Food & Libations

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. 
 

Lunch off the Beaten Path

 

Journeying for lunch away from the 
familiar is a great way to learn about the area outside of your own backyard. While taking in the fresh, cool mountain air on your drive, you will come across spectacular scenery no matter which direction you venture. We have put together our top ten most interesting list of eateries with many being within an hour drive from the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau. As you meander toward your destination, take in the spectrum of color, the diverse terrain, and explore a bigger playground. Happy eating!

// Rizzo’s Bakery & Bistro
91 Georgia Road, Franklin, NC
Lunch Thursday-Saturday 10 am to 3 pm
rizzosbakeryandbistro.com, 828-369-7774

One of the closest destination lunch spots on our list, Rizzo’s is well known for their daily homemade breads and custom cakes, and most recently their mouthwatering lunch. With a daily changing menu, attention to detail is obvious with their creative use of locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Make sure to save room for dessert!

We recommend: Baked In-House Tomato Tart or Quiche //Applewood Smoked Ham & Brie Cheese Paris Sandwich //
Barbara’s Meatloaf Sandwich

// Fortify
69 North Main Street, Clayton, GA
Lunch served Wednesday-Saturday 11:30 am -2:30 pm
fortifyclayton.com, 706-782-0050

Since the opening of Fortify in 2014, Clayton has never been the same. The dining scene was suddenly elevated by the partnership between award-winning Chef Jamie Allred and the seasoned restaurant manager Jack Nolan who teamed up to bring an inspiring new restaurant concept to town. Using sustainable practices by supporting local farms, this farm-to-table bistro offers New American fare in a hip, relaxed setting in the revitalized downtown of Clayton. With the success of Fortify, the owners seized the opportunity to grow into the next-door space with Fortify Pi, a gourmet pizza pub.

We recommend: Gouda Fritters // Fortify Reuben // Fried Oyster Plate

// Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant
35 Andrea Lane, Lakemont, GA
Open April-October for Sunday Brunch only 11 am- 3 pm
Reservations recommended
lakerabunhotel.com, 706-782-4946

A beautiful country road will take you around the magnificent Lake Rabun to find this well-hidden dining spot. While the historic hotel dating back to 1922 is interesting enough in itself, the superb restaurant is a recipient of several awards. Claiming to have started the farm-to-table movement in the area, the kitchen works with local farmers to bring the freshest of seasonal ingredients to their guests. Their adventurous cuisine is a fusion of American Southern with influences from France and the Middle East. On a nice day, ask for a table on the porch to sit under a canopy of trees and get a small view of the lake.

We recommend: Southern-Style Crab Oscar // Low Country Shrimp & Grits // Smoked Local Rainbow Trout Rillettes

// Fire & Water at Fire Mountain
700 Happy Hill Road, Scaly Mountain, NC
Open to the public seasonally for lunch only (call for hours)
Reservations required at least 48 hours in advance
firemt.com, 828-526-4446

Upon finding this magical spot just south of Scaly Mountain just off Route 106, you will be surprised you didn’t know about this well-kept secret. Opening as an inn some twenty years ago, a recent million-dollar renovation of the property allowed the owners to add a state-of-the-art kitchen, indoor/outdoor restaurant, and a chic water feature that breathes fire. The mountain views from this elevated plateau are spectacular. The ingredients are fresh and creative with all menu items sourced from their own backyard. It is nothing short of a peaceful, relaxed dining experience.

We recommend: Salmon Niçoise Salad // Vegetarian Club // Chocolate Mocha Icebox Cake

// Belle’s Bistro @ Chattooga 
Bell Farms 
454 Damascus Church Rd, Long Creek, SC
Open March 30-December, Tuesday-Sunday 11 am -2 pm
chattoogabellefarm.com/farm/belles-bistro, 864-647-9768

Along the Chattooga River at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, this 138-acre working farm is set in a historic area of South Carolina that was the largest apple-producing area east of the Mississippi in the 1950s. Belle’s treats you to a diverse menu of farm-fresh local ingredients in a unique spot to gaze out at rolling hills, fruit orchards, and green pasture. After lunch, visit their distillery and pick some of the many varieties of fruit from their trees to take home.

