Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Hello Asheville!

Let's talk about Trolls.

In September I had to ban two Trolls from my Facebook Page.  Well, I didn't HAVE to ban them, since I'm the only one making the rules over there, but I did it anyways.

Let's just say Trolls annoy me.  I find them to be simply the worst sort of people.  They display certain characteristics that I find completely anathema to everything I believe in.

• They are cowardly.  In general they hide behind anonymous screen names, while hurling invectives that they would likely never say  --  nor should they!  --  in a real-life "face-to-face" situation.

• They are not as smart as they think they are.   Although they generally display an average level of intelligence, and a distinct lack of creative thinking, they imagine themselves to be much smarter than everyone else.  If I have to suffer through one more condescending and didactic explanation of "supply and demand," I'm going to shit myself.  Yeah, we allllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll learned about supply and demand in, like, the fourth grade, Professor Numb Nuts.  Holy shit.

• They are very negative people.   I don't like that. They rarely, if ever, contribute anything positive to a conversation.  The closest they ever come to a positive comment might be a self-important "agreed" typed with a hilarious sense of authority under some other Troll's egregious and erroneous comment.  Other than that it's just picking fights, being dicks, and showing their asses to the public on a regular basis.

I might seem like a negative person, but most of that is just bluster.  I don't "hate kids" as some of the Trolls have taken my hyperbolically harsh screeds about children in restaurants to mean.  I love kids, and people, and flowers, and fairies, and magic, and rainbows, and all kinds of shit like that.  I am an adherent of the teachings of Napoleon Hill and a strong proponent of PMA (Positive Mental Attitude).

Smile power, Motherfuckers!

• They just never get it.  No matter how clearly, and concisely one might point out their folly, they just never seem to get it.  They are thick-headed at best, willfully ignorant at worst.  A Troll might tell you, "The sky is blue, period, dumb-ass," and you might reply with, "Well, the sky can take on many hues, from red, pink, and orange, to near total blackness," and they will say, "Typical libtard answer.  The sky is blue, get over yourself," to which you might respond, "I'm looking at the sky right now, and it's a gorgeous reddish yellow at the bottom, fading into a deep blackish blue at the top," and the Troll responds, "Ha! So you admit the sky is blue. WINNING!"  Their story wouldn't change if the fucking sky burst into green and purple flames.

• They don't fight "fair."   It's not like I expect any aspect of life to be fair, but it is annoying when the Trolls use their tricks and tactics and fight like complete and total assholes.  My favorite is when they insult you, and then call you thin-skinned when you defend yourself.  It's an oldie but a goodie, and they bust it out with more regularity than "Hotel California" comes spewing out of a car radio.  It's part of their "you can't win" strategy.

• They are an invasive species.
   Anywhere there is an open comment section that allows the commentors to remain anonymous, there will be Trolls.  They are like cockroaches, Man.  The get in, they feed, they breed, and they infest.   You can try to stomp on them one at a time, but they are almost impossible to eradicate individually or as a colony.  They are pests.

noun: pest; plural noun: pests
  1. a destructive insect or other animal that attacks crops, food, livestock, etc.

It would seem that some of my personal Trolls have been brave enough to venture out into the daylight lately, on places like Facebook, where they can no longer remain anonymous.  I like that.  I like having names and faces to go with the hateful words and insults, and I like having the power to banish Trolls from my Kingdom.

I've pretty much given the comments section at Ashvegas.com over to the Trolls (and I hear they've gone hog-wild in my absence) but if they think they can go to my own dang Facebook page and hate on me, they're fucking clueless about who I am.

I don't put up with strangers shitting on the floor in my house, for example.  I find it rude.  The same applies to my Facebook page.

That forum, as well as this one, is moderated by exactly one person: Me.


Monday, September 29, 2014


Food Life, a new magazine here in Asheville hired me to attend and write about the Grande Tasting at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, which I did.

Then their publishing schedule got delayed, and my piece was no longer topical, so it got cut

Yes, I haz a sad when they first told me, but iz okay, really.  I can't argue with their logic, and they paid me anyways!  Whoop whoop!  Plus, the piece is posted below, here on my delicious blog, for anyone who might care to read it.

I had a 1,000 word-count limit, and was discouraged from using swear words of course.  I submitted this as a "first draft" and didn't know what to expect in terms of the editor's response.  She took it as is!  I was surprised and psyched!

