Small bites: Talking cider at Rhubarb

COME TOGETHER: On Thursday, Jan. 19, Urban Orchard Cider Co. will join other local cidermakers in a panel discussion at Rhubarb. “It’s always fun to get together with other cider makers and discuss our craft,” says Urban Orchard co-owner Josie Mielke, pictured. “Especially when you’ve got an audience that is interested in what you’re doing.” Photo by Jeff Anderson, marketing and creative director, Urban Orchard Cider Co.

Many are familiar with the story of John Chapman — better known as Johnny Appleseed — the American pioneer who traversed the ever-expanding country barefoot with a pot atop his head, a walking stick in hand and a sack full of apple seeds that he spread across the land. What is less known in the Chapman narrative is the purpose behind his actions.

“Jonny Appleseed was actually planting apple trees from seed for cider,” says Josie Mielke, co-owner of Urban Orchard Cider Co. In the early 1800s, Mielke explains, water was not potable. Cider, therefore, was both the beverage of choice and the drink of necessity.

On Thursday, Jan. 19, Rhubarb will host a discussion on the topic as the second installment in Edible Asheville magazine’s ongoing FED Talks (Food. Education. Discussion) series. Representatives from Urban Orchard, Noble Cider and Black Mountain Ciderworks will participate in a panel discussion and provide cider samples, while a selection of small plates will be prepared by Rhubarb’s kitchen. The food menu has not been finalized, but Rhubarb marketing manager Jasper Adams says it will be a hybrid affair, merging Appalachian cuisine with Western European recipes.

The history of cider will be one focus of the presentation. “The Colonial days definitely saw more cidermaking than beermaking,” says Trevor Baker, co-founder of Noble Cider. Baker notes that beer didn’t see a rise in popularity in this country until the mid-1880s when German immigrants arrived on the scene and the westward  expansion to the Great Plains provided ideal conditions and plenty of land for growing grain. “That is when you saw a pretty big decline in cidermaking,” says Baker.

More recently, though, the cider industry has experienced a renaissance, which will be another talking point at the event. Particular attention will be given to the resurgence of cider in Western North Carolina and the relationship of that growth to the local apple business. “We have Hendersonville right down the road,” says Mielke. “They produce about 85 percent of the state’s apples.”

Baker views the FED Talk as as an opportunity to further connect people with the product. “In my opinion, the more educated consumers we have, the better off the industry is,” he says.

Mielke agrees. “It’s always fun to get together with other cidermakers and discuss our craft,” she says. “Especially when you’ve got an audience that is interested in what you’re doing.”

The Cider City FED Talks event takes place 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at Rhubarb, 7 S. Pack Square. Tickets are $20 and include a cider tasting and small plates. For tickets, visit

Teas for Wellness

Local herbalist and educator Melissa Fryar will present a Teas for Wellness workshop this week in the upstairs Movement and Learning Center at the French Broad Food Co-op. Cost is $20 for the public, $15 for co-op members.

Teas for Wellness happens 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12, at the French Broad Food Co-op, 90 Biltmore Ave. Preregister for the class at

Basics of Fermentation

Fermenti, a small gourmet business specializing in fermented foods, will host a basic fermenting class at Artisun Gallery in Hot Springs. The two-hour workshop will be led by Meg Chamberlain, founder and owner of Fermenti. Participants will learn the principles and process of fermentation and will be able to put together their own pint of seasoned sauerkraut to take home. The session concludes with a Q&A.

The class runs 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at Artisun Gallery, 16 S. Andrews Ave., Hot Springs. Tickets are $15 for those who RSVP; $20 at the door. For tickets, contact

Wines of Portugal

Santé Wine Bar & Tap Room will host Wines of Portugal, a pop-up Flight Night event on Tuesday, Jan. 17. The tasting will be led by Kate Stamps of Proof Wine and Spirits. Guests will have the chance to sample a flight of Portuguese wines for $20, and bottles will be for sale at discounted prices.

“Wines of Portugal” runs 7-9 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Santé Wine Bar & Tap Room, 1 Page Ave, Suites 146/152, inside the Grove Arcade. Tickets are $20. RSVPs are requested. For more information, visit

Early bird tickets for Root Bound

Root Bound is a full-immersion weekend of food, spirits, music and “edutainment” that happens Friday-Sunday, Feb. 24-26, at the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands. Dinners and food demonstrations will be led by Appalachian chefs Travis Milton, Adam Hayes, Denny Trantham, Shelly Cooper, Sheri Castle, Louis Osteen, Lisa Donovan and Old Edwards executive chef Christ Huerta. Discounted early-bird tickets are $365 and are available through Monday, Jan. 23. Pricing does not include overnight accommodations, taxes or gratuity.

Old Edwards Inn and Spa is at 445 Main St., Highlands. For more information, visit


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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