Small Bites

There’s the beef: This Mount Mitchell challenge at Pack’s Tavern involves consuming a 32-ounce patty, a 10-inch locally baked bun, 16 jalapeños, eight strips of bacon and four fried eggs. Hungry? Photo by Jonathan Welch

A mountain of a burger

Adam Richman would be proud of (and maybe a bit intimidated by) the newest menu item at Pack's Tavern. Richman, the star of the Food Network's Man v. Food, spends much of his time cruising around the country taking on food challenges that generally involve consuming stomach-churning portions of food. "I think it's hilarious," says Pack's representative Amanda Franklin of the spectacle. "As a family, we decided that it would be fun to host a challenge like that."

To that end, Pack's is offering the Mount Mitchell Challenge, which most certainly is not for the faint of heart. It involves consuming a monstrosity of a burger platter that’s approximately equivalent to the birth-weight of a human being. “It’s basically four of our Mount Mitchell burgers in one,” says Franklin. The jumbo-sized burger comes sandwiched between a 10-inch City Bakery bun. The patty consists of 32 ounces of beef that’s then topped with four eggs sunny side up, eight slices of bacon, four slices each of Swiss and cheddar, 16 jalapeños, four fried green tomatoes, lettuce — and a pound and a half of fries on the side for good measure. "With, of course, mayonnaise," says Franklin. "It's a lot," she concedes. But this sandwich is not just about excessiveness.

First of all, the $39.99 burger is free of charge if it’s fully consumed within 45 minutes — fries, mayo and all. Additionally, Pack’s will award champion eaters a personalized flag that will fly over the south bar as long as Pack’s stands, says Franklin. "Then, the winner gets to choose an Asheville city school … to send one of our chefs to do a healthy snack program for the day for elementary students," she says.

Though the burger program is one of a number of ways the tavern gives back to the community — like donating food to the homeless — it's also just plain fun. And the extra attention doesn’t hurt, Franklin adds.

"It's been tough with the economy and the snow, and we kind of wanted to make sure that we got, as they say, butts in seats," she says. "We wanted to get our name out there with something fun."

The burger, says Franklin, can also be ordered to be split with friends, but the challenge only applies if a single person is the one doing the devouring. The challenge is held Thursday through Saturday only and is subject to bun availability. Call 225-6944 to make reservations. Pack’s Tavern is located at 20 S. Spruce St. For more information, visit packstavern.com.

A new site for wine

Les Doss and Kathy Taylor, former owners of the Usual Suspects (now called Avenue M), are back in the swing of things. They aren’t opening another bar, however. The couple’s new project is a wine shop, Vinsite, which will focus mostly on natural wines.

The shop is to be located on Broadway Street, right next to Bruisin’ Ales, making this slightly quiet block a bit more bumping. Vinsite is still under construction. Doss and Taylor are not yet releasing an opening date, but they hope it’s before spring.

What's in the name? Plenty, says Doss. “The Vin part of the name is because we're going to concentrate on continental wines — a lot of French, Italian and Spanish. Site, because we're going to specialize in wines that specifically show their origins."

A tasting room, set off a bit from the main inventory-holding area of the shop, will eventually be used to offer Doss, a certified sommelier, a platform for which to highlight his unique selections. What makes the wines so unique?

Doss says he sees the winemakers he hopes to highlight as stewards of wine rather than producers. "They just kind of shepherd it through the winemaking process," he says. "Whatever comes out of that vintage and harvest is what comes out of it — with its flaws or not with its flaws."

Furthermore, says Doss, many of the winemakers that he's featuring use wild yeast, "which gives the wine a more site-specific presence, rather than a factory-made, specially fashioned yeast that will do certain things that actually weren't a part of that area in the first place. It shows a little bit more of a regional flavor — the wine actually tastes like it's from Chinon or Sancerre, not a sauvignon blanc from … wherever."

Doss and Taylor plan to be present in the store as much as possible — anyone who’s frequented the Usual is familiar with their hands-on approach. It's a good plan, after all. "This type of wine is going to take a lot of explanation," says Doss. "It's a hard concept to explain in the first place. These are the types of wines that are underrepresented in this area, and I think they’ll fit well in Asheville."

Doss says that some of his wines will differ from what many are accustomed to, much the same way that a fresh farmers market tomato differs from a supermarket tomato.

"And there will be some really extreme wines for hard-core wine geeks that are off-the-charts weird, too," he adds. "They're really odd. I hope to do a tasting with those sometime. They're kind of unstable and have all kinds of good bacteria in them and flaws — and that was the winemaker’s intention.”

Vinsite — and these rather interesting-sounding wines — will be located at 68 Broadway St. in downtown Asheville. The website is still under construction. Stay tuned to Xpress for more details.

Pig out

Add another restaurant to the list of recent closings: The Fiddlin’ Pig, a barbecue and bluegrass joint on Tunnel Road, has shut its doors. It was known for its local music offerings, with a variety of bands performing many nights of the week.

