You may have noticed… I eat a lotta food.
Well, actually, I probably eat as much food as anyone else, maybe even a little less than some people — because I’m very small — but I do go out to eat a lot, and I take and post a ton of pictures of what I eat, so you may have noticed that.
Although I do try to sample a wide variety of different dishes from as many different venues as I can, you may have also noticed that I do tend to go to some of the same places over and over and over again… Buxton Hall. Hey, gimme a break! It’s close by to where I live, it’s frickin’ HUGE so I can usually walk in and get a table — no lines no waiting — and not for nuthin’, the food is insanely fucking good! Yes, I love the shit out of their fried chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and double bacon cheeseburgers, but there’s a lot more going on at Buxton than just the standard grub. These mussels and bread for one thing…
The people working in the kitchen at Buxton Hall Barbecue are some of the best cooks in the city, which means they’re some of the best cooks in the country, and I’m telling you what… just about everything they touch is pure fucking gold in my opinion. I know people get sick of hearing me blow-up this joint, but look at those fucking mussels, Yo. I ate those this week, and they were fucking awesome, so now they are my gott-dang Eat of the Week, and that’s that, so accept it.
Now, I suck at knowing stuff, so I wrote an FB message to Chef Henry Gregory, who had brought these bad babies to my table, and I asked him if he could describe the elements of the dish to me. Boy, did he ever!
“…they are PEI mussels, [the] mussel base we call ‘mussel goo’ which is aromatics like thyme and mirepoix, San Marzano tomatoes, we cook it in the coals under the pig so it gets all that character from the wood, and the drippings, and the [time] it takes to make it nice.”
Oh. Hell. Yes. There exists a substance in this world called “mussel goo,” and apparently I like to eat it. Oh, Asheville, always feeding me weird shit that I love. Also I learned a new word! “Mirepoix.”
JUST IN CASE YOU DIDN’T KNOW: “A mirepoix is diced vegetables cooked for a long time on a gentle heat without color or browning, usually with butter or other fat or oil. It is not sautéed or otherwise hard cooked, the intention being to sweeten rather than caramelize.” – Wikipedia
To my surprise, Chef Henry’s initial response to my inquiry was followed-up with these cooking instructions…
1. Render out the diced house made Jowl bacon, add onions and kinda lightly char.
2. Add in your mussels and some of the goo, toss toss toss. They will start to open a bit.
3. Deglaze with some beer, we usually use a rotating local tap from Catawba, I believe u got the pilsner.
4. Finish by emulsifying in some cold butter and season with some salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
5. It gets served with our house made toast. Made by Ashley [Capps] and pastry [chefs] downstairs.
Whoa. State secrets leaked. Of course, I could have shared this information with the Kremlin, in secret phone calls, thus filling my pockets with rubles and kopeks, but instead I asked Chef Henry, and he assured me that Buxton Hall’s head honcho, Chef Elliott Moss was all good with me sharing the infos with you guys instead… because I’m a fucking patriot… who would rather disclose this information to the American public than hold secret meetings with Russian spies. Just sayin’. God bless America. Is all. Here’s another picture of these fuckin’ mussels…
In the photo above, you can clearly see a piece of hog, just hangin’ out with the mussels, and the veg matter of the mirepoix goo. The trademark character of the Buxton Hall flavor was all over this dish. Smoke. Pork. Love. Time. Local produce and proteins. All the signature elements of their down-home barbecue, and yet it is, in my opinion, some high-end muhfuckin’ eats. Like, super-high end. Serve this dish in a certain setting, and people be thinkin’ it’s some haute cuisine type grub for sure, but at Buxton Hall, it’s just regular food for regular people like you and me.
That sauce is so good, I asked for a spoon when all the bread and mussels were gone, and slurped it down like an old man at a deli counter… “slurrrp… slurrrp… slurrrrrrrrrrrp…”
I ate every atomic particle of sauce in that bowl.
Of course the bread was fantastic too, because the bake-staff at Buxton is excellent, and they sure as fuck don’t mind leaning in the direction of decadence in just about everything they do. Unless I’m mistaken by a long shot, this bread had plenty of gluten in it. Fuck yes. Gluten me, Baby!
And the mussels themselves were jehhhhst right. I lerv merssels, and I’m not new to the game, I’ve ate more than my fare share of these black and briny fruits of the sea. Some are good, some are great, some are like small rubber bits of nasty. These were fucking great. The right size, the right temp, the right texture, and the perfect flavor of course, because Buxton nails it on flavor 99.9% of the time with me, which is part of why I go back so often! DUH! Okay, one more picture, then I’ll wrap-it-up…
So, yeah, if you’re one of these people who hasn’t quite taken a shine to Buxton Hall, because you’re a strict fan of Texas, Tennessee, or Kansas BBQ, and you don’t dig that Eastern Carolina style hog, or you’re as not into fried chicken sandwiches and hot dogs as I am, or you’re just thinking, “it’s a frickin’ barbecue joint, what’s the big deal?” Please go in, order the mussels and bread, and at that point, I think you’ll not only understand what the big deal is about Buxton Hall Barbecue, but you’ll know exactly why I picked this particular dish as my…
EAT OF THE WEEK!
~ END ~
Buxton Hall Barbecue
“Eastern-Carolina style barbecue restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina with its own house bakery.”
32 Banks Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Monday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Tuesday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Wednesday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Thursday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Friday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Saturday 11:30AM–3PM, 5:30–10PM
Phone: (828) 232-7216
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.
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