CHEF MATT GRUSH BRUNCH AT SOVEREIGN REMEDIES • SALT & SMOKE BRUNCH AT BURIAL BEER • INELIGIBLE BREAKFAST AT TILDA ALL DAY – by Stu Helm
Hey-ey! Whazzahp? Have you been brunching? I know you have because lately a lot of people — friends and strangers alike — have been telling me that they’ve been reading these Brundays pieces and trying the various brunches that I’ve recommended. Yay! That makes me super happy! I frickin’ LOVE talking and writing about food, and listening to other people tell me where they ate, what they had, and whether or not they enjoyed themselves while doing it. So, if you’ve been brunchin’ lately, and you’ve discovered a gem that you want to share, or a turd that you want to warn others about, please comment below, or post to my Facebook page, or just stop me on the street and say hello. We’ll talk BRAAAHHHNNNCH!
HERE’S WHERE I BRUNCHED DURING THE MONTH OF JULY, 2016
1) Sovereign Remedies – On the Corner of Market & Walnut Street – Saturday & Sunday Brunch
• BRUNCH MATES – Chef Joe and Vanessa Scully.
• PLUS COLUMN – The food! Um… it was fucking YUM! And filling. And comforting. And fresh. And local. And light. And bright. And perfectly cooked by Chef Matt Grush, who has taken over the brunch program at Sov Rems for the past month or so, and as far as I’m concerned, he’s crushing it. I’ve had several brunches at Sov Rems now, prepared by different chefs, and they’ve all been great, but I have to say that this was my fave of the bunch. The flavors were spot-on, and the preparation was exactly right. Everything was served at the right temperature, and was exactly the right texture and consistency. The crab was sweet, and tender; the asparagus was soft, yet solid, and not mushy; the eggs were light and tasty as fuck; and the Béarnaise was… wait… did you just say that the eggs were tasty as fuck? Isn’t an egg basically an egg, Stu? Oh, Voice in my head… you’re back… that’s great. Well, yes, I did say that the eggs were tasty as fuck, and I totally meant it. Fresh, local, eggs taste better, and more flavorful than boring, old, whatever eggs. These eggs tasted super fresh and awesome. If you’ve ever gotten high and wondered to yourself, “Why do people even eat eggs? Eggs are so weird.” Just go find and eat a fresh egg pooped out by a local hen, and you’ll know that people eat eggs because eggs taste good. Eggs. Yum. The potato hash was also very good and was a key factor in filling me the fuck up, which is crucial at brunch. C’mon. Potato me, and I’ll leave fat and happy. Skimp on the taters, and I might still be hungry, and dissatisfied. This tater hash had delicious, local tomatoes mixed in, and was seasoned perfectly. And of course, the Farm & Sparrow toast was excellent. It is simply the highest quality bread you can find.
• MINUS COLUMN – You know what, sometimes nothing is wrong. Everything is right. This time everything was right, and there are no minuses, so I’ll just point out a few more pluses. The company was great! I had Chef Joe on the left of me, and Vanessa on the right, and they are just two of the most lovely and engaging people I know. Good times! Also, the staff, the atmosphere, and the “vibe” at Sovereign Remedies are all top-notch and some of faves in town. I make no secret about the fact that I’m a huge fan of this venue, and that is because they consistently kick-out excellent food, deliver it with friendly, professional, efficiency, and provide a mellow, relaxing, urbane-but-homey space to enjoy it in.
CONCLUSIONS – Yeah. Go here. Eat food. Sovereign Remedies is one of the brightest jewels in the culinary crown of downtown Asheville eateries.
2) Salt & Smoke @ Burial Beer – 40 Collier Ave, South Slope, Asheville
• BRUNCH MATE – Tree Man Dan and Kathi Peterson.
