Small Bites: Soda Papa

POP CULTURE: Emily Coleman-Wolf and Ben White debuted their handcrafted soda business, Soda Papa, in April at the Mother Earth News Fair. The pair will be selling their beverages this weekend at the Montford Music & Arts Festival and at Sunday Music in the Park. Photo by Pat Barcas

New craft soda business launches in Asheville

Beer and coffee get a lot of attention as the craft beverages of choice in Asheville, but there is also a steadily growing interest in handmade sodas. Blue Blaze Soda & Syrup Co. has been making a name for itself for a while as a local soda maker, and recently, even restaurants like Sunny Point Café, flaunting a spiffy, new bar program, have been getting in on the action with house-made potions.

In late April, another soda artisan stepped into the arena, as Soda Papa debuted its products at the Mother Earth News Fair. Ben White, who co-owns the business with his partner Emily Coleman-Wolf, launched Soda Papa with four featured sodas: Chai, Citron Bomb, the coffee-flavored EspresSoda and Long Island Gingerale. Coleman-Wolf says, however, that White, the creative force behind the business, is “always toying with flavors and has plenty of ideas” for other offerings, including classics like cola and root beer as well as more exotic combinations.

White says he uses all organic ingredients except for the honey, which is sourced from Haw Creek Honey, to make the soda syrups, which he and Coleman-Wolf mix in the certified kitchens at Blue Ridge Food Ventures. “We take whole ingredients — fruits, juices, teas, spices, a little Himalayan sea salt, cane sugar, honey, agave nectar, molasses — bring it all together and make it into a stable syrup that you can make into a soda,” he says.

White and Coleman-Wolf are looking into selling their products wholesale to local restaurants, and they have a soda fountain where they mix their syrups with seltzer for direct distribution by the glass at festivals and events. They have also purchased a retired ice cream truck with plans to convert it into a soda truck in the future, pending some yet-to-be-finalized fundraising efforts.

White says he’s been experimenting with brewing sodas at home for his three young kids for quite a while. But Coleman-Wolf says it was an assignment to write a business plan for a class White was taking through the A-B Tech business administration program that made them think of turning it into a moneymaking venture.

“He wanted to talk about soda [for the project], and as we talked about it more and more, we decided it was a good thing, and we decided to make sure that it happened,” she says.

Soda Papa will be set up and selling sodas at the Montford Music Festival 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, May 16, and Asheville Downtown Association’s Sunday Music in the Park 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 17. Look for “Asheville Soda Papa” on Facebook.

Salt & Smoke at Burial Beer

Burial Beer has ventured into the realm of food with the addition of its weekly Sunday jazz brunch and occasional event-centered partnerships with chef Elliott Moss. Now the South Slope brewery will take things a step further with the introduction of a weekly small-plate offering, Salt & Smoke, a new project by Bull & Beggar chef Josiah McGaughy. Starting May 19, McGaughy will be in the Burial taproom at 4 p.m. every Tuesday selling what a press release from Burial describes as “classic charcuterie from various cultures with country cuisine.” The small-plate menu features spiced pecans, pickled shrimp, paté maison with pickled okra and mustard, and deviled ham on toast with dill pickle relish, with prices running $2-$6. A combo plate is $12, or a full plate with porchetta, golden raisins and toasted oats is $12.

4 p.m. Tuesdays starting May 19, Burial Beer, 40 Collier Ave. burialbeer.com

Pizza Pan-demonium

There are food competitions in Asheville for everything from wings to tempeh, so it makes sense for pizza to have its day. On Sunday, May 17, Highland Brewing Co. will host Pizza Pan-demonium, a pie faceoff among Asheville favorites, including All Souls, Favilla’s, Frank’s, Mellow Mushroom, Nona Mia, Del Vecchio’s, Brixx, Strada and more. Celebrity judges and the audience will vote for winners in three categories. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and include pizza, beer and live music. Tickets are $5 for kids younger than 12, $10 for ages 13-20. Proceeds will benefit Eblen Charities.

5:30-8:30 p.m. Sunday, May 17, Highland Brewing Co., 12 Old Charlotte Highway. For tickets, go to: highlandbrewing.com/whats-up/event/pizza-pandemonium.

Chef Adam Hayes joins Canyon Kitchen

Adam Hayes, previously chef at the Grand Bohemian Hotel’s Red Stag Grill, recently joined Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers as executive chef. Hayes, who most recently served as executive chef at Barnsley Resort, north of Atlanta, has been a guest chef at the James Beard House in New York City and is a winner of Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen.” Chef John Fleer, owner of Rhubarb and a finalist for the 2015 James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: Southeast Award, has provided direction and support for Canyon Kitchen since it opened in 2008. The restaurant is now open for the season, serving a farm-to-table, fixed-price menu Wednesday through Sunday evenings through October.

For details, visit: lonesomevalley.com/project/canyon-kitchen/ or call 828-743-7967.

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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