It's no secret how I feel about our new town. I really, REALLY love it. Den and I suffer with an acute case of wanderlust - but recent discussions have us more and more determined that this little wonder in the Smoky Mountains might be our home base for some time. I was recently asked by the editors of Martha Stewart Living Magazine to shoot some of my favorite places in town for a small travel feature in the October issue (go buy it now!). I wanted to share some of the outtakes from that piece - we are so passionate about the food scene here, I could not let some of these amazing places not get a shout out.
The Admiral has been graced with tons of national coverage lately (including the New York Times) - and rightfully so. A self-proclaimed dive bar in West Asheville, the menu is headed by talent Elliot Moss who has a gift for combining local flavors in unexpected and ridiculously innovative and beautiful ways.
Blackbird, once hidden in the green-clad countryside of Black Mountain, NC (just outside Asheville) is in process of moving into the Aloft Hotel in Downtown Asheville. We are excited about this transition as it means we'll likely be spending a lot more time there - but the original location holds a very special place in our hearts. It was one of the first places we ate when we moved here and we've spent many a birthday and weekend evening clamoring over the shoestring fries Chef Bobby always brings out to the girls and the thoughtful, intensely flavored dishes made from local sources (local is BIG around here.) And though the menu could be defined more in a casual-fine dining sense, I can NOT get enough of their burger - topped with homemade Pimento cheese and then I throw on a handful of those shoestring fries for good measure. INSANE. It’s my favorite burger in town.
James Beard-nominated Chef Katie Button has brought traditional tapas to Asheville in a big way with Curate. Den and I always look across the table at each other in stunned excitement when trying a new small plate they've introduced. Our favorites include Pimiento de Piquillo Con Queso de Cabra - pepper stuffed with cheese; Secreto Iberico a las Finas Hierbas - pure Iberico pork infused w/ rosemary - it arrives at your table smoking and Berenjenas la Taberna - fried eggplant, drizzled in wild mountain apiaries honey... but who am I kidding - we love absolutely everything on the menu and have come close to ordering it all in one sitting!
I have been so lucky to get to know Dan and Jael Rattigan through our mutual friend, Ashley. Founders of what is better known to locals as "the chocolate lounge" - French Broad Chocolates is a small batch, artisanal crafter of the most delicious chocolates EVER. A tourist mecca in the summers with lines wrapping around the building, they serve a wide, but distinctively unique selection of truffles (all made right upstairs), cakes and desserts and they've taken the process one step further; they opened their own factory here a few months ago where they roast the cacao beans with the power of the sun!
Early Girl Eatery in Downtown Asheville was one of our first stops when we moved here last summer. Working directly with over 20 local farms, the menu always features what's in season - and what's the absolute freshest. It's Southern comfort food and it's done so well that it remains to be the first place we take guests when they come into town.
Another West Asheville institution, Sunnypoint Cafe is our absolute favorite breakfast in town. Everything seems to be infused with over the top flavor that just makes us keep coming back for more. It also sources most of its ingredients locally (are you sensing a theme here?) and by local, we mean the backyard. The restaurant operates a large community garden just behind it filled with the bounty on the season - and destined for your plate.
White Duck. I don't even know where to start. Den and I - and the girls to some extent - have a problem with White Duck. We can't stop eating there. And I have no shame in fully divulging that this occasionally happens more than once a day. Yes. We've been known to have lunch AND dinner there. Owners Laura (the chef) and Ben (the business) have become friends and I believe in what they do much I've been known to shout it from the rooftops. Really. It's fast, it's cheap and it's the biggest punch of ridiculous flavor combinations in your face you may ever have. I hesitate to call this place a taco stand - to me, it's more like... epicurean nirvana in a tortilla. And the desserts? Our favorite is Coconut Macaroon Pie w/ Salted Caramel. I think I have to go get lunch there now. See? SO bad.
I hope you're having a great week - and if you're ever road tripping through our town - eat up!
As a side note... posting will likely remain a little slow while CISTHENE takes shape - it's going great and opened on 10 September with coverage by Daily Candy! If all continues to go well - I'm dreaming up a real live brick and mortar space in West Asheville... but I promise not to abandon this space!