Ash­land brew­ery kicks off fes­ti­val of all things fried

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - LOCAL PERSPECTIVES - BY TIM DODSON tdod­son@timesdis­patch.com (804) 649-6556

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.

ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DIS­PATCH

Shae Hobson with Mama J’s fried cat­fish dur­ing the fes­ti­val at Cen­ter of the Uni­verse Brew­ing Co. in Ash­land.

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