We recommend: Bacon Herb Burger // Portabella with Cilantro Walnut Pesto on Ciabatta // Roast Turkey with Apple (from their farm) with Pesto on Ciabatta

// The Phoenix & The Fox
14 S. Gaston St., Brevard, NC
Lunch/Brunch Monday-Sunday 11 am- 3 pm
thephoenixandthefox.com, 828-877-3232

The restaurant movement of farm-to-table and locally sourced ingredients is also a big part of this American gastropub’s mission. Executive Chef Miles Hogsed offers inspiring organic menu items from local farms and many vegetarian options. Unique craft beers and cocktails also flow freely from the bar. 

We recommend: Classic Crab Hushpuppies // Apple, Bacon, & Brie Burger // Shrimp & Grits

// Frog Leap Public House 
44 Church Street, Waynesville, NC
Lunch/Brunch served Saturday and Sunday only 11am-3pm
Reservations recommended
frogsleappublichouse.com, 828-456-1930

Finding a good restaurant in the bustling town of Waynesville is not difficult, but this eatery stands above the rest with its inspiring Southern menu that changes daily. Executive chef and owner Kaign Raymond says, “We prepare everything from scratch and use local products in our bar and kitchen every day of the year to produce innovative, but simple interpretations of traditional Appalachian dishes.” Enough said.

We recommend: Butternut Squash, Chard, Chipotle Quesadillas // House Smoked Pulled Pork Sliders // Devils on Horseback

// Guadalupe Café
606 W. Main Street, Sylva, NC
Lunch served Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 am
guadalupecafe.com, 828-586-9877

This casual, vintage style dining spot calls its food “Caribbean-inspired fusion cuisine.” Of course, it too is sustainable and farm-to-table, but out of all of our restaurant recommendations, this one offers the most unique menu choices including many vegan and vegetarian options. From tapas to entrees, their menu has something for everyone and even allows diners to customize their own quesadillas, burritos, and nachos.

We recommend: Curry Bowl // Huevos Rancheros // Pulled Pork and Dark Cove Goat Cheese Tacos

// The Bistro at the Everett Hotel
24 Everett Street, Bryson City, NC
Brunch only; Saturday and Sundays 8:30am-3pm
Reservations strongly recommended
theeveretthotel.com, 828-488-1934

With a philosophy of “Eat with Integrity-Live with Gratitude”, the Cork & Bean Bistro, simply known as The Bistro, wants you to have a dining experience that engages all of your senses. The chef strives for food that is organic, local and seasonal while being influenced by traditional Southern cuisine. 

We recommend: Eggs Benedict // Breakfast Crepe // Pimento Cheese BLT

// Pisgah Inn
on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Mount Pisgah, Milepost 408
Open April-October, lunch 11:30 am- 4 pm
First come, first served, so go on “off” times
pisgahinn.com, 828-235-8228

The furthest of all of our lunch spots (a good hour and a half trip), this historic inn sits on property once owned by the Clinghams followed by the Vanderbilts at an elevation of 5,000 feet on top of Mount Pisgah. It opened as an inn in 1919 as a resting spot for weary travelers. Sitting majestically just off of the BRP (that’s the Blue Ridge Parkway for newbies), the Pisgah Inn calls itself “A window on the world.” Often it’s crowded and you’ll wait for a table, especially on the weekends, but there is a reason people go-the view! It is worth the drive.

