I made an impromptu day trip to Asheville last week to meet a friend for lunch. Rene and I met through a book club 8 years ago when we both lived in Louisiana. Now, she and her husband are living in Thailand and have bought a home between Asheville and Black Mountain where they hope to retire sooner rather than later. Its about a two hour drive from Boone to Asheville, but I don't mind driving for good food and company!
Rene suggested Cúrate, the new tapas bar in downtown Asheville. I love Spanish cuisine and, not surprisingly, the only tapas in Boone are the ones I make myself. While I love Crave, which bills itself as a tapas bar, the food there is for the most part not Spanish.
Rene was running late so I relaxed with their extensive menu, a much-loved glass of Beronia Reserva, a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo from the Rioja region, and some almendras fritas. These little fried marcona almonds are one of my current guilty pleasures and Cúrate's were delightful -- served warm and salty in a little paper sack.
Given my Charcutepalooza-inspired obsession with charcuterie, I had to order the tabla de embutidos, an interesting variety of Spanish charcuterie including chorizo, fuet, lomo and jamón, served with pan con tomate. Oh my! Admittedly, I am not a big fan of Spanish chorizo (I keep trying it to see if I find one I really like), but the other meats, briny morsels atop the succulent tomato bread, were soul-satisfyingly good.
Next, patatas bravas, crispy fried potatoes served with an aioli-like sauce, arrived. I kept eating them way after I should have stopped.
And then there is the dish I can't stop thinking about -- berenjenas la taberna. These slices of lightly fried eggplant drizzled with honey and sprinkled with fresh rosemary are an inspired and unexpected combination of delicate textures and flavors. I've looked at a couple of Spanish cookbooks in the last couple of days in the hopes that I could recreate them for eggplant-loving DH, but haven't seen any similar recipes. I'll just have to take him to lunch at Cúrate so he can experience their divineness.
We also enjoyed the setas al jeraz -- caramelized mushrooms splashed with sherry. I've had various forgettable mushroom tapas before, but this dish was a true stand-out -- the texture of the mushrooms was almost crusty in spots. That plate was cleaned as well.
I could have passed on dessert, but agreed to eat a spoonful or two of whatever Rene picked out. The espuma de chocolate -- apple sorbet with chunks of ginger surrounded by a pool of warm chocolate -- turned out to be one of those dishes that you can't eat just a bite or two. Rene likened the chocolate to "warm brownie batter", but to me, it was more like chocolate pudding or pie filling that hadn't quite set yet. Either way, we had no problem making it disappear.
The decor was pleasant, the service efficient, the prices reasonable. My one complaint? They only serve Sangria by the pitcher. On a beautiful summer afternoon in Asheville, a glass of Sangria with my tapas would have been delightful. On my return visit, I'll need a designated driver.