Later, we had lunch at White Duck Taco, downtown.  Nice lady, great conversation, good tacos! 

Hey-y, Tiffany!

Anyhoodles, here's the piece, as I submitted it, back in August.



with Stu Helm:  The Food Critic


Hello Asheville!

Well, now don't I feel like the luckiest little Food Critic on Earth right now.   As I write this, I am still basking in the glory of two 100% free VIP passes to three days of food, wine, food, booze, food, beer, food, hard cider, food, food, and FOOD.  Plus baked goods!  Yeah, man, that's right, I scored the hottest emeffin' tickets in town,  and was able to take my GF Dawn to all three of the delicious events that comprised the 2014 Asheville Wine & Food Festival. 

Those three events were:

ELIXIR - An evening of cocktails and competition, featuring local and regional distillers, manufacturers, restaurants and bars.  Even the Aloft hotel was there mixing up a concoction that Dawn called a "glorified Daiquiri," while other patrons of the sauce told me it was their fave beverage of the night.  Top honors from the judges were given to The Junction, which is my total neighborhood jam, right down here in The River Arts District!  I love those guys,  so I was psyched!

SWEET - The following evening at the Grove Arcade  --  one of the most beautiful buildings in Downtown Asheville  --  Sweet featured pastries, confections, and sweet things of all kinds, as well as wine, beer, hard cider, and distilled spirits.  I knew more of the vendors at this event than at Elixir, because I don't drink, but I am constantly shoving sweets into my face-hole with both hands in the various bakeries and cafes in and around A-town, so I know most of the bakers by name.  The very first people I saw as I walked in the door were my friends Karen and Vincent Donatelli from Karen Donatelli Cake Design.  "Hey-ey!  Kar-en!  Vinnay!  Whazzup, Yo?" 

THE GRANDE TASTING - This was the big event (as the name suggests), and was held at the Civic Center, where it seemed like hundreds of thousands of hungry hungry hippos had gathered to scarf down freebies and get lit one sample-sized-sip at a time.  I was right there, among the greedy masses, grabbing tiny cups of lobster salad two-at-a-time, reaching in between drunk old ladies to insure that I get my fair share of fake meat, and all the while taking pictures of everything that moved or stood still.

"Can I take your picture?" I asked nearly every single vendor I could get close to.  French Broad Chocolate Lounge?  Forget about it, I didn't ask.  I couldn't!   There was a crowd of hardcore chocolate fiends in front of their table a quarter mile thick.  I held my iPhone up high, snapped some shots from the nosebleed section, and moved on, fighting the crowds through the narrow Civic Center corridors... holy %$#@, those crowds.

It was like pushing your way through a heard of zombies who still eat food and not human flesh.   I wanted to kill, die, kill in that order, over and over again.  I guess I'm not what you'd call a people person.  The more people, the less of a person I become.  I started rapidly morphing into Grendel about two seconds after walking through the doors, but the constant promise of more free eats kept me going. Nom... nom... nom...  Dawn and I were like Mr. & Ms Pac-Man as we ate and drank our way through the narrow, congested corridors, trying samp after samp, until we both wanted to explode. Wakka wakka BOOM!

Here are some highlights from the day:

• The afore-mentioned "fake meat" from No Evil Foods was outstanding.  I'm not a vegetarian  --  I once said that  I would eat a deep fried kitten on a stick if it was delicious enough --  but I loved this stuff and I would totally eat No Evil Foods' non-meat products again any time.  Plus, their stickers said "Hail Seitan!"  So, I gotta love that.

• That lobster salad was real, and was no joke.  It was from a venue I'd never heard of called Vue 1913.    I'll have to hunt them down because this stuff was fantastic.  Very light and tangy and refreshing.  While tucking into my second cup, I turned to Dawn, all bug-eyed, and said "We's eatin' free lobster!"  Yeah, Man, I love this Food Critic gig!

• WATER!!!  While the rest of the event-goers partied hardy with everything from Champagne to moonshine, I was soops grateful that the Mountain Valley Spring Water people kept the corridors of the dead well stocked with cases of free bottled water.  Gulp gulp gulp... so thirsty... gulp gulp...  breath...

• Even though I thought I might never eat another sweet again after overloading on sweets at Sweet, I was, of course, craving sweets, so I had a tiny piece of the coconut cake from Blackbird Restaurant.  Okay, I may have had two tiny pieces.... and maybe they weren't so tiny.  Eff it.  Gim!  Cake!  It was SO GOOD!

