I really enjoyed my lunch at Chai Pani, but there was another meal I savored in Asheville just over a month ago. I managed to squeeze in the quickest of suppers at King James Public House before speeding off to Cullowhee for an evening of work. The Monday menu was short, with a number of snacks and then a couple of meatier options.
Time allowed me to try two dishes, starting with an absolutely delicious oxtail with grits. Marrying Asian and Southern flavors, this dish contained kimchi daikon, collard greens, sliced carrots, and cracklins. As this was my first bite after a weekend of good but relatively unadventurous eating in Greenville, SC, I was especially appreciative of the bold flavors.
I also sampled one of the “Jars,” selecting duck liver pate with rosemary grapefruit jelly. The platter came with grilled bread, house pickles, and mustard. A meaty affair, but for me a delicious “dessert.”
After travel to Boone, I flew out of the Charlotte airport, where I’ve changed planes previously and spotted long lines at Brookwood Farms. The pit barbecue is available at a number of retail stores, but clearly people are excited to experience Brookwood at the airport.
I was lucky that the line was relatively short when I arrived at the airport. Hungry, I selected the biggest platter possible, with ribs, brisket, and pulled pork. Each plate comes with a fried pickle (meh) and some cornbread, along with a choice of one side. (Corn seemed like the healthiest option.) For airport food, this isn’t bad, though it’s not necessarily bursting with big barbecue flavor. I’d prefer to eat where I can see the pit!
More recently, I was back in North Carolina for a long day in Raleigh. Here I had hope for better barbecue by eating at Clyde Cooper’s, but I didn’t realize they were in the process of moving locations, and as luck would have it, they were re-opening the following day, just as I was departing Raleigh. Based on geography, I made a last-minute decision to eat at The Pit. In contrast to the hole-in-the-wall atmosphere I anticipated at Clyde Cooper’s, I was now experiencing valet parking to go eat barbecue.
Wanting to sample more than one meat, I ordered the “Double Combo” and selected the signature chopped barbecue along with sliced brisket. I believe $12 is too high for this plate, even with the choice of two sides, biscuit, and hushpuppies. Everything was mediocre at best, making me really appreciate what I’d eaten Brookwood several weeks before.
Luckily, Videri Chocolate Factory was just across the street. I first sampled this chocolate a year ago as part of a national judging, and was immediately impressed by the packaging. Classy. I also liked the flavor of the chocolate, particularly the Classic Dark. Simple but flavorful.
So, I enjoyed a chance to visit the factory, where you can learn about the bean-to-bar production that happens on-site. The workers are friendly and take great pride in their products, from the chocolate-making to the careful packaging and presentation.
Of course, you can sample chocolates and buy bars, confections, and more in the retail store. The coffee bar is a relaxing place to spend some time, and if you can’t choose between coffee and hot chocolate, do as I did and enjoy a mocha. (This isn’t something I ever order, but it seemed appropriate at Videri and was amazing.)
I practiced incredible self-restraint in not consuming too much chocolate (there’d be more to come later), as soon afterward I was going to make a quick stop at Stanbury. Actually, I was still somewhat stuffed at this point (and short on time), so I perused the small plates menu for a couple of items to try, opting for a surf-and-turf combination.
First up would be the swordfish crudo. The fish was quite firm, with a nice array of flavors from sorrel, red grapes, radishes, and chives. Nice presentation.
After that, I went with grilled sirloin, which came with navy beans, roasted peppers, tzatziki, and crispy shallots. The beef was absolutely tender and delicious, and I again liked the accompanying items. With more time and stomach space, I’d be eager to sample much more of the Stanbury menu.
The chef at the adjoining Escazu Artisan Chocolates does dessert for Stanbury, but I was more interested in visiting her store and trying some of the historic drinking chocolates on offer (all non-dairy, as they’re made with water). The chocolate “barista” was kind enough to prepare two half-orders for me. First was Xochiaya, a pre-Columbian ceremonial beverage. Lightly sweetened with local honey, this one has black pepper, other spices, cornmeal, guajillo chile, and jasmine. Very interesting…peppery and what I’d describe as a “savory” drink that I think most people would not find especially compelling. I liked it, but much more compelling to me was the “Spain, 1549.” Based on the first published recipe in Spain, this one is lightly sweetened with piloncillo, an unrefined sugar. It also has cornmeal along with almonds and hazelnuts, plus pasilla and guajillo chiles. And while there’s vanilla and cinnamon providing their flavors, it was the star anise that was most prominent, making this drink perfect for my palate.