Food roundup: Cúrate at Earth Fare, a new lunch option and leadership change at Benne on Eagle

CASE WORK: It's a "Made in Asheville" sandwich in Earth Fare's local prepared foods case with newly added Cúrate classics nestled between Chai Pani and Roots Hummus products. Photo courtesy La Bodega by Cúrate

What’s new in food as Asheville kicks off the last month of 2020? Spanish fare at Earth Fare, fried fish on a bun or in a basket and kitchen switches at Benne on Eagle.

Market ready

In November, chef Katie Button‘s Cúrate label, which has shifted during COVID-19 to include a Spanish specialty food market, La Bodega by Cúrate, settled into another home in the local foods section of the prepared food case at Earth Fare in West Asheville. Shoppers will find Cúrate’s gazpacho, romesco sauce, piquillo confit and aceitunas on a shelf beneath Chai Pani specialties and right above Roots Hummus.

“We thought if we were already producing these things that surely we could find other places to put them so more people could get them,” Button says. “The folks at Earth Fare have been wonderful about cutting red tape and easing the entry. We appreciate their support of locals.”

Online ordering for shipping nationwide, another new venture, is available through the Cúrate website at

La Bodega by Cúrate, with a freshly painted storefront, serves breakfast, lunch and semiprepared dishes to take away 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. Cúrate reopened July 1 for limited-capacity indoor dining.

La Bodega by Cúrate, 32 S. Lexington Ave.; Cúrate, 13 Biltmore Ave.

Fit to be fried

Mother Ocean Market, which started out selling fresh seafood from a trailer at local tailgate markets and parking lots in 2017, opened a brick-and-mortar store on Merrimon Avenue in late March, tweaking in-store service in response to the pandemic and offering curbside pickup and delivery through Takeout Central and Kickback AVL.

With a nod to co-owner Sam Kosick’s memories of picking up a fish sandwich from fish markets he used to frequent, MOM has started partnering with chef Mark Schmitt to do lunch service 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Offerings include fish sandwiches, po’boys, lobster rolls, crab cake sandwiches, steamed shrimp and baskets of fried shrimp, oysters, clam strips or fish with hushpuppies and slaw.

Front-of-house manager Kat Hundertmark urges people to call ahead to order as indoor customer capacity is limited. “We’re trying to be a one-stop shop,” Hundertmark says. “Pick up some fresh seafood to cook for dinner and a po’boy to go for lunch.”

Find the menu at

Mother Ocean Market, 640 Merrimon Ave.

Goodbye, hello

Since chef John Fleer opened Benne on Eagle in 2018, the restaurant has received heaps of national attention and acclaim for its mission of highlighting African American culinary traditions and Southern Appalachian food. Also celebrated has been the heritage-rooted work of Benne’s young and talented Black chef de cuisine, Ashleigh Shanti, who was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Rising Star Chef award shortly before COVID-19 closed restaurants.

In early November, Shanti parted ways with the restaurant to focus on creating an Asheville-based restaurant group that will address the low rate of Black-owned restaurants in the region. “I want to be a part of diversifying that sector, and I feel like Asheville is a great place to do it,” she says.

Benne on Eagle’s new chef de cuisine, according to a recent press release, is Malcolm McMillian, who joined the restaurant as sous chef under Shanti in July. McMillian trained in classical French techniques at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte and, after a four-year stint in the U.S. Army, honed his cooking skills at restaurants in Charlotte, Washington, D.C., New York City and, most recently, The DeBruce, an upstate New York inn known for its French farm-to-table menu.

Benne on Eagle has reopened for limited capacity indoor dining with outdoor seating and an online takeout menu. For details, visit

Benne on Eagle, 35 Eagle St.


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About Kay West
Kay West was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint Nashville, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. To kick off 2019 she put Tennessee in her rear view mirror, drove into the mountains of WNC, settled in West Asheville and appreciates that writing offers the opportunity to explore and learn her new home. She looks forward to hiking trails, biking greenways, canoeing rivers, sampling local beer and cheering the Asheville Tourists.

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