Ashland brewery kicks off festival of all things fried
Fried catfish, fried pickles and fried peaches were just a sample of the countless dishes served up Saturday at Center of the Universe Brewing Co.’s first Fried Food Festival in Ashland.
Mama J’s — known for its Southern and soul food — was one of the festival’s vendors and offered a special of fried catfish served with mac and cheese or collard greens.
“It’s a secret,” said Adrienne Milford, the catering manager at Mama J’s, about the breading on the catfish.
At the Two Kings Concessions stand, the DeWorken family of Chesterfield County was snacking on a trio of fried dishes — fried Oreos, a fried Twinkie and fried peaches. They had enjoyed some fried catfish at Mama J’s a little earlier.
“That’s our round one,” said Peter DeWorken, who was at the festival with his wife, Lorie, and their daughters, Quinne, 13, Sophie, 15, and Bonnie, 17. Bea Perez, 17, of Madrid, Spain, is visiting the family for the summer and was with them at Saturday’s festival.
Perez and the family said fried Oreos had been their favorite dish so far.
Next on the menu for the DeWorkens? Funnel cake, fried mac and cheese and fried pickles.
Saturday’s festivities also included a “0.0K nonrun,” where participants had a finish line carried over their head.
“Hardest race I’ve ever run,” joked Aliya Headley of Henrico County.
“It was so hard, I had to steel myself up to stand there before they brought the finish line over you,” said Headley, who was with her friend Lachelle Lewis of Ashland and chowing down on some chili buffalo wings from On the Rox. They were wearing silver “race” medals, which doubled as bottle openers.
Proceeds from the 0.0K benefited the Pink Ink Fund, a nonprofit providing financial assistance, education and outreach to people who want postmastectomy tattoos as part of their recovery and reconstructive processes.
Chris Ray, a co-founder of Center of the Universe Brewing Co., said the race raised about $1,300 for the Pink Ink Fund.
The festivities also featured performances from The Atkinsons and The Articles, as well as a “Mr. America Competition,” where contestants were challenged to wear the most patriotic outfit possible.
Saturday’s festival is part of a year-round series of brewery events celebrating different kinds of food and drink. Center of the Universe Brewing Co. hosted a Southern Food Festival in March and will hold a Circle the Wagons BBQ Cook Off in August, a Pickled and Fermented Festival in September, and an OktoberFest celebration in October.
“What we found is the recipe that brings the whole community in is food,” Ray said.
Bea Perez (far left), 17, of Madrid, Spain, tries fried Oreos, a fried Twinkie and fried peaches with her host family, the DeWorkens of Chesterfield County: (from left) Bonnie, 17; mother Lorie; Quinne, 13; father Peter; and Sophie, 15. Two Kings Concessions prepared the food.
Shae Hobson with Mama J’s fried catfish during the festival at Center of the Universe Brewing Co. in Ashland.