ANOTHER MONTH OF BRUNDAYS – by Stu Helm
I am not a fancy person, but I sure do like fancy eatin’. That being said… lehhht’s braaahhhhhnnnch!
To me, eating brunch is like living The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, which can get a little pricey, but if you play your cards right, brunch can also be a great bargain! In A Month of Brundays Part 1, we established that brunch is essentially two meals in one: Breakfast and Lunch. So, in theory, if I eat brunch at the right time of day, and I shove enough food-mass into my stomach-hole, I should be able to coast until dinner. Sometimes I’m still so full from brunch that I can even skip dinner, and be all good until late night snack time. That’s THREE meals in one, Yo. You do the math… because I really hate math.
But I love brunch!
HERE’S WHERE I BRUNCHED DURING THE MONTH OF JANUARY, 2016
1) THE BARLEYCORN PUB – 697 Haywood Rd, West Asheville – Saturday and Sunday Brunch 10 am – 3pm
• BRUNCH MATE – Good Friend Leslie.
• FOOD – I ate a bacon wrapped meatloaf sandwich. ._. Let that sink in for minute. Bacon. Wrapped. Meatloaf. Sandwich. Are you fucking kidding me?!? Holy fuck. How was it? How do you fuckin’ think it was? It was fucking awesome. Barleycorn wanted to hire me to do some promo for them, so I had to go back in to make sure that the food is still good — it had been over a year since’t I’d eaten there — and oh, Hell yes, the food is still good. Really good. It’s kinda right up my alley, in terms of flavor and content. Chef Greg knows how to pack a punch, and he does not skimp on things like butter, salt, cream, and sugar. The meatloaf sandwich was an incredible combo of sweet and savory that had me literally closing my eyes and groaning out loud. The coffee was also very good, from Bean Werks roasters right up the street.
• PLUS COLUMN – This is definitely a BIG brunch. My sandwich came with some delicious french fries, and a pickle. I ate and ate until I was full to the brim. Good Friend Leslie got the French toast,which came with fruit and bacon. It was huge. She ate about half, and reported to me that the remainder was delicious the next morning. If you’re like me, and you want an enormous brunch, with a calorie count of about a ga-jillion, you’ll fucking love Barleycorn.
• MINUS COLUMN – If you don’t want an enormous brunch, with a calorie count of about a ga-jillion? Yeah, no, you might wanna skip Barleycorn. Although Chef Greg did hint about putting some lighter fare on the menu soon. I’ll keep you posted.
CONCLUSIONS – This is a no-brainer for me. If I lived near Barleycorn, I’d be there all the fucking time, and I’d weigh about a thousand pounds, but I wouldn’t give a shit, and I would keep stuffing my face with brunch after brunch after insanely delicious brunch until I died. If you like the kind of food that I like, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.
2) CHESTNUT – 48 Biltmore Ave, Asheville – Saturday-Sunday Brunch 9am – 3pm
• BRUNCH MATE – My Mom, AKA The Mom Unit.
• FOOD – I had the steak and eggs, which came with a choice of toast and sides. I opted for rye toast and a side of fruit. The Mom Unit ordered eggs Benedict, with potatoes, which she requested “well done.” The server nodded his head and said, “crispy.” He understood exactly what my Mom was talking about. Chestnut’s breakfast taters are a combo of sweet potatoes and white potatoes. I also ordered coffee, and my mom had unsweet tea. The coffee was good, and The M-Unit seemed please enough with her tea.
• PLUS COLUMN – Ummm, let’s see now… howwwabowwwwt… the FOOOD! It was fucking perfect. Every edible element on our plates was cooked perfectly, the temp was perfect, the flavors were perfect, the amount of salt was perfect, and even the portions were perfect. At the end, we were both very full, but not ready-to-pop. I tapped-out with 1/2 piece of toast left on my plate, but otherwise, there was not a morsel left between us. I helped my mom finish her taters, and they were indeed, crispy and delicious. The sweet / white potato combination was a big win. My steak cut like butter, and tasted really fucking good, the gravy was savory as fuck, and exactly the right consistency. I tried my Mom’s eggs Benedict, and we concurred that they were also done exactly right. The Hollandaise sauce was fluffy, and neither was it too stiff, nor too runny, and the poached eggs were soft, but not gelatinous. Even the English muffin on the bottom was perfect. Grilled in butter, it was was nice and salty, and not dry and hard. Also, our server was great, all pro, he seemed genuinely pleased that we were enjoying our food so much.
