Good lord! At this point in my brunch studies, I’ve eaten so many various brunches, at so many different places, that when I even hear someone say the word “brunch,” I want to respond, “Brunch? Yeah, that’s mine. I own that. Brunch is me. I am Brunch. We are as one. Brunch is my lover and my roommate and my best friend ever. We’s tight, Yo.”
I only hope that Brunch thinks as highly of me as I do of it. Brunch? Call me?
HERE’S WHERE I BRUNCHED DURING THE MONTH OF MAY, 2016
• BRUNCH MATES – Solo.
• FOOD – I was pumped to see that Jerusalem Garden offers a weekend brunch that is basically a fusion of Southern breakfast and Middle Eastern fare. There were lots of yummy-looking options on the menu, plus some specials that sounded phenomenal, and I had a very hard time choosing! I didn’t take too long though — hungry — and quickly decided on a dish called Baharat Biscuits and Gravy, which consisted of two scratch biscuits, covered in “baharat spiced grass-fed beef gravy,” and topped with two eggs. It came with potatoes, fresh greens, and a few pickled things.
• PLUS COLUMN – The food was fucking great! I went in not knowing WTF a place like Jerusalem Garden might offer for “Southern brunch,” and I had a horrible feeling that there might be a steam-table buffet involved, or a make-your-own-waffle station. For some reason I pictured Hotel breakfast… with tabouli. NOT SO! The brunch menu had lots of clever and delicious sounding fusion dishes, and I chose wisely with the baharat biscuits and gravy, which were fucking perfect, and satisfied me completely. There was plenty of it, for one thing, and I left feeling very full. I even took home some taters to Dawn, and those taters were something special: cooked perfectly, slightly crispy on the outside, and covered in olive oil and pesto. The biscuits were big and fluffy and soaked-up the gravy and egg yolk like a delicious sponge. I asked for my eggs fried over-easy, and that’s how they came out. The gravy was very tasty, and savory, and interesting, and layered, and unique, and I fucking loved it. The greens and pickled things were great too, and I ate every scrap of this meal, except the taters that I brought home to Dawn… which I eventually ate most of too… sorry Dawn.
• MINUS COLUMN – I basically have zero complaints about this meal. Every bite was tasty and satisfying. The service was casual but efficient. The atmosphere is awesome at Jerusalem Garden, I love the decor and mellow feel in there. If I was gonna get nit-picky wid it, I could say that I think the coffee service could have been cuter, or somehow more unique. The cup was a very basic brown diner mug, and the cream came in the form of those tiny little plastic cup thingies from Land o’ Lakes. I think a cuter cup and a tiny pitcher of cream would have made the coffee more enjoyable. Or some kind of special Middle Eastern style coffee might have been fun.
CONCLUSIONS – I’m craving this food as I write, and I can not wait to go back for more baharat biscuits and gravy, as well as several other items on the menu. I highly recommend brunch at Jerusalem Garden! I talked about it to everyone I saw on the day I ate there, and will be thinking about it right up until I make it back. Brunch should be special, and brunch at Jerusalem Garden is pretty fucking special.
• BRUNCH MATE – Dawn!
• FOOD – I over-ordered on purpose, because I wanted to try a few things, and I’m glad I did! I got a piece of hazelnut coffee cake to start with; plus coffee; toad in the hole (aka camp toast, aka an egg cooked inside of some form of bread, in this case corn bread); and asparagus with Bearnaise and a poached egg. Dawn got a cucumber tea sandwich, and our friend and owner Charlie Hodge brought us a sample of the meat and pickle plate. Between the two of us, Dawn and I crushed every single bite of this, except a few bits of asparagus stem.
• PLUS COLUMN – Let’s start with the coffee, which was Cafe Du Monde coffee and chicory in a can! I use this stuff at home, and I love it! It’s pretty much the only coffee in a can I ever drink, and I was psyched to see that Sov Rems was offering it in the form of pour-overs and Chemex carafes. Also, always a plus at Sov Rems is the service. Johnny was our host, and he was upbeat, friendly, genuine, and on the ball. He made Dawn a wonderful cocktail, and he recommended the coffee cake to me, which was a moist, delicious highlight of the meal. Johnny even recommended that we try the brunch at Bull and Beggar sometime! Now that’s service. One thing I love about this town is how the indie food people support each other. The food by Misty Mountain Bakeshop was a plus as well. We’ve come to expect great things from Sovereign Remedies, whether it’s their kitchen staff or guest chefs preparing the food, it’s always made from the best possible ingredients, fresh, unique, and well crafted.