• Dawn and I sat in the bleachers for the whole hour-long Chefs' Challenge, watching with interest, enjoying the antics of the dual emcees, and mercilessly shredding every single other person in that entire auditorium.  Ha ha!  That's just how we do.  It is how we amuse ourselves.  We don't mean no harm.  No one heard us.  No human feelings were actually hurt during the bitch-fest portion of the program.  But holy @#$% , there's nothing more annoying-slash-entertaining to us than a giant room full of people.

"Look at this dumb-ass in the striped shirt over here.  Sit the &@# down, already."

"No %$#@, right?  And what's this stupid &%$ waving her arms around for?"

"Get a grip, Lady."

"Ha! Ha! Ha!"

Aw, C'mon, Asheville, we love ya!   Almost as much as we love all of the fantastic food in this town!

Nom nom wakka wakka BOOM!

Asheville Wine & Food Festival, you crazy dream-wrapped-in-a-nightmare of killer food and crushing humanity, we're already looking forward to next year!



• What's with people who don't want their picture took?  Most of the vendors were willing, some even posed for my camera, but a couple made frowny faces and hid behind stacks of organic crackers and what-not.  What're you, in the witness protection program?  SMILE!

• Coffee?!?  There was a surprising lack of coffee at this joint.  I need my %$#@ing coffee, or I get headaches, that can lead to werewolfism.  People get hurt, and it's not my fault.


Friday, September 26, 2014

ASHVEGAS - September 26th, 2014

My latest food column has been posted to Ashvegas.com.

I review Bomba, Ben's Penny Mart, and The French Broad Food Co-op.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Hello Asheville!

Here's something extra for you, offered exclusively here on my blog!  My wonderful blog...  that I want you all to love...  and visit frequently.

As many of you may have noticed in my posts on Ashvegas and Faceboook, I have alluded to a local publication that hired me, and then asked me to tone down my writing to appease their advertisers.   Well, here on my blog, you can now read the true tale, one that I can imagine some people would prefer that I do not tell.  I believe very strongly in a free press, and I feel as though this is not just a story about me, but it is a universal story about what is wrong with the news media in general, and that it needs to be told.

First let's start by saying that the Mountain Xpress came to me, and asked me to write about food for them.  They had seen and enjoyed my food writing on Ashvegas, and wanted me to bring that same voice over to their pages.  I said yes of course, and when we met they gave me three guidelines:

• They don't print reviews, so I would just have to write about food in general.  I can do that!

• No swearing.  Fuck no, I wouldn't dream of swearing in your pages, MX!  I'll try to be funny anyways.

• This last one is paraphrased: "The publisher doesn't like for writers to say negative things about local businesses."

Um, okay, that's a little weird for a newspaper, but whatever, we all want a strong local economy, so I'll keep it up-beat.

We agreed that I would write a monthly food report from the River Arts District, and that the first one would focus on the changing grocery store scene here.  In my usual fashion, I made it aaalll about me.  I submitted my piece, my contact at the Mtn X liked it, and it was ready to roll!

Whoop!  Whoop!  My first paying gig writing about food!   800 words at 12 cents per word, Betches!  Plus $20 a pop for pictures!  Umgonna be rich!!!

Here's what I wrote:


Finding Food in The SFB /RAD
By Stu Helm

Hello WNC!

Stu Helm: The Food Critic here, with my first piece for the Mountain Xpress!  If you don't know who I am, google "Stu Helm: The Food Critic" to find my writing.  Beware: It's chock full o' swears!  Plus, I use a lot of made-up words, teenspeak, and other annoying shortcuts, so be ready to either love or hate me.  That seems to be the way it usually goes.  :)

Aaanyhoodles...   The MX asked me to write about the food scene in my new neighborhood, and I said, "Hell, Yes!  Jus' gimme a word count!"

800 or less.   GO!

Last year I moved to South French Broad Avenue, just down the street from the Middle School, a block or so up from the River Arts District (RAD).  Before that I lived in North Asheville for 9 years, off N. Charlotte Street.  It was great: Quiet, pretty, close to downtown, and plenty of easy access to one of the most important things in life:  Good Groceries!

