A Taste of the South at Rhubarb in Asheville, NC

For my birthday weekend, my parents and I decided to drive up to Asheville, NC and spend some time in this charming town. Asheville has a population of approximately 87,000 people, nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, and is known for its arts, the great outdoors, and of course, incredible cuisine. For this particular evening, we narrowed our choice to Rhubarb based on their availability for seating for three between the prime dinner hours of 6PM to 8PM.

The James Beard Foundation highlighted the owner/chef of Rhubarb, John Fleer, as a Rising Star of the 21st Century. Additionally, John Fleer received a finalist spot for James Beard Best Chef in the Southeast on several occasions. However, you don’t have to be aware of the chef’s accolades to enjoy a wonderful meal at Rhubarb.

The location of Rhubarb is at 7 SW Pack Square, although if you are looking at a zoomed-out map of Asheville, it’s located a few feet away from the very busy Asheville Avenue and Patton Avenue intersection.

Rhubarb is nestled in this little square, just to the left of the large tree at the center of frame near the Biltmore Avenue and Patton Avenue intersection.

If you pay attention to the details, both on the exterior and interior of Rhubarb, you will notice the incorporation of natural elements (such as wood and flowers) and the rustic ambiance.

Front entrance to Rhubarb. (It is Instagram-post worthy).

The fresh bouquet of daisies at the table at Rhubarb were a pleasant sight.

We were made aware by our server that because of the farm-to-table nature of Rhubarb, the menu is actually changed daily (as evidenced by the stamp with the current date on each of the menus the diners review). The appetizer menu is dubbed “Passing Time” and for fall 2018, it appeared very similar to what is presented on Rhubarb’s website:

 The “Passing Time” menu portion at Rhubarb.

The “Passing Time” menu portion at Rhubarb.

We decided to try out the barbecued lamb ribs and the seared royal red shrimp from the “Passing Time” section of the menu for our appetizers.

The barbecued lamb ribs at Rhubarb.

The seared royal red shrimp at Rhubarb.

The lamb ribs were very tender with a slightly sweet barbecue sauce. They were absolutely delicious and could serve as one’s main course. The shrimp were delicate, and the cashew butter was an amazing touch to the shrimp.

From the main course menu, we decided to order the wood-roasted whole sunburst trout, wood-grilled BCF bavette steak, and the quail (which isn’t seen in the menu screenshot below).

 The “Full Plates” section of the menu at Rhubarb.

The “Full Plates” section of the menu at Rhubarb.

The wood-roasted whole sunburst trout arrives to our table.

The server kindly asked whether we would like to have the trout cleaned for bone removal, to which we agreed. A few snaps from this de-boning (which was riveting in its own right) are below. (I commented this procedure shares a fine balance between an art and a science).

Near the beginning of the de-boning operation at Rhubarb.

Servicing (de-boning) the trout at the table at Rhubarb.

 Removal of the backbone from the trout.

Removal of the backbone from the trout.

The trout ready to eat.

The quail was beautifully presented and the raspberry sauce on the side was delicious.

The quail from the rotating dinner menu at Rhubarb.

Inside the main dining room at Rhubarb.

Rhubarb (the setting) is charming, rustic, and embodies Chef & Owner John Fleer’s perspective on the connecting power of food:

I believe in the power of the table, the value of passing food, and of sharing stories and listening. These moments around a shared table deepen the ties between people we care about, in turn strengthening the web of our families, friendships, and communities.

Sharing food is transformative. I have experienced it throughout my life with family and friends and strangers. As a chef, I have witnessed how sharing a meal can reveal insights and discovery – often unexpected – about who we are and why we do what we do. These experiences deepen the connections between us, connections that ultimately elevate our lives. 

Overall, Rhubarb was a five-star experience all-around: food, service, and ambiance were incredible. I definitely recommend trying out Rhubarb if you’re ever in Asheville, NC.

If You Go

Rhubarb is located in downtown Asheville, NC at 7 SW Pack Square. Reservations are highly recommended for dinner, although Rhubarb has some tables open for walk-in customers during prime hours.

On a future visit to Asheville (and especially if your itinerary falls on a Sunday), it would be really interesting to check out the Sunday Supper at Rhubarb. The Sunday Supper is a three-course meal ($34 for adults and $13 for children), and its premise is explained by Chef/Owner John Fleer:

Each Sunday at 6:30 we serve a three-course meal at the communal tables. The Sunday Supper menu is different from the regular restaurant menu and reflects the bounty of the weekend markets presented family style. Also, a local guest farmer hosts our weekly convivial community tables. It’s not just “farm to table”, it’s “Farmer to Table”. We start with a selection of snacks to pass, proceed to an entrée with several accompaniments served family style and finish with dessert. 