• FOOD – I ordered the shrimp ‘n’ grits, and we split an order of deep-fried pimento cheese croquettes, and scones. Dan got an omelette. The shrimp n grits were cooked perfectly, and served with a tomato, red pepper, wine sauce, and fresh stuff on top, including a tiny bouquet of wildflowers. Neat! The croquettes were every bit as delicious as they sound and came with some nice pickled onions. The scones were great and came with berry jam and cultured butter. Dan’s “market omelette” came with taters, and it all looked really tasty, so I took a picture. He said it was awesome. All three of us were very satisfied with the experience.
• PLUS COLUMN – The food! The Company! The whole fucking concept of a food truck bolted to the side of a brewery. For a long time, Salt & Smoke was a temporary, pop-up, food “busking” type of dealio, that would happen at Burial Beer on the regs. I stopped in once, and really enjoyed what I ate, but I have a weird aversion to food busking, which is a term that basically means there’s no set price and you just pay what you want. I always end up paying twenty bucks for whatever the busker gives me, because I suck at not giving my money to people. Since I’m also not a drinker, I just didn’t go to Salt & Smoke’s pop-ups as often as I probably should have, but as soon as I heard that they had grafted a food truck to the side of the building, and that they had a brunch menu with prices on it, I was making plans to go! Then one day my neighbor’s tree guy, Dan Peterson came rolling up my driveway and told me that he didn’t realize I am the food guy that his wife Kathi is always reading to him from. Turns out she’s a fellow food fan, and so is he, and they offered to treat me to brunch. I said “HELL YES!” And so we went. Super nice people, super yummy food. I love this town.
• MINUS COLUMN – It was hot. Outside. Like really fucking hot. Inside wasn’t any better, maybe worse because no breeze, so we opted for a sheltered area that is kind of open on one side. The sun was blazing at about 10 million kelvins and the ambient temperature around us was something like, FUCKYOUHUMANRACEYOUALLGONNADIE degrees, which is jehhhst a scootch too hot for me. I can’t blame the Salt & Smoke folks for catastrophic global climate change, but the extreme heat was definitely a minus, and I’d be lyin’ if I said it didn’t affect my enjoyment levels. Also, some douchebag spilled half of Kathi’s beer all over the place. Oh wait. That was me. I spill more motherfuckin’ drinks than any asshole I know. What the fuck, Stu? Get a grip. Fuck off, Voice! It was really hot and really sunny and I couldn’t see too good, and arrrrg! I hate the heat. South Slope, grow a fucking tree or two, would you. It’s like being in downtown Death Valley over there.
CONCLUSIONS – The food was fucking great, and apart from the heat, the atmosphere at Burial Beer is allll good, friendly, and funky, and — especially if you’re a beer drinker — it’s a pretty dang groovy place to hang out. I recommend this brunch highly, and I can all but guarantee that the good folks at Salt & Smoke will hook it the fuck up with some really terrific eats, prepared with love, care, heart, and expertise from fresh, local, authentic ingredients. It’s great food… from a truck… that’s bolted to the side of a brewery. I fucking love that.
3) Tilda All Day – 930 Fulton St – Brooklyn, NYC
• BRUNCH MATES – I went twice’t, first time solo, then with Dawn.
• FOOD – I had coffee; cherries with creme fraiche, and sugar; a house cured sausage; a deep-fried ball of cheese on brioche; a bacon and egg sandwich on a brioche bun; and Dawn got a plate of ham and fruit.
