A handful of cheesemakers are trying to make a regional cheese trail into Asheville tourism’s next big thing.
story and photos by Naomi Johnson
“Winter is the cheesemaker’s time to try new things,” Jennifer Perkins said one day in mid-February, her hands busily flipping row after row of wheels of cheese.
The aging room at Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview is cool, windowless and profoundly humid, the tile floor wet and the air redolent with the pungent smell of cheeses. They fill the racks and shelves with squares and pyramids, large and small. The basket-textured rounds she’s working on will be turned and rinsed in brine every day for six weeks, then dusted with bitter chocolate, which gives the cheese its name: Chocolate Lab. It’s a mainstay of their business, along with fresh chevres, the brie-like Pack Square and the ash-coated triangles of Ellington. But way in the back, high up, are a few shelves devoted to this year’s experiments. Perkins points out a new cheddar that’s not working out so well; its rind is pocked with defects. Still, she says, “It’s important to keep experimenting. You never know when you might hit on the next big thing.”
Lucy Crown and a greenway “dream team” kick off a publicity campaign this month to help connect the region’s green spaces.
by Jess McCuan . photos by Matt Rose
If you really want more greenways around, Lucy Crown says: speak up now. Asheville’s urban planners have been working on creating more greenways—grass-covered or paved pathways that can be used for recreation or bicycle commuting—since at least the 1970s. But Crown, Buncombe County’s official park and greenways planner, says there’s renewed interest in the project this year, as RiverLink, Liberty Bikes, and greenways coordinators from Black Mountain and Asheville have all banded together behind a new greenways master plan. The plan, developed starting last June, would create a system of connected pathways throughout Buncombe County and will be ready for review by county commissioners this summer.
And this spring, so do the outfits.
by Mick Kelly . photos by Zaire Kacz
To market, to market… to buy something in tangerine. Last month, as big-city designers rolled out their fashion-week collections in New York and Milan, and a handful of Asheville-area boutique owners headed to fashion shows at Market in Atlanta, we started wondering: What’s the hot look for spring 2012? And do national fashion trends matter to Asheville women?
The answer, as we interviewed locals about what they wear, is unbelievably... layered. But one thing is clear: after years of recession-era dressing, all scaled-down designs and drab colors, people are tired of toning it down. This year, the Pantone color of the year is the peachy-orange Tangerine Tango. Other “in” colors, according to local boutique owners, are bright blues, yellows and pastels. “People are tired of being depressed,” says Tara Ellis, co-owner of the boutique Bette in Biltmore Park Town Square. In addition to bright color blocks, she and co-owner DeDe Souza are seeing hints of the late ‘80s, or perhaps the early ‘90s: leopard and python prints in bright blue jeans; snake-print tops and pops of neon.
An artist imagines the post-Monsanto human.
by Ursula Gullow . photos by Matt Rose
Kirsten Stolle was probably a biologist in another life. These days, when she starts a new project, she gathers as much anatomical and biological imagery as she can get her hands on—from old medical books to antique doll drawings to turn-of-the-century microbial etchings. The images eventually find their way into her mixed-media work, based on natural and human forms. This month, her latest series of drawings, Genetically Commodified, will be on display at the Asheville Area Arts Council’s space, The Artery, on Depot Street in the River Arts District.
As its name implies, the exhibit is based on Stolle’s interest in (and abhorrence for) genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A GMO is one whose DNA has been artificially manipulated, usually spliced together by scientists in a laboratory. To be clear, GMOs are not hybrid plants or animals, which tend to occur in nature. GMOs have tinkered-with genes, and GMOs like weed-resistant or bug-resistant corn are useful to farmers looking for higher yields. Critics say it’s not only dangerous to alter the ecosystem in this way, but also that it’s impossible to know about GMOs’ long-term effects on the humans who eat them.
Fearlessly. Two sisters traverse a wrenching family history and tough subjects in their new book about coping with addictions.
by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Their family had a problem. That much was clear. But what wasn’t always clear was how to tackle it—who should speak up, and when, or about what.
