December 2, 2008
Barbeque and beer
Ok, I know you'll think it's a strange transition to make from white truffles and the Four Seasons to BBQ and beer in North Carolina, but such is my life these days. It's a contradiction, I know, but I love it.
After the whirlwind cross-country trip with the Italians my tastes for fine dining and wine were more than adequately satisfied: Cipriani's in NYC, Atelier de Joel Rubochon in Las Vegas, Mastro's Steakhouse in L.A., and Shanghai 1930 in San Francisco. And that's not counting the lunches in between. But I was genuinely happy to get home and was looking forward to my Thanksgiving trip with my boyfriend's family to Asheville, N.C.
I wanted simple, Southern food and beer and that's what I am going to talk about here. But we dined for Thanksgiving at the historic Grove Park Inn, which bears mentioning.
I thought the gigantic fireplace and the building itself were more interesting than the food, but the Thanksgiving buffet satisfied all kinds of tastes and pleasures. It's just that I'm old-fashioned and nothing beats a home-cooked turkey with all the traditional trimmings.
The next day, while gallery hopping and browsing in all the local crafts shops (of which Asheville has plenty) we stumbled upon a place in the River Arts district that the locals raved about called 12 Bones Smokehouse. I liked the sound of it so I headed over there without delay only to find a line out the door of about 40 people. It was lunchtime so I took a look around and decided to come back that afternooon.
I dragged everyone in my party there, whether they were hungry or not, and boy was I happy I did! Turns out the place is famous --not least because on a recent trip to N. Carolina before the last debate, President-elect Barack Obama ate there and the neighborhood was still bragging about it. In fact, he overnighted at the Grove Park Inn, but ordered take-out from 12 Bones for his whole staff to be brought to the hotel. Now that's a guy who knows what's up. Forget the fancy hotel options and go straight to where the locals eat.
Now I am no BBQ expert, although I've learned alot since moving to the South. I know what I like and this was definitely the best I've tasted. The slow-cooked pork was so moist and flavorful it didn't need any of the sauces, but they were good just the same. The jalapeno cheese grits were creamy and spicy --an improvement on the typical Southern fare. But the best thing on the plate were the collard greens. I don't know what they did to them, but they were fabulous --just a tiny bit bitter, with just the right amount of pork and the perfect soggy consistency. With the vinegar added like they do it in the South, it was a combination of flavors that was unbeatable.
And even the cornbread was different. Instead of the usual dry and crumbly fare, this one was moist and didn't fall apart and offered up the slightest hint of sweetness and maybe even a spice like cinnamon perhaps. Whatever it was, it got my approval.
The beers were also outstanding. We tried 6 different local brews and all of them were tasty. In fact, I had more good, locally brewed beer that weekend than I care to remember. I only wish I had thought of bringing some home to share.
Unfortunately, I did not get to try the baby back ribs that were the claim to fame with 2-3 daily changing flavors like blueberry chipotle and pumpkin or cranberry. (??!!) That's what I imagine Barack eating --blueberry chipotle ribs or sliced beef brisket with sides of buttered grean beans and corn pudding or cucumber salad and cole slaw...and I bet he likes dessert!
I will definitely return to Asheville and you can be sure that my first stop will be 12 Bones Smokehouse.