Food & Libations

Liquid Gold

Picking out an olive oil can be an overwhelming experience. The number of oil-containing bottles and tins gracing a grocery store’s shelves is almost as impressive as the cardboard boxes lining the cereal aisle. Of course like breakfast cereals, not all olive oils are created the same. So how do you choose? Maybe you look at price. Maybe you just go for the same one you’ve always bought. Maybe you just pick one with a pretty picture on the label. Or, maybe, you choose one based on what you think you know and like about olive oil. Bottomline, no matter what you eventually decide on—be it extra virgin, virgin, refined, pure … one that hail’s from Greece, from Italy, from Croatia, from the U.S. … one that’s organic … one that’s lite … or one that’s flavor-infused, be forewarned, there’s far more to choosing an olive oil than simply glancing at the label.  
Don’t judge an olive oil by its cover
In 2010, the University of California at Davis Olive Center and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, published a report on the quality of olive oils readily available in America’s grocery stores. And of the 19 brands tested, “69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin failed to meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil.” The study, partially funded by California olive oil producers, received its fair share of criticism but nonetheless, proved what many expert olive oil tasters had been saying for years—not all EVOO labeled as so, is indeed EVOO. 
     “If you’re using olive oil for the health benefits,” says Chicago-based culinary expert and Iron Chef America judge-in-rotation Mario Rizzotti, “but it’s not really olive oil, then you’re not getting the health benefits.” And in a country plagued by cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and obesity problems, it’s vital to do as much as possible to improve our overall health—which is why Rizzotti is on a mission to help Americans choose products, and foods, that will put everyone on the road to better health—one EVOO spoonful at a time. 
Drizzle, don’t dip
     “What we’re trying to accomplish is to promote the healthy benefits of authentic Italian food and authentic Italian ingredients,” Rizzotti says. “There are so many things out there that people consider Italian that in Italy, we don’t even have.” 
     And one of those things, says Rizzotti, is the presentation of bread baskets with accompanying bowls of olive oil before the meal.
     “That’s not Italian,” he said. 
     “Really?” I asked. I mean you can barely go to an Italian restaurant here in the U.S. without a substantial serving of bread hitting your table long before your meal arrives. And so, admittedly, I was skeptical. How can that be? It’s a staple practice in most stateside Italian restaurants but here was a genuine Italian chef telling me the practice was anything but authentic Italian. So I Googled it, and as it turns out, Google agreed with the Italian. 
     “I use olive oil for cooking,” explained Rizzotti, “but really good olive oil should be used for finishing dishes and drizzled on food once its prepared.” He uses Terre Rosse DOP Umbria Kosher Organic EVOO, which he has shipped directly to him from Italy’s Umbria region, just north of Rome, bordering Tuscany. Interested in trying the oil Rizzotti dubs liquid gold? You can purchase Terre Rosse on his website, MarioRizzotti.com, $22 for 250ml. 
     Curious about other olive oils? Or maybe you have a favorite and want to see how it stacks up to world-renowned oils. Check out BestOliveOils.com for the most recent list of The World’s Best Olive Oils. The list represents compiled results from the New York International Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest most comprehensive olive oil quality contest. Or better yet, plan to attend the 2019 event, May 10 in NYC and be one of the first to experience award-winning olive oils paired with regional specialties from around the world by the International Culinary Center team and NYIOOC Resident Chef Perola Polillo. Tickets go on sale Feb. 15. More information visit NYOliveOil.com.
How to choose an olive oil
When purchasing EVOO, there’s plenty to consider and individual palates have different opinions as to what tastes good and what doesn’t. Therefore, the best advice is twofold—first, educate yourself on the different varietals, and second, don’t be afraid to experiment with new oils. 
     “There’s lots of good olive oils,” said Rizzotti, "and lots of opinions," he added. But whether you choose an oil from his homeland of Italy, or one from anywhere in the globe, he wants you to know these two things: 
     One, “cold pressed” doesn’t really mean cold: It only means the olives cannot be pressed in an environment with a temperature exceeding 80.6 F. In other words, it’s marketing lingo consumers have come to associate with quality but in all actuality, doesn’t directly correlate. 
     And two, just like the “Product of Italy” quote on the back of his cooking jacket, if you want an Italian olive oil, the label, in accordance with Italian law, must say either Product of Italy or 100% Italian. "Made from Italian Olives," "Packaged in Italy," and "Made in Italy" don't assure an authentic product. •