• MINUS COLUMN – The music. It was very mainstream. Sorry, Joe, but it was exactly what you and I both critiqued on AVL Food Fans last week. As in: All A-sides. At one point my Mom commented that she was glad to hear some Van Morrison and Bob Dylan and the like, and I agreed that there were great songs by great performers coming out of the speakers, but I asked her if she wouldn’t rather hear a few of the more obscure songs by these bands and singers, and she said yes. She’s a music fan from way back, and is familiar with a lot more than just the hits. I know that she would have loved to hear some B-sides, or even whole slabs, and I would have too. Hotel California came on, Joe. For real.
CONCLUSIONS – I’d eat brunch at Chestnut again in a heartbeat, and probably will, especially with my mom, who just loves it there, and she’s no push-over. My friend Joe always says that he’s not the hippest, coolest, most exciting Chef in town, but he knows how to do everything right, and I agree with every part of that statement. Ha ha! Just giving you a hard time, Joe. You’re cool and hip. ._.
NOTE: Joe wasn’t in the kitchen on the day that my Mom and I brunched at the ‘nut, but he’s got one of the most capable kitchen teams in town, so I knew we’d be in good hands.
3) POSANA – 1 Biltmore Ave – Saturday and Sunday Brunch 10am – 3pm
• BRUNCH MATE – None. All alone. The Solitary Man.
• FOOD – I ordered the doughnut holes, the avocado toast with smoked salmon and deep-fried capers, and the eggs Benedict / Florentine with taters. I also had coffee, and the house sent me out a delicious juice made of of beets and ginger and such. Maybe they read my column about how much I love juice, maybe they just wanted to show-off their juicing skills. I dunno, but either way, the juice was awesome, and so was the coffee, and all of the food.
• PLUS COLUMN – Everything. To me, Posana is a special place. It’s beautiful inside; the food is bright, fresh, creative, healthy, and delicious; the service is super-pro, with just the right amount of friendly, and each member of the staff always looks as sharp as a tack. The decor at Posana is really, very, super nice, and the light that streams in from the huge windows on two sides of the dining room is gorgeous, and really good for taking pictures of the food. Even the clientele contributes to the atmosphere. They generally tend to be quiet, poised, well dressed, and very interested in good food. Two nice guys sat next to me, and when my eggs Benedict arrived, they looked over with with facial expressions that said with subtlety and class, “Wugga wugga!” We had a friendly verbal exchange about food, and then we all left each other alone until I got up and said goodbye. They were nice. My server and the rest of the crew were very nice. This was an extremely pleasant experience all around for me. Also, I ordered a lot of food, and had leftovers, which I ate later, and they were awesome. The smoked salmon was like silk, even the following day.
• MINUS COLUMN – I suppose if you absolutely, positively, without a doubt, MUST have gluten on your plate in order to be a happy bruncher, you’re gonna be shit outta luck at Posana’s. Ain’t a molecule of gluten to be found anywhere in their kitchen. Me? I’ll eat the shit out of some gluten… or not. Don’t matter one iota to me as long as it tastes good. This brunch tasted good.
CONCLUSIONS – Although I tend to feel a little bit like a Dwarf in Lothlórien when I walk in their doors, the beautiful Elven folk of Posana made me feel right at home, filled me with their magic lembas bread, and sent me back to The Glittering Caves feeling full, but light, and very happy. I’ll be back to Posana for brunch again, next time with Dawn, who was very jealous of my meal, and wants to try a specific cocktail they have there called a “Ginseng Sublime.”