We recommend: Walnut Crusted Mountain Trout // Mountain Fried Chicken //Blue Ridge Mountain Beet Salad •

The Craft Beer Revolution

The godfather of Asheville craft beer, Oscar Wong, opened Highland Brewery in 1994 in the basement of Barley’s taproom. Passion for his hobby led to the tourism and craft that has earned Asheville national accolades of “Beer City USA” many times since 2009. Today, with more breweries per capita than any other city, this area is a craft beer lover’s paradise. From hoppy IPAs to dark stouts and every taste you can imagine, where can you find craft beer to taste and enjoy on an afternoon in Asheville? Everywhere, but we’ve got the guide to match both your palate and style. 

  

1 Sierra Nevada - Located near the Asheville airport, it is the perfect stop—pre or post flight. With a Jackson Hole style lodge look, this national brewery is coming onto the scene big time in Mills River, NC. With 23 beers on tap, their selection of craft brew is a force to be reckoned with, and their small plates and farm-to-table culinary menu options include the sinfully engaging duck fat fries. Don’t miss a chance to do some sitting by the fire outdoors, listen to live music at the amphitheater, or stroll the Mills River Estate Garden.

sierranevada.com/brewery/north-carolina

 

Burial Beer - This local favorite in the South Slope of Asheville has a mysterious vibe. Its name suggests something morbid, yet the art surrounding their selection of beer is a celebration of life, the harvest, and what is to come. The name matches their taproom, the low lighting and unfelt dampness of the earth inside leads to a sunny patio to toast your friends. It is one of the “it” spots, and the brew is good. 

burialbeer.com/taproom

 

Wicked Weed - This is a tourist trap, yet well worth a visit. Since opening in 2015 with their West Coast style of brewing, it has become known for labels such as Pernicious IPA, Lunatic Belgian Blonde, and a portfolio of barrel-aged sour and farmhouse ales. The hot spot was recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch in an effort to tap into the increasing popularity of craft beer. The brewery also offers a small, tasty menu, which can be helpful when indulging in some of their high gravity beers.

wickedweedbrewing.com

 

New Belgium - The Colorado-based brewery opened its Asheville location in 2015 with a conscious, sustainable craft beer business model. The space has a California industrial feel paired with a grass-roots vibe. Nestled next to the French Broad River off of Craven Street, the tasting room offers an outdoor park for kids, dogs, and outdoor games. Register online for the 90-minute tour of the facility prior to visiting if you want to learn more about their process. Food trucks are on location, as the taproom serves beer only. 

newbelgium.com/Brewery/asheville/tasting-room

 

Highland Brewing Company - The first craft brewer of Asheville, is also the largest family-owned brewery in the Southeast. Named after the Scots Irish who settled in these Appalachian Mountains in the 18th and 19th century, the brewery is a legend in North Carolina. Located approximately ten minutes from downtown Asheville, the brewery offers a rooftop, outdoor venue location and large taproom that is used to host many non-profit events. I recommend the Highland Gaelic Ale, and Cold Mountain (winter seasonal) on tap.

highlandbrewing.com

 

Oskar Blues - Close to the plateau, you’ll find Oskar Blues in Brevard. Its funky atmosphere accompanies its most recognized label, Dale’s Pale Ale. Located 10 minutes away from Pisgah National Forest, it is a popular stop for bikers and hikers. Hungry? The CHUBwagon serves tacos and CHUBburgers.

oskarblues.com/breweries/brevard

 

Satulah Mountains - Of course, we can’t go without mentioning our neighborhood brewer - Satulah. East of downtown Highlands, this quaint spot offers great live music and a down to earth atmosphere. satulahmountainbrewing.com

 

It used to be that only the sophisticated, geek beer drinker enjoyed and explored the crafts. Now more favored by the average beer consumer and tourist, the craft beer industry is on the rise across the nation. Here in Western North Carolina, there is an app for that. Dedicated to all things craft beer in Western North Carolina, the Asheville Ale Trail is your guide for craft beer destinations and current happenings. Download the Ale Trail App here - ashevillealetrail.com

Raise a glass, because our region’s beer is some of the best! 