The Truth About Sulfites

There are all sorts of misconceptions about sulfites found in wine. Yes, many winemakers add small amounts of sulfites to preserve their wines, but sulfites are also naturally occurring. Sulfites in wine, usually red wine, get the blame for everything from headaches, sleepless nights, congestion and hangovers. Those who speak out against sulfites even claim European wines do not have any sulfites post-production, but are injected with them prior to shipping to the U.S. The confusion among the general wine-drinking community is great, but let’s look to one wine connoisseur to shed some light…

Sulfites (chemically known as sulfur dioxide or SO2) are a preservative and can be found in all wines as they naturally occur as a by-product of fermentation.  Most wineries, including those in Europe and around the world, also add a minuscule amount of sulfites to preserve the color and flavor of their wines. Interesting to note that more sulfites are added to white wines, especially sweeter dessert wines, while dry red wines have the lowest sulfite content.  Sulfites have been used in wine production for centuries, including to clean storage tanks after use rather than harsh chemicals. 

It may come as a surprise that few countries require wine labels that state "Contains Sulfites," and less of a surprise that the U.S. is one of the handful that does.  There is a tiny percentage of the population that is allergic to sulfites, mainly severe asthma sufferers, and there are many foods and beverages, other than wine, that contain more sulfites, such as dried fruit.  It's a mystery why any wine made in the U.S. or imported into the U.S. must be labeled with "Contains Sulfites" while these other products with higher sulfites are not required to do so.

Bottom line: unless you are one of the few who is allergic to sulfites, the sulfites are not the cause of the “dreaded wine headache.”

- source: Fred Bowen from adeptlifestyle.com

Wine 101

// what to drink now

Looking for something pink to drink for a Valentine’s Day outing? Turn to rosé in a can by Amble and Chase. This rosé, sourced from Provence, France, will add to the fun while wetting your whistle, $19.99 for four cans

Crisp, fruit forward, and refreshing
Portable, eco-friendly, and a good value

You’ll fall head-over-heels for the 2015 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, $55.00

A well rounded Sonoma Coast white that works perfectly with spicy foods
Tasting notes reveal lemon and pineapple, while the nose sniffs out scents of lemon curd, peach and toasted cinnamon

Interested in something refreshing and bubbly, how about red bubbles? Lini 910- “Lambrusca” Lambrusco allows wine drinkers to step out of the box and try something new, average price $15.99

Appellation is Rosso Reggiano from Emilia-Romagna, Italy
A dry, sparkling red with tastes of berries and cream

Calling all California Pinot lovers! This 2014 Cambria, a.k.a. Julia’s Vineyard, Benchbreak Pinot Noir is a luxurious warm red to cozy up to on a cool, winter night $25.00

Rich, deep fruit, mild tannins and very balanced
Flavors of plum, cinnamon and black pepper
Pair with anything, especially pork

Robert Parker highly rates this easy drinking red, 2014 André Brunel Grenache, $20.99

90% Grenache grape
Produced in the Rhone Valley of France
Complex and intense; tastes of strawberry, cocoa and vanilla with round tannins
Ideal to relax by at the end of the day or pair with lamb


// what to cellar

Suggestions by sommelier Jennifer Cunningham at Highlands Wine Shoppe

2013 Emblem by Michael Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon,  $35.99

93 points by Wine Enthusiast
Rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), Petite Sirah (8%), Petit Verdot (5%), Syrah (4.5%), Zinfandel (2%), and Merlot (1.5%)
Polished, full-bodied with flavors of caramelized crème brulee, blackberry and spice
Any vintage of Domaine de la Berthete Chateauneuf-du-Pape, price varies on vintage

2012 was winemaker Pascal Maillet’s first vintage of this wine
50% Grenache, 50% Syrah
Aged 18 months in stainless steel tanks
Handcrafted, limited production from 50+ year old vines
Aromas of black currant and spice; well balanced, rich, with tastes of pepper

