The Many Tastes of Black Mountain

That’s not to say that this town of 7,500 residents is resting on its laurels. In fact, Black Mountain appears to be experiencing a bit of a boom in dining options. With some 35 restaurants in town and new ones in the works, Black Mountain has become a “destination for people to come to and eat [at],” says Bob McMurray, executive director of the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce.

Of course, McMurray, who talked to Xpress during the recent food fair, “Taste of Black Mountain: The Art of Cooking,” also hopes that a greater number of locals will dine in town, as opposed to heading down the road to sample a certain city’s plethora of restaurants. “We want folks eating at home, instead of traveling to Asheville to spend their money,” he says. To promote that notion, the Chamber has launched a “Value Our Valley” campaign, urging locals to spend — and eat — locally.

If the turnout at the fair was any indication, plenty of folks are fond of the local flavors — and they’ve certainly got plenty of choices.

The June 9 event was held in a large white tent erected in a downtown parking lot. The afternoon was warm enough by itself, and with the addition of piping-hot stoves and hordes of enthusiastic eaters, the interior of the tent was near-sweltering. Luckily enough, this, the sixth annual Taste of Black Mountain, marked the first year that beer and wine were available, and several local breweries were on hand to help people cool down.

The Asheville-based Highland Brewing Company, featuring specialty brews such as Gaelic Ale, St. Terese’s Pale Ale and Oatmeal Porter, passed out samples to the town that they will soon call home. The company has purchased property in Black Mountain, and plans to have a new brewery up and running there as early as next summer.

The Merry Wine Market, located at 108 W. State St., offered not only wine but a sampling of the French Broad Brewing Company’s fine beers, including two of my favorite local brews, the refreshing Goldenrod Pilsner and the incredibly delicious Abbey Style Ale. Merry Wine Market staff explained that the shop hosts a free wine tasting every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. and plans to begin beer tastings soon.

Also pouring suds was Black Mountain’s own Pisgah Brewing Company, which specializes in organic, hand-crafted beer, such as their crisp American Style Pale Ale and the hot weather-appropriate American Style Hefeweizen. The brewery distributes to several Asheville and Black Mountain pubs, and whole kegs are available at the Six Pack Smokestack in Swannanoa or directly from the brewers themselves at 150 Eastside Business Park. The new company will soon begin offering their wares in bottles — good news indeed for local beer connoisseurs.

On the food front, the fair featured a smorgasbord of local eats. The Black Mountain Bistro, at 203 East State St., is owned by a family that boasts five generations in the area. The restaurant offers bountiful outdoor seating, a feature that draws diners during good weather. At the fair, the Bistro offered samples of its Southern cuisine, from fried green tomatoes to hickory-smoked baby back ribs. The items must have been good, because they were all devoured by the time I squeezed though the crowd to the Bistro’s table.

The Cellar Door, at 117-C Cherry St., is a newcomer to Black Mountain. The restaurant seats about 60, with room for more outside — once the furniture arrives. (The chairs that the owner ordered from Bali are reportedly on an unplanned world tour, and are currently in Canada.) Cellar Door offers casual fine dining, with a focus on local and organic cuisine. In terms of cost, the food is definitely on the high end, with a few dinner entrees carrying price tags that reflect the price of quality ingredients. There’s also a reasonably priced and accessible lunch menu. Their samples went fast as well, but I managed to snatch a slice of duck breast with fruit chutney and found it quite good.

Madison’s Black Mountain, at the Madison Inn (15 Dixon Drive in Ridgecrest), offered samples of their creamy seafood bisque and Grouper Almondine. Tucked away in a two-story, creek-side building with 11 guest rooms, the restaurant hosts guests of the inn as well as outside diners for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

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