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Jan 2, 2012 03:36 PM

Annual 20 hours in Asheville: Cúrate, Sazarac, Tupelo

Each year we spend an evening in Asheville, arriving after a 9ish hour drive, having dinner and drinks, breakfast or brunch the next morning before we head out. I always come to this board to look for new dining options, get reports on places we've visited in the past, etc. We always stay downtown and limit ourselves to downtown restaurants. This year, we had dinner at Cúrate, drinks at Salzarac, and breakfast at Tupelo.

Cúrate: I could not have been more excited to read about this place here on CH. Two weeks before our Asheville stay, I had returned from 5 weeks in Spain. I was aching for some Spanish food. We had:
pa amb tomaquet: They did a good job with this. I had some phenomenal pa amb tomaquet in Barcelona and some absolutely horrible, soggy stuff. At Cúrate, it was toasted (my preference) and held the tomato well. Thumbs up.

tabla de embutidos: First, I thought at $12, this was a good deal. I would have liked to have had a white sausage included. Not surprisingly, you can get better variety in Spain, but the quality on all of this seemed good to me.

Croquetas de pollo: These were great. Wonderful creamy texture, good flavor, perfect croquetas.

Berenjenas la taberna: I was hesitant to order these, knowing I would compare them to similar dishes at a local place and a place in Barcelona. Verdict: This was good, nice texture, loved the honey. It ranks second among the three eggplant dishes.

setas al jerez: perfect. just perfect. i could have ordered three or four more of this dish

canelones de carne: This was good, though I prefer a chicken canelone. The nutmeg was a little too strong in the bechamel, but the dish was still quite good. They were happy to bring some grilled bread for me to sop up the remaining bechamel (and there was a lot of it).

I had 2 glasses of red wine and my partner had 2 or 3 beers. Pre-tip total was $78. We were stuffed.

All in all, we really enjoyed Cúrate. The food was good, I got my Spain fix, service was excellent, nice vibe. I'd be spending a good bit of time there if I lived in Asheville, in for a single tapa and copa de vino at the bar frequently. And I need to try their vermouth.

We took a downtown "oh my gosh I am so full" stroll after Cúrate and then headed to Sazarac (I had read about it on CH, then forgotten it, so I was glad the server at Cúrate recommended it).

I had the dark and stormy (well, two of them...oops). I hadn't had one for ages. They make a very good one there, no doubt because they go beyond the rum and ginger beer recipe I so often see: gosling's black seal rum, fresh ginger (I was thrilled to see that--I've never had one with fresh ginger), lime, ginger-black peppercorn syrup). We went for a single drink, but I enjoyed this so much that I talked my partner into staying for a second. He had a harvey wallbanger and something else (maybe a martinez?). He loved both drinks. I was too enamored with my dark and stormies to even try his. We also liked the look of the food menu. Maybe next time...
4 well-made cocktails: $34 before tip.

Tupelo: We hadn't been to Tupelo for several years, so we went there for breakfast. I ordered what I have always ordered for breakfast: the sweet potato pancake with granola and a side of grits. I forget how filling all that is and ate only 1/4 of the pancake. The rest we took as leftovers. The grits were good, but they now add goat cheese. I thought the goat cheese taste was a bit strong before I doctored the grits. I like honey on my grits, though, and the grits-goat cheese-honey combo was pretty nice. I can't remember what my partner had for breakfast.

Final stop was the cafe at Malaprops, for a final cup of so-so coffee after a shopping spree at my favorite book store.

Every year I regret that we don't have more time for Asheville--for the food, the drinks, and everything else it has to offer. Y'all are awfully lucky to have so many great options in a city that size. One of these years we'll go for more than a quick overnight. Thanks for having such an active board here on CH; you haven't steered us wrong yet.

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  1. Thank you for the detailed report! You should book a reservation at The Admiral next time you come through.

    12 Replies
    1. re: Jeff C.

      We think about the Admiral each year, but nix it for a couple of reasons. First, we really want a comfortable walk from the Renaissance. I have no problem with the 2+ miles that google maps tells me it would be, but the hubby would probably balk at it after the long day, and it's a bit out of the area of town we like to wander. Second, and I may be wrong about this, I imagine we would want to dress up a bit for that particular place. We don't look like bums at other places but do go with the dressy casual jeans look. After the long drive, we don't feel like going much beyond that.

      All that said, when I finally do manage to schedule us there for more than a single night, we will absolutely include The Admiral on the eating itinerary.

      1. re: debbiel

        Actually, the Admiral is a casual jeans place. Not dressy at all. That's part of what makes it so interesting, the combination of divey atmosphere with the high level of the food. You'd definitely want to drive, though, and parking is always dicey.

        1. re: kathleen purvis

          Oh that's good to know about The Admiral. Thanks. It's just that darn getting back in the car thing after 9 hours of driving. I suppose that may sound ridiculous, but it's how we are. After these admiral posts, though, I'm committing to a 2 night Asheville stay in 2012. I'll report back on our Admiral experience in November or December. :)

          1. re: debbiel

            FYI: The Admiral is literally five mins. from downtown. Just try to book your reservation at least two weeks in advance. (828-252-2541)

            1. re: Jeff C.

              could also take a cab. then you can really enjoy their cocktails as well! :)

              1. re: Scirocco

                yeah, based on the reported drinking in the opening post, I think driving at all would be the problem w/ going to the Admiral. cab sounds like a good idea, you'd have to call one.

                IMHO , Admiral takes a lot of care with their cocktails. The winelist has never killed me, although I do enjoy the 3 Brooms NZ Sauvingnon Blanc alot.

                1. re: danna

                  Best Dark & Stormy. Ever. (The "Admiralflower" is good, too.)

                  1. re: Jeff C.

                    Well, in the interest of doing comparison research on dark and stormy cocktails, I promise to order one when we make it there. What do you think makes their's so special?

                    1. re: debbiel

                      They make their own ginger beer. My friend from Maryland is a bit of a connoiseur and says its the best he's ever had.

                  2. re: danna

                    Well, we certainly don't drink like that if we're driving. Nor do we drink like that each time we go out.

                    1. re: debbiel

                      hope that didn't sound critical....on the contrary, I'm just pointing out the importance of drinking somewhere from which you can walk home...from personnal experience.

      2. Okay,thats it.Curate is my next stop in Asheville! I'm almost ashamed tht I've not been since I'm an hour and a half away.I continue to be atonished by how little we appreciate the things close to us,the human condition I suppose.