Vegan cheese platter at Plant in Asheville, NC

Judi Travel CaricatureIn my last blog post, I told you about my 2024 mother-daughter road trip after my snowbird stay in Florida this winter. One of our favorite stops from the Sunshine State to the Garden State was in Asheville, North Carolina. As two foodies, my daughter A and I were in heaven when it came to eating our way around the city.

During our stay we were lucky to have three gastronomical dinners with different James Beard-nominated chefs. Each restaurant had excellent service and phenomenal menus. (Note: We did make reservations in advance to get into these hot spots.)

Pickled vegetables at The Marketplace in Asheville, NC

House Made Pickled and Fermented Local Vegetables at The Market Place

Asheville’s amazing “Foodtopia”

Why is the food so good in Asheville? According to its website they call their food scene “Foodtopia.” This town that’s way smaller than Charleston (which A and I also love) says that Asheville is “home to a community of culinary collaborators crafting an experience to nurture your soul.” They “believe every meal is a celebration. A revelation. And a transcendent experience.”

The Rhu in Asheville NC

Breakfast at The Rhu was equally enjoyable with its made-to-order lattes and homemade biscuits

The Market Place

Our first meal was at The Market Place, where Chef William Dissen and his team focus on farm-to-table fare with local ingredients and sustainabile practices.

Our selections for Monday dinner featured a starter of House Made Pickled and Fermented Local Vegetables; followed by a Crabcake sandwich and fresh cut fries for me and Spring Greens and Mushroom Agnolotti with semolina pasta, roasted local mushrooms, house ricotta, pecan herb crumb for A.

We splurged on dessert of toffee pudding with buttermilk ice cream. It was so good, so good, so good. (I wanted to go back the next day and buy Chef Dissen’s new cookbook but resisted as I knew I never could or never would make these recipes with the same Asheville standards.)

Toffee Pudding from The Market Place in Asheville NC

Toffee Pudding with Buttermilk Ice Cream from The Market Place

Classic Spanish Tapas at Curate

Our second night’s dinner was at Curate, where classic Spanish tapas and wine pairings are on the menu. Here we opted for a variety of small plates and one large. We gave thumbs up to the berenjenas con miel (eggplant with rosemary and Honey + Hive) — OMG this sweet and salty dish was ah-mazing — I’m going to try topping my fried eggplant with honey at home; pulpo a la gallega (warm galician-style octopus with sea salt, olive oil, spanish paprika, and yukon gold potato puree) and croquetas de pollo (chicken croquettes).

Grilled octopus from Curate in Asheville NC

Grilled Octopus from Curate

We were disappointed with the tabla de quesos platter (charcuterie) as we found the blue and goat cheeses to be rather strong and would have preferred more traditional Spanish cheeses. Our most expensive large special snapper with olive gremolata also received a thumbs down — it tasted overcooked and dry.

There were many other appetizing tapas on the menu so we agreed that should we have a second visit to Asheville, we’ll try Curate again.

It’s all vegan at Plant

Our final night in Asheville we dined at Plant, known for it’s inventive vegan food. “Experiencing good food should be transformative, marked by change, and inspiring…at once sensuous and cerebral,” says chef Jason Sellers, from the forthcoming Plant-Bound: Book for the Kitchen Senses. 

Wow-o-wow, what a meal. The Plant Cheese Platter was incredible with aged cashew, farmer’s pecans & flowers, almond ricotta , roasted garlic & olives, rosemary amber & fruit, pickled vegetables, black garlic oil and house gluten-free bread. It was so good, so good, so good. You would never know that it’s not real cheese.

Vegan cheese platter at Plant in Asheville, NC

Vegan Cheese Platter at Plant

The BBQ Brussels Tostadas with queso blanco, sour cream & pickles and jalapeno — superb! And the Crusted Seitan Marsala with cauliflower-potato whip, farm greens, fennel salad, squash and black lentil-mushroom marsala was just like real marsala. The portion was enough for more than two. It was so good, so good, so good.

Did we have dessert? You betcha we did. We selected Matcha Crème Brûlée with berry, pistachio crisp, pistachio and torched banana. It was a work of art.

MATCHA CRÈME BRÛLÉE from Plant in Asheville , NC

Matcha Crème Brûlée from Plant

That concludes my culinary highlights from Asheville, NC. Are you hungry yet? Ready to book a trip to Asheville, NC? If not, wait until next time when I share more about our visit to The Biltmore Estate. It was spectacular. I felt like I was transported into The Gilded Age. Stay tuned.

Judi