Meridith Elliott Powell and Beth Brand, now 47 and 51, were born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, to attractive parents with Ivy League degrees. The McShanes were sociable Irish Catholics. Beth and Meridith had two older brothers, and all four children went to a prestigious prep school. “We were the perfect family. From the outside, it all looked so right,” Powell writes in the preface to their new book, due out next month.
A hard-working baker takes a break to play dress-up.
by Mick Kelly . portrait by Matt Rose
Most days, Lisa Hoffman bakes. Bent over the counter in a hot kitchen, she might spend a few hours rolling dough for pretzels, bialys and big loaves of organic semolina. Or she might ring up customers or clean. On days when she doesn’t bake, she’s up to her elbows in the other hard work of running a small business, the Underground Bakery, which she started with her partner Matthew Hickman, in downtown Hendersonville 2009. “I basically live in T-shirts and crocs,” Hoffman says.
But she hasn’t always baked. In fact, after culinary school in Schenectady, New York, she spent a few years as a pastry chef at restaurants and resorts in Sedona, Arizona, and elsewhere in North Carolina. Then, five years ago, she made a move to get out of the kitchen altogether, getting her degree in interior design at Appalachian State University. But that all got pushed aside when she and Hickman started Underground, which puts a twist on the usual baked goods. They’re made with 100% organic flour that’s been milled in North Carolina, and the selection of breads is noticeably global, with items like Challah, a traditional Jewish-style braided bread, and brioche pecan sticky buns.
Learning to love the messiness of life.
by Ashley English . photo by Lynne Harty, courtesy of Lark Crafts
I must have been seven or eight years old when I began to curate my bedroom. Every curio, doll, garment or object I owned was bestowed specific placement, presented in painfully studied ways. I’d tweak the exact position of my hand-held mirror on my dresser, or the arrangement of my Strawberry Shortcake figurines—as though I were presenting a retrospective of Western Preteen Female Artifacts at the Met. “A place for everything and everything in its place” became my de facto mantra. It followed me into junior high, and on through high school, college and rental properties. Then it paused, significantly, at the front door of my husband’s home.
My husband and I had our first date on New Year’s Day 2007. Determined we’d found our other half in one another, we went for the jugular and took the nuptial plunge just four and a half months later. We both work from home, and, as such, have had more than ample time to view, opine over, ruminate on, and, in the end, embrace each other’s idiosyncrasies. If I am a tenacious worshipper at the alter of “Broom and Dust Pan,” he is an equally zealous devotee of “The Order of Dirt, Dust and Debris.” In short, he’s messy. And, as it turns out, that’s just fine by me.
interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Name: Jen Nathan Orris
Lives in: Enka
Occupation: calendar editor, Mountain Xpress
Where do you live in Enka? It’s a funny little pocket of farmland that’s technically Asheville.
On a farm? Yes. It’s a farmhouse. My husband [Rich Orris] and I are trying our hand at things like hops. We found it’s very difficult to grow hops. We’ll be getting our chickens once it gets warmer.
Have you ever raised chickens? I think it’s really hard. No. But we took a class at A-B Tech from Ashley English, and we’ve done a good bit of research.
What will you do with the chickens? We’ll eat the eggs. My husband believes we should raise them for meat. I’m not necessarily in favor of that. He thinks we shouldn’t name them, but I’m hell bent on naming them.
Like what names? Gloria, and Cynthia. I’m thinking of old lady names. Like if you walked through a nursing home to visit the people, these are the names our chickens will have.
interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Name: Lucretia VanDyke
Lives in: North Asheville
Occupation: holistic aesthetician and spa trainer
Growing up, what did you want to be doing at age 35? I wanted to travel as much as possible, and I’ve been able to do that.
To where? I just got back from Bali. I’m addicted to Southeast Asia.
That sounds amazing. I left all my couture and name-brand stuff and saw the sunrise over Angkor Wat.
Wow. When you see people who have no control over their lives, it shows you that you really can choose… You can choose whatever business you want to be in, or whatever relationship you want. I don’t ever really see myself as stuck.
Sounds like a nice place to be at any age. Well, at some point it is nice to come back home and put all your jewelry and couture back on.
Ha. I believe I can rock anything, except spandex.
