Small bites: The Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village asks for votes against hunger

RAISING AWARENESS: Anthony, Sherrye and Sydney Coggiola, owners of The Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village, have been battling food insecurity in WNC for the last three years. The three are now hoping to take their mission statewide. Photo by Cindy Kunst

For the last three years, The Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village has been working with MANNA FoodBank to eliminate hunger in Western North Carolina. Its Skip a Side program allows customers to opt out of one or both of the side items that come with each entrée. For each forgone dish, The Cantina donates $2 to MANNA. To date, the restaurant has contributed nearly $75,000 to the food bank, which translates to 200,000 meals.

The issue of hunger, however, persists. As The Cantina’s co-owner Sherrye Coggiola notes, North Carolina is consistently ranked among the top 10 most food-insecure states. On average, over 1.7 million residents go hungry in the state per year. Because of this, The Cantina is competing for a $100,000 grant through the A Community Thrives initiative, which is part of the USA Today network. On Tuesday, April 11, The Cantina officially launched its online Skip a Side video campaign.

Coggiola says the restaurant’s ultimate goal is to help “end food insecurity across the United States.” The more immediate plan, however, is to address hunger issues in North Carolina. If The Cantina wins the $100,000 grant, Coggiola says, it, “along with the foundation arm of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association and local food banks, will use the money to educate others about food insecurity, as well as teach restaurants how to implement the program in their establishments.”

Anyone with a valid email address can cast one vote per day. There are three different categories: arts and culture, education and wellness. The Cantina falls in the last group. At the end of the 30-day voting period, the top 10 videos from each category will be reviewed by a committee that will decide on a winner. The second- and third-place runners-up from each group will be awarded $50,000 grants.

Coggiola notes that if one restaurant in each state participated in and worked with local food banks through a program like Skip a Side, nearly 5 million meals would be available to those facing food insecurity. “None of our neighbors should ever not know where their next meal is coming from,” she says. “because there is food out there, and it is wasted. We have to make that difference.”

To vote for The Cantina at Historic Biltmore Village Skip a Side video initiative, visit Individuals can vote once a day, every day, through Friday, May 12. To learn more about the program, visit

FED Talks: The Well-Made Wedge

Rhubarb hosts its third FED Talk on Thursday, April 27. Representatives from Spinning Spider Creamery and Looking Glass Creamery will offer guests a peek into the cheesemaking process. Attendees will also get the chance to taste some of the creameries’ products, and additional samples will be prepared by Rhubarb’s kitchen. Wine and beer will be available for purchase. “This is part of a larger framework of Cheese Month,” says Jasper Adams, Rhubarb’s marketing manager. He notes that the restaurant’s companion bakery, The Rhu, will offer grilled cheese specials all month, along with upcoming tastings with Yellow Branch Creamery, Noble Cider, Cane Creek Creamery and Burial Brewing, as a way to further celebrate Cheese Month.

FED Talks: The Well-Made Wedge happens 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at Rhubarb Event Space, 7 S. Pack Square. Tickets are $24. For details and tickets, visit

Sandy Mush Cookout and Spring Open House

On Saturday, April 22, the Sandy Mush community will celebrate Earth Day with an open house and 4-H cookout fundraiser. The hot dog and hamburger cookout runs 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and meals cost $5 to $6. Desserts, sold for $1 each, will benefit Mountain Lady Farm Project, an organization that teaches Buncombe County children ages 6-18 agricultural and craft pursuits. The event will feature loom weaving, a farm drone demonstration, insect and snake camps, and a free garden exchange.

 Activities take place 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at the Sandy Mush Community Center, 19 School Road, Leicester. For details, visit

Winery passport program

Starting Thursday, April, 20, Western North Carolina wine and cider industry support organization the French Broad Vignerons unveils a winery passport program that offers residents and visitors the chance to earn points each time they visit a different member winery. Wine bottle purchases earn passport holders additional points. In November, passports will be submitted, tallied and placed into corresponding boxes based on points earned. A drawing will be held on Dec. 15. The top prize will be a $250 gift certificate to French Broad Vignerons member wineries. Additional certificates will be awarded for each corresponding prize pool.

For details on the passport program, visit

Table for Three raffle

Ambrozia, The Black Bird, Chai Pani and King Daddy’s are among the 52 local restaurants partnering with MANNA FoodBank for its inaugural Table for Three raffle. The winner will receive gift certificates to all participating restaurants valid for one year. Tickets are $104. There are 500 total tickets available. MANNA notes that the ticket price represents the cost of feeding one person one meal per day for a year.

A winner will be drawn at MANNA FoodBank’s annual Blue Jean Ball on Saturday, June 3. Attendance is not required to win. Gift certificates do not include tax or gratuity and cannot be used to purchase alcohol. For details and to purchase a ticket, visit

Athena’s to close

Athena’s, a nightclub in downtown Asheville, recently announced it will be closing. Tupelo Honey will take over the lease and use the space to expand its downtown location. Athena’s owner, Athena Cermak, is closing the business to pursue a career in real estate. “We are so thankful to all the people who have supported our small business for the last 10 years,” she says. “I know Tupelo Honey will do great there, and we wish them much success.” Athena’s last day of business will be Saturday, June 24.


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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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