This past weekend we celebrated a friend’s birthday at our Asheville Bed and Breakfast and the opening of a new restaurant downtown: Seven Sows Bourbon and Larder. Here at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast we are very excited about Asheville’s newest restaurant. While on the surface it doesn’t seem conceptually too far away from many Asheville restaurants with their emphasis on locally sourced, sustainably farmed ingredients in actuality Seven Sows manages to create serious Southern “man-food” with sophistication and finesse.
How they do this begins with their suppliers. There is a full list of them on the Food and Wine page of their website and a quick rundown of a few of them will help you see what makes this restaurant so special. Let’s start with Crooked Creek Mills.
It was in the mid-1800’s when John McEntire’s great grandfather came to the banks of Crooked Creek and the family has been in continuous possession of the land and mill ever since. Today John McEntire is devoted to the growing and grinding of heritage grains,
some of which he has found elsewhere and brought back to the land and others of which survived here on his family’s land. Crooked Creek Corn which is used to make their “Revival Grits” is a trademarked corn which has grown on the family farm since the 1840’s.
3 Graces Dairy provides “farmstead” cheeses to Seven Sows. Farmstead cheeses are defined as cheeses which are made with milk from animals which are bred and raised on the farm. Such cheeses are usually made in small batches and develop unique flavor profiles based on the animal, its diet, and the place where they live. 3 Graces is owned and run by the mother-daughter team of Roberta Ferguson and Sacha Claire Alford.
Imladris Farm is another farm with a long history in the Mountains of Western North Carolina. Like Crooked Creek Mills, the present owners have found numerous fruit trees, nut trees, and berry bushes among other plants on their land which are over 50 years old. These heritage plants bring lost flavors back to the table.
One more supplier is the well-known Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Diners in Asheville are accustomed to seeing the Hickory Nut Gap name as an identifier for high quality, organic and free raised beef, pork and
chicken. Indeed, it has become so familiar that often a simple “HNG” will suffice to label the meat. I have been out to HNG and I can vouch for the fact that these are happy animals who have free range of the farm. I have even helped shoo cows off the front yard of one of the family homes.
From this sampling of the background and mission of some of the suppliers to Seven Sows, you can tell that the Chef and owners of the restaurant are dedicated to bringing back the flavors of the past before modern farming techniques sacrificed flavor and variety for conformity, disease resistance and ship-ability. It’s a pretty remarkable team at the restaurant: Chef Mike Moore is the originator of the Blind Pig Supper Club here in Asheville. This is a concept in dining which is so unique and coveted that I am going to let you read about it yourself. Suffice it to say that I would LOVE to attend one of these dinners! Mike’s special talents in conceptualizing food and the dining experience are complemented by those of Adam Bannasch, chef and owner of one of our favorite restaurants, Zambra , and Jason Caughman, who recently left the Pisgah Brewery Company which he co-founded, rounds out the talents at Seven Sows.
According to their website, Seven Sows serves “simple, honest flavors from the ingredient focused cuisine that make our region of Southern Appalachia special.” What they have done is to take the old recipes of Southern Appalachia– fried chicken, hush puppies, crackling, pork belly, grits, sorghum, rutabaga, mustard greens, collards and more–and sourced heritage ingredients to bring them back to their intended flavors and then used the techniques of modern cuisine to bring them to a new level. Chicken is cooked sou-vide in buttermilk and then fried creating a moist and delicious dish. Mountain Goat is braised, shredded and serve on top of “Foxfire” Brunswick Stew (Foxfire was a magazine started in the 1960s with the aim of preserving Southern Appalachian traditions) and the humble Moon Pie shows up reborn as a dessert that has to be eaten. (Actually the dessert selection was stupendous. Usually one finds the same old resistible reruns on the menu but at Seven Sows we couldn’t decide and ordered one of everything!).
And lets not forget the bourbon! My North Carolina born and raised father had a glass of bourbon every night. He would put a maraschino cherry in it for each of his children. He used to say that the his drink didn’t taste quite right until it had been flavored by a sticky finger or two fishing the smokey, alcohol-tinged cherries out to enjoy. Somehow, good sippin’ bourbon is exactly what the menu at Seven Sows calls for and they didn’t bat an eye when I asked for a cherry in my drink. They have a fabulous selection of bourbons and for those who can’t handle it straight up, they have a created a few interesting cocktails (bourbon, balsamic vinegar, basil and ginger-ale doesn’t sound like it should work but it does). And for the rest of you the wine list is good and of course they have beer.