A New Chapter for the Library

Johannes Klapdohr exudes enthusiasm about his work, and luckily for us, the fruits of that work are accessible. The chef and co-founder of Sapphire Valley’s Library Kitchen & Bar, Klapdohr has hit his stride in the creative reinvention of the local landmark.
The “new” Library opened over the New Year’s holiday in 2016-2017, and in the past year has become the epitomic place for fine dining, brilliantly positioned against the historical backdrop of the 1864 farmhouse that it once was.
On any given night one can see a comfortable blend of regulars and out-of-towners enjoying food and drink at the sleek kitchen bar, a small room with a fireplace, or the happening main dining room. “I like to think it has a ‘clubby’ feel,” he explains, and he’s right. There is a familiarity about the place, but don’t be fooled. This new Library is sophisticated, state-of-the-art, and delicious.
The menu, which changes seasonally to augment the use of fresh local ingredients, ranges from trout with Jerusalem artichokes to seafood risotto and chocolate bread pudding.
Johannes, as most everyone calls him, grew up in a family that respected the process of food preparation.  He is the third generation of family chefs and has warm childhood memories of his grandfather’s hotel restaurant in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, a quaint area founded by the Romans. Everything was made from scratch, he recalls, and everything was fresh.
His culinary ambition fueled fourteen years of study and work under various European chefs at several Michelin-starred restaurants.  It was while he was serving as the executive chef in a Berlin restaurant that his sister, who was in Atlanta, suggested he take a temporary assignment working at the Olympic Games, to be held in Atlanta in 1996. In preparation for the Games, the city was actively looking for international chefs.
What was to have been a brief stint in the United States proved eye-opening and challenging and, at the end of the job, he knew he was hooked.  His post as executive chef at the famed Nikolai’s Roof introduced him to the vibrant chef community in Atlanta and provided the contacts that propelled his life of gastronomic adventure.  It was in Atlanta that he met his eventual wife Liz, well known to the Library clientele for her uncanny ability to make first-time guests feel as if they are coming to her home for dinner.
Next stop after Atlanta was Sea Island, Georgia, where for three years Johannes served as executive chef at The Lodge. It was an exciting time to be there, as considerable development and re-building were underway, but the passion to cull the source of gourmet food proved strong.  And so, he accepted the position of executive chef of the famed Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan.  Milan, Ohio that is.
The Culinary Vegetable Institute celebrates the collaboration of chefs and farmers working together. Located at the tip of Lake Erie, it is renowned for having the most fertile soil in the United States and is a leading supplier of sustainable foods. It was here that he saw first-hand, for example, the importance of soil regeneration for the maximum nutritional value of crops.
“You can’t cheat nature,” he explains, detailing how the proper rotation of crops yields the best output.  
Beans, for example, release nitrogen while tomatoes need nitrogen.  Thus, it makes perfect sense that tomatoes would be planted in soil that most recently grew beans.  He rues the fact that peaches are slowly losing their nutritional value because of improper soil regeneration, and that is merely one example.
The stint at the Culinary Vegetable Institute has informed his attitude about food ever since.  Johannes bemoans the common health problems that are increasingly being experienced by younger people and blames a chemically-enhanced, unnatural diet.  He cites the well-known book by Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food, and would wholeheartedly embrace its doctrine of “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
The father of three children, ages 8, 7 and 2, Johannes makes it a practice to take them on walks to discover the smell and feel of “real” food and advocates water and milk over soda. Not surprisingly, the big planters located in the Library’s front yard are actually fresh herb gardens and the iconic red tractor on the lawn gives a nod to his guiding philosophy.
After Milan, Ohio came The Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, where opportunities abounded to put into play the healthy yet delicious principles that were celebrated at the Culinary Vegetable Institute.  As executive chef of the entire resort, Johannes had responsibility for all food services which, in addition to the hotel’s famed restaurants, included infinite special events and all activities at The Farm. The farm-to-table movement was in high gear and there seemed no better place to run with it.
But a chance encounter with Marvin Gralnick at the Lonesome Valley Food Show in 2014 set the stage for a brand-new venture.  
Gralnick and his wife Helene may be best known for the successful retail emporium Chico’s.  Beginning in the 1980’s with one small store on Sanibel Island that sold Mexican folk art and sweaters, by the time they retired in 2006, the chain boasted over nine hundred stores, including the Black Market/White House brand.
But Marvin’s true passion is art, and his visionary works that call to mind Pollock and Miro have found their way to extensive public and private exhibitions here and abroad. At the time of this chance meeting, Gralnick owned the building that had been The Library and was contemplating its future.  
As the two men talked over a period of months they discovered a common wavelength for excellence and creativity and a dream of a cutting-edge restaurant, highlighting Johannes’ food and Marvin’s art. The Library began to take shape.
The building itself was basically a shell, and the two strategized to somehow create a contemporary environment that would also honor its considerable history.  Thus, the name “The Library” was set in stone.
“Our guests chose the name,” he says, recalling that the name was originally selected by the previous owner Scott Rooth, who wanted the restaurant to be reminiscent of a popular bar of the same name that had been in the old Fairfield Inn during Prohibition days.
While the core farmhouse, said to be the oldest building in Sapphire Valley, remains nearly intact, much of the property has undergone extensive renovation. For Johannes’ part, he wanted a “transparent” kitchen, so the design is purposefully open, and guests may even sit at a heavy wood bar and watch their food being prepared.  A prominent chandelier in the center of the kitchen/bar room looks as if it could have hung in the original house, but was rescued from a Chico’s store in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Other lamps were culled from Marvin’s considerable collections. Tables were handcrafted to complement the original Library chairs which are currently used, and copper accents were utilized extensively at the bar for a funky “industrial” look.  The interior is painted a clean white, providing the perfect backdrop for Marvin’s bold and often edgy art.
A rendition of the flag with the words “America, A Work in Progress” hangs high above the kitchen and bar room and another work proclaiming “LOVE” in lights sparkles in the main dining rooms.
For his part, Johannes creates his art in the kitchen where a staff of eight works its magic five nights a week, year round.  The menu changes frequently, to reflect the best of what’s fresh. Temperatures are dropping as this is written, and the Library’s menu offers savory stews and cassoulets and side dishes celebrating brussel sprouts, acorn and butternut squash, pears and apples.
If the always crowded parking area is any indication, the two artists have delivered on their collaboration and are providing what Johannes calls “making the exception the rule.”
At the end of an evening at The Library, guests are presented their checks inside an antique bound journal.  Almost all are compelled to write a brief message, a fitting preamble to the next wonderful chapter at the Library.
“Your food is amazing.  I like it, and I am only a kid,” writes one recent patron, while another calls the dining experience “a slice of gastronomic heaven.”
 Like the proper rotation of crops, everything old is new again, and, in the case of the Library Kitchen & Bar, better than ever.
 

