Stu Helm’s 2020 Food Fan Awards Part 2 – “Eatin’ All Day”

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The 2nd installment of Stu Helm’s annual Food Fan Awards! See the 2020 nominees for Best Breakfast, Best Lunch, Best Dinner, Best Sweets, and Meal of the Year!


Howdy. I hope you enjoyed Part One of the Food Fan Awards. If you missed them, they are HERE. If you saw them, you already know what to expect below. A whole pictures of food, along with some words about food, with about 5 – 15% of those words being curse words, and 65% percent of those being eff-bombs. I apologize, but that’s just how I am. My daddy was a preacher, true story, and wow, could he swear, also a true story. Anyhoo, if you really don’t like swears, try blinking your eyes a lot while you read this…

In Part 1 of the Asheville Food fan Awards, I covered Comfort Food, burgers, sandwiches, brisket, yadda yadda This time I’m doing whole meals: Breakfast, lunch, dinner etc. Now, as you can probably imagine, for the first 2 1/2 months of 2020, I went out to eat a lot, and for the next 2,000 1/2 months of 2020, I mostly ate at home. Did I mention there would be swearing? Because FUCK YOU 2020! I know, I know. 2021 started out worse, with that flaming shit-clown-show insurrection, but I just watched the inauguration, and I have a strange alien feeling called hope in the worn-out tire that used to be my soul, so fuck it, let’s do these Stoobies!

Here are the nominees in the Eatin’ All Day categories…


BEST BREAKFAST

Is there anything worse than a shit breakfast? I mean, yes, literally so many of things are worse than a shit breakfast, but for the purposes of this post, let’s just say that a shit breakfast sucks and a GREAT breakfast is one of life’s true pleasures. With that in mind, here are my top three nominees for 2020’s Best Breakfast award!


Bomba Breakfast

It’s weird to look at pictures from the Before Times. In most cases, I’m like, “I miss plating,” and in other cases, I’m like, “Huh, I got take-out back then, when I didn’t have to? FOOL!.” Then I heave a heavy sigh, stab a zombie in the head with a broken chair leg, and move my rag-tag band of post-apocalyptic scavengers furtively across the open wasteland to the entrance of our underground dwelling, and YES, fuck, it has gotten that bad. Almost.

The picture above is from a breakfast I enjoyed tremendously from Bomba in January of last year, before the shut-down. Good fuckin’ God, it was fuckin’ good. I wanna cry just lookin’ at it, and I’m not even kidding. I ate several breakfasts from Bomba in the first 10 weeks of 2020, and I loved every one of them. I remember thinkin’, “Yeah, man! This is gonna be my JAM for the whole year, Yo!” Womp womp.

Little did I know that my rag-tag band of survivors would be eating rats and fighting to the death over a can of tuna in the parking lot of an abandoned Walmart… and YES, no, it hasn’t gotten that bad. At all. This wonderful breakfast and the others I had from Bomba, all expertly prepared by my 2019 Cook of the Year winner, Erika Villaney are my first nomination for a 2020 Best Breakfast award!


Abeja’s House Cafe Breakfast All Day

So, y’know how just a minute ago I said that it’s not as bad as all that? As in, I’m not eating rats, and I haven’t been anywhere near a Walmart in years, thank fucking God, and of course, there are still good things in this world, and there is a still a great local food scene out there for us to find, try, frequent, experiment with, enjoy, rave about, and share with friends and family! One fantastic example of how not-awful things are is pictured directly above, and another example is pictured directly below. They are both are from Abeja’s  House Cafe, where Chef Raphael Roman and family are cooking some of the most delicious food I’ve ever had. I admit, I haven’t been very often, just a couple of times, but it is one of the very few places I have gone to dine-IN since the COVID came to town.

I only go to dine-in because my Mom is a straight-up Abeja’s junkie, and she goes to dine-in, and she usually invites me, and I’m as weak as an especially weak kitten when it comes to extraordinarily delicious food, and boy howdy this is some extraordinarily delicious food, so sometimes, I break down and I go with her! Sigh. Anything for Mom. And/or shrimp ‘n’ grits.

