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Archive for July, 2009

Zambra

Posted by eemilla on July 26, 2009

I love eating at Zambra; the ambiance is malleable.  If you sit at one of the banquette tables, it is cozy and romantic and exotic and possibly private (depending on how busy they are), but the open dining area works well for parties too (tapas are so conducive to sharing).  Either way you should order a bottle of wine because the cocktails are pricey (albeit creative and tasty).  While the expansiveness of the wine list can be intimidating, Zambra has plenty of under $30 selections scattered throughout the higher and much higher priced wines.  For me I like wine, and with all the wines to choose from I have no desire to spend much more than $30 a bottle at a restaurant especially knowing full well that the mark up is so high (e.g., The Marketplace and the $30 2006 Carro Tinto I drank retails for about $10).  However, a restaurant cannot hope to win a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence without a pricey wine list.

For a picky eater like myself, Zambra poses a special challenge in that I cannot order the same item (or items) repeatedly because their menu changes nightly, and they run specials on top of the nightly refreshed menu.  On our visit last week we shared the cheese plate, fried panko encrusted tofu with garam masala, an arugula salad (I didn’t write it down so I only remember that it had some nuts, berries, and cheese), seasoned chickpeas (roasted red peppers, spinach, and my first preserved lemons) and a mushroom and edamame saute with sweet potato wontons; my honey had a flesh fest with pork belly, lamb tacos, and sesame encrusted scallops.

I enjoyed all of dishes I sampled (although I did not interfere with the flesh fest).  Other than a sodium overload with the mushroom saute all of the tapas were delicious, and even the super salty saute was edible unlike the duck confit from our last visit a while back.  The preserved lemons were quite a shock with their strong bitter briny lemon flavor, but they balanced with the chickpeas.  For beauty and presentation, the scallops win hands down; he received three large diver scallops crusted with sesame and panko framing bright green avocado slices, which were wonderfully ripe and creamy.

Our service left a bit to be desired; he had difficulty opening the wine bottle, which isn’t too bad in and of itself but  to increase leverage he actually put the bottle between his knees.  I find it strange that an Award of Excellence winner would have skipped the wine service training.  When I inquired about the cheese on the cheese plate, he searched in his book for the answer, and the only answer we received was goat, sheep, and cow.  Fortunately, we did not have any other questions regarding the menu, and Zambra has ample support staff or good team ethic because while our server was gone for long stretches our food and water seemed to arrive in a timely fashion.

A gift certificate from my husband’s most wonderful employer brought us to Zambra along with my desire to drink absinthe again (especially after the MountainX write up and video), but I had forgotten about the $15 price tag.  I guess I’ll have to create a special occasion in which to visit Zambra again and drink my absinthe.

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Blue Mountain Pizza

Posted by eemilla on July 18, 2009

After much pushing from my mom and youngest brother, we finally stopped into Blue Mountain Pizza last week on our way back from lovely Hot Springs.  I always wake up early when camping, but I woke earlier than usual thanks to a morning shower so we arrived in Weaverville just after 11 am.  We were the only table in the place until fifteen or so before noon, but the kitchen wasn’t ready to be open.  My salad and the husband’s bruschetta took about thirty minutes to arrive, and by the time the two pizzas arrived we could order beer.  I was impressed with their draft beer selection, but I can only recall two of them at this point: Pisgah Pale and Bell’s Oberon.  Although I saw the server pour beer from the Bell’s handle, our beer decidedly did not taste like a wheat beer.  Either the lines were crossed with the Pale; they were dirty; or some other table got our Oberon (around noon a bunch of cyclists arrived along with a church group).  At this point it didn’t seem worth bothering our server with the beer as we were both ready to get home and unload all the camping stuff.

My Greek salad was good; I love that they use spinach rather than lettuce.  The bruschetta was fine, covered with loads of tomatoes on thick bread.  I created my own pie with sun dried tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and artichoke hearts; the toppings were generous and enjoyable, but the crust tasted like something you might expect from a box or the frozen food section.  It wasn’t thin enough to hide behind the flavor of the toppings, and it just did nothing for the pie.  My honey enjoyed The Boss (extra cheese, onions, pepperoni, and jalapeños), and believe me extra cheese means extra cheese.

We ate our leftovers for dinner as neither of us had the inclination to cook, but the next day we were both clutching our stomaches and damning Blue Mountain Pizza.  He has vowed never to return, so I don’t believe we will be returning for their family pasta night or any of the nightly live music.  If the crust hadn’t ruined our pies and we hadn’t gotten sick, I would say a return trip might be in order in the future, but for now we’ll stick to making it at home.

Blue Mountain PizzaBlue Mountain dining roomBlue Mountain bruschettaBlue Mountain Greek Salad

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Brixx: A Second Look

Posted by eemilla on July 17, 2009

I think we’ve been to Brixx three or four more times since our first less than spectacular visit.  On the most recent visit, I realized why Brixx is awesome.  The after ten bogo special for pizza and appetizers makes their prices right in line with those other late night pizza chains, but Brixx is far and away superior.  The whole wheat crust was not enjoyable, and I still find their white crust salted with a heavy hand.  The arugula still comes on top of the cheese after the pie leaves the oven, but it is the price one pays to be lazy.  Even as flawed as they are, those other places just cannot compete for taste or filling.

