Small bites: Polanco opens on North Market Street

NEW TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Polanco opened in mid-September. Chef and owner Ricardo Carrasco, a native of Tampico, Mexico, says he wants to bring his interpretation of Mexican culture and cuisine to Asheville.
NEW TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD: Polanco opened in mid-September. Chef and owner Ricardo Carrasco, a native of Tampico, Mexico, says he wants to bring his interpretation of Mexican culture and cuisine to Asheville. Photo by Thomas Calder

ASHEVILLE N.C.— Owner and chef Ricardo Carrasco coasts in for work at Polanco on his longboard. The Mexican restaurant opened in September in the North Market Street building that was home to Vincenzo’s for nearly 25 years until it closed in 2015. Carrasco’s mode of transportation is emblematic of how he operates his business — the chef likes to keep active and stay busy.

Only a month into his new venture, Carrasco says the menu, as well as the restaurant’s evening events, continue to expand. Recent additions include Taco Tuesday lunch and dinner specials; a Thursday night chef’s table tasting upstairs (with an additional open mic downstairs every other Thursday); a Friday night salsa dance class; a Saturday night dance party; and a Sunday buffet. “I like to have fun,” Carrasco says, “But the food is the primary character of the restaurant.”

Born and raised in Tampico, Mexico, Carrasco earned a law degree from Universidad Regionmontana, before discovering his true passion for cooking. Rather than put his law degree to use, Carrasco sought an apprenticeship with friend and chef Antonio Wong-Berez before attending culinary school. Since that time, he has continued to seek new knowledge through less traditional means. A three-week stint on a shrimping boat, for example, was how Carrasco learned the art of ceviche.

Polanco’s menu, Carrasco notes, changes daily with prices ranging from $9 to $35. Staples include ceviche tostada — halibut, shrimp and scallops marinated with lime, cilantro, onions, tomato, pineapples, mango, serrano peppers and topped with chipotle aioli; tacos; empanadas; fajitas; mole; flan with cajeta; and Mexican cheesecake. The restaurant has a full bar.

Raised a vegetarian, Carrasco has made sure that Polanco can accommodate — both through its menu options and design — those with dietary restrictions. “The kitchen is split,” he says. “We’ve got vegan and vegetarian [prep and cooking stations], so nothing is cross-contaminated. I cater exactly to your needs.”

Inside his office in the downstairs portion of Polanco, Carrasco continues discussing the restaurant’s future. His longboard stands near his desk. Complacency, the chef says, is “the worst thing that can happen to a restaurant.” Whether it’s the menu, the aesthetic or an evening’s event, Carrasco says Polanco will continue to evolve. But at the end of the day, he notes, it is the food that matters most. No matter the night, Carrasco says, “If I’ve got the doors to my place open, I got the door to my kitchen open [as well].”

Polanco is at 10 N. Market St. Hours are 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday. For details, visit polancorestaurant.com.

Regional Food Waste Summit

On Friday, Oct. 20, Warren Wilson College will host the Regional Food Waste Summit. The impetus for the gathering was the 2015 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture goal to cut food waste in half by 2030. The summit will include presentations from Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council, Asheville GreenWorks, Bountiful Cities, the city of Asheville Office of Sustainability, FEAST, Food Connection, MANNA FoodBank, UNC Asheville, Warren Wilson College and West Village Market. According to the event’s Facebook page, the summit will bring together industry leaders “to initiate cross-sector conversations and spark collaboration.” Participants will be able to learn about goals and systems in place locally to reduce food waste.

The Regional Food Waste Summit runs 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at Warren Wilson College, 701 Warren Wilson Road, Swannanoa. Admission is free, but preregistration is required. Register at avl.mx/46v.

White Labs Kitchen & Tap

The production facility at White Labs Asheville has been providing yeast and testing services to local brewers for a few months. But this week the public will finally have a chance to sample the company’s brews and food when White Labs Kitchen & Tap opens on Thursday, Oct. 19. The taproom features wine, cocktails and 28 rotating taps offering White Labs Brewing and guest beers. The beer-infused food menu, designed and executed by head chef Evan Timmons, includes woodfired pizzas made with White Labs yeast,  as well as house-fermented sauces, fresh salads and desserts.

White Labs Kitchen & Tap is at 172 S. Charlotte St. Hours are 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For details, visit whitelabskitchentap.com.

Chocolate & Climate

Chocolate is the theme of this month’s Movie Night at The Collider presented by Oskar Blues. Specifically, the event will ask participants to consider a life without the tasty treat. “Chocolate is grown around the world in regions being impacted by climate change,” says Megan Robinson, executive director at The Collider, a nonprofit innovation center focused on climate change solutions. “Depending on geography, chocolate growers are facing increased temperatures and extreme weather, including droughts and prolonged rainfall, all of which limit land usability and impact the viability of chocolate growing.” The evening will include a preview of selected clips from the documentary Setting the Bar: A Craft Chocolate Origin Story, which follows chocolate-makers  — including French Broad Chocolates co-owner Dan Rattigan — as they seek rare cacao in the Peruvian Amazon. Additionally, climate scientist Scott Stevens and representatives from French Broad Chocolates will lead a discussion on the natural environment needed for chocolate to be produced. French Broad Chocolates will provide samples of single-origin chocolates, Oskar Blues will provide beer, and The Collider will serve popcorn.

Chocolate & Climate Movie Night at The Collider runs 6:30-9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 24, 1 Haywood St., Suite 401. Suggested donations are $10 per person or $20 per family. Space is limited; seating is first-come, first-served. For details, visit avl.mx/46w.

Foraging and Cooking Wild Food with Abby Artemisia

Wild salad, pesto and fritters are among the dishes attendees will learn to make at Foraging and Cooking Wild Food with Abby Artemisia on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Artemisia will lead the group on a neighborhood walk to identify wild foods and will present an assortment of greens that grow in the region. Guests will get to sample each of the dishes made during the session and will leave with recipes.

Foraging and Cooking Wild Food with Abby Artemisia runs 6:30-9 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25, at Villagers, 278 Haywood Road. Tickets are $25. For details, visit avl.mx/46x.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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