If the shrimp ‘n’ grits look familiar, they will also taste familiar, as they are a variation of the award-winning shrimp ‘n’ grits from Sunnypoint Cafe, where Chef Roman worked for many years. They were every bit as good! For real. Every bit as good as previous award winning shrimp ‘n’ grits. That’s a pretty big deal I don’t know the origin of the recipe, perhaps it is Chef Roman’s to begin with, I will have to find out. The chilaquiles pictured atop were equally delicious and even though I’d never had this very traditional Mexican breakfast dish before, I could tell it was an excellent version, expertly prepared.

JUST IN CASE chilaquiles are also new to you, it’s basically strips of fried corn tortillas simmered in salsa, and served with cheese, eggs, potatoes, and beans. I ordered it on a whim, I was super-glad I did, I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and it is one of the reasons that Abeja’s House Cafe is my second contender for Asheville’s Best Breakfast 2020!


Blue Collar Diner Food Truck Breakfast

When I started working for Kickback, the only locally owned and operated take out food delivery service inAsheville, my boss, Jennie, warned me that breakfast delivery on Saturday and Sunday mornings can be IN-SANE. My reaction? Breakfast delivery?!? Who the fuck gets breakfast delivered. Wehhhllllll… whole lotta people, it turns out. Like, lots. And lots and lots of people are getting breakfast delivered. Almost exclusively on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Huh. Who knew. I had to experience this phenomenon for myself so I ordered from a new Kickback partner (currently on Winter break) called Blue Collar Diner Food Truck. Their menu sounded real tasty, and since they’re new, I thought I’d give them a tr… holy fuck. Holy fuck-a-moly fuck. So good, So homey. So filling. So I ordered it several Saturday mornings in a row, and I was suddenly part of the cult. The cult of people who get breakfast delivered. Join us.

I ate the living shit out of these hearty breakfasts, and they never let me down. Just looking at the pictures is fucking killing me. COME BACK, Blue Collar! I need your breakfasts like a junkie needs their junk, only much much more wholesome than that. Ew. Ordering breakfast for delivery from Blue Collar opened up a whole new world for me, I love them for it, and they are my third nominee for Best Breakfast, 2020!


The Worthy Baker Pie for Breakfast

Sometimes a great meal is more about the company, than it is about the food. Other times there’s pie. I had the pleasure of both great company and fantastic pie one morning, when my friend Chef Jill Worthy brought over a pie, and we ate some together on my front porch. Then she left the whole dang pie, and Dawn and I ate it morning, noon, and night until it was all gone. Pie for breakfast? Oh fuck yes, pie for breakfast. Over the course of the Summer and Fall I had more than one great pie from this great chef, and as a result more than one great breakfast experience, including the “porch pie” pictured above. Good pie, good people, good memories during some of the shittiest times. I’ll look back on these pies and my front porch visits with Chef Jill for years to come as among the few highlights of 2020, and that’s why they are my fourth and final nominee for 2020’s Best Breakfast Award!

Next category…


LUNCH OF THE YEAR

I luv lunch. I love lonch! I lerv lernch! No matter what language you say it in, lunch is the most important meal of the day. (According to REAL scientists, not just breakfast scientists, who have an obvious bias.) At the very least lunch is the most lunchy of meals, and it is personally my most favorite. Below are my nominees for Best Lunch in Asheville, 2020…


Pupuseria Paty’s Asheville Lunch

 

I could have just as easily nominated Pupuseria Paty’s for Best Breakfast, because I ate these meals pretty early, but since there’s no egg involved, I decided to call it lunch. They are the same meal — the “Especial Paty,” named after Chef Paty Saens. The one pictured above I had in-house, the one below I had delivered by Kickback. They we both huge, filling, a little crazy, and totally de-fucking-licious, Yes, there are things you can recognize: Avocado, rice, beans, salsa, a big ol’ pepper, some shramps… is that a fucking hot dog? (Yes it is.) And is that plantain or yucca? (It’s yucca.) And a deep fried chicken leg? (Yep) And, wait, WTF is all this dark crispy stuff? “Chichiron?” This is not like any other chichiron I have ever seen or tasted in my entire life. Also you can barely see it in the pictures, but there’s some South American style steak underneath it all. Extra points for the smiley face? What do you think? Yes. Of course.