2014 Smith-Devereux Cabernet Sauvignon by Steve Smith and Ian Devereux, $40.99 

First release at a great price point, and a champion out of the gate
Sourced by sustainably farmed vineyards from Napa Valley’s Howell and Diamond Mountains
Deep ruby red fruit, complex, well constructed tannins with tastes of black currant, blackberry, cassis, dark chocolate, loamy earth, leather, and tobacco

2016 Booker Vineyards “My Favorite Neighbor” Red Blend by Eric Jensen $84.99

Full bodied and elegant with tastes of crème de cassis, licorice, and tobacco
97 points by Robert Parker 
2011 Bruno Giacosa Santo Stefano Barbaresco, 100% Nebbiolo, $175.99 

Intense and complex with tastes of violets, licorice, and raspberry
Received 95 Points by Wine Enthusiast 
An icon in Italian winemaking, Bruno Giacosa passed away in January 2018. The 2011 vintage was his last that will make this vintage very collectible.


// Wine Education

Highlands Wine Shoppe (828) 526-4080

Wine tastings and education are part of the offerings at this well stocked wine shop. Advanced Sommelier, Nick Demos, is brought in once a month for the Highlands School of Wine, an educational series to taste and learn about wine. Each class has a different theme from bubbles to food pairings to wines from different countries. Call for a class schedule and to make a reservation.


// Wine Events

Tim Lundy of Rosewood Gourmet in Highlands often holds food and wine tastings at The Vineyard at High Holly in Scaly Mountain. There are two coming up in September and October as well as a special wine pairing dinner at a private home in November. Call for more information at (828) 526-0383.

Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands hosts celebrity chef dinners including wine pairings. Go to halfmilefarm.com/chefdinners for the winter schedule

Highlands Food & Wine Festival is a four-day event featuring food and music of course, but also wine tastings, winemaker sponsored dinners, and education. Check out the website for tickets and the schedule of events at highlandsfoodandwine.com


// NC Wine Trail
Wineries and Vineyards in the Mountains
Burntshirt Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC
(828) 685-2402, burntshirtvineyards.com

Growing only estate-grown fruit from rosé to chardonnay to merlot to riesling, Burntshirt has several medal winners to share with tasters. Daily tours start at 2 pm and wine tastings are available all day. A bistro for a sit-down lunch is on premise as well as a food truck to provide sustenance while tasting. Live music rounds out the experience on the weekends.

Calaboose Cellars - Andrews, NC 
(828) 321-2006, calaboosecellars.com

Noted as “the smallest winery in America” and the furthest west located in NC, Jailhouse Winery, a.k.a. Calaboose, is a tiny 300-square-foot winery with award-winning wines. It’s history as an old jail makes the visit all the more interesting. Their vineyards are located elsewhere in the mountains of Cherokee County, but the wines and beers can be tasted Monday through Saturday. Varietals include Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc. 

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC
(828) 225-1333, biltmore.com

The most popular wine tasting destination in Western NC due to its fame and Disney-like draw, the Biltmore Estate offers a behind-the-scene tour and various wine experiences. Relax at their wine bar tasting all of their many vintages of reds, whites and roses while snacking cheese and charcuterie. Make sure to taste their award-winning pinot grigio. Consult the website for more general information, hours and about booking a private event.

Addison Farms Vineyard - Leicester, NC
(828) 581-9463, addisonfarms.net

Located seventeen miles northwest of Asheville, Addison Farms is a family-owned-and-operated vineyard and winery sitting on 55 acres that has been passed down through four generations. The Addison family grows six varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot and Petite Manseng. Several of their wines have medaled. Receive a personal tour from winemaker, Jeff Frisbee, and enjoy a flight afterwards in their tasting room. Open year-round. See website for days and hours of operation.

