A Sampling of Asheville’s Culinary Scene

A Few Unique Dining Venues
By Charlene & Richard Mixa

The Junction in the River Arts District

The Junction in the River Arts District

Foodie’s will delight in the eclectic restaurants in Asheville with its many unique and memorable food and drink experiences.   A town on the move, it consistently offers a plethora of dining options.  In fact ExploreAsheville.com has coined the term a “Foodtopia” to describe Asheville’s “community of culinary collaborators.” Having visited this dynamic town the past few years we have experienced many of the local flavors and favorites in the downtown area.  In the pursuit of new eateries and experiences in Asheville’s food scene we find special venues, “hidden gems” and amazing restaurants.

Watercress and Fennel Salad with Orange Glazed Duck & Highland Mandarina IPA

Watercress and Fennel Salad with Orange Glazed Duck & Highland Mandarina IPA

Ashville Beer Week begins our culinary adventure with The Chestnut & Highland Brewing Co. Beer Pairing Dinner.  Seated in Chestnut’s private dining room, waiters serve tasty appetizers that blend smoothly with the Big Briar Tart Ale, a new Seasonal Blonde Ale.  Chef Brian Crowe explains his inspiring menu, pairing the latest beer and ale creations from Highland Brewing Company with assorted dishes.  Enhancing our experience, a Highland Brewing representative describes the accompanying beer with each course.  We find the delicate Salad of Watercress and Fennel with a Mandarina Vinaigrette and Orange Glazed Duck has the duck fat playing off the bitterness of the Mandarina IPA.  Next succulent Seared Scallops atop a House Smoked Pork Belly pairs with the Highland IPA that we find hoppy with citrus notes.  For the savory Hop-smoked Rack of Lamb, Chef smoked the lamb over hops and hickory chips.  A favorite of ours, the Highland’s Oatmeal Porter, an English style brown ale, is delightful with the lamb.  Everyone finds the Honeyed Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Sesame Carmel Sauce scrumptious.  Slowly reducing a Big Briar Tart Ale with brown sugar creates its magnificent Sesame Carmel Sauce.  The Highland Pilsner, a 100% Pilsner malt from Germany, is tasty with this dessert.  A special treat is owner and founder of Highland Brewing, Oscar Wang shares how Highland Brewing started in the same building that now houses Chestnut.  The Chestnut & Highland Beer Pairing Dinner is fantastic!

Catawba Beer, Cheese & Chocolate Pairing

Catawba Beer, Cheese & Chocolate Pairing

Next is a venue to educate us on pairing different beers with the distinctive flavors of cheese or chocolate at The Catawba Beer, Cheese & Chocolate Pairing.  In the rustic Rickhouse, at Catawba Brewing South Slope, Crawford, of French Broad Chocolates, explains that we use all five senses whenever we taste.  Silas from Spinning Spider Creamery and Leah from Catawba Brewing, explain the cheese’s uniqueness and the beer’s flavors, while Crawford shares the complexity of the chocolates.  A mild creamy goat cheese, Lemon Chevre, a Strawberry Balsamic Chocolate Truffle pair with an ENO Pilsner, a light beer with a nice balance of hops.  We admit beer with cheese is natural but beer with chocolate might be a stretch.  Tasting the first pairing we immediately agree that the right beer pairs well with right chocolate.  Next up is the Chevre that is similar to a French style brie, a Hazelnut Crunch Truffle is a dark chocolate with caramelized hazelnut.  Complementing the cheese and enhancing the rich flavors of the dark chocolate is the mild CLT IPA.  The Stackhouse cheese with Applewood ash, a Coconut Porter Truffle (has the beer in it too) brings out the flavors of Catawba King Coconut Porter.  The finale is a Liesel, a Swiss cheese taste, the Peanut IPA Caramel chocolate has a reduced IPA, enhanced by a small batch lager.  Yes, beer pairs well with cheese and the rich qualities of chocolate.  This is a fun tasting event and definitely expanded our views of beer, cheese and chocolate.

A Refreshing Watermelon Salad

A Refreshing Watermelon Salad

Now for more Indulgence!  Post 70 Indulgence Bar, located in East Asheville, is an intimate eatery in a beautiful gray stone building, formerly the American Legion Post 70.  During the day locals enjoy homemade pastries, coffees, teas and smoothies at Filo Pastries.  At night it transforms into Post 70, a welcoming bar and cozy restaurant featuring Small Plates, Share Plates, Boards and Flatbreads.  On a quiet evening, Chef Emilios and Maria, the owner of Filo Pastries, prepare tantalizing samplings for our indulgence.  Craft cocktails are a specialty so we begin with a zesty Louisville Lemonade Cocktail.  A Frisk Reisling is a light accompaniment to the Watermelon Salad.  The large slice of fresh watermelon with an olive tapenade, feta cheese and drizzle of balsamic is absolutely wonderful.  The Shrimp Cocktail is a huge prawn from Australia with a peach cocktail sauce.  Next we thrill in the succulent Divers Sea Scallop with a savory corn relish and sauce with a nice French Sauvignon Blanc.  We find the peak of freshness is Tai’s Garden Salad.  The greens are actually grown in a small onsite garden.  Roasted squash and broccoli add to its flavor as we sip the Grenache Syrah.  With its Greek influence, Chef Emilios says lamb is a must and prepares the most delicious Lamb – lollipop with a walnut and potato puree fully enhanced with a Spanish Wine Grenache.  Our evening of decadent foods continues with the sparkling wine of Cordonia Cava Bubbles with the Cheese Board featuring four French cheeses with a Creek honey.  The finale are desserts prepared by Maria, who trained as a pastry chef in France.  Her Pomegranate Creme Brulee and the Flourless Mocha Torte are fantastic!  Post 70 Indulgence Bar definitely is an “Indulgencee.”  The food is excellent and the wine pairings are perfect.  Definitely a “Hidden Gem!” We stop in at other times for craft drinks, small plates and a scrumptious dessert. 