This plate / box of food is a wonderland. I ate the shit out of it twice’t and can’t wait to tuck into it again soon! The chicken leg is of particular note, actually. I was a little scared that it would be dense and greasy, or dry and bland, but it was NONE of those things, and in fact quite the opposite. Delicate, crispy, juicy, tasty, and falling off the bone. This pile of food was truly fantastic, as in, I almost can’t believe it exists, but it does, and it’s awesome — there’s a freaking hot dog, y’all! — and it’s one of the reasons that Pupuseria Paty is my first nominee for Asheville’s Best Lunch, 2020.


Thai Pearl Lunch

I spent part of my teens and much of my young adulthood living in Boston, which, even in the 80’s and 90’s, had a great food scene, including lots of wonderful Thai food. I got spoiled at a young age, and I’m still a little bit of a(n enormous) snob about it. I had not heard of Thai Pearl until I started working for Kickback, where one of my first tasks was to make all the menus look pretty, and uniform, and to add an “ABOUT” section to each of them. In researching Thai Pearl, I discovered that Chef May has quite a pedigree! Impressed and intrigued, I ordered several dishes to eat during one of my live “Humpty Lunch” videos, and dang! I loved it.

I’ve ordered from Thai Pearl several more times since then, and have been impressed again and again by how tasty this food is! It really brought back some memories of my young days experiencing Thai food for the first time, or the 100th time in Boston. I’ve steered a bunch of my friends, as well as strangers, to Thai Pearl, and have heard nothing but praise in response. They are also one of the most popular Restaurant Partners that Kickback has, so it seem like you already love this place, Asheville, and so do I! They were an easy pick as my second contender for the 2020 Best Lunch award!


Manicomio

Fuck, Man. Whether you’re talking about pre-pandemic, or during, Manicomio has been there for us. The doors never closed (or at least the front window for a while there) and the pizza ovens never stopped. I was a very frequent inhabitant of Manicomio’s prior to the shut down, it was one of my favorite places in downtown. The food is amazing of course, but the people are like family, with each other (some literally). with their guests, and with me and my actual family. My mom and the (now former) owner, Mike are tight now. There’s little in this world more comforting than family (blood relations or not) and excellent Italian food! When we needed that comfort most, Mike and his long-time partner, and now sole proprietor, Jon, and the rest of the Manicomio crew had us, one way or another.

Manicomio has won my Best Pizza Award twice, and I’m not doing that category this year, so they still got it, plus their entrees are just some of the best food ever. I loved it for lunch BEFORE the world fell the fuck apart, and Manicomio for lunch has been part of the glue that holds my world together when I was going through my own darkest times. For being delicious, and comforting, filling as fuck, and for being family, Manicomio is my third contender for Asheville’s Best Lunch 2020


Broth Lab

I have to include these folks even though they are no longer open, and have moved away from Asheville, so they are not likely to open again after the dust settles and we can all re-emerge from our homes and go out to lunch again. Man, oh man, do I miss going out to lunch. I lived for lunch, especially with my good friend, Paddy. Our lunch junkets were legendary, and we took a few to Broth Lab in the first months of 2020. I said it back then, and I meant it 100%: “This ramen is going to get a Stoobie nomination from me,” and so here it is! The “dry” ramen changed my life. Or at least my opinion of Ramen, which I was never, like, a huge fan of. I really was a huge fan of this ramen, though, and it broke my fucking heart when they announced that they were closing up for good. I’mma be dreamin’ about this ramen for years.

Don’t let the word “dry” fool you. This ramen had a sauce, that was basically a both reduction, and it was sooo thick, and condensed and flavorful! When Paddy took me to Broth Lab the first time, I couldn’t shut up about how good it was, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it ever since. Even though — or maybe because — I only got to try it a couple of times, I miss it very much. It was my first experience with something truly special back in January and February of last year, and it is my fourth and final nominee for Best Lunch in Asheville, 2020.

