Hot Sheet: Crumbling Basilica of St. Lawrence needs millions in repairs; Asheville gets Samantha Brown travelogue treatment; first batch of Food Fan Award nominations announced
Also, an Asheville doctor pens memoir detailing his connection to brutal 2004 murder
Note: This story sponsored by Citizens Fuel Co., a family-owned Asheville company.
Happy New Year, loyal readers! We’ve closed the books on yet another intense year, and I don’t know about you, but I’m slowly easing myself into 2022.
Thank you, as always, for following along with this still-new endeavor, the Ashevegas Hot Sheet email newsletter, which I launched in March 2021. Here’s a special shout-out to all of you who have signed up to be paid subscribers: Thank you! If you’re not a paying subscriber, I hope you’ll consider it. Cheers!
Now for more of what’s going around:
The Basilica Preservation Fund has launched a fundraising effort seeking $10 to $12 million to fix water drainage and collection issues that have led to the degradation of mortar and grout in the 112-year-old Basilica of St. Lawrence in Asheville. Spanish builder and engineer Rafael Guastavino, who came to Asheville to work on the Biltmore House, designed and built the basilica, which features the largest unsupported elliptical dome in the U.S., a stunning display of engineering expertise. (The dome covers the 3,800-square-foot nave.) A group of architects, engineers and conservators examined the basilica’s structural soundness by rapelling down the exterior and using drones to photograph the building, then issued a report in 2020. They found a number of deficiencies, including that the building’s rainwater collection and dispersal system is too small for the structure and contributes to insidious water damage. Donate to the Basilica Preservation Fund here.
Samantha Brown leads off the fifth season of her Emmy Award-winning PBS series “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love” on Saturday, Jan. 8, with a full 30-minute episode exploring Asheville. Brown has said her show spotlights the individuals who make a visit to a locale special, and in her Asheville episode, she talks with DeWayne Barton of the Hood Huggers International tour, Chef Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani restaurant and music producer Gar Ragland, founder of the vinyl record manufacturing facility Citizen Vinyl in downtown Asheville, among several others.
Asheville food writer and food tour host Stu Helm, who spends his time eating his way through town, has released the first batch of annual Food Fan Awards. Stu started publishing his quirky awards on Ashvegas.com eight years ago. (Wow!) You can follow the awards here, or by subscribing to Stu’s newsletter. Stay tuned for more nominations, with winners to announced at the end of January. Here’s the first round of nominees:
Food Event of The Year: Grindfest AVL/Black Wall Street AVL; Goombay
Food Competition of the Year: Cue for a Cause BBQ Throwdown; Bring Your Heat, Asheville; Dinner Impossible Food Truck Throw Down; Punk Rock Hot Dogs; Duke’s vs Blue Plate
Breakfast of the Year: Abeja House Cafe; Sunny Point Cafe; Sawhorse; Doc Brown’s BBQ
Lunch of the Year: Nani's Piri Piri Chicken née Nani’s Rotisserie Chicken; Ziggy’s Bakery & Deli; Waku Waku
Fancy Dinner of the Year: OaxaCalifornia Dinner; Swine’d Sustainably; Food Stories/Chow Chow
Meal of the Year: Odditorium; Griff's Kitchen & Bar; Ukiah Japanese Smokehouse; Zambra
Franny Tacy of the Franny’s Farmacy chain of retail shops that sell hemp and CBD products, is launching a new line of food products. At a recent dinner theater event, Franny’s Farm Foods tea was on the menu. Tacy is also working with Mike Ptaszek to market his gluten-free hemp gnocchi under his Pasta & Prana label.
Sunil Patel, founder of Patchwork Urban Farms, is bringing back his pop-up dinner series, Sunil’s Indian Supper. Patel started the series at Sovereign Remedies several years ago, moved to a spot in the Montford neighborhood and is now planning to serve a five-course meal during two seatings each on Jan. 13 and Jan. 27 at West End Bakery & Wine Bar. (Late last year, West End remodeled and rebranded.) A ticket to Sunil’s Indian Supper costs $45 and will help kick off West End’s new wine program. Get tickets here.
900 Degreez Artisan Pizza is the newest addition to the Asheville food truck scene. It’s posted at 20 Stoner Road off of Thompson Street near Biltmore Village. His pizza is delicious and the food truck itself is impressive - it’s a Freightliner truck carrying a shipping container that’s been crafted to hold a wood-fired, brick pizza oven. Owner Drew Soifer and his family recently moved to Asheville from Florida and he tells me he’s still getting settled in. He’ll be at the Stoner Road location for the rest of the month.
Tin Can Pizzeria food truck, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary in Asheville, has installed a wood-fired pizza oven in its truck, according to an Instagram post.
Reminder: Hopey & Co. opened in its new River Ridge Shopping Center location on Fairview Road in November. I reported last summer that the local grocery store was moving out of its South French Broad Avenue location, where big changes are coming.
American Recycling of Western North Carolina, a privately owned recovered paper recycler in Asheville, was recently acquired by Sonoco Recycling, a unit of Sonoco, a global packaging company. American Recycling was owned and operated by Ron Moore, an industry veteran who built his company into one of the largest independently owned collectors, processors, and marketers of recovered paper in the Carolinas, according to American Recycling’s website. American Recycling processes approximately 30,000 tons of recovered fiber annually at its Asheville material recovery facility. The business was expected to generate approximately $9 million in sales in 2021, according to a press release.
Just Economics, the nonprofit that advocates for a sustainable and just economy, has announced that its 2022 living wage rate for Asheville is $17.70 an hour (with or without health insurance). That’s up from $17.30 last year, a year in which the nonprofit also made changes to its formula for determining its living wage. (Go here to read more about that.) “In Buncombe County, the disparity between wages and housing costs is a major factor in our local economy and our living wage rate continues to be tied to the cost of housing,” the nonprofit states in its press release.
Kitsbow, the Old Fort-based cycling apparel manufacturer, has announced that its employees, and a group of North Carolina investors, have purchased the company from shareholders and are committed to majority ownership by employees from here on out. The 10-year-old company moved from California to downtown Old Fort in 2019. The past couple of years have been an incredible ride for Kitsbow, as detailed in this story by Fred McCormick for The Valley Echo.
Asheville Card Shop, Asheville’s only sports and non-sports card shop, is open at 2270 Hendersonville Road, even as the space is being built out.
In case you missed it, there were a couple of closures announced in December: The Black Cloud, a basement bar on Haywood Road in West Asheville, and Chiesa restaurant in the Montford neighborhood, shut their doors permanently. Both had been open about five years.
Blue Ridge Public Radio has hired Mark Vogelzang, a veteran public media leader who recently retired president & CEO of Maine Public Television & Radio, as its interim general manager and CEO while it conducts a national search for a successor to David Feingold, who retired in December. Vogelzang’s experience includes serving as the CEO of Vermont Public Radio, as well as the executive director of the NPR Foundation. Vogelzang has not applied for the permanent job.
Finally, an Asheville doctor has written a book about his connection to a brutal 2004 murder. “The Other Dr. Gilmer: Two Men, A Murder and an Unlikely Fight for Justice” by Dr. Benjamin Gilmer details how Gilmer took over the Fletcher practice of Dr. Vince Gilmer (yes, they share the same last name, but are not related) and became obsessed with determining what really drove Vince Gilmer to commit homicide. The book is part true-crime procedural and part memoir, and is set for release in March. Whet your appetite by listening to the episode of “This American Life” dedicated to the wild tale. It’s titled “Dr. Gilmer and Mr. Hyde.”
Thanks for reading,