Small bites: Giving tastes good at Appalachian Vintner

RETURNING THE FAVOR: Appalachian Vintner co-owners Geoff and Charles Alexander selected Mission Children's Hospital, Huff Center Therapies and Arts for Life as beneficiaries of their shop's holiday fundraiser based on firsthand experience. "My own son has benefited greatly from these therapies and services, allowing him to flourish even though he has had to overcome many health problems during his young life," Geoff says, calling the organizations "a ray of light for many many families with sick children."

As individuals and organizations across Western North Carolina pool resources to support various causes through holiday giving, Appalachian Vinter’s monthlong silent auction is set to wrap up on New Year’s Eve. Proceeds support Mission Children’s Hospital, Huff Center Therapies and Arts for Life.

“We started this auction to aid the most vulnerable of Asheville’s society — the young and the elderly, especially those that are ill,” says Geoff Alexander, who owns the shop with his brother Charles Alexander. “These individuals and their families need the most support and care to maintain the highest quality of life.”

Geoff reports that his shop’s fundraiser has raised tens of thousands of dollars over several years. That’s due in part to the high quality of items donated by Appalachian Vintner’s distributors and vendors.

This year’s auction, likewise, promises some gems, particularly for artisan alcohol aficionados. Limited-edition wines (Bogle Vineyard’s Phantom, Vermouth Perucchi’s Gran Reserve, Frank Family Vineyards’ Zinfandel) and beers (Olde Hickory Brewery’s Carolus Mangus and other vintage releases, Sierra Nevada’s 10-year Bigfoot Vertical), swag (Oowee Products’ leather koozies, a retro tin cooler from Goose Island Beer Co.), gift certificates (Burial Brewery) and more are all up for grabs.

Proceeds are transferred as monetary donations, “as well as items such as iPads, art supplies, developmental tools and therapeutic tools to get the donations directly to those affected and not caught up in administration,” Geoff says. “According to the individuals we provide these donations to, they are absolutely helping the people we are aiming to help.”

The Alexanders have several more events planned for the remainder of December, including a storewide holiday sale Dec. 26-31 and a Grower Champagne (the real deal from France) tasting on Monday, Dec. 28, 4:30-7:30 p.m., while supplies last. Also available for a limited time is Puzzle Pieces — a barrel-aged sour ale created collaboratively with Wicked Weed Brewing. Proceeds from the brew benefit the Autism Society and Appalachian Vintner’s Puzzle Pieces Project, which “aims to increase awareness of childhood illness and provide assistance to families and their loved ones effected.”

Interested parties can browse and bid on auction items by visiting Appalachian Vintner at 745 Biltmore Ave., Suite 121, by Thursday, Dec. 31. Winners will be contacted by phone on the first of the new year. Visit appalachianvintner.com for more information.

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s USDA grant

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Program, which aims to connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers, recently awarded ASAP a $26,150 grant. The nonprofit organization will use part of the funds to coordinate a conference on farm-to-school programs, holding the event next fall in Greenville, S.C., and inviting stakeholders from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. ASAP will also use the money to strengthen existing partnerships and build new initiatives such as becoming a hub of information on farm-to-school best practices.

Visit asapconnections.org for more information on the organization and its activities.

The Village Social opens on Biltmore Estate

Located aside Biltmore Estate’s winery and inside the newly opened Village Hotel is a casual, full-service restaurant and bar called The Village Social. Led by executive chef Spencer Hilgeman, it’s open to all visitors of the estate’s grounds. “The restaurant concept emphasizes a small-plate tasting menu featuring seafood, Biltmore Wines, craft beers and signature cocktails,” reads a company release, which lists small-plate options such as raw oysters, pimento mac and cheese, she-crab bisque, yellow fin tuna crudo, chilled lobster tail, shrimp and grits, and barbecue oysters with bourbon chipotle butter. In addition to rotating local beers, the bar offers specialty cocktails (some featuring the  estate’s wines) like The Bee Keeper — honeysuckle-flavored Cathead Vodka, fresh lavender honey syrup, lemon, egg white and a splash of soda.

The Village Hotel is at 1 Lodge St. Hours are 7-11 a.m. (breakfast), noon-10 p.m. (lunch/dinner) and 10 p.m.-midnight (drinks and late night menu).

Season’s at Highland Lake’s Christmas Eve buffet

An elaborate cheese display with puff pastry-wrapped brie; various gourmet salads highlighting ingredients such as candied walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and roasted beets; white bean and kale soup; herb-crusted steak, carved to order and served with mushroom marsala jus and horseradish sauce; and preserved fig and wild mushroom-stuffed pork loin wrapped in prosciutto are just some of the intricate appetizers and entrées available at Season’s forthcoming Christmas Eve buffet. Holiday-inspired side dishes include garlic confit and herb-roasted red bliss potatoes; Cajun-spiced sweet potatoes; sausage and sage cornbread stuffing; baked acorn squash with pecan praline topping and more.

The holiday feast is 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24, at Season’s at Highland Lake, 86 Lily Pad Lane, Flat Rock. The dinner costs $38.95 per adult, $19.50 for children ages 6-11. Visit hlinn.com/seasons for more information or call 696-9094 to make a reservation.

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About Kat McReynolds
Kat studied entrepreneurship and music business at the University of Miami and earned her MBA at Appalachian State University. Follow me @katmAVL

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