Small Bites

Modesto gets a makeover

Modesto, part of the Hector Diaz mini-empire, is about to get a huge facelift. Diaz is planning to close his restaurant for renovations (which should be occurring by the time of this paper's publication) until April 1. When Modesto is re-opened, says Diaz, diners can expect an ode to the art-deco flavor of downtown Asheville. Custom-built booths in the restaurant will be styled to reflect different iconic Asheville buildings — the Miles Building, the City Hall and the S&W Building (currently home to S&W Steak and Wine), to name a few.

Facelift: Modesto owner Hector Diaz is planning an art deco redesign of his Grove Arcade restaurant, which is closed until April 1. Photos by Jonathan Welch

"Really, it's going to be very fancy here — it's going to be beautiful, well done," says Diaz. "But when you come here to eat, it's economical. It's for us, in the community, just to have a nice place to go where everybody can eat, not just the wealthy. You're going to be able to spend $200 on a bottle of wine if you want, $18 if you want to, too."

The kitchen, currently open to the bar area, will be closed off from the restaurant. That side of Modesto will become a bakery, where Diaz and crew will turn out rustic Italian loaves that are fired in the wood oven, as well as paninis and classic Italian desserts.

Xpress had a chance to sample some of that bread, which was yeasty, dense but still tender with a great crust. If Diaz holds true to the per-loaf prices that he is predicting, Asheville is in for a real, affordable treat. For more information about Modesto, visit www.modesto.com
Stay tuned for an Xpress special photo essay after Modesto reopens.

The deep blue

Asheville-dwelling seafood lovers take note — a new source for sustainably caught and raised seafood is coming to 94 Charlotte St. The owners of Hendersonville's Blue Water Seafood Company are opening a second location in Asheville right next to the City Bakery.

Blue Water, says Tracy Griffin, who owns the market with her husband David, will offer a wide array of fresh seafood displayed on ice in large stainless steel bins, enabling customers to inspect the fish closely before purchase. Griffin adds that eight years of running the successful market in Hendersonville has given them both the experience and buying power to offer what she says is the "freshest seafood in WNC."

Rise and Shine: Julie and John Stehling's Early Girl Eatery received a nod for their already famous (in Asheville, at least) breakfast grub in the March issue of Southern Living.

Griffen says that Blue Water buys all of their seafood straight from the source. "We are actively involved with our N.C. fisherman and vendors to ensure we follow N.C. Sea Grant regulations," she says. "Our Web site provides educational links to … lists of responsibly raised and caught seafood. We are able to get boat documentation on our East Coast Seafood to provide proof of how and when product was caught. We strive to purchase responsibly caught seafood as well as buy only from Aqua Culture farms that are regulated and inspected. We take great pride in the quality of our product, our sanitation practices and our Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Certification."

Blue Water Seafood will also serve lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the market's 35-seat dining area. Diners can expect to find home-made gumbos, chowders, lobster rolls, steamed mussels, oysters on the half shell and more. Wine will also be available by the glass and bottle, and five beers will be on tap. A light menu will be served from 6 to 7 p.m., says Griffin.

Beyond their wide selection of shellfish and other seafood, Blue Water will also sell Everett Farms Beef and Chicken, East Fork Farms Lamb, High Farms Chicken, and a limited supply of Hickory Nut Gap Products. Griffin adds that, in addition to retail, Blue Water can provide wholesale items to local restaurants and groceries.
For more information, visit www.bluewaterseafood.net.

We scream for spring

A sure sign that winter is (finally) over? Forget the daffodils and tulips — West Asheville's Two Spoons Ice Cream is re-opening for business. The shop known for creative flavors like maple bacon and the brand new Wedge Brewery porter cream, will be celebrating its third year of business with a grand re-opening party on Saturday, April 3, from 1 to 7 p.m. Festivities will include balloon bending by the Jolly Balloonsmiths, drawing contests, giveaways and, according to the shop's press release, "nonannoying kid's music." 

Two Spoons is located at 721 Haywood Road in West Asheville. For more information, visit www.twospoonsicecream.com or call 252-5155.

Southern girl

Asheville's own beloved Early Girl Eatery was recently mentioned in the March issue of Southern Living, found on newsstands now. The Wall Street eatery was given the nod in an article exploring the best breakfasts to be found throughout the state of North Carolina. Xpress recently caught up with Julie Stehling, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband John, for a reaction.

"Of course we are so very flattered to be in Southern Living," said Stehling, smiling broadly. "There's been a great response — Southern Living readers come to Asheville…It's an amazing publication to be in for that reason because it directly affects our business."

Stehling remarked that she is excited for the warm weather and the swell of business that it will likely bring. Early Girl is now serving breakfast all day, seven days a week, and dinner from Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, visit www.earlygirleatery.com.

Cupcakes for cures

A group of Ashevilleans has gathered to organize Asheville's first cancer-fighting cupcake competition — Cupcakes for Cures. On Saturday, April 10, Asheville's finest professional, amateur and youth bakers will gather for a competitive face-off to help support the American Cancer Society's efforts to find cures for cancer. 

Several categories of cupcakes will be represented, including best savory and best local foods cupcake, as well as Xpress' personal favorite — best beer cupcake.

In addition to the ultimate bragging rights, bakers have the opportunity to win prizes, the likes of which have not been disclosed yet. What's most important is the cause — and the tasty, tasty cupcakes, of course.

To register, reserve event tickets and learn more about the event, visit www.cupcakesforcures.com.

Send your food news to food@mountainx.com.

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