Savory, Salty, and Sweet

Like the Oscars are for the film industry, a fierce competition known as the sofi™ Awards is for the gourmet and specialty foods industry. Little known to the layman, this contest, in its 45th year, calls for hundreds of gourmet and specialty food companies nationwide, small and large, new and old, to duke it out for the Best Product of the Year, plus Gold, Silver and Bronze medals. The awards ceremony highlights the newest culinary innovations, recipes, and technology. Aside from bringing fame and prestige to the winners, a sofi™Award can mean millions of dollars in sales. 
Categories from baked goods to condiments to sauces and meats, cheeses, and seafood are judged by a vast panel that include gourmet food industry tastemakers from the Culinary Institute of America, food media like the Wall Street Journal, Williams & Sonoma, Sur La Table, cookbook authors, famous chefs and restaurateurs, Whole Foods, and many more. These judges are not only the experts in their field but influencers of trends. 
Outside of the industry, everyday foodies and culinary “passionistas” long to stay on top of the food trends for the pleasure of eating, drinking, cooking and sharing. Reading popular gourmet magazines like Bon Apetít and Food & Wine usually provide an insider’s look at cooking trends and recipes, however, some of the sofi™ awarded products never make it on their pages.
However, NC Living Magazine is in the know, and we are sharing the best in most categories so you can be on the forefront of some epic culinary covets. These stellar award-winners from the 2018 competition are ideal to incorporate into your next recipe, give as a hostess gift, or as a present for the food lover in your life. If not found on your grocer’s shelves, all products can be found on the Internet. To see the entire list of award winners, go to www.specialtyfood.com.

1 WINNING CATEGORY: PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
Product: Cardamom bitters, Brand: The Bitter Housewife
An ideal savory bitter to add to your next craft cocktail using añejo tequila or scotch (currently available at Whole Foods, Amazon and other online stores).

2 WINNING CATEGORY: BAKED GOODS, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Gran Pasticceria Tortina White, Brand: Loacker USA
A “trifecta of sublime tastes” per the winning notes, melding together creamy white and dark chocolates, crispy wafers, and hazelnut crème to make one darn good tortina wafer.

3 WINNING CATEGORY: BAKING INGREDIENT, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Roasted Peanut Oil, Brand: La Tourangelle
Made in the USA, this virgin pressed oil rates high on its nutty fragrance and ability to ramp up the flavor of any baked recipe, not to mention using it to dress a salad.

4 WINNING CATEGORY: BBQ SAUCE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER
Product: Badass Smoked Sriracha & Roasted Garlic Mop Sauce, Brand: Wildly Delicious Fine Foods 
A sweet, salty, and savory sauce good to mop up anything and everything. Once you go Badass, you won’t go back. Enough said.

5 WINNING CATEGORY: COW’S MILK CHEESE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER 
Product: Organic Rogue River Blue, Brand: Rogue Creamery
Aged for one year and produced in Oregon, this multiple award-winning veiny blue comes from pasture-raised cows that graze on organic land. The wheels are wrapped in Syrah leaves and soaked in pear brandy. Flavor notes include hazelnuts, berries, morel mushrooms, and sweet woodsy pine. 

6 WINNING CATEGORY: DARK CHOCOLATE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER 
Product: Poco Dolce Olive Oil and Sea Salt Bar, Brand: Poco Dolce Confections
Small batch bittersweet chocolate tiles made with California olive oil and topped with grey sea salt. Divine!

7 WINNING CATEGORY: COOKIE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER 
Product: Orange Pistachio Shortbread, Brand: Smart Cookie
Nothing like a buttery shortbread sprinkled with toasted green pistachios, zests of orange, and hints of cinnamon and vanilla to make your mouth water. Balanced by texture and taste, this cookie is good enough to serve to dinner guests or at your next tea.

8 WINNING CATEGORY: CRACKER, GOLD MEDAL WINNER 

Product: ParmCrisps, Brand: That’s How We Roll, LLC

These crackers pack a punch and a crunch made with 100% aged Parmesan Cheese. Made in small batches with no artificial ingredients, these fine artisanal crisps pair beautifully with a fig spread or raspberry jam.

9 WINNING CATEGORY: SALSA/DIP, GOLD MEDAL WINNER 

Product: This Dip is Nuts: Roasted Green Chile and Pepita, Brand: Bitchin’ Inc.

Organic, gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO, this dip with an almond base is not only tasty, but also healthy. A clear winner with its mellow heat and savory sweet flavors, it is smooth and “bitchin'” according to the brand.
 

10 WINNING CATEGORY: ICE CREAM, GOLD MEDAL WINNER 

Product: Black Sesame Ice Cream, Brand: Humphry Slocombe

Handcrafted small batch ice cream blended with toasted black sesame seeds and garnished with sesame oil creates a new taste sensation for those who like savory and sweet. The product gets rave reviews across the board.
 