The supper table is a universal opportunity for people who may or may not know each other to reflect on the day and on their shared experiences.  Maybe children and restaurants don’t always mix perfectly, but the table is where kids learn to talk, listen, share, and become a part of a community. Families and communities, however you define them, harmonize naturally at the dinner table, at a restaurant or in the home. That’s how I hope everyone will experience Sunday Supper.

A long line of patrons waiting to get seated at Rhubarb for dinner.


Rhubarb
Web | Facebook | Instagram
7 SW Pack Square
Asheville, NC 28801
ph: 828-785-1503

A GrantMeFood Dinner with the "1912 Paris" Theme

Last weekend, I attended a GrantMeFood dinner with the theme of 1912 Paris. It was my second GrantMeFood dinner (I blogged about my first experience here), and it was, again, fantastic. Chef Grant and his wife Ria made everyone feel welcome and did an amazing job preparing, cooking, plating, and hosting.

On the menu this time:

Course 1: Gougères au foie gras with blackberry gel & hazelnut

Course 2: Beef tenderloin with dill crème fraîche, horseradish, capers & zest

Course 3: Celery velouté with celery leaves, smoked morels, and lemon oil

Course 4: Summer vegetable tarte (a play on ratatouille) with eggplant, zucchini, squash, roquefort, truffle, tarragon & red pepper pureé

Course 5: Duck (72 hour prep) with caramelized onion broth, field pea & mint pistou, earl grey ash, and pea shoots

Course 6: Chocolate soufflé with basil sabayon

Some photos I captured at this dinner are below.

Ria serving the beef tenderloin with dill crème fraîche, horseradish, capers & zest.

Detail of the beef tenderloin.

Celery velouté with celery leaves, smoked morels, and lemon oil

Ria serving the summer vegetable tarte (a play on ratatouille) with eggplant, zucchini, squash, roquefort, truffle, tarragon & red pepper pureé.

Ria serving the summer vegetable tarte.

Detail of the summer vegetable tarte. So yummy!

Prepping the plates.

Grant and Ria plating the tarte.

The tarte is ready to be served.

The tarte is served.

Another angle of the vegetable tarte.

Serving of the duck (72 hour prep) with caramelized onion broth, field pea & mint pistou, earl grey ash, and pea shoots.

Another view of the final serving of the duck.

The duck was the star of the evening.

Getting ready to put the chocolate soufflé into the oven.

Chocolate soufflé out of the oven.

Grant and Ria putting the final touches on the chocolate soufflé.

Grant and Ria putting the final touches on the chocolate soufflé.

Chocolate soufflé with basil sabayon ready to eat.

If you are interested in tasting incredible food in a warm, friendly atmosphere (and don't mind the serendipity that's involved with interacting with other strangers/like-minded foodies around Atlanta), I highly suggest checking out the GrantMeFood website and signing up for his mailing list (some dinners sell out very quickly as there are only eight spots at the table), following the @GrantMeFood Instagram account, and liking/following the page on Facebook.

The McCarthy Lodge Bistro: The Best Dinner I Had in Alaska

Having returned from an eighteen day trip to Alaska, I have been thinking about where to start with the blogging process. As I was looking through the images, I thought it would be great to start with a foodie blog post. Hands down, the best food I ate in Alaska was in a remote town of McCarthy at the McCarthy Lodge Bistro. The town of McCarthy is located deep inside Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The town has a population 28 in winter; the population is higher in the summer during the peak tourism season.

The McCarthy Lodge Bistro in McCarthy, Alaska offers a wonderful breakfast in the morning, but it's the seasonal dinner menu for which this restaurant is known (and should be praised for). When you arrive, you are greeted by friendly staff who bring around this blackboard with them displaying the items on the menu that particular evening. Our waitress explained each item on the menu with great care and our group had some tough decisions to make on what to order—everything sounded delicious!

The blackboard at McCarthy Lodge Bistro showing the dinner options.

I brought my camera with me and captured a few of the photos from the McCarthy Lodge Bistro. Every appetizer/main course was eloquently presented and showcased great Alaskan ingredients. 

Salad en croute. 

Miso sablefish. 

Amazake bison ribeye.

