The Ashville Artisan Bread Festival
Never been to a bread festival so I drove 400 miles to Asheville Friday night. Its actually 350 miles away, but I took a wrong turn around Lynchburg's new bypass, and went 25 miles before I realized I was on an unfamiliar road. I went there really to see the Peter Reinhart demonstration and almost couldn't get a ticket, even though I got to the festival a half hour before it started. The price of a ticket was to buy a loaf of bread from an artisan, and you would receive one free. The maker of my bread didn't have any, but searched the whole place and found me one. The festival itself consisted of about a dozen bakers set up outside the Greenlife Grocery. It was a beautiful day and the bread I purchased, a baguette, and an Asiago/rosemary ciabatta was really good. I went into the grocery to look around, and in the flour section, I saw that King Arthur flours sold for close to $7 for a 5 lb bag. In my area, its around 4.50 and I bought some on sale last week for 3.69. Later on, as I drove around Asheville, I went into another store and found KA flours for 7.20 for a 5 lb. bag. Sticker shock! All in all Asheville was a really nice town.
The ticket I had for Peter Reinhart showed as 2:30. I mistakenly thought there was one at 1:00 so I thought I would try to get into it. When I got there, however, I was told that he only had one demonstration, and it was scheduled for 2:30. The student/chef was nice enough to direct to a demonstration that had just started, being put on by Lionel Vatinet, of La Farm Bakery. It was an amazing surprise. Lionel's demonstration was about handling dough, and forming different loaves. He was using a French country bread recipe for his demonstration, and gave us all a copy of the recipe. He only baked one loaf in demonstration of the use of a La Cloche clay baker as his energy was directed towards dough technique. I did not go to Asheville thinking I would learn as much as I did so I felt incredibly satisfied. La Farm has a website, and if you don't know of Lionel, you're missing out on a true talent. He seems young, but he's been baking bread for 30 years, and bread is his specialty. On the other hand, with the Fresh Loaf group, I might be the last one to learn of him, but if not, go to their site and check him out. I really can't say enough about his demonstration or his expertise. Great bread makers have a manual dexterity and a oneness with dough I can only admire.
Peter Reinhart was in his room earlier than 2:30, signing his books, and setting up. Most of his prep work was done earlier, and most of his bread was baked in an adjoining room. He is a wonderful teacher and I think that was largely the purpose of his demonstration, talking about flour, and the mystery and chemistry of harnessing its flavor. He did bake us some Chocolate Babka for tasting and it was quite marvelous and he demonstrated its creation for us. As soon as my oven is repaired, that will be the first thing I bake. If Peter was alloted three or four hours for his demonstration, it probably wouldn't have been enough. There was so much he wanted to cover, and really, so much that he did. I enjoy a nice long road trip, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one.