Friday, July 15, 2016

Vignette | Pizzeria

Vignette | Sebastopol
Local business is important in any community. It just so happens there's an abundance of local restaurants in my idyllic little town. Not too long ago The Barlow opened and with it came a crop of new boutiques, wine rooms and eateries. One of the small businesses that set up shop was Vignette. Wood fired Neapolitan pizza plays the lead role in a cast of fresh, local and organic ingredients. When in doubt, rock the Margherita. A classic pie that allows you to taste the interplay of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil; delicately partnered with the daily house made dough. If you're looking for a meat protein, I recommend the meatball parm pizza. Vignette does well crafting nostalgia into their taste. The decor and aesthetic match their willingness to create with care.

Other side dishes I'm extremely fond of are, the charred and lightly smashed potatoes with mint and time (they're my go-to). Presentation of this dish never disappoints—hearty enough to share. The fire-fried olives and spices are a nice place to start, pair with a local craft beer and enjoy.   


Monday, July 11, 2016

PUBlication: Asheville (part 3)

Is the end of a vacation really the worst part? After a glorious week in Asheville our time in Western North Carolina was nearing the end, as well as its crescendo. This time the end was the icing on top. Wether it was the extremely hip and convenient confines of the downtown, or the expansion of districts like South Slope and West Asheville, the 828 was in full bloom. This final recap of our journey will spotlight some amenities that extend beyond Asheville proper. 

Bold Rock Hard Cider
Our lovely tour guides and their awesome daughter knew just where to begin the day. A short drive away is the newest location for Bold Rock hard cider, a back to basics take on pressing apples into adult libations. Mills River and the bucolic back drop of tree covered mountains provide a laid back atmosphere. The tap room nestles itself along the production room—think modern warehouse with a purpose. Once the options were surveyed we decided on three tasting flights. The little lady had her self a nonalcoholic cider (another reason this place is cool, kids have an option too). There was a pair of ciders that stood out. The first and perhaps best, was Bold Rock's Premium Dry (6%). It reminded me of Golden State Cider. Yet this dry cider had much more of a champagne feel to it and less fruit in the nose, which I like. Another fine example was the Dry Hopped (4.7%). This was as complex as any pressed spirit I've experienced. The long story short; west coast hops meet Blue Ridge apples—delicious. Bold Rock was worth the drive. 

A quick trek led us into the Disney-like theme park that is Sierra Nevada's newest location. Also located in Mills River, this California trend-setter has set up shop in the grandest of scales. The taproom, restaurant, gardens and stage feel almost too wine-country-like. It's an added perk however when all of the amenities are top-notch, new and clean. After wondering the grounds it was time to settle in for some much needed lunch, and of course, more beer. Our hot wings and salads were super tasty, as was the cheese fondue dip, mmm. There were four ales that stood out. Two of the three were saisons. Brew Love Saison (6.2% 32 IBU) was a great interpretation of a traditional saison. I'll be looking for this in California. The Tropical Saison (6.5% 23 IBU), a theme I  tasted quite often in NC, was more nuanced than the latter. It's bubbly carbonation helped to push the fruit forward aromas. Perhaps the tastiest IPA of the journey was the Audition DIPA (7.8% 67 IBU)—another great ale I hope to see out west. This double was very clean on the palette and not too hot, as the lower IBU would suggest. Dare I say it was Russian River-like. Last but not least was the Pub Pale Ale ((5.6% 38 IBU). I got the feeling that this was an in-house only ale. It possessed a luscious mouth feel with good texture, an unfamiliar trait that created a smooth finish. I'm glad we went to the biggest damn taproom I've ever seen. 

Hi-Wire Brewing
Back in Asheville there's a great local tavern on Church Street. Foggy Mountain Brew Pub was a friendly bar and grill that seemed to be more of a locals' spot. Their service was friendly and inviting, furthering the already chill aesthetic. I suggest stopping in for their balsamic Caesar salad and an order of fried pickles. Also, peep their amazing bathroom signage. The Spoaty Oaty Pale (5.6%) from Appalachian Mountain Brewing was knockdown good. I'm pretty sure we ordered more than one round of these. I mean come on, an Outkast inspired ale! Another thing, Asheville's beer pricing was on point. Rarely, if ever, did we pay over $5 for a pint. Speaking of not paying outrageous prices; check out Hi-Wire Brewing. Hi-Wire hosted the wedding party. Due to debauchery there's no review.
Sun's out...

