Well, now that the Stoobies are done, and a new year has begun, it’s time to get back to my usual thing: Writing a bunch of stuff about a bunch of food, for you, my fellow food freaks! Yay!
So, we ate out on New Year’s Eve (Rhubarb) and again on New Year’s Day (Wasabi) and as I write this on January 6th, I’ve already been out to eat at least a dozen times so far this year, at probably as many venues, and last night Dawn and I attended our very first food event; an Oskar Blues Beer Brunch pre-tasting thingy at King James Pub. Later this morning, I’m meeting Jasvegas at Vortex Donuts.
My point? I HEART FOOOD! I heart eating out, and I heart Asheville, so in 2015 I’m going to keep on doing what I did all year last year: Eating tons of food and publishing my idiotic thoughts about it!
I’ll do my very best to be a good little food writer for you, Asheville.
Oh, and when I say “food,” I really mean “food and beverages.” The “and beverages” is silent, but that doesn’t mean beverages are unimportant! Dawn and our friends are always looking for the venue with the best wine selection, at the best price, with the freshest pours. Likewise do they sit around, ooohing and ahhhing over this or that interesting & delicious cocktail. I like coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. We’re not big beer people, but that didn’t stop us from attending the Oskar Blues event. Is there gonna be food? Whoop whoop! Gim chicken!
OSKAR BLUES BREWING COMPANY SUNDAY BRUNCH PRETASTING
King James Pub, Charlotte Street, NAVL
Actual event to happen on Sunday January 18th at noon. 5 courses, 5 beers, $45 per person
As I said, we’re not big time beer people. I was the champion beer drinker in the group until I literally drank my quota, and had to switch to hot coffee, cold water, and the occasional Mr. Pibb. I’ve never in my life taken even one sip of any of the Oskar Blues’ line of many and various beers They are, apparently, “America’s First Craft Beer in a Can,” and I would use the words clean, crisp, bold, thick, and refreshing… to describe the graphic design on the cans, which I like very much. I asked one of the nice ladies from Oskar Blues about the graphics and she said the same guy has been doing them from the beginning and he’s super into it. Cool! I like that! Hooray for good graphics.
Uh, nobody cares about graphic design, Stu. What?!? No! Yes they do! Oh my God, it’s SO important! This whole economy would grind to a fucking halt if it wasn’t for graphic design, just ask the good folks at Oskar Blues Brewing company…
Uhhhhh… Sorry. I’m passionate about graphic design. Anyhoo… I’m sure the beer inside the cans is good too. Ask Tony Kiss, he’ll know. Or try it for yourselves, and let me know what you think. The people who work for the company were certainly very sincere, down to Earth, local folks, who didn’t give us any hard sell or talk all “pitchy” during the pre-tasting, although they obviously stand behind their product.
The food was amazing of course, and here’s what you can expect, should you attend the actual Sunday Brunch on January 18th:
• An Everything Bagel Chip, with house cream cheese, Sunburst Farms trout lox, and trout roe. – It’s basically the locally sourced, sustainable, Steven Goff version of thee classic Sunday brunch bagel ‘n’ lox. Let me tell you that I’m not the hugest lox fan, and I can take or leave fish roe most of the time, but this thing was so good, I ate, like, six or seven, maybe upwards of eight of them. No joke. We got wee versions of everything, and I was shoving them in my face like an assembly line. They also had red watercress and micro greens on top. CUTE!!!
• Fried NC Chicken and Crumpet with black pepper gravy. – Er. Mer. Ferkin’. Gerd. (yeah, I know, that expression is soops tired, but whatevs, I still lerv it.) This is one of the house faves, and I could eat a trough of it. No shit. For real. Trough me!
• Croque Madame on brioche, with house ham, and béchamel – Er. Mer. Fer… oh wait, I just used that. Um. Holy shit sticks! This thing was really really good, and very brunchy. The fried egg was perfect. I like my Madames over easy (insert your own winky-winky emoticon here) and that’s how this one was served. The house ham was super savory and the texture was perfect. I wanted to take a bath in the béchamel. So warm. So creamy. So comforting.
• Sadly, for me, the 4th course was not part of the pre-tasting – But you’ll get it if you go to the actual brunch itself. Everyone else at the pre-tasting seemed relieved that the fourth course got skipped, because they were getting full of beer I guess, but I was bummed. It sounded fucking good. “NC steak and eggs. Dirty home fries. Foie butter.” Gimthatnowurrrrggg! It was killing me that this dish was not coming out of the kitchen. I love steak and eggs. Breakfast of the rich and powerful! If you do go on the 18th, let me know how it was. Maybe I’ll stand outside the restaurant with my face pushed up against the window.