• PLUS COLUMN – This food was fan-fucking-tastic. Holy shit sticks. First of all, the coffee was super high-end stuff, on the light-roasted side of the spectrum, and I drank it both black and with cream. The cream came in a tiny milk bottle that was so cute I wanted to squee out loud right there in the middle of Brooklyn, New York. I kept a lid on it. The food was amazeballs, especially the amazing little ball of cheese, which was crispy on the outside, and when you cracked it open, it oozed like a dreamy, creamy, gruyere-y egg, with hints of wine, all over the brioche. When I popped the first bite in my mouth, I compulsively closed my eyes and went to heaven. It was simply one of the best things Ive ever had in my life. If I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’. The house cured sausage was also noteworthy. Coiled on my plate like a sausagey snake-turd lookin’ thing, it was slightly obscene, and certainly absurd to look at, but holy fuck, it tasted like pure breakfast-meaty-awesomeness to the Nth degree. Again, no exaggeration, this was one of the best breakfast sausages I ever ate in my fucking life, and I was super sad when I got to the end of the coil. I guess Tilda is famous for their egg sandwich, and it was damn good, but to me it was the least amazing thing I ate during my two visits, only in that it didn’t blow my fucking mind like the other stuff did. Even the cherries were like, “Why are these so fucking goooood?” Dawn said her plate of fruit and ham was great, and that the yogurt was perhaps the best she ever had. When you go to New York, there’s a lot of “best evers” involved. True story. Also, the service was a total plus at Tilda All Day. Although he was busy, the barista welcomed me with a smile, and bade me sit wherever I please. The folks who took our order and brought our food were super nice too. I find most New Yorkers to be friendly.
• MINUS COLUMN – Two things: 1 – It was hot and muggy inside, and 2 – they wouldn’t cook Dawn an over-hard or hard-scrambled egg. Make no mistake, when it’s hot and humid in New York City, you pretty much feel like you’re going to die, die, die a million deaths until you step into some AC. At Tilda, the AC was apparently cranked, but it was not doin’ the job. I was sweatin’ to the oldies while I was eating my heavenly cheese ball and such. Oh well, not much that the venue could do about that, but the fact that the chef wouldn’t cook an egg the way one of her customers wanted it was… well… I give that the Dot-Line-Dot Face. As in..
Seriously. C’mon. It’s a fuckin’ egg. It’s not like Dawn asked Leonardo to make the Mona Lisa into a blonde, or like she asked Buzz Aldrin to land on the Sun instead of the Moon, or like she asked… well you get the point. It was a simple request for an egg to be cooked the way the customer likes it. When Dawn further inquired as to whether or not an egg could be poached for her, the answer was, “We don’t poach eggs here.”
Here in Asheville, we have a popular saying — well it’s more of a question really — and it goes like this, “How do want your eggs, Honey?”
CONCLUSIONS – Yeah, Man! Despite the extreme egg-snobbery, Tilda was the fucking BOMB. If you’re in New York City, anywhere near Brooklyn, go check it out! And if you’re a restaurateur here in Asheville, please make one of those melty cheese ball thingies! Gah! So good. Tilda is not eligible to win brunch this month, since they are not a local venue.
So, technically, I only ate two brunches in July, which means that for the first time in the long & storied history of this epic series, it’s a head-to-head match-up for Brunch of the Month! And you know what…
Salt & Smoke AND Sovereign Remedies, you both fucking NAILED IT for brunch this month, and therefor it is a tie score, and you are now both in contention for Brunch of the Year 2016! Whoop whoop! The excitement never ends around here.
Both venues really banged out excellent offerings, and both left me feeling satisfied as fuck, but not stuffed until I wanted to die. Sometimes I like that “wanna die” feeling, but sometimes, I just crave a good, clean, fresh, healthy, locally sourced brunch that leaves me feeling nourished as well as fed, and these two venues did a top notch job of doing exactly that. A tie score is unprecedented in these Brunch wars, and very much deserved this time around. Congrats to both venues!
Here are all of the contenders for Brunch of the Year 2016 so far (listed alphabetically):
Wildcard candidates will be culled from the list of all the places I’ve been to so far, which includes the following (asterisks indicate ranking):
Chestnut – *****
The Barleycorn Pub – *****
Isa’s Bistro – *****
Bull & Beggar – *****
Strada – ****
MG Road – ****
Asheville Food Tours – ****
Curate – ****
Buxton Hall BBQ – ****
Edison / Oskar Blues Beer Brunch – ***
Mojo Kitchen and Lounge – ***
Copper Crown – ***
Imperial Life – ***
Rhubarb – ***
Misty Mountain Bakeshop – ***
Love You a Brunch Truck – ***
Local Provisions – **
The Market Place – *
— END —
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.