Edible Blue Ridge Magazine brought students and Charlottesville residents free cupcakes and the chance to purchase fresh foods from local vendors last Tuesday at the Artisan Food Fair and Cupcake Walk. The festival, which was part of the magazine’s efforts to promote the growing local food movement in central Virginia, successfully drew University students downtown to feast swipe-free.
The fair took place in the Herman Key, Jr. Center just a few steps from the Downtown Mall and highlighted the foodstuffs of purveyors from Charlottesville and the surrounding area. Among the featured foods were goat’s milk cheeses from Caromont Farm, house-roasted coffee from Shenandoah Joe, Twin Oaks Tofu and a bubbly fermented sweet tea called Nugget’s Raw Kombucha.
Reminiscent of a miniature Charlottesville City Market, the event supplied that same farmer’s market feel within a much-needed shelter to fend off the biting cold. Free samples abounded, with offerings of maple granola, roasted red pepper hummus and chunks of freshly-baked whole grain loaves gracing the tabletops.
Despite the frigid temperatures, the food fair attracted Charlottesville community members and University students alike.
First-year College student Heather Storeide relished the opportunity to escape Grounds and explore the area after only a short trip on the free trolley. “It’s nice to get some food that you can’t get on Grounds, especially since I’m on a meal plan,” she said.
Storeide said she counts herself lucky for scoring a purchase from the artisan bread makers at Lorraine Bakery, the Lynchburg-based store run by Petra Hackman. A veteran of Charlottesville City Market, Hackman brought her line of pastries and homemade bread dough for which her bakery is famous.
The main event, however, amid the vast arrangement of tables loaded with locally-made jams, cheeses, spreads and baked goods, lay a classic cake walk. Children and adults purchased tickets for their chance to win a box of SweetHaus vanilla, chocolate or pistachio cupcakes in a game akin to musical chairs.
SweetHaus co-owner Billy Koenig has recently seen a boom in visits by U.Va. students to his store on West Main Street, which offers a selection of coffee, couches, Wi-Fi and a variety of cupcakes. “The combination of sugar and caffeine is enough to keep you studying,” Koenig said.
Though the Artisan Food Fair and Cupcake Walk has passed, opportunities for students to connect with Charlottesville food vendors resume in April, when the Charlottesville City Market starts up again each Saturday morning.