11 WINNING CATEGORY: COOKING MARINADE, GOLD MEDAL WINNER 

Product: Ancho Chile Tamarind Sauce, Brand: Salsaology

Flavors inspired by the Jalisco region of Mexico, this marinade positively challenges the taste buds with its combination of savory, smoky and sweet. Delicate and tangy tamarind, roasted peanut and smoky chilies bring a new zing to chicken and pork dishes.
 

The Barn's Wild Lemon Balm-Mint Smash Cocktail

Serves 2 (with extra lemon balm simple syrup)

In a pint glass or cocktail shaker, combine 4 ounces vodka with 2 ounces lemon balm simple syrup.
Add the juice of one lemon and a generous bunch of fresh, wild mint.
Shake or stir vigorously and pour over ice into two glasses.
Garnish with a wedge of lemon and enjoy!


To Make Lemon Balm 
Simple Syrup:

Combine one cup sugar and one cup water in a small heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add a nice big bunch of fresh lemon balm to the pot and stir until its covered. Allow the lemon balm to steep in the warm simple syrup for at least an hour or up to eight hours. Strain syrup thru a mesh sieve, squeezing the lemon balm to extract as much flavor as possible.

A Wild Day in the Country

I scan the ground at my feet and spy the green clover-like specimen I am instructed to look for. As I am encouraged to do by our knowledgeable guide, I pluck it from the grassy patch and pop it into my mouth. I taste a mild tangy lemon flavor on my palette. Not bad. “Welcome to backyard foraging,” someone next to me bellows. Despite the fact that I feel like I am eating weeds, well, because I am, I learn that this is yellow wood sorrel, a native weed in North Carolina, and is great in gin cocktails. Hmm… tell me more.
Our foraging guide is Becky Beyer from No Taste Like Home in Asheville, who has a master's in Appalachian studies and speaks across the Southeast on Appalachian folk medicine, wild foods, and ethnobotany (huh? the study of the region’s plants and their practical uses). As we walk along the edge of an overgrown field of wildflowers and weeds, we learn about how to steep white yarrow for a cold remedy tea, how orange daylily blossoms are delicious fried after being stuffed with goat cheese, and how sassafras makes a mean root beer and adds a tasty zest to gumbo. We encounter all sorts of wild edibles from greens to flowers to roots that can be used to infuse drinks, soups, stews, teas, and salads, and many of which can heal a bevy of ailments. Who knew?!
Our organizer and host for this day in the country called Foraging Adventure and Wild Food Lunch is Kristin Jorgensen, a talented cook, caterer, and event planner. Entertaining our group of twelve today at her charming event hideaway called The Barn just outside of Cashiers, Kristin has refurbished the old and once minimalist structure, previously owned by her grandparents for almost thirty years, into an inviting, shabby chic finished space where she hosts dinner parties, events, and cooking classes.
The Barn is where childhood summers spent with her grandmother were majestically filled with foraging adventures picking blueberries and apples, making jams and pies and sipping lemonade under the big oak tree. Her grandmother’s motto, “Found food always tastes best!” is imprinted deep in Kristin’s heart and for today’s event, Kristin shares this passion with us. She has turned an ordinary Sunday into an extraordinary Sunday that is well organized, educational, and delectable. Our diverse group, hailing from Atlanta, Asheville, and the local area, enjoys an enlightening foraging tour and then relaxing under The Barn’s signature oak tree sipping Kristin’s Wild Lemon Balm Mint Smash (see the recipe on the next page).
As the glorious smells of a wild greens pesto, country ham, and burrata pizza make their way from inside The Barn to the outside, our party takes its cue to head inside to eat. We gather around the state-of-the-art kitchen watching Kristin cook up some fabulous eats and gush over The Barn’s interior, lovingly decorated with antiques, linen, silver, wood, stainless steel, and glass. With many original effects of the barn still intact like the wide plank flooring, the original beams across the ceiling, and the powder room humorously made to feel like an outhouse (only with real plumbing), the place feels bucolic but refined. As the warm, gentle breezes of the day billow through the open doors and windows, the views of the pasture, fields, and distant mountains make for a surreal setting.
With the pizza appetizer happily digesting in our bellies, we are invited to sit down at a long, beautifully appointed table for our much-anticipated three-course wild foods lunch meticulously prepared by Kristin. Each course sticks with the theme of the day to include some sort of wild edible. Our starter is a delicious Magenta Lamb’s Quarter (yes, a weed) Gnudi with ramp butter and parmesan, a naked ravioli that melts in your mouth. The chatter dies down at the table as we all dissect and savor the flavors. Our second course of Sunburst trout with a wild sorrel mayonnaise with wild greens and field peas is equally as impressive. The trout is so fresh like all of Kristin’s ingredients, which come from sustainable sources from the surrounding area. Our third course, a dessert of wild lemon balm pannacotta and wild fennel shortbread cookies blows everyone away. It is the perfect ending to a perfect meal. As laughter and joyous conversation fill the room, I look down the table and see nothing but smiles. You almost want to shout, “We did it! We ate prepared weeds!” but really the meal is so much more than that because you can feel the love Kristin infused into each preparation.
Her intention to create a nurturing space for comfort, happiness and good food where people can nourish their bodies and souls has been accomplished. “I hope that [guests] too will be affected by the magic that my grandparents created here,” confides Kristin, “and for the simple rustic beauty…unplugged and off the beaten path…and sharing a meal together.” One guest, Carol Saul, an attorney from Atlanta, put her perspective into words, “The almost magical serenity of the Barn’s setting in remote and lush Western NC enveloped us as we were served an amazing meal incorporating native edibles from the surrounding fields.”
The event calendar is quite packed for The Barn this season with interesting workshops, cooking classes, kids camps, and dinners under the stars. Check out The Barn’s website at www.thebarnnc.com for more dates and information. 