• MINUS COLUMN – The toad in the hole tasted great, but was a little dry, and the asparagus was likewise great, but was a little wet. The toad needed some saucin’-up in my opinion, and asparagus needed a very small baked item to sop up the Bearnaise. There was also a piece of meat on the meat board that I did not care for, but Dawn thought was great, so whatever. There’s not much I can really say in the minus column. Even the music was good.
CONCLUSIONS – Sovereign Remedies is one of the most solidly enjoyable eating and drinking spaces in downtown Asheville, and true to form, Dawn and I enjoyed this brunch take-over by Misty Mountain Bakeshop very much. The decor and atmosphere can’t be beat; the staff is friendly, dapper, skilled, and efficient; and the food is consistently bright, fresh, locally sourced, thoughtfully executed, and brilliantly displayed. I asked Charlie if they would be continuing with brunch, and he said yes, every Saturday and Sunday. With their convenient location, new outdoor seating, and the recent addition of my friend Chef Matt Grush to their kitchen, I expect Sov Rems’ brunch to gain in popularity over the Summer. I recommend it. Misty Mountain Bakeshop can be found at the West Asheville Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays, and soon their pastries will be featured at Trade and Lore Coffee Shop.
Click on the thumbnails below to see larger versions…
• BRUNCH MATES – Chef Matt Grush and Morgan (and Bobby)
• FOOD – I over-ordered again for the same reason: I wanted to try a few things, plus I was really hungry! I got a blueberry scone; a ham, egg, cheese, and tomato breakfast “sammy;” a coque madame; and a virgin bloody Mary. The brunch truck ladies, Patty and Jennifer, were in the midst of celebrating their wedding anniversary, so they brought us three little heart-shaped pieces of red velvet cheesecake, which they were giving out to all of their customers. The fried eggs were also shaped like hearts. I love cute food!
• PLUS COLUMN – Bobby! While we were waiting for the brunch truck to open, Bobby the bobtail cat came out to say a very cute and tentative hello. He’s a feral cat, who lives around the area, and gets fed by a Shakey’s customer every day. Apparently he used to be very afraid of people, but now he’s warming-up and getting more adventurous. Yay! Bobby the Brunch Cat! In addition to Bobby, I enjoyed my meal with Matt Grush and Morgan very much, especially the baked goods that were involved. The scone was perhaps the best scone I’ve had since moving down South where scones are usually really sweet, and can even have frosting, white chocolate flakes, and bullshit like that involved. This one had none of that, and was what I call a “proper British scone.” It was big, moist, and decidedly not sweet, except for the natural sweetness of the nice fresh blueberries generously spread throughout. Two thumbs-up for this scone. The breakfast sammy was very good too, and customers are invited to “build your own,” which I like. The English muffin that it came on was scratch-made, and was delicious! How often do you get to eat a scratch-made English muffin? Like, ever? To me, that’s something special. Just in case you don’t know: A croque madame is basically a croque monsieur with an egg or eggs on top. A croque monsieur is basically a ham and cheese sandwich. This one was open-faced, topped with bechemal sauce, two fried eggs, and three spears of asparagus. Gotta love asparagus! Also, the virgin bloody mary from the bar was great, and now I’m gonna start ordering those on the regs at various brunch venues. Why didn’t I think of that sooner?!?
• MINUS COLUMN – Brunch was advertised as starting at noon (which is technically lunch time) and the brunch truck wasn’t ready to rock until after 12 o’clock, so that was a minor minus. Although that was when we got our quality Bobby-time in, so it was all good. Also, the brunch truck wasn’t able to make us any coffee, but they gave me a sample of the special blend that they have made for them by Dynamite Roasting, and Morgan — who does Promo and PR for Ole Shakey’s — used it to make us a pot in the bar. It was great! Oh, and speaking of the bar, if you don’t like eating brunch at a bar, don’t go to Ole Shakey’s for brunch. It’s a BAR. It looks like a bar, it smells like a bar, it feels like a bar, mostly because… it’s a bar. We sat outside, which was very pleasant, and there is at least one up-side that I can think of to the fact that it’s a bar, even for a non-drinker like me: No Kids Allowed.