Bull and Beggar Charred Octopus

Bull and Beggar Charred Octopus

Almost under the bridge that crosses the French Broad River in the River Arts District, we locate The Bull and Beggar.  Touting itself with European inspired Appalachian cuisine, this restaurant truly delivers inspired dishes in its beautifully designed former warehouse.  The decor is exquisitely done with original brick walls, rough wood designed walls, mirrors and elegant stairways to other levels.  The setting has a rich quality and prepares one for a very special dining experience in the casual, eclectic area of Asheville’s River Arts District.  Chef Matt, begins our dining experience with a sharable Small Plate of a tender Charred Octopus with tasty Romesco, green sauce and large lima beans.  Beautifully presented this unusual combination blends well together.  We savor two entrees that are absolutely superb.  The perfectly charred medium rare Filet Mignon with a tasty Madiera Sauce is very tender and is accompanied with a rich marrow.   Our Sea Bass A La Nage is excellent!  The fish is delicate with green garlic, leeks and mussels.  For variety we share sides of the chilled Kohlrabi with a tangy caper and lemon dressing that has plenty of flavor and the unique dish of Lamb Quarter Gratin.  A cool Lemon Rosemary Sorbet is a refreshing finish to this wonderful meal.  Each course is beautifully presented and fantastic.  The service is excellent!  Definitely, a fine dining experience in a most beautifully inspired setting.

The Junction -Seafood Small Plate - Savory

The Junction -Seafood Small Plate – Savory

The Junction was the first fine dining restaurant in the River Arts District.  Entering the narrow building, we see their small intimate bar and the cozy dining room.  The decor is rustic charm that features high ceiling, brick walls and beautiful artwork of local artist.  The hostess/waitress is extremely helpful in guiding us on menu items that will truly give a flavor of their Southern-inspired menu.  The evening we visit it is quiet making for a relaxing dinner.  Starting with Chef Dave’s Famous Cast Iron Cornbread, “it is not your mother’s cornbread.  This large thick slice of cornbread is truly tantalizing with the sweetness of an agave nectar swirled over it.  Richard is usually not much on cornbread, but this one is a hit.  The Cured & Press Watermelon has fresh Feta Crumbles, pistachios and a tangy smoked blueberry chili sorbet that definitelyenhances the taste as it melts.  The small plate, Shellfish Bowl of savory NC clams, PEI mussels, smoke shrimp is perfect for sharing.  We savor the delightful flavors of these shellfish.  Our entrees of the Pan Roasted Gulf Redfish and the Panko Crusted Crawfish cake are each superb.  Chef Dave personally serves each entree to the table.  A very nice touch in this small intimate upscale dining restaurant.  Sharing a dessert of Nanner Pudding is our finale!  If you are seeking a special and unique dining venue, we highly recommend The Junction.

These are just a few of our exciting dining experiences a bit off the beaten path of the well-known downtown restaurants.  The fun part on each visit to this vibrant city is checking out new and exciting eateries.
If you go:
Catawba Brewing Co., 32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
828.552.3934
catawbabrewing.com/
Chestnut, 48 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
828.575.2667
www.chestnutasheville.com
Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, 36 Montford Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
(828) 258-6101
www.exploreasheville.com
French Broad Chocolates, 10 S Pack Sq, Asheville, NC 28801
828.252.4181
www.frenchbroadchocolates.com
Highland Brewing Company, 12 Old Charlotte Hwy Ste 200, Asheville, NC 28803
828.229.3370
www.highlandbrewing.com
Post 70, 1155 Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC 28805
828.298.9777
Post70.bar
Spinning Spider Creamery, 4717 E Fork Rd, Marshall, NC 28753
828.206.5509
www.spinningspirdercreamery.com
The Bull and Beggar, 37 Paynes Way, Asheville, NC 28801
828.575.9443
www.thebullandbeggar.com
The Junction, 348 Depot St, Asheville, NC 28801
828.225.3497
Thejunctionasheville.com

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About Charlene Mixa

Seeing new places, learning about cultures and seeing the sights has always been my dream. Growing up I was blessed with parents that enjoyed traveling and thought nothing of taking a family of seven on excursions. My career in Human Resources and later as a consultant for an international Human Resource firm offered some travel, but I knew as my husband and I approached retirement, my goal was to do more traveling and broader trips. The nine years since retirement has been filled with fantastic adventures from short local one day trips to several week excursions. Living in Florida, it is especially enjoyable to be away in the summer to cooler climates. Multi-week driving trips across the good ol' USA, settling in for a month in the mountains to explore the local area, or a combination of both fill much of our summer season. Our travels are predominantly self-orchestrated, bringing the fun and challenge of getting everything to click. It's all about doing and sharing! Experiencing a travel adventure is exciting. Reliving a special travel moment with a friend or family is exhilarating. I feel my heart race and pulse quicken, as I sharing that special moment. Thank you for joining in my travel adventures and allowing me to hear your stories.