NOTE: As was the case at Chestnut, Executive Chef Peter Pollay was not in the kitchen on the day I brunched at Posana, but just like at Chestnut, the kitchen at Posana can bang it out whether or not the boss is in the house.
4) CURATE – 11 Biltmore Ave – Saturday and Sunday Brunch – 11:30 – 3pm
• BRUNCH MATE – Dawn Roe!
• FOOD – From the brunch menu, Dawn ordered the fresh grapefruit mimosa with cava topped with a lemon air, and we split two things: The “egg 63,” (perfectly poached egg, with olive oil potato puree, roasted tomato, onion, eggplant, red and green pepper) and the torrijas (challah loaf soaked in a citrus cinnamon custard and seared until golden brown). Curate’s regular lunch menu is also available, and from that I ordered the canelones de carne (pasta filled with pork, beef, and chicken liver, topped with a creamy bechamel sauce and manchego cheese), and Dawn got the ensalada de tomate y atún (Kumato tomato salad w/preserved Spanish bonito tuna and black olives).
• PLUS COLUMN – THE FOOD! Are you kidding me? Their challah “French bread” is one of the most amazing dishes available in all of Asheville. It’s been a fave of mine for years, and it’s every bit as delicious as the first time I ate it. The challah is soft and custardy on the inside, and has a thin, hard, crispy, outer sear of beautiful burnt sugar. I could eat it forever. All of the food tasted really great. The canelone pasta was not too tick, or doughy, or tough, or soft… it was perfect. Their tuna salad is also one of the best things in town, and Dawn raves about the grapefruit mimosa. The service at Curate is always great, and brunch is no exception. Our main server was very pro, with just the right touch of friendly, and I might have to add a new category to the Stoobies next year just for him: Best Hair. He has great hair.
• MINUS COLUMN – The egg 63, while delicious, was crying out for just a wee bit of bread. Their was a lot of goodness left on the plate that Dawn and I wanted to transfer to our mouths, but that would have required us to either sop it up with bread, or lick the plate. I stopped just short of the latter. Also, the filtered water tasted funny to me, but Dawn said it tasted fine to her, so… make of that what you will. Taste it and decide for yourselves.
CONCLUSIONS – Curate is consistently excellent. Their brunch offerings have remained essentially the same for years, and have not budged one inch in terms of quality, flavor, and presentation. The challah French toast is one of my “Top 10 Things You Gotta Eat in Asheville,” and it’s only available for brunch, so if you wanna try it, you gotta get up and go on Saturday or Sunday, before 3pm. I know that Dawn feels the same way about the grapefruit mimosa. Eating brunch at Curate is more or less exactly like eating lunch or dinner at Curate, with a few menu items that aren’t available during the week, so… do it!
Okay, there ya go. So, who wins brunch this month? It was a very tough call, they were all so good! No tanks, no turds, no clunkers, not a single bad bite. How can I pick just one winner? Actually, as tight as the competition was, the decision was easy: Posana wins brunch this month! Boom. Whoop whoop! Yeah, Man. Here’s why in two words: Total Package. Posana has the total package when it comes to brunch: Food, beverages, service, decor, lighting, music… they even had the cutest plates and bowls! That wee ketchup cube was to fucking die for.
I’m learning, as I conduct my “Month of Brundays” studies, that brunch kinda fucking rules in Asheville. This month I brunched at four places and had four incredible meals. Because I live close to Downtown, I’ve been concentrating on that area, but after the amazing brunch I had at Barleycorn, I’m thinking that I need to focus a little more attention on West Asheville. I’ve had brunch in the past at The WALK and at Buffalo Nickle, so I’ll have to return to those places and find out who else is doing brunch way over there on the other side of the river.
If you have suggestions for where I should eat brunch in February, you can post them to my FaceBook page, and if you see me out there in brunch-world, be sure to say hi! I know I recently write about how much I hate other people, but I’m pretty friendly in real life, and I personally believe that brunch is the most social meal of the week, so I intentionally put myself in a social frame of mind when I go out for brunch.
Thanks as always to the all of the staff and venues that brunched me in January. You guys killed it.
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Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.