On to our next category…


BEST DINNER

So, because of the pandemic, Dawn and I didn’t go out for dinner in 2020 nearly as much as we usually do. In fact, Dawn hasn’t been out for dinner at all since last March, and I’ve only gone out for dinner 2 or 3 times myself.  She and I eat nearly 100% of all our dinners at the kitchen table together these days. Dawn usually has a salad, and I might typically have the other half of whatever I had delivered for lunch earlier that day, but, a lot of the time, hold on to your hats now, because… I also cooked. A lot. No joke, I did a fucking fuckton of cooking in 2020 (and dishes!) and I also tried several local “prepared meal” delivery companies, requiring various degrees of preparation, and this year all four of my Best Dinner nominees are of that genre, and here they are…


Lean Times Meat Co.

MEAT! Love it. (Sorry, Vegans, I love you too, in a much different way.) That’s why when Lean Times Meat Co. contacted me to ask if I would try their meal delivery service, I said yes please! For several weeks in a row over the tumultuous Summer, Chef Daniel showed up at our door with a variety of meats, along with all the herbs, spices, vegetables, and instructions needed to cook a whole fabulous meal. It was frickin’ great!

We ate some wonderful meals during some very un-wonderful times, courtesy of Lean Times Meat Co., and we had fun cooking them. These meals served to not only fill us up, but they gave us something to do together, and a nice feeling of accomplishment at having produced a beautiful meal on our own, and that’s why Lean Times Meat Co. and Chef Daniel Daniel are my first nominee for Best Dinner 2020!


Lola’s Fresh Foods

These meals from Chef Jennifer Gladden are so fresh and delicious and hearty and balanced, if I ate like this all the time, I’d probably be a happier, healthier individual all around, and I’m not even kidding! Food like this is the ticket to good mental and physical health in my opinion, and that’s why I’m crazy and out of shape, because I generally eat 5 to 7 cups of coffee for breakfast every morning, followed by a deep fried heart-attack sandwich for lunch, and creamed bacon cheese meat brown… fat gravy… blood sausage… hunk of suet… for dinner. And then ice cream until bedtime! On the days that I ate these wholesome and reasonably portioned meals from Lola’s Fresh Foods, I felt like a human being again. Truth.

Shrimp, Beef, veg, rice, all reasonable food, in reasonable amounts, absolutely fresh and totally delicious. If I wasn’t such a bed person, I would eat like this daily, and I totally recommend that you do! When I first posted about these meals, I gave the entire experience very high marks, and I in retrospect, looking at these pictures, I still do! I recommended Lola’s Fresh Foods for anyone, especially busy people back then and they are my .


Asheville Pro Kitchen

I found out about Asheville Pro Kitchen because chef / owner Dusitn Orofino filled out an application to work with Kickback, and he also wanted me to try them, so he sent me several of these complete, balanced, fresh, pre-cooked meals to try. He brought me Pot Roast, Curry Salmon, Meatballs, and Roasted Chicken with Veg. I enjoyed these meals tremendously! They are designed to be for people who are really trying to eat healthy, and in moderation (again, two things I am not known for), but I found them to also be delicious and satisfying.

They arrived cold, in a cooler, so I heated-up and ate a bit of each meal, all on one plate (see directly above), so I could experience them fresh, and then I froze the rest to eat later, something that the packaging says you can do, so I wanted to try that. I thawed, reheated, and ate them within the next few days to weeks and they we’re great! So easy, so homey, so fresh, nutritious and healthy, so these meals from APK are my third nominee for Asheville’s Best Dinner, 2020!


Red Fiddle Vittles

I don’t quite remember how it happed, so much of 2020 was a blur, or more like a smudge, but somehow I lucked-out completely and Chef Matt Farr from Red Fiddle Vittles showed up at my door with a truckload of very excellent grub. It was all pre-made, and just needed to be re-heated, and in some cases, assembled. It was duck, fennel, mushrooms, grits, citrus salad, and sweet potato bread pudding for dessert, and it was like straight-up, high-end, fancy-pantsy, holy-fuck-that’s-fucking-good restaurant food. I wanted to weep. I might have.