I don't own a car, instead I ride my bike (Bikey) pretty much everywhere I need to go.  I rode to Greenlife Grocery on Merrimon Ave 4 or 5 days every week, buying my groceries by the back-pack-full.  I loved it!  Frequent trips to the food market are a great way to shop.  They get me out of the house (I work at home), riding Bikey, and buying fresh food to consume within a reasonable amount of time.  No stale stuff!

Of course, now Merrimon Ave is Grocery Store Mecca, with Trader Joe's and Harris Teeter recently plopping down an inch away from Greenlife (now Wholefoods) and Ingles and Fresh Market right up the other end.  There is certainly no shortage of grocery stores in my old neighborhood.  My new neighborhood?  Not so lucky.  I was bummed when I first moved here and realized that Greenlife is STILL the closest grocery store.  It's about a 2.5 mile hump over downtown.  I was depressed.  For real.  I had it so good before!  I had moved to a food desert.

People were telling me , "Shop at Hopey & Co. and French Broad Food Co-op!"  I tried both, but I'm spoiled.  The design and feel of Hopey & Co. and the quality of their stuff was a far cry from Greenlife, and the selection at FBFC is just very limited, and specialized.   My mom suggested Katuah Market, but that's about 5 miles from my house, and one Hell of a hump up some major hills on Bikey.

To make matters worse, poor Bikey got crushed by a giant ladder one day!

I was on foot for my first four months in my new hood, and noticed just how many other people were hoofing it up and down SFB all day.  That makes sense because there's a bunch of low income and elderly housing toward the far end, and downtown at the other end.  My fellow pedestrians were in the same boat as me, with a long hike to a good grocery store.  I noticed that a lot of them shop at the Hot Spot, and that's...  um...  just simply not a good place to shop for groceries.  I felt bad for everyone, including me!  Easy access to good food is crucial, and we didn't have it.

BUT!  There has been some good news for the SFB/RAD neighborhoods lately!

photo: Kathryn from Aardvark Farm at the RAD Farmers Market

• The Montford Farmers Market has recently relocated to the All Souls Pizza parking lot (Clingman Ave.) every Wednesday!  I'm sorry, Montford, but that's huge for us!  It looks like "Pizza Wednesdays" just became a new thing in my life, and will include buying fresh food at the market!

• I also heard that Hopey & Co is undergoing big changes, due to the remodeling of the building they occupy, and becoming a real grocery store, with real food.  YAY!!!  The sad part is that one of my all-time fave jams, Hi-Fi Cafe, is being squeezed out by the project.  BOOO!  So, while I'm psyched about the promise of a good grocery store close by, I'm bummed that my friends at Hi-Fi are closing up shop.  Ugh.  Development:  It's good for some people, and sucks for others.   Whatcha gonna do about that?  Nothin'.

• While I await the changes to Hopey, I've gotten used to shopping at FBFC.  It's actually a great little place, a lot like the "health food stores" that I shopped at in the 80's.  As long as you go in knowing what they've got and what you want, you'll leave with what you need.

Dang it!  I ran out of words in my word count already, so I gotta wrap it up.  I'll write more about the food scene in SFB/RAD whenever the X wants me too!  I hope you don't mind!

 - END -

This piece was all set to go to press, until the day before, when I got the following note from my contact...

Hey Stu,

You mentioned you were going to post on Facebook about your story coming out on Wednesday, but hold up on that. Jeff Fobes, our publisher, looked at your story today (just as we're going to press...sigh) and wants to pull it to have you rework the parts about the French Broad Food Co-op and Hopey & Co. Apparently these are two huge supporters of Xpress, and Jeff feels that the references to those stores cast them in a negative light that will not be well received by either of them.

We will still be running your story, just on July 30. I apologize for the sudden change of plans, but this is something we have to deal with constantly.

So, anyhoo, following is the offending paragraph. If you would, please try to rework it into a form that won't hurt any feelings. I think Jeff was most concerned about the insinuation that Hopey& Co. sells poor-quality food, and that French Broad doesn't offer a good selection. I had thought that softening the Hopey sentence paired with your closing comments about French Broad would do the trick, but I guess not. If you want some suggestions, I can do my best to give you some ideas. Just let me know.

