The Asheville Bread Festival is a small, happy gathering in the mountains of North Carolina, held each year in early spring. It began in 2004 as a showcase of local bakeries, hosted by Greenlife Grocery. In subsequent years, the festival organizer added classes, demonstrations, and talks, and each year arranged for some well-known bread bakers to participate. Originally, tickets were free with the purchase of bread, which resulted in a melee as guests rushed to buy bread from the bakeries that had tickets left for the class they wanted. After a few years, the festival began charging $10 for tickets, available for purchase in advance, to allow guests to plan ahead.
In 2012 the bakery showcase moved to a larger space at AB Tech College, a few miles south of downtown. Classes are taught in the kitchens and lecture hall at the college.
I usually teach a “Beginning Kneading” class in which participants mix and knead a dough which they take home to bake. During the dough’s autolease, we have a lesson on tips for improving your bread. (The class is only one-and-a-half hours but I cram as much information in as I can!) I also set up a Bread Science demo table in the bakery showcase and sell books.
If you’ve never been to Asheville, it is a great place to visit! And I’m not just saying that to convince you to come; Asheville is on my list of best towns in America. The downtown is filled with locally-owned shops and restaurants (including many vegetarian options!), two hostels, a great bookstore, a craft supply store, breweries, the historic Mast General Store, and even a Chocolate Lounge. (You can tour the French Broad Chocolate Factory on Saturdays and learn how they import cacao beans direct from farmers and roast them with solar-power!) Somehow, the barrier of mountains around the city has kept out all the chain stores, which cluster unhappily by the interstate in all their strip-mall ugliness. AB Tech, where the festival is held, is up on a hill in the middle of the ring of mountains.
Get details about this year’s festival and purchase tickets at www.ashevillebreadfestival.com. They are usually available by mid-February.