Are you planning your holiday for Asheville, North Carolina?
Maybe you should.
Asheville is famous for music festivals, waterfalls, mountain hiking, breathtaking views of the Smoky Mountains thanks to the meandering Blue Ridge Highway, after which you can eat well -– very well.
Chef Katie Button’s Curate is reason enough to book a holiday in Asheville. Her inspired tapas menu, her husband, Felix Meana’s wine selections, and her mother’s front of the house hospitality, and her father somewhere in the back of the house, make for a happiest of end-of-day sojourns.
Curate is a handsome restaurant with a long bar where locals have cottoned on to the custom of lingering over plates of tapas, sangria, or a cocktail. Behind the bar the kitchen prepares all the dishes. There is an atmosphere of noisy exuberance that is a Spanish version of Southern charm and hospitality. It’s easy to slide right in and feel right at home.
Super Chef started a recent meal at Curate with Aceitunas Curate, a blend of olives with lemon, rosemary, and thyme, served in small jar with a mild pickled pepper. The olives are smooth and tasty, but not overly lusty. Here is the rest of the meal:
Ensalada de Tomate y Atun: Kumato tomatoes with Spanish bonito tuna, Kalamata olives, EVVO, and reserve sherry vinegar—nice balance of sour and sweet, missing only some bread to sop up the olive oil.
Escalivada con Anchoas: Roasted red bell peppers, onions, and eggplant with 30-year sherry vinaigrette and Spanish white anchovies served with slices of baguette toasted—pile on the vegetables and enjoy the refined taste of the fish balanced with the light eggplant and sweet peppers
Berenjenas la Taberna: Fried eggplant drizzled in wild mountain honey and garnished with rosemary and salt—simplicity that lets delicateness stand out. This is a sublimely simple and yet sumptuous dish
Bocadilla Serrano: Toasted tomato bread with olive oil, Jamon Serrano, and Manchego cheese—worth fighting over
Albondigas con Jamon: Bowl of meatballs with cured Iberico de Bellota ham in a tomato sauce— simple, tasty, and refined
Pincho Moruno: Lamb skewers marinated in “Moorish spices” served with homemade pickles—assertive spices on tender lamb that was well browned outside and juicy inside
Espuma de Chocolate: Warm chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet, and hazelnut praline that warms the heart with hot and cold, sweet and sour
Tarta de Pistachio: Pistachio sponge cake, lemon-thyme ice cream, and blackberry coulis—deconstructed cake that looked more like a sponge mushroom, releasing power, playful pistachio with sour lemon and sweet-sour blackberry. The fun is in all the different textures, flavors, and temperatures
Miel y Mato: Reconsidered Catalan dessert of watermelon-roasted strawberry with rose cava sorbet served with frozen mint goat cheese flakes on glassed honey with drizzled honey on a slab of North Carolina blue slate—textured sweet-sour extravaganza—the cheese shards melt, the sorbet warms, and somehow they both work well together
If you wait until the end of year for your Asheville vacation, you can also go to a planned second restaurant – Nightbell, a bar with American bar food cleverly interpreted by Katie’s Spanish sensibility. The press release promises:
At Nightbell she takes her cuisine to new creative levels by infusing it with experience gleaned in the kitchens of renowned chefs Ferran and Albert Adria, Jose Andres, and Rene Redzepi and nurtured in her own restaurant kitchen in the heart of downtown Asheville… [with] new spins on revered classics like lobster rolls tucked into velvety steam buns, duck and waffles, a twist on angels on horseback with oysters and smoked pancetta foam, cheesecake with cranberry gelee, molten peanut butter pie with tangerine sorbet.
Felix will bring experience with spirits gained from elBulli, while his brother Cesar will provide music.
Christmas in Asheville, anyone?