This all happened back in Junjuly, or whatever that month was, when I was just starting to think to myself, “Huh, maybe I won’t be doing food tours soon. Maybe there won’t be a food scene after all this shit. Maybe I really will run out of money. That could totally happen.” In other words, everything sucked and this meal didn’t, big time, and I fucking love it for that, and that among other reasons is why it is my fourth and final contender for Best Dinner, 2020.

On to our next category…


BEST SWEETS

There are SOOOOO many great sweets in this town, and I was severely hampered from experiencing them all this Summer. It made me very sad sometimes. Very sad. Like the worst food FOMO ever. That doesn’t mean, I didn’t get ANY sweets, tho’ and in fact, looking back through my pics from 2020, the sweets I had we limited but excellent! Here are my nominees for Best Sweets of 2020…


Sunshine Sammies

Back in day, you know, before the passage of a runaway planet between Old Earth and the Moon, caused radical changes in the Earth’s climate and geography, shattered moon, lay human civilization to ruin, and gave birth to New Earth, a world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery far more chaotic than Old Earth, I used to go to Sunshine Sammies a lot. Okay, okay, yes, that’s literally just the premise of Thundarr the Barbarian, but the sweets are for REAL. Above: All natural house-made take on a pop tart, called a Sunny Tart. YUM! Below: Another all natch, house-made take on yet another childhood favorite, fuck zebra cakes, gimme these Unicorn Cakes, please.

I loved these treats and I loved everything they were doing at Sunshine Sammies prior to the shut-down, and I love that they were able to picot and adjust, and survive, and they are rockin’ it still! Chef Susie Pearson is a genius in my opinion, not just with baking but with business. She has an amazing product, she intellectually flexible, she’s positive, fun-loving and nice as fuck. Her ice cream sandwiches made her famous, and her line of all natural house made takes on our childhood favorites are seriously some of the best snacks I’ve ever ate, and they are my first contender for a 2020 Best Sweets award!


The Worthy Baker

This is probably no fair, because Chef Jill Worthy is my actual friend, but we met through business, and if I disqualified my friends from these awards, either no one would want to be my friend, or only assholes would qualify, right? And besides, Jill, AKA The Worthy Baker, is a one-person powerhouse, and someone that I not only watched adapt and thrive during the pandemic, but she really found herself in my opinion, and started cranking out some of the best fuckin’ sweets ever!

She started focusing a lot on cheesecakes, and began to crush it. She even made dozens of insanely delicious mini-cheesecakes (above) that I sold as “Stoobie Snacks” to raise some money for MANNA Foodbank. She also started making crazy-good pies that my friend-and-family-pod all discovered, and began raving to each other about. Chef Jill has a tiny operation, with one employee named Chef Jill. She is busy busy busy, but she will take the time to work with her individual clients to make the pie, cheesecake, cake, cookie or whatever sweet that they want! I admire her ability to do what she wants and make people happy, and her sweets are bomb, and they are my 2nd Nominee for best Sweets, 2020!


Abeja’s House Cafe – Tres Leches Cake

Sooooo… one of the reasons my mom dragged me to Abeja’s House Cafe in the first place was because I just had to try the tres leches cake! I am a fan of that particular kind of cake, but, I mean how good could it be? Good enough to leave the safe confines of my Boo-Radley house atop “Hermit Hill” to fight my way through potential mobs of unmasked mouth-breathers during a highly contagious pandfuckingdemic? NO!!! Except yes, and I’ve done it twice now.

This cake is so frickin’ good, ya kinda wanna die anyways, so fuck it. It’s by far the best tres leches cake I’ve ever had, and even one of the best cakes of any kind I’ve ever eaten. It’s got a heartiness to it, and a freshness, that I’ve never experienced with a tres leches. It’s truly special, I heard a rumor that it’s made by Chef Roman’s mother-in-law, so there’s a whole mom-thing going on with this cake, which is super-adorbs, and even though it’s not a whole line of sweets, and just one sweet, it is good enough to be the third contender for the Best Sweets in Asheville, 2020!