Chef Ken Naron's Spicy Bread and Butter Pickled Tomatillos

9 each small to medium sized tomatillos, quartered
2 small yellow onions thinly sliced
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
½ cup water
¾ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. cayenne 
¾ tsp. turmeric
¾ tsp. cornstarch
½ tsp. celery seeds
½ tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. kosher salt 

Combine all spices and liquids in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add onions and tomatillos and cook 8-10 minutes more. Ladle into sterilized jelly or mason jars, twist on lid to finger tightness, turn upside down on thick kitchen towel and let sit overnight to seal or process in water bath until sealed. Enjoy as an accompaniment with your favorite sandwich or taco.
 

Heart & Soul: Meet Canyon Kitchen's New Executive Chef

Chef Ken Naron is no stranger to the kitchen, particularly Lonesome Valley's Canyon Kitchen, located in Sapphire Valley. Having served as Sous Chef, or second in command, for the last two years under Chef Adam Hayes, Chef Ken’s new role as Chef de Cuisine or Executive Chef will breathe fresh life into the traditions emanating from this highly respected farm-to-table restaurant. Patiently working his way up the ranks during nearly twenty years of culinary experience, he has achieved an impressive resumé. And while he looks great on paper through his culinary accomplishments, it is his Louisiana heritage along with his magnetic personality that will bring a fresh heart and soul to Canyon Kitchen’s seasonal debut.
As a kid, if he wasn’t on his skateboard, he was getting the cultural education of living off the land in the bayou. He was unaware at the time that this down-home training would shape him for his culinary path and current role. “Although my passion for cooking was realized later, I was always involved with the gathering process and gained an intense appreciation for the land.” Steeped within his memory are happy times spent hunting, trapping, and fishing with his grandfather. Harvesting from the family garden, they ate seasonally in the days when the term “farm-to-table” was not yet a culinary trend. They ate whatever they caught or grew. It was Ken’s Creole-Irish grandmother who would spend hours creating spontaneous yet traditional dishes from their bounty. He recalls carefully watching her preparations and waiting patiently for her mouthwatering plates to land on the family table. He was always impressed with her ability to pay homage to the land and craft food that radiated passion.
When Ken’s teenage aspirations to be a professional skateboarder fizzled, he soon found his next step as a dishwasher to earn money to buy his first car. What he quickly discovered was a fascination for the restaurant life, particularly in the kitchen. The energy, the creativity, the camaraderie, and enthusiasm drew him in, and he soon found himself working under such notable chefs as Tom Wolfe and James Beard award-winning Chef Gary Danko. As a mentor, Gary Danko wielded a great influence on Ken’s career while he worked at Danko’s Relais & Chateaux restaurant in San Francisco. Ken was encouraged by Danko to pay attention to the finer details. Aside from learning how to best manage a kitchen team, he was taught culinary and kitchen secrets that became a turning point in his path and gave him the tools to become a truly great head chef.
Now taking the helm at Canyon Kitchen, Chef Ken and his team introduced an expanded tasting menu, offering more choices of Canyon Kitchen’s signature menu items and incorporating new twists to past presentations. Gracing the menu is gastronomy influenced by Ken’s Creole roots, as well as Mexican and Asian infusions. Thoughtful and inventive, Ken draws inspiration from around the world and the local land. His vision is clear on striking a balance in his culinary creations by marrying flavorful spices with seasonal ingredients. Canyon Kitchen’s practice of using local ingredients from sustainable suppliers along with fruits and vegetables harvested from their own garden will continue to serve as the basis for Chef Ken’s prix fix menu. New features include pasture-raised Lady Edison pork and farm-raised bison from Carolina Bison. You might find these dishes imbued with essences of fresh chamomile and coriander that are new to the garden this season, while heirloom squash, Seminole pumpkin seeds, arugula, and cauliflower with touches of radish and nasturtium brighten the plates. 
Above and beyond everything else, Chef Ken is all about making his guests happy. “It’s important that the food is flavorful and balanced with every bite,” says Ken. “Our guests can expect an elevated dining experience.” Creative gastronomy guided by Ken’s heart and soul will be the driving force behind his authentic cuisine. If you haven’t managed to visit Canyon Kitchen this season, make sure to make your reservation soon! Not only will you enjoy your experience, you will love getting to know Ken as he meets and greets.  

