What just happened? And how, after it is all over, are we still standing? Hidden out of sight, on the beautiful kudzu-laden back patio of Hi-Wire Brewing’s Big Top, beneath the exposed metal beams and bombed-out structure, they’ve set a long table with space for 24, draped with a black tablecloth. Fitting, as black proves easier to hide the drippings and blood that will soon be coating damn near everything. All hail the return of the Butcher’s Table, Foothills Pasture Meats’ decadent and debaucherous monthly meat extravaganza.
Perhaps you recall our last foray into the intimate family dinner-turned-Jurassic feast of epic proportions from when we covered it in 2014 [https://mountainx.com/food/the-butchers-table-ashevilles-artisinal-meat-feast/]. With the reboot, Foothills’ Casey McKissick is hoping to draw some of the best chefs from throughout the South, and tonight’s features Steven Goff, who made a name for himself both as chef of King James Public House and a culinary instructor at A-B Tech before relocating to Raleigh to begin work as a butcher. Goff and his wife, Sam, have become fixtures in many of the pop-up kitchen concepts and have become quite the masters of cooking unconventional meats in unusual spaces.
Tonight, a wood fire is stoked beneath the flattop of a plancha— which is essentially a griddle affixed above a fire pit. On the cast-iron blacktop, offal simmers while six pans of stewed shin-cuts bubble in their stock. In a gas-flamed wok, Jimmy Lee of Foothills and Buxton Hall Barbecue, drops thinly hammered slivers of pork, thickly breaded, into seething oil.
“You didn’t like the wok I brought you?” asks McKissick.
“That was definitely a white-boy wok!” Lee barks, poking at the floating pork with a pair of tongs. They are already starting to turn a golden brown.
As the guests file in, frothy beverages in hand, the Goffs have begun plating the first course. Three platters, each the size of a small folding table, are spread deep and high with fried livermush, chicken liver pate, headcheese, roasted marrow bones and a salad of thick, wide greens.
Goff is known for his work with the nasty bits of the animals and, as a result, has become quite good at taking cuts of meat that might make the average eater queasy and make them extremely approachable and nonthreatening. His fried livermush is crispy and crumbly, and in no way resembles the funky, gamey slabs often served between two slices of white bread with a swipe of Dukes. The pate is equally elegant in its flavor, and we start to use it like a mayonnaise, slathering in on a slice of bread before topping it with a piece of headcheese and mustard.
On the plancha, thick steaks are sizzling as the second course is plated. Roasted pork belly, seared ugly steaks — a cut from the bottom of the sirloin — and schnitzel are served with brown gravy, mustard whip and an insanely good, lightly dressed potato salad. The large serving dishes take two hands to carry, each one piled with enough meat to feed the entire table, and there’s three of them, loaded to excess.
Then comes the main course, weighing down a long butcher’s board and taking two people to carry: a mountain of confit beef tongue, braised beef shins, seared steaks and roasted local vegetables. This is perhaps the kind of gluttony your priest warned you about, and with each bite from the dense fortress of meat, it hardly even seems to make a dent. A truly unholy assemblage of every odd and delicious slice of animal imaginable.
“Beef shins have become one of my favorite things to work with,” says Goff as I pick a glistening strand of the shin off the bone and devour it. It tastes like some of the most tender pot roast you’ve ever had.
It is difficult to refer to these servings as “courses” in any traditional sense of the word. They are really more like entire meals in both the shear gravity of food as well as the sprawling arrangement. So perhaps it would be easier to call this a “five-meal dinner” instead of a “five-course meal.” It is also important to point out that everything on these platters comes from a local and ethical farm, most of it having been purchased as a whole animal, since that is what Foothills does as a nose-to-tail butcher shop.
So what does one offer after a towering inferno of perfectly cooked meat, seared over a raging fire? Why three serving platters full of pasta, of course! Deep, deep dishes of smoked beef short plate and ostrich neck are tossed in a beef and bacon carbonara with wheat pasta. Shaved local vegetables and cracklings top the piles of pasta, along with soft-boiled eggs. The unsuspecting table full of guests barely puts a dent in the fourth course. They are starting to look sluggish, like runners in the last leg of an uphill marathon.
By the time dessert arrives, it feels like some twisted fifth act in a Willy Wonka remake. A veritable Candyland of sweets stretches across yet another butcher board. There’s buttermilk panna cotta, vinegar pie, dulce de leche, chocolate ganache and fluffernutter. The marshmallows are prepared like Rice Krispies treats; instead of puffed rice, Goff uses crispy pig skins. The result is a sublimely rich, savory and sweet little square of gooey perfection.
By the end of the night, I think I know how people who finish those Spartan races must feel — exhausted and drained, but filled with a strange sense of accomplishment, as though some great cliff has been bested, some evolutionary carnal desire achieved. It may not be enlightenment, but we’re getting somewhere.
The Butcher’s Table dinners will be held monthly throughout the summer, and feature guest chefs like Craig Deihl of Charleston’s Cyprus, Dan Silo and Jimmy Lee of Buxton Hall, and in the final dinner, the “Return of the Grievous Angel,” Jeremy Hardcastle, formerly of The Admiral fame returns from his butcher shop in Saxapahaw.
At $67 a ticket and paired with Hi-Wire beer, it is well worth the price, and it’s extremely likely that these dinners will sell out quickly. I believe it is safe to say that these dinners offer no vegetarian alternatives.
Here are some details from a press release about the series:
The Butcher’s Table series will run through October and feature some of the most fascinating butchers and chefs in the southeast. At only $67 per person, tickets sell very quickly. All dinners will be hosted at Hi-Wire Brewing’s Big Top location in a private brewhouse area.
Tickets can be purchased online at foothillslocalmeats.com/butcherstable, or at the Hi-Wire Brewing Big Top taproom. For more information about the event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- June 9,Craig Deihl, Cypress and Artisan Meat Share, Charleston, SC
- July 14,Dan Silo and Jimmy Lee, Buxton Hall, El Kimchi, & Foothills Meats, Asheville
- Aug. 25,Chris Carter and James Peisker, Porter Road Butcher, Nashville, TN
- Sept. 22, Asheville’s Return of the Grievous Angel, Jeremy Hardcastle, Left Bank Butchery, Saxapahaw, NC
- October 20,Very special guest, TBA
Click here for more information.