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Archive for the ‘Restaurants and Food in and around Asheville’ Category

Ambrozia- An Unlikely Location Hides a Real Gem of a Restaurant

June 8th, 2014 by abedofroses

Ambrozia Bar + Bistro

Ambrozia Bar + Bistro

When we saw that Ambrozia Bar + Bistro was one of the finalists in the Fire on the Rock Competition Dining Series we were surprised to learn that they were located right here in North Asheville. Why didn’t we know about them? When they won the competition we had to find them and eat there! It turns out that Ambrozia is only about a year old and is tucked in a little unassuming strip mall. The location, on busy Merrimon Avenue, is in an area of Asheville that doesn’t attract a lot of tourism, with its grocery stores and drug store chains. The space used to house a sandwich shop and they kept one unusual and interesting feature. The restaurant occupies two adjacent store-fronts, with one housing the restaurant and the other the kitchen. Glass shop windows give you a full view of the kitchen staff from the street. In the restaurant portion the shotgun layout, with a bar on one side and tables on the other. has been given new life with the addition of subtle lighting, glass and wood.

A Beautiful Melon Salad

A Beautiful Melon Salad

When we arrived for our reservation we were struck with how friendly the staff was and how they seemed to already know many of the other customers. It appears this gem of a restaurant was already a well-known secret to many North Asheville and Beaver Lake residents! The menu was eclectic and promising, focusing on fresh farm to table cuisine with many influences – Southern, Southwestern, Asian, Caribbean, all with a twist. When the first course arrived we knew we were in for a treat. Compressed watermelon and cantaloupe squares topped with a layer of feta cheese were lined up on a long plate and garnished with watercress, candied jalapeno jam with a vanilla bean vinaigrette. The Seared Elk Carpaccio had looked tempting too, but we couldn’t imagine being happier than we were with the refreshing, salty sweet salad. My short rib special was perfectly tender and full of flavor.

Their chef won the Fire on the Rock Dining Competition

Their chef won the Fire on the Rock Dining Competition

The wine list was extensive and the beer list was even more impressive with our own local craft beers represented, but also craft brews from all over the country. The attentive, friendly service was equally impressive. There seemed to be an “ownership” feel permeating the staff. When I explored the restaurant’s background I could see why. The chef/owner, Sam Etheridge relocated to Asheville from Albuquerque, NM, where he ran Ambrozia Café and Wine Bar and Nob Hill Bar and Grill. When he relocated several of the staff members from his previous restaurants came with him and together with some stellar additions from the Asheville area they have created a restaurant that tastes good and feels good. Congratulations Sam!

DOUGH in Asheville makes even baking Croissants a Success for the Home Cook!

April 15th, 2014 by abedofroses

Croissants ready to rest in the "Proof Box"

Croissants ready to rest in the “Proof Box”

I love to cook and I get plenty of practice making breakfast for our guests at A Bed of Roses, but the idea of baking croissants from scratch was pretty intimidating even for me! Pastry Chef Ali Caulfield at DOUGH in Asheville got me, along with a class of 10 or so other home bakers, over our fears this past week in a fun 2 day evening class. DOUGH is an innovative chef-owned market and bakery in North Asheville that also offers an ever-changing freshly made menu of sandwiches, salads and pizzas to eat there in the market or to take out. But the wonderful cooking classes and special events that they offer makes DOUGH totally unique, even for Asheville. Most classes are one-day courses, 2-3 hours each and include everything from cooking Thai or Moroccan food to making handmade pasta or mastering the art of the French Macaroon. They have some Parent-Child Pizza Workshops, too that look like a lot of fun. Even in our class we had a family. The parents and their two daughters have taken several classes at DOUGH and the girls did a wonderful job!

Chef Ali Caulfield demonstrates for the class

Chef Ali Caulfield demonstrates for the class

Lawyers, students, real estate agents, retired professionals and one nervous innkeeper all dug in to learn the art of baking croissants hands-on and the flour literally flew! I brought my camera the first night (go to our gallery to see the photos) and it was covered in white dust by the end of the class! Chef Ali took us through the steps one by one, demonstrating along the way with an angled mirror above her workspace that allowed all of us to see exactly what she was doing.