• Chocolate and Candied Bacon Beignets with dulce de leche – I had another sad as I watched the other kids eating their deep-fried balls of chocolate cake with caramel sauce and super crispy bacon bits. I am allergic to chocolate. It gives me intense headaches that can last for days. WHICH SUCKS!!! I took the wee-est of nibbles of this dessert, and good gawd. I was soooo close to saying “fuck it,” and tearing into the whole thing. Faaahhhk those headaches though. I lapped up the sauce and bacon bits as best I could and made my pathetic apologies to anyone who would listen. “I’m sorry… I can’t eat… I’m allergic… y’see, I get these headaches, and…” Again, you’ll have to try those choco-balls for me.
I’m gonna have to live most of this brunch vicariously through your experiences. For real. Dawn said the “Ten Fiddy” imperial stout that came with the fifth course paired-up perfectly with the beignets. Great. That’s great, Dawn. I hope you’re enjoying your chocolate, and your beer. I’ll just nibble on a bacon bit over here and sip at my water. Siiiiiiiiiip. Sip sip.
There are more pictures from this event on my FaceBook page.
Broadway, Downtown AVL
It’s been a while since I’ve eaten a turd, but yeah, Wasabi served me some chicken, and Man, I’m telling you, that bird was a turd. Rubbery, flavorless, boring, and ugly. Several pieces were inedible, and had the texture of a micro-waved sneaker.
In addition to the poor poultry, the giant bed of onions upon which it was laid to rest were mostly raw, and… well… the very notion that any human being would willingly eat that many raw onions is just absurd to me. There was, like, an entire onion all sliced up under there.
The small side of vegetables that came with my vulcanized chicken and rawnions was boring to say the least, and also not entirely cooked. I don’t mind my veg being slightly snappy and fresh, but these were simply undercooked. Either cook my vegetables or don’t. Which is it gonna be? Cooked? Uncooked? Pick one. And do that one.
My miso soup was average, and Dawn said the same about her sushi. My nephews’ dishes looked boring as fuck, and I was apologetic to them about subjecting them to the whole experience. I thought it would be fun for them! Wasabi wins “BEST OF” accolades year after year, and I’ve had some okay meals there in the past, but looking back, nothing has ever wowed me, and the last coupla times, it’s been clunkerville.
This chicken was so foul (get it?) that it sealed the deal with me and Wasabi. Never again, Wasabs, never again.
On a random side note, when I looked up “rubber chickens” on YouTube to find a video with which to illustrate this story, I found this awesome piece of vérité footage, right on the first page of search results: Rubber Chicken Launcher, Asheville, WNC
Ha ha ha! I love you, Asheville!
Market Street, Asheville
I’ve been to Sov Rems three times, and I’ve enjoyed the shit out of it each time. Well, not entirely true. The first time we went it was for a smorgasbord type of thing, and I hate that. Other people’s grubby-ass hands reaching into the plate of food I’m about to eat from? No Thank you. I’ll pass. I’m weird like that.
For one thing… Men, I happen to know, will touch their penises with their hands while peeing, and then not wash them. I know this fact because I know men, real men, who do not wash their hands after peeing. So gross. There’s a bathroom sign in one of the restaurants in this town that says, “
Employees EVERYONE must wash hands after using rest room.” I wish I could remember where that sign is. Fucking genius.
Anyhooooooooonfinity… I managed to grab some of the grub before anyone else touched it, and it was really good. A bunch of stuff that’s not on their regular menu, except for some delicious cured meats that you can buy from the bar to eat there or bring home. Or… as Dawn did, bring to relatives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Cured meats travel well.
The next time we stopped into Sov Rems, it was mid-afternoon and we split an open face tuna melt that was excellent! Very crispy, artisan bread, with really good tuna salad and melty cheese that was burned on portions, which I really like. YOM!
The third time, I went solo for a late lunch just last week and tried the meatball sub. Here’s my assessment of that sub:
• The meatballs were excellent! Juicy, mild but flavorful, with a very nice consistency. They tasted hand-made/home made, in a really good way.
• The bread was huge, but also excellent! At first I was like, “Oh. Why so much bread? Soops unfortch.” Then I bit into it, and it was soft, but substantial, and had a porous, sponginess to it, that was very appealing. I don’t know where they get it from, if they make it themselves or what, but it’s now my fave sub roll in town.
• The tomato sauce was good, but there wasn’t enough of it. I like sauce. Don’t cheap-out on me when it comes to sauce. Especially if you’re gonna give me a giant hunk of bread. I need some extra sauce to sauce it up with.
• The cheese was great. Melty, flavory, high quality. Thumbs-up on the cheese front.
• The side-salad was hilarious, but good. It was literally just some big green leaves of something I couldn’t identify (spinach? maybe?) with a very spare amount of a simple oil and vinegar dressing on top. I enjoyed it for what it was, and felt good about what I was eating. I don’t need a ton of fancy salad, just something — anything — green and healthy on my plate makes me happy. This small pile of green healthy stuff made me happy.
• The whole thing was difficult to eat. I give this meatball sub high marks for flavor and an “A” for effort, but it was really difficult to deal with. Despite the sparseness of the sauce, the bottom of the sub got soaked through immediately, and the balls dropped (yes, I just said that)… through the bottom of the bread onto the plate. Also, the balls were too big (yep, I said that too)… and it was difficult for me to get my mouth… around… such… big… round… STU!!! Stahp!