The Oscars of the Food Industry

It’s no secret that the world currently has an overabundance of celebrity chefs. They put their name on everything from spatulas to dog food. In this day of blogs and YouTube, anyone can aspire to achieve celebrity status and acquire their own show (and a cult following) on the television channel that’s wholly dedicated to food. You could even say that the celebrity chef movement spawned an onslaught of celebrity psychologists, celebrity doctors, and celebrity dog trainers.
But long before reality TVbefore cooking was even a form of entertainmentAmerica was not a place that came to mind when people thought of sophisticated gastronomy. It took pioneers such as Julia Child to bring America to the forefront of gourmet cooking. Although many consider Child to be the first celebrity chef, it was a man named James Beard who hosted the first-ever televised cooking show. 
Many know his name, but few know much about him. Born in 1903, Beard emerged from a culture of microwaved TV dinners, Jell-O molds, and Spam. He was raised in the Pacific Northwest by his self-sufficient English mother, who taught him to cook the seafood and wild berries that they gathered themselves from the Oregon beach.
A fierce student of the theater, he lived abroad for several years to pursue his dream of acting at his mother’s encouragement. After eight years of failing to break into theater or movies, Beard was forced to learn to make money some other way. He started a catering business that later blossomed into a food shop called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc. He then began what was to be a prolific career writing cookbooks (he would publish over twenty-five of them before his death in 1985). Upon his return from the war in 1945, Beard jumped right back into the culinary world, appearing on NBC in America’s first cooking show. 


