It's been difficult to pick up a food-related magazine the last couple years without seeing the name of Chef Katie Button in it somewhere…and with good reason! Unfortunately, back in the spring we were unable to meet Katie because she 'took a few days off to have a baby' 🙂 This trip, with Mr. KnoxFoodie's sister and brother-in-law, we didn't miss the chance when asked to make a return trip! Our pre-holiday trip to Asheville saw us visit some 15 breweries and dine at some delicious restaurants. For such a small mountain city, it's hard to believe the number, and quality of eating and drinking spots as well as a healthy local music scene, arts, and recreational activities. After a stop at the new Sierra Nevada 'compound'… a huge lush facility atop a nearby foothill, and a cocktail at Rhubarb, just a few doors up from Cúrate, it was time for our late night reservations. Manager Nathan greeted us (you will find the service to be top notch here!), and spoke with us while Chef Button was delivering food. She quickly stopped by to greet us and welcome our little group to Curate.
First we need to give you a little Tapas 101. It's easy for those unfamiliar with Spanish to become overwhelmed with the menu. Each menu item is labeled with it's traditional name and underneath has an english description. As well, many American's aren't that familiar with the tapas way of dining. A tapas meal isn't something you go for a quick bite. While still perfect for an intimate date night, tapas is best enjoyed with a group of friends over several hours. You will find that dishes come out generally one at a time as the kitchen prepares them. The table then shares the dishes... a few bites for each diner. This can last from and hour or so to several hours. On this occasion, we let the chef set our menu so we could have a great variety of some of her favorites. This is also a great way to go when speaking with your server. They are very familiar with the menu and order in which dishes are best presented. We began with a selection of charcuterie that included 5 artfully cured pork selections. Quickly behind that was a classic Spanish Pan Con Tomate, toasted bread with tomato fresco. For our beginning cocktail, we had a seasonal offering of Sol Escondido. Makers Mark with Birch extract and Ginger Beer. A great recommendation from our attentive and knowledgable server, Eric. After getting us started, Chef Button dropped by again and chatted while giving us a rundown on the evening's meal she had planned. As well, she let us know about the progress on her upcoming cook book and plans for expanding Curate and the addition of a wood-fired grill to add even more traditional Spanish feel to Curate. Next up for us was Pulpo a la Gallega. A plate of savory and perfectly tender Galician style octopus served simply with sea salt, olive oil, and smokey Spanish paprika and a creamy side of Yukon gold potato puree. This was one of the best preparations of octopus we've ever had and I can only imagine the level this can go with the new wood-fired grill! We could have stopped here and been perfectly happy! A salad you say? Yeah, not just any salad when you're at Curate. Ensalada de Otono has vibrant baby beets greens with almonds, pickled oranges, and montego cheese with a blood orange vinaigrette. Even the beet-hater at the table couldn't stop until the plate was clean! What is fall without a hearty soup? Velvety butternut squash puree is topped with candied pumpkin seeds and a delicate heat from pimento oil. Paella comes in many varieties and we normally throw a summer paella party at our own home. I'm not sure we can now that we've sampled this next dish to arrive and be served table-side. Rossejat Negro has tiny noodles prepared in dark squid ink with aioli (Southerners: think come-back sauce on steroids), and a salsa verde. This is definitely a very oceany, brine dish so make sure you love seafood…which we do. There was literally bargaining at the table to negotiate who got the last serving!
The paella was heavy-ish and our next dish lightened our palettes up and brought some more familiar flavors. Piquillo peppers are charred and skinned and filled with spanish goat cheese and copious amounts of olio. Two dishes were brought next as Eric asked if we were ready to throw in the towel yet because dessert was still on the menu! We had Cerdo Iberico A Las Finas Hierbas on our last visit. Which is a pork 'skirt steak' with rosemary and thyme. We remembered it well and you really must have it when you go... that will be soon right? Right behind the steak was what may be Mr KnoxFoodie's BEST BITE of 2015. Setas Al Jerez is a flavor bomb of assorted mushrooms sautéed in olive oil and sherry. It sounds basic enough, but for someone that craves all things acidic, this was absolutely divine and I'd be tempted to just go in and order a double order of this for dinner one night!! The last savory dish of the night will play with your mind because is featured the familiar flavor of crisp Brussels Sprouts with the addition of raisins, cauliflower, and a celery root mousse. We love dishes that meld the familiar with textures and flavors that we would never think of combining. The four of us split dessert and had Cortado coffee. To say that we were pleased doesn't even come close to how we felt about our visit to Curate. There's a reason the entire country is raving about what Chef Button is doing in the little town of Asheville. A stellar staff was at once working feverishly, but also willing to take as much time as needed to make sure you are served the best of cuisine. We want to thank everyone there for their hospitality. Curate must be on your list the next time you visit... in fact, it's worth planning a trip to Asheville just to go!