An angled mirror allowed everyone to see what the chef was demonstrating

An angled mirror allowed everyone to see what the chef was demonstrating

It’s the perfect way to learn! You get to see it in digestible chunks, then do it while the visual is still fresh in your memory. The chef is available to check it and make suggestions right away before you move to the next step. Having the right equipment is as important as proper technique. Once the dough has been mixed you need to pound the cold butter into a thin, 5-inch square with a French Roller*. You can just imagine what it looked like to see a room full of people hauling off and hitting big chunks of butter with wooden bats. It was quite a sight! Then the dough is wrapped around the butter into a packet, that is then folded, rolled out and folded again, four times in all, to get all those luscious layers of dough and butter.

The bright and airy cooking lab made for a relaxed atmosphere

The bright and airy cooking lab made for a relaxed atmosphere

The process involved letting the dough “rest” at various intervals in a “proof box”** and at the end of the first class our dough packets spent the night in the refrigerator before we continued the next day. But even the first night we got to learn and eat what you can do with left-over croissant dough. The cronut! Now there’s a sinful treat. By the end of the second class we each had a batch of beautiful golden croissants to take home with us along with a wonderful feeling of accomplishment, not to mention some new friends.

* A French Roller has no handles and is tapered at the ends.

** A “proof box” is a warm, humid place for your dough to rest. You can use your oven, set at 100° with a bowl of water at the bottom.

You don’t have to live here to enroll in classes at DOUGH. Check out their calendar and get a real taste of Asheville while you’re here visiting! And don’t forget to check out my finished croissants in our photo gallery. They were to die for, if I must say so myself! Yum.

 

Eating Indulgence at Cúrate in Asheville

September 5th, 2012 by abedofroses

Curate Salad

A Watermelon Heirloom Tomato Salad

The other day, purely by coincidence, Bill and I and two separate couples staying at our inn enjoyed tapas at Cúrate on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville. Well, it may have been less coincidence and more good taste and adventurous palates that led us all there. The carefully and artistically prepared authentic Spanish tapas have given Cúrate a reputation that goes way beyond Asheville. GQ magazine has even praised their “ace” patatas bravas, a traditional potato dish served in tapas bars in Spain. I love to cook so when I go out to eat I want something that is way too much trouble to cook for myself. That’s why I’ve always loved the appetizers best when going to fine restaurants. Those small morsels of delectable food are so labor intensive, but so good. Those jewels of flavor are what tapas are all about. It makes eating at Curate a pure indulgence.

Flambe at Curate

The view at the bar is part of the experience

We love to sit at the bar and watch the magic. The teamwork is impressive and professional. You can order your heart’s desire, watch them carefully and skillfully put it together, present it to you beautifully, then do it all again!  The staff there is incredibly knowledgeable as well. I know nothing about Spanish wines, but each waiter and waitress can describe in great detail the subtle nuances of each of their wines, and it’s an extensive list. When I asked why they were cutting slits in the bottoms of plastic cups I got a fascinating explanation of how they make individual servings of their pound cake by injecting gas into the batter in the cups rather than using yeast, necessitating the slits for the steam to escape. I had heard that the Executive Chef/Co-owner, Katie Button, had interned at the renowned elBulli in Spain. Arguably the most famous restaurant on the planet, elBulli is associated with molecular gastronomy. While the cuisine at Curate is strictly traditional Spanish, you can see the influences from her impressive background.

Curate Restaurant in Asheville

Curate in a restored 1927 bus depot

The restaurant is a family affair, with her husband Felix Meana, formerly the “Chef de Rang” of elBulli, is the Director of Front of House Operations, her mother Elizabeth Button, a successful caterer with impressive credentials of her own, is the General Manager and co-owner, and her father Ted Button is the Financial Manager and co-owner.

In Spanish Cúrate means “cure yourself”. Whatever ails you, food like this certainly will make you feel good.

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