Waitress Joi Pack has a secret life as a mischievous clown.
by Mick Kelly . portrait by Matt Rose
Her day jobs aren’t all that somber to begin with. Joi Pack, a 61-year-old Hendersonville resident, spends most days pouring cream sodas and making ice cream sundaes for customers at Mike’s on Main, a ‘50s-style soda shop and café in downtown Hendersonville. Or she might walk next door to the Sundries Shoppe and Arcade, full of video games and a carousel pony, where she also works part-time.
But when she really wants to get silly, Pack, who changed her name from Jodi to Joi 20 years ago, gets suited up as a clown. Doing it right takes a while, she says. “It hurts my heart to see scary images of clowns,” Pack says, explaining that she thinks some people scare kids unintentionally, by not applying their clown makeup correctly. “The world is scary enough as it is.”
The mayor and Patsy Keever battle for a chance to beat Patrick McHenry.
by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
On a gray day in late January, Patsy Keever and a crew of supporters (including one enthusiastic “canine for Keever”) gathered outside the Buncombe County Courthouse to help Keever launch her campaign for Congress. As the filing deadline drew near in late February, it looked like two prominent Asheville Democrats—Keever and Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy—were set to square off against each other in a May primary for a chance to run against entrenched Republican Congressman Patrick McHenry in North Carolina’s 10th District.
Keever, a longtime Buncombe County Commissioner and former state representative who was drawn out of her district last year, explained why her experience in Buncombe County public schools has prepared her well for politics. “After teaching eighth graders for 20 years, I can handle the adolescents in Congress,” she told an Asheville crowd.
For the first time, Asheville hosts the women’s Southern Conference basketball tournament. Games in March mark the first college tourney played in UNCA’s new Kimmel Arena this year.
by Mick Kelly
Two years ago, Ashevilleans cheered when the Southern Conference, a Division I college sports conference, announced it would hold its spring basketball tournament in Asheville. In essence, the conference, which feeds winners to the big NCAA tournament in March, said: Sorry, Charlotte. If Asheville beefs up its Civic Center, the SoCo tourney will be held there for the next three years.
The city promised some $3 million in upgrades and renovations to the shabby Asheville Civic Center, which helped us beat out bids from cities like Charleston, Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Chattanooga. The last time the conference’s men’s tournament was held in Asheville was in 1995. A regional sports commission estimates that hotel stays and ticket sales associated with the tournament will give Asheville a $4 million economic boost. And, an added bonus: Southern Conference women’s games are being played in Asheville for the first time.
Is it spring yet?
Seems the balmy weather in January and February gave everyone early spring fever. I will certainly be ready to gather up some crocuses and drink a (local) beer in the sun as soon as the mercury climbs a few more degrees.
Any spring brings optimism, but I feel there’s a bit more hopeful anticipation built into this one. The economy is picking up. And finally, after a few tough years, the jobs picture is looking brighter. In February, the Labor Department said American employers had substantially stepped up hiring through January, bringing the unemployment rate down for five months in a row. No surprise: those economic trends affect fashion. After years of recession-era dressing—in drab colors and toned-down styles—the trends for spring and summer 2012 come in playful patterns and bright colors (see page 38). We interviewed local women and boutique owners for their take.
Other signs of optimism: Our cover girl Lucy Crown, Buncombe County’s park and greenways planner, is convinced this is the year that county government will boost greenways in a big way, building trails that connect our existing pathways (see page 34). Ultimately, people could bike or walk from, say, Asheville to Marshall, on a safe path. The Connect Buncombe plan could require millions of dollars for two main projects, but Crown is working with a “dream team” of planners and environmental advocates, she says. And, a shake-up on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners this fall could prompt a fresh look at greenways funding.
I was tickled to see 16-year-old Eleonore Karlsson working on a shoot with Asheville photographer Zaire Kacz (see Behind the Scenes, page 10), and to hear that our other photogs have been mentoring young people, too. Apparently, there’s an aspiring photographer in my family. Thanks to my youngest sister, Callie McCuan, for the photo on this page.
Does the future look bright? It does with steady job growth and a city full of ambitious young creative types. I think we should all drink to that.