The coffee I had afterward was very good. An Americano, deftly crafted by the barista in training.
One of the best aspects of Sov Rems is the location and the space itself. It’s beautiful inside, and the decor has been handled very well in my opinion. The giant windows allow the daylight to come in (I was careful not to get too much on me) and the high ceilings make the narrow room seem lofty and airy, and bigger than it is.
Each time I’ve been there, the gentlemen behind the bar have been dapper, friendly, professional, and well versed in their product… as well as… exceedingly handsome… I might add.
Sov Rems is also somehow associated with the Herbiary next to it, and has strong connections to an organization called Patchwork Urban Farms that is super interesting and seems like an awesome thing. I’m looking into turning a portion of my own yard into one of their little patchwork… um… patches. Umgonna grow free pussley for the masses! If I can. I filled out the form.
Go check out Sovereign Remedies, they are open at 3pm, 365 days a year! That’s another reason to love them. Now I know that I can get hot coffee and good food, downtown, any day, no matter what. Yeah, Man. I love the secure feeling I get from that knowledge.
You can find pictures from all three of my visits to Sov Rems on my FaceBook page.
ON A SERIOUS NOTE
I want to take a minute to set aside my usual goofiness and say that I was very sad to hear that Asheville Citizen-Times freelance food writer Steven Doherty AKA Drexler McStyles died on Sunday night.
You may know that Drexler and I did not like each other. We’d never met, but he made his opinion of me well known in public forums, which was the basis for my own of him.
That was unfortunate, but it has nothing to do with how I feel about him as a fellow human being who will be missed by those who loved him, and those who enjoyed his creative endeavors. He’s left a sizable legacy of photography, poetry, and food writing that will remain on the internet indefinitely. Please Google his name and look for it.
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Stu Helm is an artist and writer 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 restaurant reviews strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook in 2013.
Even though they swear this isn’t true, when Sovereign Remedies first opened I got the meatball sub and it was much smaller and easier to eat. I agree with your review here, it tastes great, could use more sauce and is super hard to eat. They should really downsize that thing.
I enjoy reading Stu’s reviews, but he reminds me of the guy who got a lap dance and fell in love with the stripper. In order to remain relevant you need to separate yourself from those you are reviewing.
Yeah cause when you go to Wasabi (A SUSHI RESTAURANT) you should definitely order a chicken dish…..
Sovereign remedies went there at 6:00 or so about two weeks ago and our party of 5 stood around for a good 7 minutes waiting for any kind of sign whatsoever to recognize us.
We opted to leave the joint when we were finally given a hi from the bar tender…like so many businesses in asheville the customer service sucked big time.
Probably won’t be back.
Sovereign Remedies is a bar that serves food, not a restaurant. You have to actually approach the bar where the people that serve are to get the service. If you stand in the middle of the floor acting like you don’t need service, you might not get any.
I’m sure you’ll take this with a grain of salt as I’m nothing more than an anonymous internet person with an opinion but…
The difference between your reviews and Drexler’s was that I could actually make informed decisions about where to eat based on his reviews…AND they were entertaining.
Your reviews?…entertaining I guess, but I can’t really make a good decision to eat (or not eat) somewhere after reading them.
That’s weird. I would think that you’d be able to make a decision about whether or not to eat at any of the restaurants I review, based on whether or not I say the food is good or bad. Like you would with any reviewer. In the reviews above I’d say, your best bets are King James Pub where I continually describe the food as being excellent, and Sovereign Remedies, where I gave all the food very high grades. I would avoid Wasabi based on my review of the meal we had, but as always, I encourage everyone to form their own opinions based on their own experiences.
But all the special events and previews and one-off tasting menus and whatnot, Stu? You’re on the email lists and getting the invites, which is fine, and you’re presumably paying for (some of? most of?) them, which is kosher, but for the ones in the future, spaces are limited, prices are high, the chefs are going to up their game, and you’ve basically been enlisted to help sell their tickets. (Which was the late Drexler’s main beef with you.) And for the ones in the past… well, we don’t have fucking time machines.
To put it kindly, you’ve become more of a food theatre critic and chef booster, and that’s not really the same as reviewing restaurants.
Not trying to break your eggs Stu, but considering that you have readily admitted to accepting free food from some of the restaurants that you “review”, and to becoming friends with some of the chefs/owners, coupled with your lack of anonymity, you would be naive to believe that people will take your food writing seriously. I guess there is entertainment value for some, but that’s really about all.
Love Thy Enemy. Very cool of you, Stu.
Dropping Big Balls Talk? Oh! The scandal…!
On a separate note, I was very disappointed by the snobby comments in the last MtnX by the chef at King James about his inspired creations not being appreciated by the lowly masses as much as his more common fare, and his soul dying a little with each order of burgers or chicken. Get over yourself, M’Lordship. Or go cook somewhere OTHER than a PUBLIC HO– — USE (read: bar).