About Canyon Kitchen

Located in the scenic Lonesome Valley community in Cashiers, North Carolina, Canyon Kitchen is a seasonal restaurant featuring exquisite dishes in a relaxed setting. The nightly prix fixed menus utilize fresh, seasonal ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden and other local food sources, including Sunburst Trout Farms, Brasstown Beef, and Looking Glass Creamery, to name a few. At Canyon Kitchen, guests enjoy the local flavors of North Carolina while looking upon the thousand-foot granite cliffs and lush forests. Situated in a craftsman-style barn, Canyon Kitchen’s interiors include traditional post-and-beam architecture, stacked stone fireplaces and sliding barn doors throughout allowing guests to take advantage of the crisp mountain air. For more information, visit www.lonesomevalley.com.

Focusing on Fish

Named to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force Chef List,” William Dissen, owner of Asheville’s The Market Place restaurant, is a major advocate for sustainable food policy reform in the United States. Working with a network of local farms, artisan producers, and sustainable fishermen to produce flavorful, fresh food for patrons of his restaurant, he has received several honors in regards to his innovative approach to sustainable cuisine. 
Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia, he watched his grandmother prepare meals straight from her garden. From an early age, he recognized there is no cuisine without gardens or farmers, which is why his menu changes based on readily available farm-fresh ingredients. 
Dissen attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, after graduating from West Virginia University, studying English and French. Apprenticing under Certified Master Chef Peter Timmins at the Greenbrier Resort gave Dissen the itch to hone his culinary skills. After his stint at the resort, he left for a taste of the Lowcountry of Charleston, South Carolina. It was here he worked under James Beard-nominated Chef Craig Deihl at the fine dining establishment, Cypress. 
He yearned for more. His thirst for knowledge and experience took him to the University of South Carolina, where he attained a master’s degree in Hospitality, Restaurant, & Tourism Management. From the beginning, he had always had a dream of having his own restaurant in the Appalachian mountains, which led him to start roots in Asheville with his Wall Street establishment, The Market Place. 
By creating taste bud swimming dishes from his heart and soul, Chef Dissen has paved a path in sustainable seafood stewardship without even trying. Keeping his values in the kitchen, he demands the best ingredients to create his menus. “Even though Asheville is four hours from the nearest ocean, it is equally important to know how and where your seafood comes from as it is to know the same about your produce and livestock. For me, it’s also a pledge to do the right thing for our planet and community so we have these resources for generations to come,” stated Dissen. Named as Seafood Watch Ambassador by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2009 for his pledge to serve, sell, and advocate for sustainable food systems and sustainable seafood, he has made a real difference, even appearing on the steps of Congress to influence legislators. 
Being named a Blue Ribbon Task Force Member by the aquarium was a proud moment for Dissen. He keeps integrity with all of his selections in The Market Place. One of the many things I admire about him is his relationship with Alan Musket of No Taste Like Home, a wild food foraging tour company. The Chef’s restaurant will allow No Taste Like Home attendees to bring their foraged finds to the restaurant to be prepared with their meal. In addition, Dissen purchases from many local foragers and farmers to always have the best of the best, whether it be chanterelles, ramps, lobster mushrooms, or everything in between. 
Having hosted two James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinners and multiple field dinners, Dissen is always working together with local, regional, and national Chefs to provide his patrons an experience, something I admire about the young Chef. He is a go-getter and has a deep passion for his craft, and for providing a total experience. He truly understands hospitality and tourism.
Chef Dissen recently opened a new restaurant in Charlotte in January. “Fresh, local and seasonal menus will be the driving force at Haymaker.  Our restaurant menus will be centered around our Woodstone hearth.  I would expect to see food that’s fun and refined, and showcases the best the region has to offer.”

