willing to work together and promote each other, they made it happen.
Because so many men and women have been willing to work together and to support each other, we have an incredible organism for sustainable agriculture in our region. Restaurants and individuals willing to buy products from local farmers; local farmers willing to not just work their farm but to nourish local farmer’s markets; local volunteers and non-profits willing to generate the backbone of this system and local government willing to endorse and advocate for it.
Bring your appetite (and adventurous food-loving self) to Foodtopia, where you will find sustenance for body, soul, mind and spirit.
Foodtopia: A Centuries Old Cultural Crossroads
Asheville has been a cultural crossroads for centuries, in part due to geography. Sitting in a mountain bowl, the city enjoys moderate climate as it is protected by surrounding ridges and peaks and has long been considered the ideal central location for exploring the region.
When early settlers began to search for a place to sell and trade their farm animals, Asheville was the crossroads. Drovers brought livestock through the mountains to Asheville, a crossroads for farm goods on the way to Southern markets. The advent of the railroad connecting the Low Country and ports of the Carolinas with the North Carolina mountains ensured the area was a pivotal place for goods, services and ideas to be exchanged.
In the 1880s, when a young man by the name of Vanderbilt visited the area with his mother, the region had also become known to the wealthy from the Northeast as a health retreat for its pure mountain air and water.
The world suddenly came to Asheville, including its private homes, hotels and market places. Visitors of all ilk, including many who were well-traveled and worldly, brought new food, drink and culinary ideas to the mountain table.
Today, this coming together of foodways from around the world has never been more apparent or more vibrant. The city boasts cuisines from around the globe—from Indian street food to Spanish tapas to vegan offerings to traditional Southern fare. It is also home to several James Beard-nominated chefs who meld their years of gastronomic travel into a food experience that is adventurous and delicious.
To tantalize your taste buds, the Asheville area has: 250+ independent restaurants 20+ microbreweries 13+ tailgate and farmers markets 8+ hard cider, whiskey, and sake craft distilleries and vineyards. It all adds up to one incredible culinary community
Biltmore’s Farm To Table Legacy
When George W. Vanderbilt established Biltmore in 1895, America’s largest home was celebrated as a remarkable achievement of architecture and landscape design. But Vanderbilt was also passionate about land management and started the first scientific school of forestry on the estate. He brought modern farming practices to Western North Carolina and arguably changed the face of agriculture in the Southern mountains forever. His estate was also almost as famous for its dairy as for its mansion. Vanderbilt’s Jerseys were the source of Biltmore Dairy, delivering milk, butter, cream and ice cream all over the Southeast until the 1970s. Vanderbilt also raised pigs, poultry and game, and his expansive greenhouses supplied the estate with fresh produce. This farm-to-table model continues today with estate-raised beef and lamb, as well as vegetables grown on the property. The Biltmore vineyards were established in the 1980s and grow wine grape varietals for its popular winery, as well as for distribution in many states.
Foodtopia Lives On Every Street Corner – Literally
The Asheville area is home to 13+ ongoing farmers’ tailgate markets active from mid-March through early November, with some markets finding inside locations as homes during winter. Visiting them offers an entertaining and interactive way to get to know our farmers, artisan food purveyors and mountain crafters and you can find one almost any day of the week. There’s a list of farmers markets via ASAP—taste your way among an abundance of fresh produce, meats and wood-oven-baked breads and pies. Musicians provide a folk soundtrack as you check out the local poultry, game and cured sausages and hams—there’s even a vegan butcher. Don’t miss mountain trout: fresh, cured, smoked and even transformed into jerky. Canned goods include jams and jellies, mustards and pickles.
Get Your Feet on the Street for Fabulous Food Trucks
Asheville has a dynamic food truck community offering everything from kimchi to BBQ to jambalaya. While you’ll see food trucks parked all over town, they also often gather at live music events, festivals and beer celebrations, offering up an amazing street smorgasbord.
Food Foraging—From the Forest Floor to Our Mountain Streams
The mountain forest floor and sloping hillsides are filled with opportunities to forage for mushrooms, pick both wild and cultivated berries and, if you’re lucky, dig a few ramps, our wild alternative to onions. Our cold mountain streams are also well known for beautiful rainbow and brook trout, a mountain delicacy many of our local restaurants love to feature on a regular basis.
Choose Your Beverage: CRAFT BEER , MOONSHINE , SAKE , WINE , CIDER OR KOMBUCHA
With 20+ micro-breweries in the area, our corner of the world is a beer lovers’ mecca. Asheville has more breweries per capita than any city in the U.S. More than 100+ world-class brews are offered, so it’s no wonder that the town has won the title of “Beer City USA” four years in a row. Enjoy a cold one on a Brews Cruise or downtown Pub Cycle. But don’t limit yourself to just beer. We’ve got moonshine makers, sake brewers, vintners, hard cider cideries and kombucha fermenters. Most of these producers have tasting rooms, where you can sample and compare varieties.
Beer and Food: The Perfect Marriage
Asheville is a beer town. A serious beer town. And while we enjoy the outright quaff, we believe beer is the perfect accompaniment to great food and fellowship. That’s why you’ll see extensive beer lists in our local restaurants and why you’ll find gourmet food at many of our local micro-breweries.