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Vinnie’s and Ultimate Ice Cream

Posted by eemilla on May 21, 2011

As we approach the end of being a two top dining party, we’ve both had the urge to dine out more and more.  Most recently we attempted to eat at Circle on the Square but were foiled when they didn’t have any eggplant (not for the two sandwiches, the pizza topping, or the two dinners on their menu).  Instead of driving a bit further to Marco’s North, we decided to try a new place, Vinnie’s.  The menu held much the same as both Marco’s and Circle in the Square with the price points being similar as well (Circle in the Square is cheaper on the dinners, but they are counter service not table service).

The music was cheesy and cliched which perfectly set the scene for the food.  Pretty much everything is painted brown, and the carpet is dark and old looking too.  Of course, this all fits with the menu and helps to distance Vinnie’s from the former Savoy.  Everything except the food portions was mediocre.

Although the restaurant was far from busy, the two hostesses spent a minute or two discussing where we should be sat, and we were lead to the back to a little two top.  I believe our server was not alerted to the fact of our presence because we waited another several minutes before anyone noticed us even though another server and buser were attending to other tables near us.  After a trip to the bathroom and another few minutes, our server appeared to tell us about the specials ($5 martinis on a Friday including the fru fru cosmo and apple kinds) and take our drink orders.  True to Asheville style, the draft beer menu represents local breweries with Pisgah and Asheville Pizza that I can recall for certain.

We started with garlic knots as my honey was starving; the portion is great for the $4 price, but they were covered with a much too liberal dusting of what I like to call cardboard also known as parmesan cheese from a shake can.   Although the minced garlic proliferated the plate, it was as if it had had the flavor cooked right out of it, and for garlic lovers like us this was a major disappointment.  However, much like the music, it set the stage for what to expect with our entrees.  Both the baked ziti and my eggplant hero were large portions, and both were covered with an inordinate amount of mozzarella.  The hero is a simply eggplant, marinara, and cheese on a sub roll; for eight dollars, it is filling although less than flavorful.  Between the cheese (even after discarding over half of it) and the sub roll, the breaded eggplant would have really needed to be strong as would the marinara, but like the garlic knots the whole thing was just bland.  In their defense a sweet red pepper, a pepperocini, and a dark green pepper were served on the side.  I did not try the ziti, but it was gone before my sandwich was completed.  My hot sub arrived barely lukewarm, while my husband’s ziti was piping hot.

It is unlikely that I would ever choose to return to Vinnie’s; Marco’s South is closer, better, and sometimes sells something delectable from Short Street Cakes, and Nona Mia is about the same distance and far superior (both restaurants are also similar in pricing and portions).

In a bout of wretched excess, we drove all the way east to the flagship location of Ultimate Ice Cream because we didn’t think their Charlotte Street location would serve a brownie sundae (plus when we drove by the little shop was chock full, and I neglected to take a second potty break at Vinnie’s).  While The Hop was directly across the street from Vinnie’s and serves a much larger brownie sundae, their ice cream is just too sweet, and the featured flavor just doesn’t shine through.  Ultimate does occasionally over do it (mostly with the coffee flavors), but when you eat one of their flavors there is no guess as to what it is.

Being the massively pregnant one, my husband deferred to my choices for the sundae we were going to split, and fortunately he shared his plans to order a split pint to go of coffee caramel and peanut butter with chocolate flakes so I didn’t duplicate.  We ended up with ginger and pistachio topped with toasted coconut and at my husband’s insistence hot fudge sauce; the pistachio is maybe the one flavor I wouldn’t be able to pick out in a blind test, but the ginger was the perfect blend of sweet cream and spicy ginger bite.  The brownie stayed in the background, but I was massively disappointed to see a can of whipped topping rather than a bowl of in house made whipped cream.  I mean with ice cream this good, it seems a damned shame to top it with something from a can so I chose to forego the whipped topping.  I also love their chai, kahlua mocha almond, and cup of joe; before writing this I took a couple of sample bites of their coffee caramel and peanut butter with chocolate flakes, and I’ve had to add two more flavors to my favorites list.

Ultimate Ice Cream is served in many local restaurants across town, but I still decry the loss of their West Asheville partnership with the now defunct Two Spoons.  Of course it would be even better if they’d bring it south, although my waistline and wallet would suffer tremendously.

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