Small bites: The Social hosts inaugural Biscuit & Gravy Battle

GRAVY TRAIN: Cory and Christen Short, co-owners of The Social, will host their first Biscuit & Gravy Battle on Saturday, Dec. 15. Cory says the couple hope to make the event an annual Christmas tradition. Photo by Lee Barrett

Asheville has seen its fair share of food battles. In recent years, chefs have flung burgers, stuffed tacos and served chili in competitions throughout the city. Cory and Christen Short, the husband-and-wife team who own The Social in East Asheville, are looking to add to the area’s competitive culinary spirit with the inaugural Biscuit & Gravy Battle.

“Unlike with some of the other food battles, ours is not exclusive to professional chefs,” says Cory. “Anybody can compete.”

Registration is $10, with the winner taking home a $250 prize. All participants are asked to bring a slow cooker of homemade gravy ready to serve. Homemade biscuits, while encouraged, are not required. The Social will provide its biscuits to those who choose to focus on the gravy portion of the competition.

A panel of local chefs and restaurateurs will judge the entries along with a public vote. The combined scores from both groups will determine the winner. Judges include the Shorts, Emilios Papanastasiou of Post 25 and Post 70 Indulgence Bar, chef A.J. Gregson of Mojo Kitchen & Lounge and Black Bear BBQ, chef Santiago Vargas of Out of the Blue Peruvian Fusion Cuisine, chef Bud Halvorsen of the Omni Grove Park Inn and Kelly Denson of Asheville Food Fights.

“The majority of the gravy’s flavor will come from the sausage,” explains Denson. “So high quality and high flavor is key. Plus pepper — loads of black pepper.”

Gregson agrees. “I like to see a medium-bodied gravy with small chunks of browned sausage,” the chef says. “The sausage that you use and the seasonings that you start with will definitely make your gravy stand out against competitors.”

Meanwhile, Short says he hopes all who attend will walk away from the event with more than just a belly full of gravy and biscuits. “Most of us grew up with grandmas and grandpas that made biscuits and gravy,” he says. “It runs hand in hand with the holidays and people being home having meals with their families. The dish represents something special here in the South.”

The inaugural Biscuit & Gravy Battle runs 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at The Social, 1078 Tunnel Road. Entry fee for competitors is $10 per person; general admission is $7 and includes samples of all competing dishes. To learn more, visit avl.mx/5gd.

Wintertime Treats beer pairing dinner

On Thursday, Dec. 13, White Labs Kitchen & Tap will host Fermented Pairings Series Vol. 9: Wintertime Treats. “This particular dinner features savory and sweet treats accompanied by a variety of styles of beer, and we will explore how to host a beer tasting in your home,” says Jo Doyle, White Labs’ education and engagement curator. Food highlights from the four-course menu include sticky toffee gingerbread with eggnog sauce, chocolate peppermint mousse with a chocolate butter cookie and stout beef shepherd’s pie. Beer highlights include Hillman Beers Berliner Weisse, Pasteur Porter with WLP007 English ale yeast and White Labs Asheville’s gingerbread beer.

Fermented Pairings Series Vol. 9: Wintertime Treats runs 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13, at White Labs Kitchen & Tap, 172 S. Charlotte St. Tickets are $25. The event is for ages 21 and older. For details, visit avl.mx/5g9.

Brunch with Santa Claus

You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to Tupelo Honey’s South Asheville location. On Saturday, Dec. 15, Old St. Nick will join guests on the restaurant’s outdoor patio for a breakfast buffet. Menu options will include scrambled eggs, bacon, sweet potato pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and potato cracklins, along with coffee and tea. Plates are $12 per person; children age 5 and younger eat free. Reservations are encouraged.

Brunch with Santa Claus runs 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, at Tupelo Honey, 1829 Hendersonville Road. To make reservations, visit avl.mx/5gb.

Cacao Alchemy: Herbal Chocolate Alchemy

Villagers will host Cacao Alchemy: Herbal Chocolate Alchemy on Sunday, Dec. 16. Scotty Karas of Deep Roots Nature Education will lead the workshop. “This class involves equal parts herbal wisdom and chocolate indulgence,” says Quinn Asteak, Villagers’ co-manager and workshop coordinator. Participants will learn how to make chocolate medicine balls and a hot chocolate elixir. Karas notes that those who attend can expect to leave with “an expanded appreciation of cacao, do-it-yourself chocolate recipes and delicious bites and sips of various chocolate flavors and forms.”

Cacao Alchemy: Herbal Chocolate Alchemy runs 5:30-7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16, at Villagers: Urban Homestead Supply, 278 Haywood Road. Tickets are on a sliding scale, $20-$30 per person. For details, visit avl.mx/5ga.

Spicewalla at Williams-Sonoma

This holiday season Spicewalla will host a series of pop-up events at Williams Sonoma in Biltmore Village. Each event will feature samples of popcorn topped with a variety of Spicewalla blends along with members of the Spicewalla team, including chef James Grogan, offering advice and discussing the company’s products. The Friday, Dec. 14, event includes a chai-making demonstration at 1 p.m. “These pop-ups give us a chance to demystify the world of spices and make them more accessible,” says Michael Files, Chai Pani Restaurant Group’s brand director. “People can touch and taste our products and ask chef James Grogan any and all questions related to cooking and storing spices.”

The Spicewalla pop-ups will run 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Dec. 14-15, and Thursday, Dec. 20, at Williams Sonoma, 10 Brook St. No. 140. For more about Spicewalla, visit spicewallabrand.com.

Ziggy’s Bakery & Deli opens

Earlier this month, Ziggy’s Bakery & Deli opened in the Wilcox Travel Center on Hendersonville Road. The Philadelphia-style bakery is owned by Philadelphia transplant Robyn Ziegler and Asheville native Joshua Widner. The eatery offers house-baked breads, boiled bagels, hoagies, sandwiches, and deli meats and cheeses sliced by the pound.

Ziggy’s Bakery & Deli is at 1550 Hendersonville Road, Suite 100. Hours are 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. For details, visit avl.mx/5gc.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

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