I know you’ve all heard it 100 times: Asheville is a foodie city. But there are foodie cities and there are foodie cities and in Asheville the food is not only good but it so much fun to dine out here. And here’s why:
Good food is not just about taste. Taste, appearance and smell are the things most people think of but equally important is the atmosphere where you are dining. Here are two examples from the past week which will help explain this.
This year both James and I turn 60. For my birthday, he cooked an amazing dinner of sauteed Foie Gras followed by an amazing duck dish. So I decided not to compete with that but to go down another road altogether. I contacted the owner of one of our favorite restaurants in Asheville and asked him if he and his chefs would be interested in creating a special dinner for us and some of our friends in celebrations of James’ coming of age. The Junction is a small and innovative restaurant. The owner, Charles, hires his chefs from nearby A-B Tech where they are excellently trained and come to him with a good knowledge of local ingredients. He encourages them to try new dishes and combinations. Alongside of this he has acquired an excellent bar staff. Asheville restaurants and bars are actively into the creative cocktail movement and the Junction has consistently produced some of our favorite concoctions.
I knew the minute I walked in the door that I had made the right call. There on the chalk board above the bar was the evening’s specialty cocktail: the “60 Years Ago” consisted of Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Galiano, Blueberries, Ginger Shrub, Lemon and a splash of soda. It was delicious. If it weren’t a dangerous thing to do I would have had a second. For sure we will order it the next time we are there.
One after another the plates came to our table. There was a delightful roasted baby artichoke, a bruschetta of beef tartare, an platter of decadent foie gras corndogs, and the best charcuterie plate I have ever shared! Main courses of shrimp and beef were followed by a lovely play on the birthday cake using the Junction’s signature Fried Pork Rind “a la Mode” in a sweet rendition. The service could not have been nicer or more attentive and the entire evening had an atmosphere of relaxed festivity.
To be fair, while the Junction is one of our favorite places to go, the chefs in Asheville are an extremely approachable crowd. They get to know the locals who support their restaurants heavily and they give back to our town at places like The Downtown Welcome Table which provides an upscale dining experience for the homeless and other less fortunate people in our town.
Which leads me to my second fun dining experience this week. Some of you may have read early blog posts of mine about the Chef’s Challenge Dinners. While these were fun, the chefs were often limited by the “secret ingredient”. Bob Bowles and the folks at WNC Magazine have tweaked this competition idea and come up with a winning formula giving the chefs a chance to really show what they can do. AMUSE was the first of three competitions giving chefs the chance to produce a single bite (known as an “amuse-bouche” or canape) paired with mixologists who created specialty cocktails. The twist was that attendees were the judges of the competition. The evening’s winners to go on to the final competition at the Asheville Food and Wine Festival in August. Best of all, the competitions are being held at the Morris Hellenic Cultural Center (MHCC) just down the road from our Asheville Inn, the Carolina Bed & Breakfast.
This was just a great evening: the theme was the circus and the chefs were delighted to share with you how they worked this into their creations. And the food was really good. A lot of imagination and creativity went into the entries as chefs tried to put all of their talent into a single bite. And while not all of the drinks were equal to the food (in my opinion, Creme de Mente is never a good idea) the mixologists did bring some new ideas to the table with infusions, honey, nasturtium flowers, and more, making their way into the small sample glasses.
You may be asking yourself, “How does all this pertain to me, a visitor to Asheville?”
There are two more events at the MHCC on June 26 and August 20 as well as the Grand Tasting on August 22 at the Civic Center. You can buy tickets for these events online.
If you are interested in having a “Chef’s Dinner”prepared for you, we will be happy to assist in arranging it. Just give us a call at 828-254-3608
So come on over to Asheville where dining is FUN!