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Rhubarb

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You remember the t.v. show Cheers? Where Sam and Dianne and Woody and Norm and the rest of the crew would regularly convene, imbibe, gripe, revel, and otherwise enjoy the small and large stuff of life in each other’s company? Well, I’ve kind of wanted something similar in a restaurant for some time. The kind of place where the staff knows you, the food is consistently delicious, the menu seasonal and creative, and the atmosphere comfortable enough to bring a young child to. Rhubarb, friends, is that place.

After opening this past October, Chef John Fleer and his staff have consistently been hitting it out of the part time after time. I first became acquainted with the restaurant rather serendipitously. Sara Bercholz, the force behind Roost Books, was visiting this past November. She, her partner Dave, Glenn, and I were downtown in Asheville, looking for somewhere to eat. We turned a corner, saw this new place right off Pack Square, looked at the menu, and figured we’d give it a try. That fateful lunch on Black Friday sealed the deal for us. We quickly knew we’d discovered a place that could quite possibly become “ours.”

Since then, we’ve celebrated occasions both humble and grand at Rhubarb. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day meals were all had there. We also partook in a number of their Family Meals, which have since been transformed into Sunday Suppers. Every Sunday at 6:30, diners can gather at either a communal table, to pass shared bowls of food and meet (hopefully) new friends, or order a la carte, from a three-course fixed price meal ($26 adults/$13 children). Patrons will also meet one of the farmers the restaurant works with, making it a “food to farmer” experience. We were generously invited to attend  a “dry run” of the Sunday Supper two weeks ago. The menu, as is the case with most food at Rhubarb but especially at Sunday Supper, reflects what is fresh and seasonally available at area farms and farmer’s markets.

What I loved at the meal, and of all meals I’ve had at Rhubarb, is that it’s elegant without being stuffy. It’s never overly wrought, and always loaded with flavors that are delivered with an even, knowledgeable hand. Chef Fleer knows what he’s doing, that’s for sure-he was named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the James Beard Foundation and is a three-time finalist for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” award. His 15 year stint as executive chef at luxury hotel and resort Blackberry Farm (which boasts one of the top 20 restaurants in the country) in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, honing his craft at what he calls “foothills cuisine,” resulted in a chef today that knows how to make food taste the best it can possibly taste, all at a very affordable price point. The fact that he’s also the party single-handedly responsible for bringing Allen Benton’s “Benton’s Bacon” and hams to the forefront of the culinary world, making it now one of the most coveted, lauded pork today, further cements my feelings of admiration. Benton himself credits Fleer with bringing his bacon to the attention of celebrity chefs David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Thomas Keller, and John Besh. As Glenn put it “I feel like I met the guy that discovered Elvis!”

From clever cocktails to imaginative, exquisitely presented desserts, Rhubarb has it all. They’re offering their first Sunday Supper to the general public this coming Sunday. You can view the menu here. Though you might be tempted to sequester yourself at a table of your own (as is our culture’s dining custom), I invite you to step outside the familiar and rub elbows with new folks. Even if all you end up chatting about and connecting over is how sensational the food is, you’ll come away with a full, satisfied belly and a nourished soul, just as Chef hopes you do.

8 Responses to Rhubarb

  • Paula M says:

    Everything looks so delicious! You make me want to visit Asheville, all the way from Newfoundland.

  • Brooke says:

    I’ve just added this place to our list of must-go’s for our biannual trip to Asheville!

  • dianne says:

    can’t wait to visit and check out Rhubarb!!

  • Greyson says:

    Side note- I’m pretty sure it’s a right of passage into pure boyhood to love and adore Thomas the Train and friends ;) You have arrived!!!!!
    Also-Rhubarb looks amazing!!!!

  • Minnie Branch says:

    I love everything about this restaurant! The atmosphere, the service and food that is ALWAYS consistently excellent! One of my first stops when I get back to Asheville next month.

  • Sara says:

    Sunday cannot come soon enough!

  • Mary maclaren says:

    What a great idea to have the farmers, the chef and the diners joined at a special dinner. We can’t wait to try it next time we are in Asheville.

  • joanna says:

    Wow – just peeked at the menu and saw Lobster Corn Dogs – wow! How is it possible that I haven’t found my way to Rhubarb yet? Will check it out very soon.