For our recent visits my honey has ordered the rustica, shrimp, and Mexican pies; the shrimp was overcooked, but it was a fair portion.  His favorite has been the Mexican although de-seeded jalapeños would be a treat.  I have yet to dry the pear and walnut pie, but I am satisfied with the margherita, wild mushroom, and artichoke pies.  We have yet to dine in or venture into the pasta or sandwiches, but the servers from the nearby restaurants seem to be doing their part to keep South Asheville’s only late night dining open late.

Brixx Artichoke Pie

Wild Mushroom Pie

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Forty-Five Weeks!

Posted by eemilla on July 9, 2009

We are at forty-five weeks with the one car household, and we are going strong.  We are now trying to decide how to celebrate the upcoming one year anniversary, and this week’s Change the World Wednesday Challenge from Small Footprints at Reduce Footprints is to park the car for twenty-four hours.  With our household, the car normally doesn’t get parked that long unless we are out of town.  My hope is that we can both use alternate means of transportation at least three times in the upcoming calendar week.  The humidity and no showers at work make this difficult, but if we ever hope to have a better public transportation system we have to use what we have and demand better.

Change The WorldButton

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Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Posted by eemilla on July 7, 2009

The current (almost over) Change the World Wednesday challenge is to replace at least one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb.  I can pat myself on the back with this one as when we rented we changed the bulbs, and in our second place we actually left them for the next tenants.  Last year or so we reduced most of our fixtures down to one bulb (e.g., the bathroom vanity lights and the ceiling fans) as we really didn’t need all the excess light.  Over the several years we’ve been using them we have replaced (due to burning out) less than five; I do have a complaint: in the winter our outdoor lights take several minutes to warm up to full luminescence.  However, their operating cost and environmental benefits well out weigh this complaint.  Just a note that all fluorescent bulbs contain mercury so take care when disposing.  In our area, the local fire departments will accept fluorescent bulbs, and I believe Home Depot will do the same nationwide.

Change The WorldButton

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Local Food Failure

Posted by eemilla on July 7, 2009

I thought the local food challenge was going to be easier, but alas I was not able to concoct a meal that was completely local without changing my shopping habits more than I was ready to.  I love Hickory Nut Gap Farm eggs, but I wanted to avoid animal protein for both its ecological repercussions and my changing diet.  I found locally fermented tempeh and locally milled flour, but they both cost more than three times their non local options.  The French Broad Food Coop did have some fava beans from either Jake’s Farm in Candler or Gladheart Farms in Asheville, along with local shiitakes from the Mushroom Co-op, Jake’s Farm’s romaine heads, and Gladheart’s local broccoli crowns.

Although I did not complete the challenge as I wanted to, I did try fava beans for the first time.  I love them (even if you have to twice shuck them), and I devoured my fava shiitake dish (garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil being the non local interlopers).  The next step is to either commit to a CSA share, more homegrown food, or to tailgate market shopping.  Last year we did so well with all our victory garden herbs, arugula, kale, and tomatoes, but we completely dropped the ball for this year.

Congratulations to Small Footprints at Reduce Footprints for once again challenging me to see past my own greenwashing.

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Happy Fourth!

Posted by eemilla on July 4, 2009

Please take the time (or some extra time) this week to contact your elected representatives about an issue you care about or to thank them for a vote well done.  I’ve called Senator Kay Hagan, Senator Richard Burr, and Representative Shuler to voice my support for a public healthcare option.  Governor Purdue, Senator Nesbitt, Representative Whilden, Representative Fisher, and Representative Goforth all received thanks for their support of the Healthy Youth Act.  Next week I guess I’ll bug someone about more sidewalks and bus service.

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Summertime equals Ice Cream

Posted by eemilla on July 4, 2009

Actually I don’t care what time of the year it is, I always love ice cream, but summertime means that Two Spoons is open later so it’s easier for me to get there.  Our first encounter when they opened last year made me a fan upon my entrance.  The smell of waffle cones greeted me, and my mouth started watering.  I don’t remember what I ordered on the first visit, but on a recent visit I did Cup of Joe and a chocolate flavor (I believe the KMA).  My husband ordered Strawberry and Ginger; my next visit I’m going to deviate from my normal chocolate requisite and order Chai and Ginger.  Two Spoons uses Ultimate Ice Cream, and the flavors are so spot on.  The Ginger was so fresh and clean without being too sweet or spicy, and my Cup of Joe hit my coffee craving right on the head.  As stated previously though, the killer is the homemade waffle cone; I haven’t ever enjoyed waffle cones before so I don’t have a peer to compare Two Spoon’s version but just a whiff will be all the persuasion you should need.  At this time, I haven’t tried any other than scoops and cones, but they also have sundaes and several toppings for build your own gluttony.  Before you smother the ice cream try it plain; ultimate is an appropriate title.  In fact, I’m so spoiled with Ultimate Ice Cream that I don’t even like Breyer’s anymore.

There is a little atrium out back, and the interior has plenty of kid friendly chalkboard painted walls.  Parking is on the street, but the neighbors aren’t that busy so it isn’t a problem.  The hours run from 1 to 9, I think for summertime, but a call might be the best bet.

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