Wild Ginger

Okay, similar to the tres leches above, this is a stand alone contender for the best Sweets category, but unlike that cake, I have never had this, seen this, heard of this, or even in my weirdest weed-dreams conceived of this dessert. It’s from Wild Ginger, and it’s called Sapin-sapin, and no it’s not made out of melted crayons. I had to look it up online, and also ask a friend, and here’s what I learned: Sapin-sapin is a common Philippine dessert, which makes sense, because chef/owner Mary Ann Tan Ar is of Chinese-Filipino heritage. It’s a sort of pudding, made with rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, water, flavor, and coloring. It is usually sprinkled with something called latik, as is the case at Wild Ginger, and yes, I had to look up latik too. It’s basically the solid byproducts of coconut oil production, and it’s used as dessert garnish. The sapin-sapin from Wild Ginger has three layers, the purple is ube flavor, green is pandan, white is coconut… more words to look up. You do it this time!

This dessert was so creamy, colorful, super-fun, somewhat otherworldly, and so powerfully delicious, that it’s here, getting a nomination, even though I literally only took one bite, ONE, and that’s IT. One bite. What you see in the white ramekin above is what I ate. The rest belonged to my friend, who was kind enough to share this much of their’s, and allow me to take a picture. I felt lucky to get what I got, Yo, and I’ve been thinking about this dessert ever since. It was not just a unicorn, it was, a unicorn with a peacock tail, diamond-studded sunglasses, platform shoes, and a giant white belt with a buckle the size of a carry-on that says, “YOU KNOW IT!” in flashing neon letters… twerking. And that’s why even after just one little ol’ spoonful, it’s the fourth and final contender for a Best Sweets of 2020 award!

Next category…


MEAL OF THE YEAR

Below are the nominees for the ONE meal that will be named the Meal of the Year. I t ain’t get a whole lot better than that when it comes to accolades. Of all the meals I ate, these are the nominees of 2020’s Meal of the Year…


Anniversary Meal at Vue 1913

Dawn and I celebrate our anniversary in January. We ain’t married, never will be, so it’s the anniversary of pretty much when we met, which was in a bar, so it’s all a little hazy. Last year for our 15th anniversary, we received an invitation from Chef Brandon Gibson and crew at Vue 1913 to come in as their guests. We hadn’t been there in ages and only once before. We went for a prior anniversary meal that had been a very memorable experience and a past Meal of the Year award winner in fact — so we were excited and curious to see how it stood up to our previous visit.

I have to say of all the “Before Times” pictures I went through to write these awards this year, these pictures from Vue 1913 were the MOST Before-Timesy. You can see all the pictures, and read a broader review of this entire meal HERE , but for the purposes of this nomination, I will simply say that in the plating, flavor, texture, quality of ingredients, deftness of preparation, creativity within the scope of accessibility, as well as level of service, professionalism, ambience, and over-all experience, this was one of the most luxurious meals we’ve had in Asheville, with the other meal we had there being one of the other most luxurious, and then one at Nightbell (sad face), and that’s pretty much it. Those three, and Vue 1913 is two of them.

What you see here is just the tip of the iceberg, there were many courses, plus dessert. Dawn had drinks and I had coffee. All of it was excellent, all of it was elegant, balanced, delicious, and fun, as well as perfectly portioned, which we both appreciated. For all of that, plus the incredible view, this wonderful anniversary meal at Vue 1913 is my first contender for 2020’s Meal of the Year!


Vivian Marketplace – Trout Dinner

I love Vivian. It is n my neighborhood, and that proximity became even more critical during the early days of the shut down. We really didn’t know what was up back then! Should we wipe all surfaces? Are masks enough? Can the virus mutate, and if yes, has anyone else seen John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing? Because.

We barely wanted to leave our house, let alone our neighborhood, and the coupla times we ventured to the grocery store, it was kinda sketchy, and by “sketchy” I mean “nightmare.” Then we saw online that Shananon and Chef Josiah McGaughey were going to offer a very small number of locally produced market items, as well as some “take and bake” style meals, which were something we were wanting. So we started to get eggs and greens and bacon and stuff from them, and it all culminated one night with the most fantastic stuffed trout meal ever.