CONCLUSIONS – Fuck yes! Brunch truck ladies, you rule! Brunch at Ole Shakey’s was fun, tasty, unique, and quite enjoyable. Bobby the Brunch Cat was cute as fuck, and so is the biker-bar-iness of Ole Shakey’s! If I was the kind of person who liked to eat brunch with a big group of friends, and drink, and play corn-hole, or hang out by the river, I would totally hit up Ole Shakey’s and the Love You a Brunch truck on Sundays. ALSO: There’s a massive flea market right down the road every Sunday called the Flea For All, so if you’re going to that, hit up Shakey’s before or after.
• BRUNCH MATES – Dawn Roe again! Whoo hoo! A rare D-Roe brunch time two-fer this month!
• FOOD – Dawn and I were in Winterpark, Florida recently, which is just outside of Orlando, and we were dying to hit-up some great Asian food while were we in a bigger city, so we traveled to a part of town that seemed to have a largely Asian / Asian-Pacific populace and a lot of of Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese food vendors. We looked up a “top ten” list on line (yes, people still do that) and picked a place called Ming’s Bistro, where they happen to be doing traditional dim sum for brunch! We over-ordered and over-ate, and went from super-hungry to super-full in two seconds flat. I can’t remember everything we had, but there were dumplings, meatballs, sticky rice wraps, and more. Whatever dim-summy-type things you can think of were eventually wheeled out on carts before us. Gah! I wanted two of everything.
• PLUS COLUMN – The food! Yeah, Man, authentic dim sum. As much as I truly believe that international cuisine is open territory for any chef of any race, ethnicity, or country of origin to cook and have fun with, and even become an expert in, there’s something undeniably comforting about eating Asian food in an Asian neighborhood, prepared and served by Asian people, in a venue where more than half of the clientele appears to also be of Asian decent. It just feels authentic, and this particular assortment of dim sum tasted great, and really hit the spot. As I said, we were hungry, and with dim sum on carts, there’s no waiting. They wheel up a cart of hot food, you point at things , and literally less than a minute later, you’re shoving those things in your face with two sticks. Also in the plus column: The cashier, who was a friendly, yet dignified, well dressed & coifed, older gentleman, with a very pleasant smile & charming accent gave us both a fist-bump.
• MINUS COLUMN – This place is in Florida, Yo, and it is too fucking hot for me to even exist in Florida. I wanted to die the entire time I was in that state. So, yeah, no. Hot.
CONCLUSIONS – This one doesn’t count toward the competition for Brunch of the Year, because it isn’t in Asheville, but I thought I’d mention it, because it was fun, tasty, and unique, and I’d love to see more brunch-carts in action here in Asheville, whether they have dim sum on them, or traditional southern breakfast fare, or whatever. Cart me!
Even though I enjoyed all of my brunches a lot this month, it was relatively easy to pick a winner…
Yeah, Man! I’m telling you what, this was not just one of the best brunches I’ve had so far, it was a meal that I talked about for days, and even weeks afterward. It just surprised the fuck out of me, and was totally yummy, comforting, and filling. I went in with low expectations, and left with a full stomach and happy feelings inside of me. I can’t wait to return, and I recommend it highly to anyone looking for something different, yet familiar, and entirely yum-tastic for brunch on a Saturday or Sunday.
I’ve been trying to think of a clever pun that I can make, like, “Peace in the Middle Eats,” but… so far nothin’.
Congrats to Jerusalem Garden, you crushed May Brunch, and you’re now in contention for Brunch of the Year when the Stoobie Awards come around in December.
Here are the other contenders so far:
Wildcard candidates will be culled from the list of all the places I’ve been to so far which includes the following (listed by ranking):
Chestnut – *****
The Barleycorn Pub – *****
Isa’s Bistro – *****
Asheville Food Tours – ****
Curate – ****
Buxton Hall BBQ – ****
Mojo Kitchen and Lounge – ***
Copper Crown – ***
Imperial Life – ***
Rhubarb – ***
Sovereign Remedies – ***
Misty Mountain Bakeshop – ***
Love You a Brunch Truck – ***
Local Provisions – **
The Market Place – *
I have all kinds of exciting brunch plans already lined-up for the month of June: Liberty House Coffee & Cafe is offering some very tasty looking dishes, MG Road has a special “Ladies of Country” brunch pop-up coming soon, and apparently one of my all time fave places, Bull and Beggar, has secretly been doing brunch without me for a month or more! Bull & Begs, I’m mad at you for not getting me on the brunch hot-line the second you added it to the mix over there! No points off for that though. See ya soon!
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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.