Wedding at the S&W
The whole reason we were in North Carolina was to celebrate two of the liveliest, kindest and most fun people I know. Rojo-linger and Pesci were tying the knot, as beautiful couples often do. They created a one-of-a-kind wedding that was magical for everyone who attended. Thanks for making it special. Congratulations to my friends, I love them very much.

My trip to Asheville was long overdue. I'm so appreciative of the people who made it memorable. I had an amazing time.


Friday, July 1, 2016

PUBlication: Asheville (part 2)

Western North Carolina is beautiful for many reasons, topography and geology are among the highest ranking. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, the mountains, rivers and bears, oh my. Fortunately we were able to enjoy some of these magical outdoor settings. Paddling on Lake Lure was a definite highlight. We found our way to a private little sand bar along a small island; it became our de facto swimming hole. We also braved some strong wind into the main stretch of the Lake to take in one of the better views of Chimney Rock and the surrounding tree-covered mountains. What a great detour with two dear friends. 

After our time on the water we darted to a neighboring marina for a picnic. This delicious intermission was aided considerably by our host's foresight and the tasty luncheon prepared by The Rhu. We had started our morning with a slough of The Rhu's strong breakfast choices. A homemade breakfast biscuit with egg and cheese, sea salt cacao donut, a french inspired summer fruit pastry and good coffee were our fuels for the day. At lunch we crushed egg salad sandwiches on seeded rolls with an amazing fermented root salad. Some bottles of Wicked Weed Tropic Most were on hand as well. A day at the lake was just what I needed. 

A favorite local businesses of mine in West Asheville is Harvest Records. This record shop came to town while we were living there; it has been a vital community hub. I scored a mint Chess Records LP of Bobby Womack & The Valentinos, plus a decent pressing of The Platters, I Love You 1,000 Times. Not only did I get a vinyl fix, I was hooked up with a new T-shirt and some fresh stickers. Thanks Harvest Records, you're a great example of business done right. I love this shop. 

Burial Beer Co.
Another fantastic district of Asheville is the South Slope neighborhood (we used to live there). One of our other amazing friends took us to Burial Beer Co. Immediately Burial resinated with me. Some thoughts on their aesthetic; the tap handles were great (the skillet is my fave) and the carrier\rack to transport your tasting flight, was the easiest to handle while not spilling, or sacrificing cool. Also, having two zones with taps is a good idea. Now on to the beer.

The Americana Farmhouse had good body with lingering flavor. A lasting finish stayed with you. Blooming early in the nose was the Ceremonial session at 4%. Burial's Hay-saw Saison felt less traditional, in a good way. This particular saison had more of grainy feel to it, yet was also dry. Good work on the Hay-saw. My potential belt-holder on this beer journey was the Hibiscus Gose! At 4.5% you can knock these back all day. With or without sunlight, the see-through copper color of this libation beams. There are few beers that simply illicit awesome, but this is one of them. Slight nuances ring out first, the later stages punch with tartness—definitely a knockout. I also gave Surf Wax a try. This 7.2% IPA had recently undergone a change in its hop-bill. Centennial, Mosaic and Citrus hops create the profile now, as the beer-keep told of their intentions to begin canning. Surf Wax resembled a British IPA that was a bit more clean; not my idea of a left coast IPA. There was however a skunk-like aroma. Regardless of my tasting notes, Burial Beer was the best scene yet within the friendly confines of Asheville. 

If you missed Part 1 continue scrolling down or click here. Please check back for the final installment of PUBlication: Asheville. Reviews of a western mid-mega brewery who opened up shop in WNC, tasting Appalachian Cider, Hi-Wire Brewing and Foggy Mountain Pub are on deck. Cheers.