I always say that liking the people who make the food I like, makes me like the food they make even more than I liked it before! This has never been more true than in the case of Local Provisions, owned and operated by Chef Justin and Brooke Burdett. I’ve been popping into Local Provisions once a week with Asheville Food Tours since last July, and in doing so, I’ve gotten to know Justin and Brooke, which has been a pleasure in and of itself, while also giving me a chance to taste many, various dishes from the LP kitchen, as well as hear Justin explain his food & philosophy to my groups, and in private conversations. As a result, I am more of a fan of the food and service that the Burdett family is offering up at Local Provisions than ever! For one thing: Surprises!!!
Chef Burdett likes to switch things up. The menu at Local is one of the most ever-changing in town. It can change several times in one week, if not daily, and it can even change in the course of one day! This largely depends on what kind of produce and other products the local farmers and foragers are bringing to Justin, and when they bring it. Justin himself has told me that he doesn’t like the term “farm-to-table,” because it has been over-used, misused, and diluted until it is practically meaningless.
“All produce comes from a farm,” he says, “I use the term ‘responsibly sourced,’ instead.“
Buying directly from people that he personally knows, working with individual food growers and gatherers that he has been developing relationships with since Local Provisions first opened their doors in 2015, gives him confidence and assurance that the food he cooks and provides his customers with is ethically and ecologically sourced using sound practices. That’s not just nice, but it invariably results in the highest quality end product: An excellent meal! Local farmers walk right in the front door of the Burdett’s restaurant with bushels and baskets of whatever they have. Justin trusts them to grow it right, and I trust him to cook it right, and that seems to be all working out great so far!
In keeping with the ingredients, the food at Local Provisions is some high class, high quality grub. You might recall that I covered them in my epic brunch series last year [ LINK ] and found the scrambled eggs with fried oysters and caviar to be excellent in flavor, style, plating, and execution. Since then I’ve been back to LP with the food tours several dozen times, but never for dinner, until recently, when Dawn and I FINALLY made it in at the dinner hour, and wow! Before we were even done, I was talking “Meal of the Year” contender. #truestory
You can see in my Facebook post above that I used the term “Veg Forward” to describe this meal, which is kind of a trendy new(ish) phrase, that’s a bit of an end-run around such labels as “vegetarian,” which has become almost meaningless in the post-ovo-lacto-pesce-etcetera-tarian world, or “Vegan,” which has lifestyle implications, not to mention political ramifications. Both of those terms are also restrictive by nature, with rules & lists of things that the end user doesn’t or can’t eat, whereas “veg forward” just means that the plants are taking center stage, with animal products also included in the mix, just not hogging the spotlight… so to speak… get it? HOG-ing… the… never mind.
A veg-forward meal is, in my mind, essentially a healthy approach to omnivorous livin’. Left on my own, I may never get around to eating anything fresh, green, leafy, or even remotely… what’s that word again? “Nutritious?”
Meat, bread… bread and meat. Dry roasted peanuts. I’m an idiot. I need smart people in my life, like Chef Justin to make me “eat a rainbow…” Which, come to find out, doesn’t refer to Skittles after all, but instead to a colorful plate of vitamin and mineral packed goodness, grown right out of the fucking ground! Who’da thought?!? Below is a photo of a plate of super delicious, healthy, plant matter that I helped to eat…
I can’t describe this dish any better than you probably can, just from what you can see in the picture above. Sauteed radishes, broccoli… greeennn… stuffff… Justin delivered it to our table himself, informing us that it wasn’t actually on the menu that night, but instead… as he said… and I quote… “I just pulled it out of my ass.” Now, y’see… how could I NOT enjoy this restaurant even more now that I’ve gotten to know the chef.
“Yeah, he says that a lot,” added Brooke when she heard, musing aloud as to whether or not that was a good thing to say to customers… of course, we all laughed and, since it was only me and Dawn, we agreed it was probably okay. I’ve been know to use a vulgar term or two in my day. Believe it or not.
If you think that all this friendly treatment from the Burdetts is strictly because I’m me, Stu Helm, food writer, hero, friend to all humanity, and super-awesome person all-around… please. I’ve seen with my own eyes, and I hear from other eaters, that the chef is often visiting tables, chatting with friends who’ve come to dine, frequent diners who have become friends, or strangers whom he’s just getting to know. That’s how it works in a small city like Asheville. Getting to know the each other is part of the fun living and eating in this town!
In addition to the one dish that the chef pulled out of his ass, the rest of our meal, all ordered from the menu, was outfrickin’standing.
