Forest Blue: Diners aren’t the only ones who’ve lately begun looking beyond the nation’s ubiquitous sit-down chain restaurants: Sheila Seals, who opened 16 restaurants for Applebee’s as a regional manager, has gone the independent route with Forest Blue, a new “upscale-casual” eatery in near-south Asheville. The restaurant (pictured), which opened last month in the Hendersonville Road location formerly occupied by Amici’s, features fresh seafood and hand-cut steaks. “We have a little bit of everything,” Seals says, adding she’s tried to put a creative spin on menu items that regularly surface at franchises like Longhorn Steakhouse, where she also did a managerial stint. “Like the spinach-artichoke dip,” she says, “We added crab and serve it with pita wedges. It’s a little step up without being too costly.” Forest Blue is open every day, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and serves Sunday brunch starting at 10 a.m. For more information, call 505-7055.
Crème Patisserie: If the sweets at Crème Patisserie don’t please—and Jitra Neal, owner of the brand new bakery, is certain they will—the shop is also stocking hard-to-find supplies for home bakers. “We’ll have nut paste and other items you can’t really find in regular grocery stores,” Neal says. Crème, which will be located in Merrimon Square, is set to open “soon,” Neal says. “We haven’t set a date.” The artisanal bakery, which will specialize in chocolates, breads and cakes, is an outgrowth of a catering business Neal has operated for the last two years. Crème will be open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. To learn more, call 350-9839.
City Bakery: For those whose Christmas celebrations tend to be more Kris Kringle than Santy Claus, City Bakery is taking orders for its European-style yuletide sweets. The bakery is again offering Stollen and Panettone—a tall, fruit-filled bread associated with Milan. To pre-order for the holidays, call 252-4426.
European Food Imports: An Eastern European grocery that was destroyed by arson earlier this year reopened this month in a new West Asheville location: European Food Imports is back in business at 1481 Patton Avenue. The inventory is much the same as before the devastating fire, with all sorts of cookies, candies, pickles and meats for sale. “We have a lot of Latvian, a lot of Ukranian,” a store clerk said. The store is open Monday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday, 4-7 p.m.