I met up with William Dissen on my last visit to Asheville to get his take on his favorite dishes, vacation spots, and more. 

1- Where was your love for culinary arts born? 

My grandparents had a farm in rural West Virginia, and I grew up visiting their farm and eating fresh food straight from their gardens.  It wasn’t until later in life that I had a realization that if you want to cook great food, then it has to be prepared with the freshest ingredients. 

2- What is your favorite at-home meal to create?
 
My wife Jenny is from India, and we love to cook Bhindi Masala (or curried okra) and serve it with jasmine rice, whole fat yogurt, cilantro, and lime.  Super easy to make, super flavorful and good for you! 

3- Favorite vacation destination? Wait, do you get to vacation? 

I’m headed to Mallorca this week! (Mallorca is the largest island in the Balearic Islands archipelago, which is part of Spain and located in the Mediterranean.) I’ll let you know if I get some downtime!  My favorite vacation place is to get away from it all, such as fly fishing in Montana on the Madison River, or going to a beach destination like Tulum, Mexico and exploring the Sian Ka’an Reserve. 

4- What is your favorite experience in Asheville? 
Walking down the street on any given day and seeing the nun on her bike from the LaZoom Tour, walking past a bluegrass band busking on the corner that could have a signed record contract, and then three topless women on unicycles ride by drinking craft beer on their way to march at Pack Square. 

5- What is your favorite menu item and libation from The Market Place? 
I love our Pappardelle Pasta.  We take braised lamb shanks and make a ragu from it with roasted shallots and garlic, confit tomatoes, and roasted oyster mushrooms, and serve it with hand cut semolina pappardelle with parmesan and ramp pesto.  For me, it’s a modern interpretation of Appalachia.  
For libations, I love our Benton’s Old Fashioned.  Country Ham and Bacon King extraordinaire Allan Benton is a good friend of mine, and we like to take his bacon and add it to the classic old-fashioned cocktail through a process called “fat washing”.  It’s a great drink.  Smoky, sweet, and did I mention it’s made with bourbon?
What is sustainable seafood? The Monterey Bay Aquarium defines it as Seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that have minimal impact on ocean health and ensure the availability of seafood for future generations. 
Today half of the fish eaten in the U.S. is farmed, and the practice is growing fast. Just as we raise cattle and chickens to eat, we’re now raising seafood to meet the growing global demand. Aquaculture, or farming of fish and other seafood, is helping relieve increasing pressure on our ocean resources. 
Global aquaculture includes 100 species, farmed in everything from traditional earthen ponds to high-tech tank systems. Each farming system has its own distinct environmental footprint. By choosing seafood from better farms and production systems, consumers can play a positive role in reducing aquaculture’s potential negative impacts. 
How do you know which fish to purchase? Download the Seafood Watch App by the Monterey Bay Aquarium for your guide to sustainable seafood. The app will provide you with markets or grocery stores near you that participate in the program, as well as allow you to search all the various types of fish and their ratings. 

What do the colors mean? 

Green - Best Choice 
Yellow - Good Alternative 
Red - Avoid
White - Eco-Certification. In addition to “Best Choice” and “Good Alternatives,” look for certain eco-certified labels on specific seafood.