“This is Sarasota Unbleached Flour. Let me tell you what unbleached means. It means untouched, unartificial, unfooled with, untampered with, unmessed with, unfiddled with, uncorrected, unperfected,” a stout James Beard matter-of-factly touts to the camera. 
This commercial for Sarasota Flour encapsulates just what made James Beard such an icon. He was one of the first to shake America from its lazy slumber of canned food and baking mixes. Some have described this period as “the death of food.” Companies had discovered the gold mine that was the American housewife and the result was a movement of factory farming, fast food, and processed food that America has yet to fully recover from. Beard railed against the idea that easy is always better. He suggested buying produce when it’s in seasona common sense idea that was revolutionary in a time when “organic” was just thought of as a type of chemical compound. 
As his ideas gained popularity, Beard established the James Beard Cooking School, with locations in New York City and Seaside, Oregon. He spent the remainder of his life writing cookbooks, traveling, and tirelessly teaching others his concepts of good food, ethically prepared with fresh ingredients. He was eventually recognized by the New York Times as the “Dean of American cookery” for his efforts in coalescing American cooking traditions into a national cuisine.
Upon his death, Julia Child urged Peter Kump, a former student of the James Beard Cooking School, to purchase Beard’s Greenwich Village brownstone and continue Beard’s legacy. Although its purpose has expanded over time, the James Beard Foundation’s core principles have remained the same as was originally stated by a press release on the day it opened in 1986: “to provide a center for the culinary arts and to continue to foster the interest James Beard inspired in all aspects of food, its preparation presentation, and of course, enjoyment.”
The foundation now hosts over 250 events annually, featuring bourgeoning chefs from all over the world. It also launched the James Beard Awards, considered to be the food industry’s highest honor and called by Time magazine “the Oscars of the food world.” For more information about James Beard or to see the James Beard Foundation’s calendar of events, visit the foundation’s website at jamesbeard.org. 

