Fresh Dish: Katie Button on ramps, Spanish pastries and raw oysters

COFFEE TALK: Chef and restaurateur Katie Button enjoys a cafe con leche and Catalan pastry xuixo at her restaurant La Bodega. Photo by Andy Hall

The following chat with chef Katie Button, co-founder and CEO of Katie Button Restaurants, kicks off the first in a new monthly column spotlighting seasonal dishes and cooking tips. As part of the series, we will ask each featured guest to nominate the following month’s chef.

Xpress joined Button inside La Bodega de Cúrate, her latest business, which features a Spanish-style market downstairs and a full-service restaurant on the second floor. A familiar face in the local culinary scene, Button’s revered Cúrate earned the 2022 James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality. Additionally, Button is a founding member of Chow Chow: An Asheville Culinary Event, a member of the leadership team for the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association and the host of “From the Source,” an original series on the Magnolia Network.

Xpress: What’s a good seasonal ingredient underrepresented in home cooking? 

I would say ramp tops — the green part. They are sustainable and have a lot of flavor. And it’s this unique flavor that’s like shallot meets garlic.

One thing about ramp tops is you can puree and then freeze them in portions and have them for the rest of the year. So, it’s not just about enjoying them in the moment.

I also love to grill and sauté them. That was a tip I’d share with people back when we had [Button & Co. Bagels]. We used to fold that ramp puree into cream cheese — that’s how we made our ramp cream cheese. But on that point, you could fold it into just about anything; it can go in soups or sauces or pasta. It’s a flavor bomb.

I would recommend freezing them in ice-cube trays. That’s my favorite.

What is a current dish on one of your restaurants’ menus that you feel is not getting the attention that it deserves?

I would say the xuixo. That’s Catalan, pronounced chu-cho. It’s the most incredible Spanish pastry. It’s available at La Bodega in the morning, but you can also order it through lunch upstairs. It’s like croissant dough filled with pastry cream, deep fried and rolled in sugar. Basically, it’s as if you merged a croissant, an eclair and a doughnut.

I wonder why people aren’t paying attention to that. Do you have any theories?

I think because it’s new and the name xuixo is unusual, right? It’ll take someone recommending it or being in the know to know that that’s a thing that you should get.

Outside of your own restaurants, what’s a local dish that you’ve tried in the last month that completely blew you away, and why?

I went to Neng Jr.’s recently. I had the adobo oyster — it’s a raw oyster on the half shell with this adobo sauce on it, topped with a loosely cured quailed egg yolk. It was incredible how unique the flavor combinations were. I would’ve never put the egg yolk right with an oyster like that. But it works because of the texture. And then that brings out that fatty richness of the egg yolk, along with the brininess of the oyster and the flavor and spices in the adobo sauce.

What cuisine would you like to see represented more in Asheville?

I like what chef J Chong is doing, introducing our region to really well-made Cantonese food. And I would love to see that develop. Right now, you can only experience her Cantonese cuisine in pop-ups or her dumplings at the market. And I’m dying to have it, and I just wish that there was more.

What’s a favorite food destination within driving distance of Asheville that readers should add to their list?

We go to the Charleston area a lot. What I love about it is you’ve got the full range. I mean the culinary scene is similar to Asheville, but there are more options and more variety. You’ve got the casual seafood-shack-style restaurant where you can eat fried seafood and drink a beer with your toes almost in the sand. But then you can also go downtown and just have a really incredible meal at The Ordinary or FIG or The Obstinate Daughter. That’s what I love most about it — you can go in the city and eat great food, or you can head closer to the coast for a great meal. There are amazing restaurants in each and every pocket of Charleston.

Who would you like to see us dish with next month?

I would love to nominate chef Iris Rodriguez at Little Chango. Oh, it is so good. Great for lunch and I really love their bites there. It’s one of my favorite lunch spots in town.


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About Andy Hall
Andy Hall graduated from The University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication. After working at the United States Capitol for ten years, she has returned to her native state to enjoy the mountains — and finally become a writer.

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