|1.Mushroom Stroganoff, 2.Reuben Egg Roll, 3.Cajun Shrimp and Grits
4.Foie Gras, 5.Tomatillo Tamale with Lobster, 6.Flourless Torte, 7.Fried Green Tomatoes
with Gorgonzola and Honey (Square One), 8.Sweet Potato Coconut Bisque
I’m a little sad Hendersonville’s Small Plate Crawl is over. Hats off to Carolina Epicurean and her little elves for a fantastic event. What an exciting week of food! I wanted to take you through some of my highlights and let you know who made the top of the Gap Creek Gourmet list.
During the two days, I sampled plates from ten of the best restaurants from Hendersonville and Flat Rock. (I had four more on the list, but due to a family issue had to cancel night number 2. Boooo. Please share your experiences with me from Blue Water, Sinbad, and Season’s!)
My favorite menu, by leaps and bounds, was from Black Rose Public House. The chef pulled out all stops and really showed off. We ate our way through Roasted Garlic and Tomatillo Tamale with Lobster and Smoked Corn Cream, Pan Seared Foie Gras with Dried Cherry Gastrique, Grilled Crostini and Micro Greens, Red Wine Braised Ox Tail with Goat Cheese Polenta and Parsley Gremolata, and Flourless Torte with Raspberry Creme Anglaise and Chocolate Sauce and Chantilly Cream.
The Tomatillo Tamale with Lobster was tangy and moist with enough chunks of lobster for the dish to have some heft to it, but not enough to seafood overpower the smokiness of the corn. A+. Kim (my dinner date) and I have had Foie Gras before, (The Admiral) but the first time, it was not good. We sent it back. This time, it was thinly sliced, the outside was perfectly seared and the silky fattiness of the Foie Gras was perfectly paired with sour cherries and crusty bread. Really wonderfully balanced. I have to add, though, that I think I’m done with Foie Gras for a long time. This is twice I’ve tried it in one year. It’s not a dish I would normally order out, but is something I have an appreciation for on a technical level.
Chef Emile Dupree (super nice guy) brought out the Red Wine Braised Ox Tail with Goat Cheese Polenta and Parsley Gremolata (on the house…since it was the last thing on the menu we hadn’t tried). The first bite of the wine braised ox along with the creamy, cheesy polenta was heavenly. I was unsure of the goat cheese in there… we tried the Autumn Harvest Stuffed Shell with Acorn and Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, Sundried Tomato Sage and Saffron Bechamel at Mezzaluna Brick Oven-Tap House (both owned by Rob Conroy) and the goat cheese in that dish was too much for me, leaving an aftertaste that I find really off-putting. But in the Ox Tail, it added a creaminess and complexity to the dish instead of overpowering it! Hats off Chef! Best experience from crawl week! And I can’t wait to try your regular menu.
I also enjoyed meeting Chef Gina Marie at Claddagh Inn. She was trained at Greenville Tech’s Culinary School (yea techies! Got my massage degree from there. That school desperately needs a mascot…). Gina’s Cajun Style Shrimp with her special seasoning and cheesy yellow stoned ground grits were fantastic. I usually don’t order Shrimp and Grits, but I’m glad I did because they were different: a nice mild spiciness with an almost red-eye gravy type sauce… someone is going to shoot me on that comment… but to me, it was salty and more on the side of a clear gravy than a creamy sauce.
Hannah Flanagan’s served a tasty crispy egg roll version of their Reuben sandwich, though the presentation was off because they forgot to serve it with Thousand Island.
I also enjoyed the Mushroom Stroganoff at Mrs. G and Me. Though I felt it needed a little more salt, I could have eaten those noodles with that sauce straight out of the pot with a fork… It’s been that kind of week folks. Mrs. Carolina Epicurean herself was dining at Mrs. G’s at the same time and was kind enough to introduce me to the ladies of SavorNC Magazine. Exciting!
The big disappointment of the first day’s dining experience was Never Blue. After eating at Black Rose Public House, we were really, really disappointed to see the menu at Never Blue. Pimento Cheese Dip? Hotdogs? Really guys? Your menu is fantastic! Not your best showing. I expected GREATNESS! We actually sat down, pondered ordering the specialty drinks and then just decided to go to Square One to finish off our night instead. Sorry.
Wednesday I checked out the new Flat Rock Wood Room for lunch. Wayne, one of the owners was manning the bar, so I bent his ear about the restaurant, the food, and his life history while I noshed on the Rib Teaser: slow smoked ribs over a bed of delicate and flaky onion straws. (I dipped in their three sauces including house, sweet and bold. Bold was the best.) Wayne is a Clemson Grad! Before opening the restaurant with his business partner in the newly renovated 154 year old building, he made the BBQ Competition circuit racking up trophies and “getting an idea of the judges tastes.” These guys are shipping in and their meat and having their Italian Rum Cake brought in from New York (he wouldn’t give up his top secret supplier, but the cake was DAMN good!). My favorite part of lunch was the Sweet Potato Coconut Bisque with Maple Honey Drizzle. They could have stopped at just the soup and I would have been pleased, but dropped right in the middle of the bowl was a scoop of cinnamon baked apples…there were some pecan pieces in there too! I swear I could have eaten this stuff all week and it wouldn’t have been often enough. Perfect.
Stay tuned for details on Small Plate Crawl Asheville coming in February!
PS: today I had a chicken and broccoli Hot Pocket for lunch. (My husband says you never hear about the box mac and cheese he is occasionally fed for dinner, so there ya go.)