In July, my family and I headed up the mountain to dine at Seven Sows Bourbon and Larder in Asheville, NC. I met Executive Chef Mike Moore at Bovinoche 2014 and he extended an invite. What kind of a girl would I be to turn down an invite?! The meal was a crazy memorable dinner for us because my daughter had her first full-0n foodie experience with mom. She tried almost everything on our table and she’s still begging to go back. My child tried head cheese. (I beam with pride.) How many twelve year old’s can mark that off their list?
Seven Sows Executive Chef, Mike Moore, was off on this particular night, but his talented Sous Chef Todd Woods took care of us. As you can see from the pictures, we were fed well. Sous Chefs are the unsung heroes of restaurant industry. They are the wingman, the back up, the dependable second in command. Salute to you all!
After touring the Seven Sows menu, I had to catch up with Moore too, to talk about his acclaimed restaurant, his infatuation with antiques and his Blind Pig dinners. We couldn’t match our schedules, so I sent him questions and his answers were incredible. Sometimes you don’t see the whole interview, but these answers were incredibly engaging so cut and past, I did. Read on and enjoy.
Tell me about opening your restaurant. Where did the concept come from?
We opened Seven Sows during the Winter of 2013. I had been working with my current partner who was starting partner and co-owner (initially) of Pisgah Brewing Company in Black Mountain. Jason Caughman and I became friends and were launching some beers and dinner events together as a joint collaborative effort through Pisgah Brewing Company and Blind Pig. We launched a Bentons Bacon Stout during the Fall of 2012 which showcased with a Blind Pig dinner featuring John Fleer. We were doing these small batch very specialized and local brews and marketing/launching them at Blind Pig dinners and they were a big success and sold out quickly. We launched that Bacon Stout beer again a few seasons later which eventually showcased on the Food Network show (Rebel Eats) with Justin Warner who was visiting Asheville on a tour through the Southeast. That dinner and film event was a great success and gained a lot of momentum for the Pisgah Brand and the Blind Pig brand. Much of the proceeds from that dinner event, which featured the talents of the chefs at Storm Rhum Bar & Bistro along with our friend Elliot Moss, went to a local charity. Long story short- as I was looking into developing a full fledge catering arm with Blind Pig. Jason and I began (eventually) talking about a restaurant together and we joined efforts with Adam Bannasch (chef and co-owner of Zambra) for a concept which would feature Southern American cuisine. The concept itself is founded in the food that I grew up around, although I’ve traveled and cooked in many places from San Francisco to Nancy, France. The concept, which eventually became Seven Sows, is me coming back home (and staying there).
I hear you have an affinity for antique shopping? Significance of the porcupine at your bar?
The restaurant itself is nothing fancy, and it’s meant to be that way. I wanted the decor to feel a bit of time and history. When I was opening the space, my aunt was looking for someone to help clean up the farmhouse which my grandmother grew up in in Elm City, NC. The old smokehouse had fallen due to a hurricane and the tobacco barns had made it as long as they possibly could without falling. I imagined the many times my great grandfather had to wake at 3am to check the barn fires during tobacco season and just how many hogs were slaughtered and hams were hung and smoked in that smokehouse and it was just fitting for me to take these relics which were well over one hundred years old and preserve them in a fashion to rebuild their glory in a restaurant. The wood used in our dining room is from this farm and these old establishments. They still smell of smoke and probably have things living inside of them- and that’s a good thing. I want you to taste the food and feel that and see it and touch it. It still lives.
I started Blind Pig in 2011. It is no different than a modern day supper club concept which is chef driven. There are many around but the modern day concept started with Ghetto Gourmet in Oakland California in the early 90’s or so. I was in San Francisco cooking ten years ago and took part in two dinners, one which was held in a graveyard. (There are laws against that here in NC- believe me I’ve tried). Ghetto Gourmet sort of paved the way in that experience and here in the South East, Guerrilla Cuisine of Charleston paved the way. I’m a close and personal friend of Mr. Hatt and we’ve had lots of ‘dug out’ time on a baseball field in South Caroline that I won’t name. It was Guerrilla Cuisine that inspired me initially to start a movement in Asheville almost four years go. Also, a big part of it was that I had been cooking (professionally) for about 12 years and I was a cop in my last career in my early twenties. There is something about giving and (service to others) that I miss from that career- and Blind Pig scratches that itch for me. You’re a hero when you can raise funds from a dinner which sends under privileged children to a summer camp. The list goes on. We’ve held 73 dinners now and fed thousands upon thousands of people- sometimes 400 at a time. No shit!
Bourbon is the true American spirit- it was born here just like Rock & Roll and has its roots in the South. Johnny Cash’s favorite drink was bourbon on the rocks. Enough said. The special bottles don’t last very long. Last year, when the state would allot us, we held Pappy Van Winkle twenty year which sold for $85 a pour for no more than 5 days. Jeff Bannister drank half of it in one visit. My favorite bourbon I carry is from the Willett family in Bardstown KY. These are small batch, very old family recipes. The Willett family’s long distilling history began in France in brandy production. They brought their expertise to the American Colonies in the early 1600s, eventually settling in Bardstown, Kentucky. Here, they were involved in the founding of several renowned bourbon distilleries. Willett pot still is a go to but Willett Rye is my personal favorite. It is one hell of a complex spirit that is both intelligent and sexy.
Pretty cool interview, right? I believe reservations are now an order. You guys have to get up there to try Seven Sows. It will rock your taste buds silly.
The next Blind Pig dinner is November 16th in Asheville. Love Big Lebowski? You gotta check this dinner out. Go here.
(One day I’ll figure out spacing on this dang blog!)
Happy Monday, y’all! And Congrats to Chef Mike Moore who just welcomed a baby girl to his family!