Blueberry cheesecake and ice cream.

On top of the incredible selections for both appetizers and main courses, the McCarthy Lodge Bistro boasts an impressive wine list and a great selection of signature cocktails. Our group of eight were all raving about this dinner and could not stop talking about how great the overall experience was. The impeccable service, the delicious meals and imaginative drinks, and the wonderful ambience were all memorable.

If I could make a recommendation, I would say that you should go out of your way to McCarthy, Alaska just so you can dine at the McCarthy Lodge Bistro. If you aren't staying in McCarthy but are backpacking or exploring Wrangell–St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the Bistro is a must-stop. For me, dinner at the McCarthy Lodge Bistro was by far the best meal I had during my entire trip in Alaska. The Bistro should be on the Michelin list of places to dine in the Last Frontier.


McCarthy Lodge Bistro
101 Kennicott Ave, McCarthy, Alaska
Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, AK 99588-8998
907-554-4402

GrantMeFood: An Atlanta Area Supper Club

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending an Atlanta-area supper club called GrantMeFood, hosted by chef Grant Stevens. Here is how GrantMeFood bills itself on its website:

GrantMeFood is an Atlanta area supper club that unites a group of strangers in our home for an evening filled with incredible food and interesting conversation. We combine global cuisine with a farm-to-table approach to take you on an adventure of flavor and texture that'll change your life. Ok, maybe it won't change your life, but we promise it'll be fucking tasty.

Grant, in collaboration with his wife Ria, opened up their lovely home for an amazing four-course tasting menu. 

An amazing setting to host eight strangers around the dinner table.

Prior to arriving to the dinner, I emailed Grant asking if I could take a few photos of the dinner preparation and as the dinner was being server. Luckily, Grant responded in the affirmative.

The title of this particular dinner was "The Hangover Cure," and the following was on the menu that evening:

Course 1: Duck fat latke, tarragon and meyer lemon creme fraiche, quail egg, caviar

Course 2: Rabbit poutine with rabbit espagnole and fresh cheese curds

Course 3: "Ketchup and Mustard" - Pork cheek capaletti with pink peppercorn pork consomme,  wasabi and mushroom agnolotti with shitake and saffron broth

Course 4: Roasted banana cream, lemon and black poppy seed meringue, kiwi-matcha panna cotta

Below are a few photos I captured of Grant (and Ria in the background) preparing the finishing touches on the above courses:

And below, a few photos of the courses served that evening:

What was remarkable about the event was not just the incredible food that Grant and Ria prepared for the random selection of guests that attended, but the amazing conversation that our group had over the course of the evening. What was supposed to be a dinner that lasted from 7:30PM to 9:30PM ended up being an incredible evening where we talked and connected on various topics until past 2 o'clock in the morning! 

If you are interested in tasting incredible food in a warm, friendly atmosphere (and don't mind the serendipity that's involved with interacting with other strangers/like-minded foodies around Atlanta), I highly suggest checking out Grant's website and signing up for his mailing list, following the @GrantMeFood Instagram account, and liking/following the page on Facebook

 

Cathy Barrow ("Mrs. Wheelbarrow") at Preserving Place

Something that I am trying to get more involved in this year is exploring the food/restaurant scene in the Atlanta area. 

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Cathy Barrow's presentation at Preserving Place, where Cathy taught the audience how to preserve a selection of foods. Cathy Barrow, also known as Mrs. Wheelbarrow, is the author of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round PreservingThe book was available for purchase at the event, and a large number of folks in attendance stayed until the end to get their book signed by Mrs. Wheelbarrow.

The three main highlights of the event were learning how to make/preserve jam, bacon, and home-made butter. Something I learned that I hadn't known previously: you can make homemade butter by using heavy cream and spinning it in a mixer until it solidifies. 

Mrs. Wheelbarrow was very helpful in answering the many questions coming from the audience. One of the best questions asked was during a preparation of preserving pork belly: "Did you bring that with you on the plane?" To which Mrs. Barrow delightfully responded: "No, I don't fly with pork belly. I have to draw the line somewhere." Everyone burst out laughing, and it was a wonderful moment.

Below are some photos which I captured at the event. Mrs. Wheelbarrow is wearing a white apron with blue flowers, and the owner of Preserving Place, Martha McMillin, is dressed in a solid blue apron. 

If you're interested in learning more or perhaps taking a class about preserving food in the future, Preserving Place has a great lineup of future events on this page. I highly recommend it.

Happy Spring, everyone!