Noble Cider’s Greenhouse Bar and Bistro on Rankin Avenue closed to the public in March 2020. During the downtime, management reconceived its year-old restaurant as Noble Cider Downtown Taproom, which celebrated its official opening on July 28. The Greenhouse’s birds-of-paradise wallpaper is gone, and the pale green and flamingo-pink walls have been repainted blue and gold.
“We wanted the cidery’s mission statement — true to the core — consistent through the kitchen, with good-quality pub fare staying as local as possible to support our community,” explains retail manager Thyra Folkard.
In June, Folkard hired executive chef Cindy Normand, most recently of Jettie Rae’s Oyster House. Along with carrying out the company’s locally focused mission, Normand is incorporating ciders into the menu’s food recipes and creating dishes complementary to cider pairings. “We collaborated as a team to work on the menu, but Cindy crafted everything,” Folkard says.
Local purveyors featured on the new menu include Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Joyce Farms, Annie’s Bakery, Sandy Bee Mine Honey, Spicewalla and Lusty Monk. In addition to cider, the drinks menu features several local beers and jun from Shanti Elixirs. And diners shouldn’t skip dessert: Folkard and Normand tested many versions of apple cider doughnuts and determined that doughnut holes with bourbon hard cider sauce for dipping hit the sweet spot.
Noble Cider Downtown Taproom, 49 Rankin Ave. Learn more at avl.mx/a48 .
Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project launched Appalachian Farms Feeding Families program in 2020 in response to hardships experienced by community members and farmers impacted by COVID-19. Thanks to a $500,000 grant awarded in late June by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, AFFF will double food purchasing through the program and be able to add more food relief sites as need is identified.
The program pays farmers to grow and deliver fresh fruits and vegetables directly to food relief sites within their communities. Currently, the AFFF program serves 56 feeding sites, purchasing products from 47 farms in 22 Western North Carolina counties. Last growing season, the program provided fresh, local food to 3,000 to 4,000 families.
“Farms are directly able to serve the communities they call home,” notes David Smiley, ASAP’s Local Food Campaign program manager. “The program allows them to deliver higher volumes and greater diversity.”
For more information, visit avl.mx/a52 .
The Lester Farmers Market began as a front porch conversation among four Leicester women who reached out to other people with their idea, eventually connecting with the Leicester Community Center. “They made a request to our board to use our facility, we granted it, and it just grew from there,” recalls Marie Whitener, president of Leicester Community Center, where the new tailgate market debuted Aug. 4. Nearly 20 local vendors are participating rain or shine every Wednesday, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
“There are a lot of markets in the region,” Whitener says. “This was set up with the goal of giving Leicester vendors foremost an affordable place to sell their goods and for people in our community to have access to local, fresh-grown and freshly made products.” Vendors will offer produce, eggs, goat cheese, honey, flowers, fresh meat, herbs and bread.
Leicester Community Center, 2979 New Leicester Highway. Learn more at avl.mx/a4c .
Raising the bar
In July, Garden & Gun’s list of Best Cocktail Bars of the South included Asheville bar Little Jumbo, which opened in Five Points in November 2017. Owners Lucia and Chall Gray and Jay Sanders got the big news from the magazine’s spirits editor, Wayne Curtis, in April, just as they were reopening the bar to on-site guests.
As Garden & Gun notes in its write-up, Little Jumbo spent much of the 387 days it was closed (not that the owners were counting) conducting research and development. The bar’s latest beverage, Whiskey Daisy — a combination of bourbon, Punt e Mes, yellow chartreuse, lemon, sugar and strawberry — has already established itself as a favorite among popular originals like Hello Friday, Paloma Brillante, Foxyhot and the 1870s Old Fashioned.
“We are incredibly honored to be on this list,” says Chall Gray. “We are in the company of some of our absolute favorite bars in the South.”
241 Broadway. For more information, visit avl.mx/a4b .
Women and Wine, a networking group created in 2019 by sommelier and owner of the now-closed Rustic Grape, Melissa Ward, has resumed monthly in-person meetings at rotating locations. The next gathering takes place 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 17, at Urban Orchard and will highlight ciders made by co-owner Josie Mielke, as well as women-made wines. Beverages must be purchased but complimentary snacks will be available. Laura Webb, a certified financial planner, will speak at the event.
Urban Orchard, 24 Buxton Ave. Admission is free, but guests must register in advance at avl.mx/a4d.
On Saturday, Aug. 14, at 10 a.m., neighborhood cooks will tie on their aprons and use produce fresh-picked from the Fairview Road Resilience Garden to demonstrate easy, one-pan healthy meals that can feed a family of four for less than $20. The demo stage will be set up on the perimeter of the garden.
The garden was established in spring 2020 when Oakley residents transformed 4,000 square feet into 15 garden plots with the purpose of providing fresh produce to neighbors facing food insecurity. Volunteers water, maintain and harvest the vegetables that are distributed by Bounty & Soul nonprofit.
Home cooks interested in sharing their one-pan recipes can contact organizers in advance for more information at email@example.com. The public is invited to attend, taste the dishes and tour the garden at 461 Fairview Road. To learn more, visit avl.mx/a4e.
On Aug. 1, chef Hayette Bouras cooked the final vegan Cuban, Philly cheesesteak and Westside hot mess in the tiny kitchen of Sunflower Diner, the breakfast and lunch café she opened in the West Village Market in fall 2019. Like every other hospitality-based business, Sunflower struggled to navigate COVID-19 restrictions and protocols, but a commitment to go 100% vegan in October 2020 was a tremendous success. Business surged with implementation of a takeout model, carrying over into the reopening of onsite dining earlier this year.
That’s the good news, and for the legion of Sunflower regulars, the bad. “We have grown so much it’s just not practical to be in the market any longer,” says Bouras. “It has lived its life in this spot.”
Though she is not sure what the future holds other than a vacation and her September wedding, Bouras intends to resume hosting the pop-up events she did before opening Sunflower. She will also do more vegan baking as she looks for another spot.
The Sunflower Diner, says West Village Market owner Rosanne Kiely, will be sorely missed. But Kiely notes that there are positive plans for the space. “We look forward to spreading out to make the market easier to navigate,” she says. “Some of the things we’re planning are amping up our grab-and-go deli options with many vegan selections and possibly a hot bar, [as well as] growing our vegan refrigerated and frozen options and expanding out bulk section of food and nonfood to maintain our focus on shopping sustainably. There’s lots to look forward to.”
West Village Market, 771 Haywood Road. Learn more at avl.mx/a58.
Editor’s note: This story was updated on Aug. 13. Cindy Normand’s last name was misspelled in the print version.