Small bites: The Malvern opens in West Asheville

CHEERS: Desoto Lounge owners Josh and Lisa Gambrell recently opened their second bar, The Malvern, in West Asheville. Photo by Thomas Calder

In November, Desoto Lounge owners Lisa and Josh Gambrell launched their latest project, The Malvern, in the Patton Avenue building that once housed Ron’s Pool Hall. While the Desoto, which the pair opened in 2009, specializes in local craft-brewed beer, the new gastropub’s main focus is local and regional liquors and liqueurs. “North Carolina has a great and growing distilling scene,” says Lisa. “Most are in Durham and Greensboro, but it’s growing rapidly in Western North Carolina, too.”

The bar’s cocktail menu reflects the state’s burgeoning industry with featured liquors and liqueurs including Conniption American Dry Gin (Durham), Emulsion American Gin (Greensboro), Sutler’s Gin (Winston-Salem), Krupnikas (Durham), Oak City Amaretto (Raleigh), Covington Gourmet Vodka (Snow Hill), Social House Vodka (Kinston), Tiny Cat Vodka (Greensboro), TOPO Vodka (Chapel Hill), Rúa Barrel Aged (Charlotte), Seventeen Twelve Bourbon (Conover), Turning Point Carolina Rye (Kings Mountain), Kill Devil Rum (Manteo) and Raleigh Rum Co. White Rum (Raleigh). Draft beer and wine are available as well.

Food, too, is in the mix with a succinct but eclectic menu designed by Lisa and executed by cooks Chuck Schreve and Tony Plichta. Choices range from snacks like poutine and smoked trout dip to heartier fare like falafel wraps, bahn mi and Peruvian beef kabobs. When it came to selecting the plates, Lisa concedes, the final decision was based on personal preference. “I just kind of went with the things that I love,” she says. “Luckily, people seem to like it.”

Most patrons, notes Lisa, walk or bike from the nearby Malvern Hills community, which the Gambrells also call home. In fact, cycling has proved to be so popular among guests that a second bike rack is in the works. With its convenient location and higher-end drink and food options, Lisa says, The Malvern brings a downtown quality to the area. “It’s everything I hoped to be doing for the neighborhood,” she says.

The Malvern is at 1478 Patton Ave. Hours are 5 p.m.-midnight, seven days a week. Drink prices are $5-$11. Plates are $4-$14. Lunch hours are expected after the new year. For more information, visit

Italian Nights at Isis Music Hall

The Italian Nights series returns to Isis Music Hall on Thursday, Dec. 21. According to a press release, the evening’s menu will offer “the tastes of Italy,” including fresh salads, pasta dishes, traditional stuffed meats, olives, Italian cheeses and desserts. Along with dinner, Italian Nights will feature a backdrop of vintage Fellini films, as well as a live performance by Mike Guggino of Steep Canon Rangers and Barrett Smith of the Shannon Whitworth Band. “The music goes deep into the Italian culture with a little history and much passion,” Isis owner Scott Woody says in the same press release. “The evening is really romantic and beautiful, and we welcome friends and families to come enjoy.”

Italian Nights begins at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 21, at Isis Music Hall, 743 Haywood Road. Tickets for the live performance are $10. Dinner and drinks are priced separately. For more information, visit

Hole for the holidays

Hole Doughnuts will host a late-hours holiday gathering on Friday, Dec. 22, featuring seasonal doughnut flavors, including pfeffernusse, pine and sugar, eggnog, spiked punch and vanilla. Hot cocoa and carolers will also be part of the event. The shop is open later than usual that day, says co-owner Hallee Hirsh, to allow customers to bring their families in to celebrate. “There is something festive about watching doughnuts get made the old-fashioned way,” she says.

Hole Doughnuts is at 168 Haywood Road. The holiday celebration runs 5-8 p.m. (while supplies last), Friday, Dec. 22. For details, visit

DxE holiday potluck

DxE Asheville, a chapter of Direct Action Everywhere, works to organize and empower activism in the fight for animal rights. The organization will hold a vegan holiday potluck at The BLOCK Off Biltmore on Saturday, Dec. 23. The event announcement on Facebook asks attendees to bring a dish to share that’s free of meat, dairy, eggs and honey. Guests are also asked to bring their own plates and utensils. The party will feature a $2 raffle with prizes including teas, vegan food and wines as well as electronics. Proceeds from the raffle will go toward paying for an animal liberation billboard.

The DxE Holiday Potluck runs 5-7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 23, at The BLOCK Off Biltmore, 39 S. Market St. To RSVP and sign up to bring a dish, visit

Christmas Eve dinner at Ambrozia Bar & Bistro

On Christmas Eve, Ambrozia Bar & Bistro owner and chef Samuel Etheridge will host a five-course dinner that he says will offer “an elegant tasting menu of modern versions of Christmas classics.” Menu highlights include: deviled eggs, made with North Carolina lump blue crab, Champagne sabayon, caviar and smoked paprika; lobster bisque; beef tenderloin; and flourless chocolate pavé, Godiva mousse and peppermint bark. Etheridge notes, “There will be choices for each course to please everyone’s palate.”

Christmas Eve dinner runs 6-10 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 24, at Ambrozia Bar & Bistro, 1020 Merrimon Ave. The meal is $65 per person. For reservations, call 828-350-3033. For more information, visit

Miracle on Wall Street

MG Road is one of over 50 locations around the world participating in Miracle, a Christmas pop-up bar concept that originated in New York City in 2014. The cocktail menu features holiday twists on classics, including the Christmopolitan, How The Gimlet Stole Christmas and Jingle Ball Nog. In addition to the pop-up, MG Road will host a Christmas caroling sing-a-long 7-9 p.m. Christmas Eve.

Miracle on Wall Street runs through Sunday, Dec. 31, at MG Road, 19 Wall St. For details, visit

Silvermoon Chocolate eyes expansion

Silvermoon Chocolate, a family-owned, woman-led artisan chocolate kitchen, is looking to rebrand and expand. The Asheville-based company is running an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money to help buy equipment and source bulk ingredients. According to the campaign page, “This will empower us to scale our business beyond ‘cottage-industry’ and expand our capacity to create more yummy, healthy chocolate for the world to fall in love with.”

To learn more, 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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