Relax. In Asheville, you can have kale and quinoa any day. Bele Chere, however, is the perfect time to loosen the belt (and diet regime) and get your fried festival food on. Both the Pritchard Park vendors (who travel from such far-off places as ... Indiana) and our Taste of Asheville vendors (located at Pack Square) offer some of the best bets for guilty pleasures and grease-laden foods that you're likely to find in downtown Asheville all year.
For example, take kettle corn, a snack of (supposedly) Pennsylvania Dutch origin that scratches the salty and the sweet itch. Texturally, it manages to offer a slightly greasy and sticky feel at the same time (listen, it's just not a festival if you're not wiping your hands on your pants). Kettle corn was purportedly cooked in lard in a cast-iron pot by early pioneers, and while the exact original recipe is now lost to the ages, both Comb's Kettle Corn and our local kettle-corn guys (listed as simply "Kettle Corn" on Bele Chere's local-vendor list) eschew the animal fat, at least. We hope that's not too much of a disappointment to you. http://combskettlecorn
If it’s animal fat that you're after, consider visiting The Scottish Cottage at the Taste of Asheville, a truly awesome little mobile-food vendor that serves peat-smoked pork paired with the most Southern of accompaniments (think slaw and sweet-corn casserole). But it may be the haggis that makes a stop at this cute little cottage on wheels necessary for the daring diner. Smoked over imported peat, the dish is very much a Scottish-style boudin, stuffed in the cleaned organs of a sheep. Sound terrifying? Man (or woman) up. http://thescottishcottage.com
For some, especially those who blanch at innards, funnel cakes are the Holy Grail of festival food. If deep-fried dough gets your blood pumping, then head straight to Hinckley Vending, Rainbo Ice & Funnel Cakes at Pritchard Park (and don't forget the Lipitor). Our research tells us that the funnel cake is also of Pennsylvania Dutch origin. What is it with the Amish and Carnival food?
Consider asking the Amish Baking Co., a food vendor fresh off the Bonnaroo circuit. This booth specializes in fresh, hot, glazed doughnuts, soft pretzels and — wonder of wonders — glazed pretzels, too. Yowza. (Located at Pritchard Park.)
Should you want a soft pretzel with local appeal, head to Beulah’s Bavarian at Taste of Asheville. Beulah’s is a local company that provides local restaurants and breweries with its huge, organic, salty twisted treats. http://beulahsbavarian.com (Located at Taste of Asheville.)
Don't get us wrong — Bele Chere isn't completely all about deep-fat-fried everything. Plenty of vendors offer a taste of exotic, cleaner flavors. Consider Thai Thai by Bangkok Garden (specializing in Thai, clearly) as well as Orient-Bowl Inc., a vendor who brings a taste of Vietnamese to Pritchard Park.
And over in the Taste of Asheville, you'll find plenty of healthy options, with flavors as diverse as Mela's fresh Indian cuisine to the vegetarian and vegan offerings of One World Kitchen. But don't think it's all healthy penance for the deep-fried delights you've sucked down over at Pritchard Park — this year, Taste of Asheville welcomes a vendor called Glam Ham Pork Rinds, a business that offers four different types of pork rinds in pre-sealed bags: hot and spicy, barbecue, salt and vinegar and plain.
Sounds like a party.
Don’t forget these other Taste of Asheville vendors: Coco Moe’s; HomeGrown; The Lobster Trap; Nick’s Grill; Neo Burrito; Ultimate Ice Cream; Boca; The Corner Kitchen; Moe’s; Original Bar B Que; Rita’s Ice.