Thanksgiving, Mountain Style

Thanksgiving on the Plateau is becoming a holiday tradition as more and more people are discovering the pleasures of food, family, and football at 3,500 feet. For others, it is the weekend that officially signals the end of the summer and fall seasons and an obvious time to fill the house or cabin with loved ones. It provides the warmth of a family gathering without all the stress that often comes with Christmas.
But for those of us who see nothing stress-free in preparing a delectable feast, there are ways to ease the burden. More and more local businesses stand ready to streamline the holiday with an array of delicious offerings that seem homemade but require little effort.
Robin Crawford, for example, the well-known proprietor of the Cashiers Farmer’s Market, will be offering everything from all-natural turkeys you prepare at home to multi-course à la carte meals you build from her considerable list of sides.  Typically, she says, she offers meals to serve four to six people and a customer may pick up a fully cooked turkey along with any number of sides, including a squash casserole, green beans, and “pilgrim mashed potatoes,” a recipe similar to twice-baked potatoes without the skin but with lots of butter. She can even provide the homemade gravy. All the traditional pies will be available, of course!  
While Thanksgiving marks the end of the season for the Farmer’s Market, they will stock garlands and greenery to usher in the Christmas holidays.  Some people, she says, will put a fall-colored bow on a green wreath and just change the ribbon to green or red as Christmas nears. She also carries a fun selection of yard decorations—turkeys and pumpkins mounted on wire to be stuck in the ground—and can provide simple centerpieces made from straw.
In Highlands, the Mountain Fresh Grocery at the bottom of Main Street offers a complete traditional dinner for six people, the centerpiece being a butter-basted turkey or spiced, glazed ham cooked Thanksgiving morning. The meal includes dressing, traditional green bean casserole, cranberry relish, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, turkey herb gravy, and homemade yeast rolls. For dessert, the market offers Granny Smith apple, pumpkin or pecan pie.
A new and welcome addition to Thanksgiving take-out this year is Sapphire Valley’s Library Restaurant and Bar. Executive Chef Johannes Klapdohr anticipates a traditional menu with a Southern accent or two,  such as collard greens and macaroni and cheese. He, too, will be preparing ham, and orders may be picked up on Thanksgiving morning.
Ingles is another helpful source, offering a fully-cooked turkey or ham dinner for the holidays. A variety of side dishes are available, including homestyle gravy, sweet potato casserole, broccoli and rice casserole, and Amish-style cole slaw.
If you fall somewhere in between doing dinner from scratch and carrying it home ready-made, the Plateau offers lots of help. The Spice and Tea Exchange in Highlands is stocking a wonderful assortment of seasonings to dial your cooking up a notch. Consider, for example, a turkey or ham herb rub. Manager Adison Harris also recommends a baker’s spice blend, a pumpkin pie spice blend, and an autumn harvest blend which intensify the flavors of fruit breads, soups, squash, and sweet potatoes. Another idea she suggests for a home celebration is a mulling mix spice blend that is delicious with apple juice or red wine.
Fresser’s in Highlands will have “everything from soup to nuts,” according to chef Debbie Grossman. Pick up an order of roasted butternut squash and chestnut bisque or a casserole of bourbon sweet potatoes, made, she assures, with excellent bourbon. She can help with the night before Thanksgiving as well, providing her legendary lasagna.
Save room for dessert, because the choices are staggering. Most all the sources listed above will have traditional pies available. Additionally, Whitney Henson, regional manager of Cream and Flutter in Slabtown, says   by Thanksgiving week, she will have the three favorites in her store: pumpkin and apple, of course, but also pecan, which comes in regular, chocolate, or bourbon flavors. The pies can be ordered with 24-48 hours’ notice and may be picked up from the “take and bake” line, which enables you to take the unbaked pie home to bake it in your own oven just like grandma might have done.
Another sublime source for homemade pie is Appalachian Harvest on Main Street in Highlands, where Kimberly Baldwin already has orders for more than thirty.  The pies, which are so heavy they require two hands to hold, are legendary for their organic and generous fruity fillings. Her jarred marmalades, fillings and jellies, which are also sold in Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods Market, include several which are perfect for Thanksgiving. She makes a rich cranberry relish and also recommends a homemade holiday pepper jelly, made from pecans and cranberry.
Of course, there is always the option of dining out, and the choices are enticing. Madison’s, at Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, will be offering a full-service dinner, as will Wolfgang’s, also in Highlands.
Wolfgang’s will serve dinner in a series of seatings, beginning at 11:30 a.m. and ending at 4:00 p.m. The menu features such favorites as shrimp and lobster bisque, traditional turkey or ham, as well as a slow-braised lamb shank with root vegetables.  
The Verandah, not to be outdone, will be serving an extensive buffet from noon to 6:00 p.m., featuring a “cold table” laden with shrimp and salads and a hot buffet serving the traditional turkey as well as “turducken,” made of boneless turkey, duck, and chicken held together with stuffing. An elaborate dessert bar will finish off the experience, including traditional pie as well as an assortment of cookies.
And so, like those Pilgrims hundreds of years ago, we gather together for what can only be called a magnificent mountain feast. ◊