The whole fish came uncooked, gutted, stuffed, and all wrapped-up in paper, with instructions on how to cook it. We followed the directions and viola! The trout came out perfectly. It was the best meal of fish that we’ve ever cooked at home, the only time I’;d ever taken on the task of cooking a whole fish, and wow, it was absolutely delightful! Light, flakey, piping hot, with subtle flavors and delicate texture, this meal — and the sense of accomplishment we had upon cooking it ourselves — was one of the major highlights of our entire year, and it was an instant and easy contender for 2020’s Meal of the Year!


Avenue M – Take-Out Buffet

So… this chef I know wrote to me and asked me if I knew that this other chef was working at Avenue M now, and I was, like, “No, I don’t even know who that chef is,” and he was like, “Oh, Man! He’s a great chef!” And then a totally different chef texted me and was, all, like, “Did you know that this one chef is at Avenue M now?” And I was all, like, “I JUST heard that from another chef!” And then the first chef who told me about the new chef at Avenue asked me if I wanted to meet that chef, and I was like, “I’m not really meeting people these days,” and he was like, “here’s his email address,” and I was like, “cool,” and then I wrote to the chef, and I was like, “Yo, other chefs have been tellin’ me about you,” and he was like, “come in and see what I got,” and I was like, “I’m not really going into restaurants these days,” and he was like, “What about take-out?” and I was like, “fuck yes,” and somewhere along the way I mentioned my mom, and he was  like, “I’ll make enough for her too,” so me and my mom picked-up about 100 take bags from Avenue M one day, brought them home, and ate the fucking SHIT out some fucking AMAZING food together. And she’s gonna hate that run-on sentence.

The Chef is question is Andrew McLeod, and boy howdy, did he ever style us the fuck out with some good grub. Everything from half a chicken, to fried catfish ‘n’ grits, to grilled bok choi, to a giant fucking hot dog stuffed with cheese. It was a feast for sure, and definitely a treat for both my mother and I during a period of our lives when we both really needed one! You can read a more detailed review of the whole thing, and see more pictures HERE.

To sum up: It was a lot of food, and it was fucking excellent, and it was from a chef who was new to me, and he was so nice, and so very polite to my mom, AND I got to enjoy this really uplifting food experience with my mom, so for those reasons and more, it is my third contender fo Meal of the Year, 2020!


Buxton Hall Brunch

This brunch at Buxton Hall Barbecue made me cry, and that’s pretty much all you need to know about that to know why it’s the fourth contender for Meal of the Year, 2020. If you do want to learn more, you can read more HERE.


Zambra – Unexpected Meal

Back in July, when I was spending, yet not earning, money, I fell back on some of my old skill-sets and did a little graphic design here and there for money, and for friends. One of the restaurants I did a small amount of work for was Zambra, and one day, I got a text from the owner of Zambra, Peter Slamp that said “I’m on my way!” so I threw on a mask real quick, and met him in my driveway, where he handed me a whole bunch of food! Wow! I had forgot that he was gonna do that!

I thanks him very much, brought it inside, placed it on the kitchen table and called Dawn downstairs. Brothers and Sisters, this food didn’t even make it onto plates. Dawn and I didn’t even sit down. We stood over this food and stabbed at it with forks and shovels and moved our arms up and down, form box to mouth box to mouth box to mouth, while we looked at each other in a locked gaze, while making troglodytic sounds for “gooood.”

Zambra is just one of our all-time favorite paces on Earth, and we hadn’t been there, or tasted these uniquely Zambrian flavors in a long time. It was like the past, those legendary “Before Times,” came to our house in a series of small, environmentally sound, to-go containers. Pork belly, seared scallops, a signature deep fried Squash Flower, a bocadillo, and asparagus, all prepared with style, flourish, and expertise by Chef Ryan Kline, and delivered fresh, hot ,and delicious straight our kitchen table. None of it ever found its way to a proper plate, BTW, but it did find its way to being my fifth and final contestant for 2020’s Meal of the Year!


Okay, that’s it for Part 2! Thanks for making it all the to the end! I know it was a lot. You can read Part 1 HERE, and stay tuned for the third an final part soon!

END


Stu Helm is a writer, blogger, and social media personality living and working here in Asheville,NC.
Please follow him on FacebookInstagram, and his own blog, StuHelmFoodFan.com

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