North Carolina has become a hot bed of transplanted New Yorker's escaping the steep costs and clutter of a down state New York life, and it's no wonder; The costs are lower than NY and the state is breathtaking. I was simply in awe of the Mountain views and broad open land of the Asheville, North Carolina area, not to mention the vastness of the Biltmore Estate.
Outside of its obvious beauty, Asheville is a breath of fresh air for the food allergen community. There are a variety of "alternative eating" establishments that cater to the needs of those who are vegan, gluten free, dairy free and more. Here are some of my favorite highlights:
Indecision to me is a signal I already love a place before I even taste any of their food; I just want to eat everything on the menu. For me, The Plant was just that type of restaurant. This small yet peppy establishment is 100% Vegan. You heard me correctly: 100% Vegan. AND many of their options are gluten free, with a dedicated gluten free fryer to boot. The staff have a laid back attitude, but they know their stuff about dietary restrictions (which I suppose comes with the territory of veganism). Not being vegan ourselves, we were intrigued by the fully vegan menu and ordered three courses. We had an appetizer of marinated carrots, quinoa bread and their signature cheese platter. The cheese platter was a collection of vegan cheeses (aged on premises) paired with fresh made quinoa bread, crisp gershins, and sweetened apples. It was the perfect combination of sweet and tangy. For our main dishes we chose the croquettes and the chicken adobo. While the textures were off for us pescatarians, and former meat eaters, each dish was well portioned and delightfully flavored. Next came a dessert of Lemon pine nut ice cream, which was both nutty and good pallet cleanser to round out the meal. What I loved most about the dishes were the finishing touches. No knot was left untied in combining complex flavors into satisfying and well rounded dish, and with an open kitchen space you can even watch your food being made.
Tupelo Honey Cafe
This chain restaurant, with restaurants throughout the south and two in Asheville, specializes in Southern soul food. Their gluten free items are indicated on the regular menu. For an appetizer we ordered their homemade pimento cheese with gluten free bread, which was right out of the kitchen and spicy. Our entrees were their Cajun catfish, with salsa over goat cheese grits, and Carolina Mountain Trout, pan seared and over grits. While flavorful, the defining flavors of our dishes were lost among the grits flavoring. Each bite was homogeneous in flavor and texture. Staff were knowledgeable and on point. For example, their kitchen space was open and you could hear the staff warning each other of the gluten free allergy needs of our order. However, we also felt rushed during the whole experience by the wait staff who checked on us every few minutes and brought the check before we were even finished with our entrees.
Urban Orchard Cider Company
When we visited the Urban Orchard Cider Company they had only recently opened, and didn't even have a website yet! Family owned, this brewery and tap room concocts ciders right under the feet of its patrons. Although the family has been making cider for generations, the ring leader of this establishment is a daughter of the family who had attended cider school, and has a knack for playing with different yeasts to bring about different flavors. At the time there were 5 flavors, all very distinct and full bodied. One of the highlights of their ciders is the use of all natural ingredients, excluding the use of corn starch. Be sure to swing on by for a relaxing taste of their ciders, or one of their many other items available in tap or bottle, if you are in the area.
Other Points of Interest
A visit to the Biltmore Estate is a must regardless of the amount of time you have in Asheville. The Biltmore is the largest one resident home in the world, with 250 rooms total. On the estate you'll also find a fully functional winery and several restaurants, all of which cater to gluten free needs. We didn't dine there but if we go back we certainly will.
Review by @CelticCeliac at www.celticceliac.com