Small bites: The Great North Carolina Vegan Barbecue Cookoff

PLANT-BASED BARBECUE: Laura Beck, co-organizer of The Great North Carolina Vegan Barbecue Cookoff, says the event is an opportunity for omnivores and carnivores alike to try old classics with a new twist. Photo courtesy of Beck

The concepts of veganism and barbecue might seem at odds with each other. But that is kind of the point of The Great North Carolina Vegan Barbecue Cookoff, says event co-organizer Laura Beck. “Our intention is to show people that dishes they already know can be made plant-based and be supertasty,” she explains.

Chefs and amateurs alike will compete at this year’s inaugural event, which takes place Sunday, July 8, at The BLOCK Off Biltmore. The gathering, co-hosted by Mountain Vegans Meetup Group and Your Vegan Mentor, will benefit Animal Haven of Asheville, a nonprofit dedicated to caring for, sheltering and protecting homeless and abused animals. The evening’s top three winners will take home swag from Asheville-based company No Evil Foods.

Cooks must arrive at The BLOCK Off Biltmore at 5 p.m. the day of the event with dishes prepared in advance. No electric outlets will be available for slow cookers or other cooking devices. Recipes must not contain meat, fish, poultry, dairy, honey or gelatin.

Competitors should bring their own serving utensils, and guests are asked to bring their own silverware. Both chefs and attendees will cast ballots for their top three dishes.

Several local restaurants and catering companies have been invited to participate in cookoff, and at press time, confirmations included Vegan Roaming and Fat Rabbit Catering. Meanwhile, amateur cooks will have the chance to go head-to-head against local professionals.

Along with the culinary competition, Beck sees the event as a chance to break stereotypes associated with veganism — namely, she says, the concept of “the vegan police.” In other words, rest assured that no one will be checking for leather shoes at the door. “Wherever you are on your journey, it’s all good,” she says. “If you’re looking to simply reduce the amount of animals you eat, that’s great. It’s not all or nothing.”

The Great North Carolina Vegan Barbecue Cookoff runs 5-7 p.m. Sunday, July 8, at The BLOCK Off Biltmore, 39 S. Market St. Entry for competitors is $5. Admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Advance ticket sales close July 7. For tickets and more details, visit

American Wine Dinner

On Thursday, July 5, La Guinguette will host a five-course American wine dinner. The evening begins with appetizers including fried green tomatoes with pepper jelly and bacon confit, pimento cheese and honey puffs, and mini-burger sliders paired with Tank Garage Winery’s Stars Like Ours rosé. Other menu highlights include pecan-crusted fried chicken, Maryland-style crab cakes, pork belly with a balsamic reduction and a pie sampler for dessert. Featured wines are Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, Maysara 3 degress Pinot Noir, N x NW Red Blend and Bogle Petite Syrah Port.

The American wine dinner runs 6:30-9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 5, at La Guinguette, 105 Richardson Blvd., Black Mountain. Tickets are $60 per person, not including tax and tip. For reservations, call 888-424-7810.

AUX Bar (On Fire) Guest Chef series

The AUX Bar (On Fire) Guest Chef series continues with chef Jeff Bannister of Columbia, S.C., restaurant Bovinoche.  The menu was unavailable at press time, but the theme will be wood-fired street food with a focus on South Carolina cuisine. No reservations are required. [NEED TICKET PRICES.]

AUX Bar (On Fire) Guest Chef Series runs 5-10 p.m. Saturday, July 7, at AUX Bar, 68 N. Lexington Ave. For more information, visit

Macaron & Mimosa Flights

Ivory Road Cafe & Kitchen will host Macaron & Mimosa Flights on Sunday, July 8, featuring mimosa combinations such as ginger-peach and watermelon-mint and sparkling rosé. Nonalcoholic flight options will also be available, and guests are welcome to order from the restaurant’s brunch menu, which features dishes including quiche, orange-zested brioche French toast and a Southern skillet. The gathering is kid-friendly.

Macaron & Mimosa Flights at Ivory Road Cafe & Kitchen, 1854 Brevard Road, Arden, runs 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, July 8. Pairings are $14. Quantities are limited. For more, visit

The Blind Pig presents: Pop Sugar

What do The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, Barack Obama, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Bruce Springsteen have in common? Give up? They are among the celebrated names that have inspired dishes at the Blind Pig’s upcoming Pop Sugar dinner. The six-course meal will feature interpretations of the favorite foods of historic and modern pop culture figures. Craft cocktails will accompany the meal. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Asheville Humane Society.

Pop Sugar runs 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday, July 8. Tickets are $55. The location will be disclosed with ticket purchase. To learn more, visit

Wine dinner with Bibiana González Rave

On Wednesday, July 11, California-based vintner Bibiana González Rave will host a signature wine dinner at Jargon. In 2015, Rave was named the San Fransisco Chronicle‘s 2015 Wine Maker of the Year. “Bibiana is far from a one-variety winemaker,” says Jargon co-owner Sean Piper. “She has a rare ability to excel with numerous varieties and different styles.” The dinner will include a six-course tasting menu by chef Marcus Day. Rave will lead conversations throughout the event. Guests will also be able to purchase the evening’s featured wines.

The dinner starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, at Jargon, 715 Haywood Road. Tickets are $100 per person, gratuity and tax not included. For reservations and more details, email


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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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2 thoughts on “Small bites: The Great North Carolina Vegan Barbecue Cookoff

  1. boatrocker

    Oh, this should be great.
    Yes, I have tried good vegan food.
    It was grains and veggies, and not faux omnivore food.
    For all the vegan smug, why do vegans
    still have meat envy?

    Is it from being from 25 light years away
    from Vega?

    Come and take my honey and cheese from my cold dead fingers,
    molon labe, you get the idea.

  2. think critically

    Regarding the environmental benefits of plant-based diets, the most comprehensive analysis to date on the damage farming does to the planet, “The Global Impacts of Food Production,” was recently published in the journal Science. The conclusion? The headline from the Guardian says it all: “Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on earth.” For those who believe in science and have open minds, here is a link to the article:

    Forbes also ran a story, likewise noting, “a vegan diet is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on earth. Buying an electric car, lowering your thermostat, and taking quick showers all pale in comparison to simply eating less meat and dairy.”

    The research also shatters the myth that grass-fed beef is an ecologically-friendly choice, noting it has a much higher impact on the planet than plant-based foods.

    Sadly, this huge scientific study was mostly ignored by the media., when it should be on every front page.

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