The owner of the Fiddlin’ Pig, Matthew C. Burril, posted this statement on the restaurant’s website:

“I want everyone to know that when we decided to create this concept, it was out of love for our state and more specifically our area of Western North Carolina that we love so much. Asheville and WNC have been very good to me and my family, so the thought of celebrating our culture through music, food and hospitality was the driving force behind our project. And with those things in mind it was a marvelous success. The difficulty of our economy and the pressure on our typical family budget that was the lifeblood of our guest profile has made it impossible to continue.”

For questions regarding reservations or party schedules that have been made in advance please call Nancy Dunn at 251-1979 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, Monday through Friday. She will be glad to direct you to other venues in Asheville.”

Lunchtime pie

West Asheville’s Pizzeria Ritrovo is now open for lunch in addition to dinner. Lunch is now served until 4 p.m., and includes pizzas, salads and pastas. There’s also a menu of creative sandwiches using house-baked bread, including an Italian that incorporates pepper-rubbed house-roasted pork loin, prosciutto, Genoa salami, Provolone cheese, pickled cherry peppers and fresh oregano. Ritrovo is located at 1050 Haywood Road and is open Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 until 9 p.m., Saturday from 4:30 until 9 p.m. For more information, visit ritrovopizzeria.com.

Sweets for the sweet

Want to send a unique Valentine's gift? Short Street Cakes introduces the Sweetheart Cake, a tiny version of a full-sized Short Street creation. Order by Friday, Feb. 11, and the cake shop will deliver the sweets to your sweetheart on Valentine's Day, along with a heartfelt message (that you dictate, Romeo), a paper flower from Two of Hearts and a handmade lollipop from Sugar Two Shoes for $20 plus tax.
 
The Sweetheart Cake is available in the following flavors: Mexican chocolate, raspberry-almond or bacon-apple flavors (for the daring foodies among us).

This year, Short Street also offers an 8-inch heart-shaped chocolate cake covered in ganache, also accompanied by a handwritten note and adorned with fresh sweetheart roses for $30. Again, order by Friday, Feb. 11 for Valentine’s Day delivery. Delivery of both specials is limited to the 28801 or 28806 area codes.

The cake shop will offer extended hours for last-minute lovers. The bakery will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday. (And cake shop owner Jodi Rhoden says there's going to be a peep show with some X-rated cupcakes behind an 18-and-over curtain in the case.)

Short Street Cakes is located at 225 Haywood Road. For more information, call 505-4822 or visit shortstreetcakes.com.

A beery Valentine

Sunny Point Café features a four-course beer dinner for Valentine's Day this year. The Monday, Feb. 14 event will feature brews from Foothills Brewing Company in Winston-Salem, paired with four courses inspired by aphrodisiacs from around the world. The menu features pomegranate oysters, asparagus and herb salad and chili-cumin short ribs with pumpkin seed molé. Foothills’ award-winning Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout will finish the evening, accompanying a chocolate-marshmallow “s’more roulade.” Evan Crutchfield from Foothills Brewing will be in attendance to present the brews and the philosophy behind the beer.

Cost is $40 per person (which doesn’t include taxes or gratuity). Seating begins at 6 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made at the restaurant, or by calling 252-0055.

Sunny Point is located at 626 Haywood Road in West Asheville. For more information, visit sunnypointcafe.com.

Steak for two

The Chop House, located in the Four Points Sheraton at 22 Woodfin St. in downtown Asheville, recently welcomed a new executive chef: Joseph LaMarca, former owner and chef of the former downtown restaurant, Left Bank. LaMarca has a resume that includes 30 years of cooking in New York steakhouses. The Chop House offers Sterling Silver Beef cooked over wood-fired grills, as well as classic steakhouse sides.

A Valentine’s Day dinner will feature a meal for two that includes appetizers, entrées, sides, desserts and champagne toast for two, plus live music. The cost is $99.99 per couple, tax and gratuity included. For more information, call 853-1852 or visit chophouseasheville.com.

My Black Mountain Valentine

Planning to be in Black Mountain for Valentine's Day (which falls on a Monday this year)? Here are a few food-related options to celebrate with your sweetheart:
• The Morning Glory Café offers a special four-course Valentine’s Day dinner from 5:30 until 9 p.m. The cost of the dinner is $45 per couple, and includes a complimentary glass of bubbly. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 669-6212. The restaurant is located at 6 E. Market Street. For more information, visit themorningglorycafe.com.
• Valentine’s Day dinner at The Blackbird restaurant also includes a special menu with complimentary champagne. Items include lobster, rack of lamb, ribeye and wild salmon, wild mushroom truffled fettuccini. Dessert includes wild raspberry mousse, house-made chocolate truffles and chocolate flights for two. For reservations, call 669-5556. The Blackbird is located at 10 East Market St. For more information, visit theblackbirdrestaurant.com.
Kilwin’s Chocolates, Fudge and Ice Cream has a large variety of Valentine’s Day gift ideas. Kilwin's is located at 116 W. State St. For more information, visit kilwins.com or call 669-6119. 
Que Sera is open for Valentine’s Day dinner 5-10 p.m. with specials for the evening along with their regular menu. Que Sera is located at 400 E. State St. For more information, visit queserarestaurant.com or call 664-9472.

Still looking for something different to do for Valentine’s Day?

Check mountainx.com/dining next week for an online-only roundup of romantic options around town.

— Mackensy Lunsford can be reached at food@mountainx.com.

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