"People were telling me, "Shop at Hopey & Co. and the French Broad Food Co-op." I tried both, but I'm spoiled. As a discount retailer, the design and feel of Hopey & Co. and the quality of its stuff was a far cry from Greenlife, and the selection at FBFC is very limited and specialized. My mom suggested Katuah Market, but that's about 5 miles from my house, and one hell of a hump up some major hills on Bikey."

Again, I'm so sorry for the 11th-hour change. :-(

I thought about it for an hour or so, then wrote the following response, showed it to Dawn, she gave it the thumbs-up, and I hit "send."

Thanks for this note, sorry for the delay in getting back to you.

I want to be honest with you and tell you that I'm shocked, and more than a little disappointed by this request on the part of your publisher.  It's completely unethical as far as I'm concerned, as I am only telling the truth in the "offending paragraph" and I even went so far as to bring those two companies up again in the story to say that the one was improving, and the other was a "great little place."

I'm even reconsidering whether or not I can work for a paper who's editorial policy is so closely tied to their advertising policy.  I am assuming  that "huge supporters" means that they are monetary benefactors of the paper.

If they were "huge supporters" of a free weekly press they would have zero interest in effecting the editorial part of the paper.  They would also have a chance to refute anything they might disagree with in my piece in your pages, or on the web.

When you said the publisher didn't want writers to slag local businesses, I could understand that to a degree and let it slide, because we're all in support of a strong local economy.  To blatantly edit any editorial piece because it might turn-off an advertiser is just wrong in my opinion.

The paragraph doesn't offend, the policy does.

I'm going to stand my ground and refuse to edit the piece.  You guys can chop that paragraph out if you want, or rewrite it if you'd like to, but if you do, I will not take credit for the piece and will not hype the piece or even mention on my Facebook page that I wrote it, and I will not work for the Mountain X again.

I know that this isn't your policy here, (name deleted), and I like you very much, but I just can't stand for that kind of economically based censorship.  It's part of what's wrong with the media in general today.

Your publisher might consider the fact that I say the most horrible, yet truthful things on Ashvegas about restaurants that advertise with Jason, and he has never once asked me to change one word.  He agrees with me about the separation between editorial and advertising.

Of course, if your publisher would like to run the piece as is, we'll get right back on track, and I'll happily continue to contribute monthly.

I'm sorry for the pinch that Jeff has put you in.


We parted ways after that, I didn't get paid for what I wrote, and it never got published in any form, until just now.

So, there you go.  That's the true tale of my recent attempt to work with the Mountain X.  I had tried twice before.

When I first moved to town, I emailed and called them to see if they needed illustrators for their paper, and I sent them my portfolio, which they ignored until I followed-up numerous times, finally getting someone on the phone who told me very glibly, in a semi-annoyed dead-pan voice, "We don't pay artists."

That sucks!  What a horrible policy!  Way to support the local art scene, MX.  Of course, this was over nine years ago, so maybe that policy has changed.  I have noticed more, better art on their covers in the past year or so.

Then there was the time I won in a very strange category of their "Best of WNC" readers pole.  The category was called something like "The thing that the Mountain X most needs to add."  They called me on the phone, told me I'd won, and I came in to their offices to get my picture took and everything.  I talked to the editor numerous times about how they could "add" me to their paper.  I even offered to draw a FREE piece of art for them, of whatever they wanted!  That's what I do for a friggin' living after all, y'know?  Nope.  It never worked out.  They never bit.  They never "added" me to the pages of the Mountain X.  I think they got rid of that category in the Best Of issue the next year.

One of the ideas I pitched to them back then was a "Fun Time Page" type of thing for kids, featuring a character I had invented called Banjo the Whistlepig.  I thought they might go for that fer sure, but nope.  Now Banjo is the dang mascot of a monthly newspaper that I have been publishing with my partner Tim Arem for going on two years now, called The Asheville Flyer for Kids.

I recently won another "best of" accolade from  the MX readership for 3rd Best Social Media Personality, for my Food Critic Writing on Ashvegas.

Yeah, Man!  That rules.

There are more pictures from the RAD Farmers Market posted on my Facebook page.

Sunday, September 7, 2014


I'm starting a new photo project here on my blog, where I make Jonas Gerard paintings on my plate after I finish a meal.

This first one is titled "I Hueart Huevos."

Monday, September 1, 2014

ASHVEGAS - September 1st, 2014

My latest food column has been posted to Ashvegas.com.

I give an over-view of the three nights of events at Asheville Wine and Food Festival.

There are comedy jokes.