What’s new in food: Cider trails, barbecue book, beaucoup wine and burgers on the Broad

ON THE TRAIL: Kether Smith and Deric McGuffey are ready to welcome visitors following the new NC Cider Trail to their Cedar Grove cidery and tap room. Photo by Brooks Bennett

Turning lemons into lemonade is a tried-and-true solution to a challenging situation. Turning apples into hard cider is increasingly a formula for adult-beverage business success in North Carolina, the seventh-largest apple growing state in the country.

With the recent creation of the NC Cider Trail at cidernc.com, the N.C. Cider Association aims to guide cider enthusiasts and the cider curious to 16 cideries in the state, including 11 in Western North Carolina. The website features an interactive map that allows users to type in a location to find nearby cideries as well as specific details about food options, pet-friendliness, tours and live music.

“Cider is growing as a category, and we wanted to make it easy for cider drinkers to find a cidery nearby or a new style of cider they didn’t know about, which is fun for everyone,” explains Lyndon Smith, president of the NCCA and co-owner of Botanist and Barrel.

The venues on the trail, Smith adds, showcase the diversity of cider: Some are terroir-driven, using native yeasts, while others are fruit-forward, adding other produce to complement the apples.

To get on the trail, visit avl.mx/9iy

On ’cue

When it comes to regional barbecue styles, author John Shelton Reed doesn’t personally engage in turf wars. “I’m from East Tennessee, which doesn’t have much barbecue, so I enjoy anybody’s style without feeling disloyal,” he says.

Reed’s work includes writing or editing 22 books, including the award-winning Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, which he co-authored with his wife, Dale Volberg Reed, in 2017.

His latest tome, On Barbecue, is a collection of his essays, reviews, articles, opinion pieces and a couple of recipes. “The new book tries to deal comprehensively with barbecue from all parts of the country, although there is inevitably an overemphasis on North Carolina, which is where I live,” he says. He devotes one chapter to the barbecue battles waged between Eastern Carolina and Piedmont barbecue styles, methods and practitioners. Another, titled “Appalachian Anarchy,” notes WNC’s lack of a long history with barbecue but points out that the scene is evolving and perhaps a mountain-style barbecue will soon be competitive.

Reed, who is the William Rand Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology (Emeritus) at the University of North Carolina, notes that when visiting Asheville he steers toward Buxton Hall, which he testifies does East Carolina-style whole-hog barbecue as well as it can be done. He also likes 12 Bones for its ribs and Luella’s Bar-B-Que for its sauces and smoked meats.

One thing Reed is unequivocal about: the perfect barbecue side. “No question, it’s slaw.”

On Barbecue will be published by the University of Tennessee Press on July 15.  Preorders are available at avl.mx/9iw.

Grape expectations

So much wine, so little time to track down what you want. But Table Wine, the Asheville wine shop founded in 2010 by industry veteran Josh Spurling, is here to help.

The South Asheville shop recently launched the biggest online inventory of any independent wine retailer in WNC. Table Wine specializes in selections from small, family-owned and -operated wineries around the globe, and now over 900 of them can be found on the new website. Shoppers can narrow their search by grape variety, country, region, farming method and vintage, or simply click on pretty bottles and intriguing labels — Hunky Dory sounds super-duper — and find a breakdown by the same categories.

“Josh began working on this with PRC Apps in early 2020,” says Lynn Spurling, Table Wine’s marketing manager. “Then COVID hit, and we were busier than ever, doing curbside-only for 13 months, so we put it on hold. It would have been great to have it then, but once the dust settled earlier this year, we picked the project back up.”

Pickup is at the storefront on Hendersonville Road. Orders can be placed online, but payment is available only by phone or at the shop.

Table Wine is at 1550 Hendersonville Road, avl.mx/9j1

Chop to it

When COVID-19 pivoted the Chop Shop Butchery to online ordering and curbside pickups only, the Charlotte Street business introduced lunch sandwiches to keep traffic moving. When the opportunity arose to take over the food trailer that had long been operated by Melt Your Heart at Wedge Brewing Co.’s Foundation location, Chop Shop revved up a plan.

“Our lunches really took off, and with the recent addition of chef Graham House [as culinary director], we knew we could make it happen,” says co-owner PJ Jackson. Menu highlights include dry-aged burgers from Apple Brandy Beef, house-made hot dogs and falafels, a wedge salad (of course) and other dishes inspired by products at the nearby River Arts District Farmers Market. All breads will be sourced from Heidi Bass at Mother AVL bakery.

The Chop Shop Food Truck will operate Wednesday- Sunday during Wedge hours at 5 Foundy St.,  avl.mx/9jf

Feed the children

School’s out for summer, but there is no recess for food insecurity, so regional public school nutrition program cafeterias continue to meet the needs of students and families.

Asheville City Schools is packing lunches and breakfasts for children ages 18 and younger Monday-Friday through Aug. 11. Meals are available for pickup at no cost at sites throughout the city. For locations and times, check avl.mx/9j8.

Buncombe County Schools Summer Meals service offers daily curbside pickup of free hot meals and weekend meal kits at 10 schools and three community locations either Monday-Friday or Monday-Thursday through Aug. 13. Families need to call ahead to order meals. For contact numbers and emails, locations and times, visit avl.mx/9ja.

Henderson County Public Schools’ Summer Food Service Program is also underway and continues through Friday, Aug. 13. Molly McGowan Gorsuch, public information officer for the school district, points out that like many public school systems, Henderson County’s Child Nutrition Services continued feeding students when schools were closed during the pandemic.

“It’s important to note that the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] funding supporting free or reduced-cost meals to eligible students during the school year is through the National School Lunch Program,” she explains. “Through the pandemic, USDA issued waivers that allowed districts to provide free meals to all children, regardless of whether they were previously eligible.” During the summer, schools provide free meals through the Summer Food Service Program.

The HCPS Child Nutrition Department operates its 2021 summer meals program at 23 open sites consisting of 22 stops along two Meals on the Bus routes and a drive-up site at Apple Valley Middle School. Combined packages of breakfast and lunch meals prepared by the Child Nutrition staff are available Monday through Friday to children ages 2-18 at no cost. For a schedule and locations, visit avl.mx/9km.


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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