Stu Helm: Food Fan, on Asheville Wine & Food Festival, bitters and booze


Hello Asheville!

It’s coming… Asheville Wine & Food Festival is coming… and I’m about to completely piss myself with excitement.

Last year I managed to cry, whine, cajole, bribe, and bully my way into a pair of preemo passes for me and Dawn to attend all three events: ELIXER, SWEET, and THE GRAND TASTING, and, holy moly… I’d never been to anything like it before. Heaven. Hell. Both. So much food, so many people. So so sooooo many people.

I’m not necessarily a crowds person, per se. A “Last Man on Earth” scenario seems pretty okay in my opinion. More stuff for me that way. More shoes. More Legos. More Foooood.

I get into a near-panic state when there’s a crowd of people between me and any table of free samples. I’m not even kidding. If I sense a piece of cheese on a toothpick somewhere in the room, it is my complete and total obsession until I actually eat it. What? I think that’s a perfectly normal response… for the family dog. For a human being it’s a little… I dunno… embarrassing?

Dawn has had to ask me to cool my jets at more than one of these food events, because I get slightly crazed, frantic, and wild-eyed when I think that the samps are about to run out and I haven’t had one… or ten… for myself yet.

“Listen up, Granny, I’m the fucking Food Critic for fuck’s sake. Now hand over that last goat cheese stuffed bacon wrapped fig thingy-doo before I chew off your bony fingers just to get at it!!!”

Admitting that you have a problem is the first step to recovery. I am, as they say, helpless in my disease.

Aaand speaking of recovery-speak… Most of you guys have figured out by now that I don’t drink. Not anymore anyways. I’m not a 12-stepper, but I certainly know all the jargon. “Take it easy.” “One day at a time.” My favorite is “People, places, things.”

So, why is it that a guy like me, who doesn’t drink, and knows all that 12-steppy stuff would be looking so forward to going to one of the booziest celebrations in Asheville: ELIXER 2015?

Simple: Addiction.

A giant bowl of free mussels were offered to me by this lovely person at Elixir 2014. Yep. I liked it very much.

I want those free appetizers, Mang. Give them to me in my face right now. Good lord. Last year I ate some really tasty food items at Elixer: Mussels, cake, other stuff that I can’t remember and I’m too lazy to comb through my FaceBook photos to look for right now. I also got some free ginger ale, and all the boozing that everyone else was doing didn’t bother me one fucking bit. Hit it up, people! I do not care. Gim food now.

Last year Dawn enjoyed a couple of the specialty cocktails, and one of her favorites was mixed up by the ever-awesome Cookie from The Junction, and it won the big contest!

Cookie (and coworker) rockin’ the competition in the cocktail contest at Elixir 2014.

It was exciting, and fun, and as far as I could tell, no one got shitty-drunk, because it wasn’t really that kind of a drinking event. It was just a plain old, straight-up good time. And everyone looked great. Well, the women looked great anyways. The men, for the most part, looked like their frumpty-dump selves, but the ladies got all dressed-up and looked fucking great.

I promised myself last year that I would take pictures of the lovely outfits this year, and sure enough, I will be doing exactly that in an official capacity for! That’s right, I’m not just a food fan, but I am also a fan of fashion, and I will be playing a Bill-Cunningham-esque role for Ashvegas from now on. Yeah, Man! Food, fun, fashion. Does life get any better?

“Would like to try some of our delicious vodka?” Um. No thank you, but can I take your picture for

And too also…

This year, I am an official blogger for The Asheville Wine & Food Festival, and as part of the dealio, I have to write a certain number of words for them, on certain topics that they provide me with.  In order to get my passes, and get at those samps ‘n’ such, I’m on a blogging schedule, and they even gave me topics to write about. My first topic is “bitters,” because every drink in this year’s Elixir Cocktail Competition must contain bitters, and a local company called Crude Bitters is one of  the sponsors.

Now… y’see, the thing is… I don’t know a mother-fucking thing about bitters. Do you? I didn’t even know that bitters contained alcohol, until my brother-in-law informed me of that last week while I was tasting a bunch of them at Buffalo Nickel. “You know that has alcohol in it, right?” he said. “Gawdammit.” was my reply.

So, here’s a definition of Bitters that I cobbled together from the internets…

Bitters are a highly concentrated, flavorful, liquid extraction of seeds, herbs, bark, roots, flowers, leaves and fruit of various plants, that are used in very small amounts to flavor certain cocktails. In ancient times bitters were used by apothecaries to cleanse the body of toxins and are still thought to aid in digestion. Modern day bitters usually come in small eyedropper bottles and a small amount can drastically alter the taste of a cocktail.

Now here’s Buff Nick’s Beverage Manager, Steven giving us the run-down on various brands of bitters, including Crude…


And there you have it folks: Bitters.  Yay!

I don’t miss drinking, but I kinda wish I was able to get on board with this bitters craze that’s a-goin’ on. Coffee bitters? Are you kidding me? I think I would really enjoy that.

Oh well, Stu, if you hadn’t of drank so much fuckin’ booze in the first half of your stupid life, maybe you’d be able to enjoy some bitters now. But, no. None for you. Loser.

Anyhoo…  here’s the scoop on the skedge for AW&FF 2015:

• Thursday August 20 – ELIXIR

• Friday August 21 – SWEET

• Saturday August 22 – GRAND TASTING

As for my blogging schedule, I will keep you guys fully informed when I am posting in an official capacity for AW&FF, and I will definitely keep you posted on my progress as the official on-the-fly Fashion Photographer for

See you around!

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Stu Helm is an artist and writer living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook 

External links:


Jessica May 17, 2015 - 2:02 pm

Look forward to your fashion coverage! I’m going to enjoy that new addition. I love seeing what everyone is wearing in addition to eating LOTS of food! Perfect combo

IceNine May 2, 2015 - 5:16 pm

Seriously. Stick to writing, that video is horrible.

Das Drew May 2, 2015 - 4:51 pm

Mystery Science Theater 3000.

justsaying May 2, 2015 - 1:07 pm

The video… bizarre…. to put it mildly. Other than an obvious large overdose of narcissism… is this guy on drugs? Kinda creepy too.

Delilah May 1, 2015 - 10:12 am

Nevermind, found the videos. Jesus

marc April 30, 2015 - 8:33 am

Suggestion: After you introduce your video guest, step out of the viewfinder and let your guest speak and present alone.

RJ April 30, 2015 - 6:17 pm

Heh, heh. Whether a fan or a critic of Mr. Helm everyone needs to watch this video. It reveals everything you need to know about the guy. Okay? Okay! Okay!

Harry May 1, 2015 - 7:17 am

Dear gawd . That was painful to watch. The guy just can’t help himself.

FlmGrl May 3, 2015 - 11:50 am

It reveals so much. Asheville has a few too many people that feel they are more important than they really are. Self-indulgent to the max.
If he were actually an attractive man it wouldn’t be so painful to watch, but no. Sorry. I do find him repulsive.

Harry May 6, 2015 - 1:47 pm

I would almost feel sorry for him if he wasn’t such a moron. The dude’s clueless.

Delilah May 1, 2015 - 10:09 am

Where is the video? 🙂

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