It all started with a pair of raw oysters, which unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of. :/ They were gorgeous in their raw oystery appearance and tasted incredible. It is a well known fact among local raw oyster enthusiasts that Local Provisions has some of the best, fresh, raw, NC coastal oysters in town. Justin’s mignonette is beautifully subtle, slightly tangy, and very light. It enhances the flavor of the sea that is locked inside the oyster itself, without competing with it or over-powering it in the least. If you like raw oysters, go to LP, get the raw oysters, and I can all but guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
As I have mentioned, the menu at Local Provisions changes very frequently, so the dishes that Dawn and I ordered and ate that night might not be available tonight, or tomorrow night, or next week, and certainly not a month from now. So although I do recommend these specific dishes, I can really only recommend that you go in, and try whatever is on the menu at that particular time. Whatever it is, whatever you get, it’s going to be sourced and prepared in the most impeccable way, and it’s gonna taste effing great!
Below: Please find pictures and brief descriptions of the meal Dawn and I shared that night, which, again, is an early contender for meal of the year…
Above: Grilled Asparagus w/ soft egg & honey mustard. Yum! Cooked perfectly, so that the asparagus still had snap to it, this small but filling dish took the hunger-edge off and set the scene for the rest of the meal: Vegetables, with some protein. Sorry I took a picture of the ass-end of the asparagus instead of the florets. I was super-hungry, and not in my right mind.
ABOVE: Field Pea & Ramp Toast w/ sunny egg. This was frickin’ awesome! I love field peas, so when they’re in season, I eat the shit out of ’em. This dish seems perfect for a brunch-date, because: A – It has an egg on top, which automatically makes it brunchy, and B- It comes with a free bouquet of flowers for your date. Score! PS – We ate those flowers.
ABOVE: Farm Lettuce Salad w/ pickled asparagus, boiled egg, roasted shallot vinaigrette, & local radish. I’m not the most salady person on the planet, but this was a fucking kick-ass salad. If I keep eating at Local Provisions, I might even become a salad fan… of sorts.
ABOVE: Grilled Sunburst Trout w/ sweet onion puree, local pea panzanella, & bacon vinaigrette. The fish was cooked perfectly, as was everything else on the plate, and it was served at the right temp: HOT. Gahd, I love it when hot food is served hot. Fuck tepid meals. Also, the portion was generous. We were both really full by the time we finished this meal!
JUST IN CASE you didn’t know: Panzanella is a Tuscan salad of bread and tomatoes that is popular in the summer. It includes chunks of soaked stale bread and tomatoes, sometimes also onions and basil, dressed with olive oil and vinegar. Wikipedia
BELOW: Sorghum Glazed Pork Belly w/ roasted & pickled turmips, & turnip greens. Yes. I ordered pork belly as part of my veg forward meal. Fuck you. I love pork belly, and I had heard from my friend Stephan Pruitt that the pork belly at Local Provisions is the best in a town. Stephan is a person who’s pork belly opinions matter to me. If Stephan says it’s good pork belly, it’s definitely gonna be fuckin’ good, and if he says it’s the best, there’s a good chance he’s right about that too.
So, was Stephan right about this particular pork belly being the best in Asheville? Let me put it this way: I do not disagree with him one bit. Holy fuck. Once, during a food tour, Chef Burdett leaned over and whispered in my ear, “I try to make food for your tours that I know you’ll like.” Then he paused and added…
I do not disagree with that statement either. I frickin’ lerved this pork belly. It was piping hot for one thing, which is even more crucial with pork belly than other hot foods. CROOSH! The outside was sweet, and caramelized, and crispy as fuck on the edges, while inside it was tender, meaty, & chewy, and most importantly is was all super-melty in the fatty parts.
I’m pretty sure that pork belly is always on the menu at Local Provisions, but that the veg matter surrounding it changes with the seasons, his farm-n-forager friends’ finds and harvests, as well as the chef’s imagination. Since I usually eat pork belly with things like cheese grits, or on a steamed processed white-flour bun, I’m still gonna call this array of turnips and turnip greens a pretty veg forward dish for me. I ate the fuck outta the turnippy parts and loved every bite!
So, the big conclusion? Go eat at Local Provisions, Yo! Get to know the staff, get to know the menu, get to know Justin and Brooke, and rather than falling in love with one or two dishes that you might always go back for, fall in love with Justin’s style, his passion, his ethics, his deftness in the kitchen, and his ease at the table side. Enjoy and indulge in the real taste of WNC on your plate, support local farmers, and for cryin’ out loud, treat yourself like a healthy human being and adopt a veg forward diet… that may or may not include pork belly… at least for the Summer. I am!
“Locally sourced Southern cuisine plus cocktails, wine & beer are offered in a relaxed dining room.”
Address: 77 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday 10:30AM–2:30PM / 5:30–10PM
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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