What’s new in food: Posana turns 15

THEN AND NOW: Peter and Martha Pollay when they launched Posana on Pack Square in 2009, left, and today. The 100% gluten-free restaurant will mark its 15th anniversary with a dinner event Thursday, May 16. Photos courtesy of Posana

When Martha and chef Peter Pollay opened Posana in 2009, they were not thinking long-term goals. “We wanted to serve good food and be part of the community,” Peter recalls.

Mission accomplished — and so much more. Posana is one of Asheville’s most well-regarded restaurants, a dining destination for locals and visitors alike; a leader in establishing the stellar culinary reputation of the city and a solid anchor for an ever-changing downtown — all the while being 100% gluten-free. (Martha lives with celiac disease, a chronic immune disorder triggered by gluten ingestion.) But to hear Peter tell it, the couple just segued their style of cooking, eating and entertaining at home to a restaurant.

On Thursday, May 16, 5-9 p.m. the couple will celebrate Posana’s 15th anniversary at 1 Biltmore Ave., with a sampling of menu staples and seasonal spring dishes, as well as a one-night-only return of the restaurant’s award-winning lobster mac and cheese. The bar will reprise its famous Zentini — vodka, ginger syrup, lime juice, ginger juice and lime bitters — and pour a glass of bubbly for each guest.

Before moving to Asheville in 2003, the Pollays lived in Malibu, Calif., where they shopped three times weekly at local farmers markets, choosing local meats, fish, fruits and vegetables to prepare at home. “This was before Martha got celiac, but what we were cooking was naturally gluten-free and delicious,” says the chef.

When the Pollays first arrived in Asheville, tailgate markets were not as prolific as they are now, so Peter established a relationship with a distributor at the WNC Farmers Market to buy cases of produce grown nearby. “We had neighbors also interested in that, so we’d go in together and divvy it all up from our dining room table,” he explains. “Then we’d invite them back for a big dinner.”

When the couple decided to open a restaurant, Peter suggested they just re-create the food they made at home. “We’ll source from the market, make the food and serve the food,” he recalls of their plan. “By then, Martha was diagnosed with celiac, and I wanted a place where she could safely eat.”

For years, the Pack Square corner building had been Café on the Square, and the ambiance was very much a casual café model, open for breakfast and lunch with soft seating, sofas in the front window and tables at a banquette. The Pollays kept much of the decor, creating a new menu for breakfast and lunch and adding dinner, which meant the restaurant was serving three meals a day, seven days a week.

The hours were not sustainable. About two years in, Posana dropped breakfast except for weekend brunch service and, about a year and a half later, also eliminated lunch.

As the restaurant’s food, beverage and service programs became more elevated, the Pollays realized the space didn’t reflect that sophistication, so the year the restaurant turned 5, Posana underwent a complete remodel.

A decade later, in addition to its original commitment to being gluten-free across the board — from bread and pasta to desserts — and sticking with charter vendors Sunburst Trout and Three Graces Dairy, Posana’s famous kale salad has not been altered. “If we changed it or took it off the menu, there would probably be protestors outside the door,” Peter says with a laugh.

Reflecting on 15 years, Peter speaks warmly of staff members who have passed through the front and back of house. “It’s a huge honor to have had them in our family, to see them develop skills, grow and go on in this industry or another field,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to be part of their lives and the lives of all the guests who have chosen Posana for meals and milestones.”

Posana is at 1 Biltmore Ave. Tickets to the Thursday, May 16, celebration dinner are $75 per person and are available at avl.mx/dnj.

Sharing is caring

Since its founding as We Give a Share in 2020, Equal Plates Project has been on a dual mission: support local farms and address food insecurity. The nonprofit achieves this by buying produce from Western North Carolina farm partners to prepare scratch-made meals for community members experiencing barriers to nutritional food access. EPP’s new Buy One, Give One catering program, launching this month, seeks to turn every meal bought by a catering client into one of equal value for people facing food insecurity.

Executive Director Madi Holtzman describes the program as “catering with impact.” Farm partners include Sunburst Trout Farms, Gaining Ground Farm, Creasman Farms, Looking Glass Creamery and Dry Ridge Farm. Homeward Bound, 12 Baskets Café and Food Connection are among the groups EPP serves.

Pricing is on a sliding scale, from $18-$30 per plate. Meal options include roasted chicken with potato salad, kale Caesar and apple beet salad or barbecued pulled pork with cornbread, broccoli slaw, and mac and cheese; menus are seasonally driven. Suggested as a healthy option for corporate retreats, staff meetings, family reunions and gatherings, Buy One, Give One can accommodate groups of 50-100 people and will deliver (for a fee) in the Asheville area.

EPP began cooking from the kitchen at downtown Asheville’s Central United Methodist Church in March 2022 and, in that time, has prepared over 30,000 meals there and invested over $50,000 in local farms.

For more information on EPP and BOGO, visit avl.mx/bvs.

Mother dearest

Breakfast in bed is messy and highly overrated. Moms want to dress up, get out of the house and have a Mama-mosa on their special day, which this year is Sunday, May 12. Tick-tock, kids.

The Radical Hotel’s Golden Hour restaurant plans to treat moms like gold with its Mother’s Day brunch menu. Highlights include shellfish beignets, grits and greens, steak and eggs, and croissant French toast. There will be live music 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with the chance to be Top Mom and win a Golden Ticket for a Radical getaway.  The Radical is at 95 Roberts St. Reservations: avl.mx/dn4.

Bargello in the Hotel Arras will also be Mother’s Day brunching 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with a prix fixe, three-course, multichoice menu that includes items like zeppole (Italian doughnuts), frittata, crabcake Benedict and espresso panna cotta with hazelnut biscotti.  Bargello is at 7 Patton Ave. Reservations: avl.mx/dn5.

New, hot book

Her first restaurant, Good Hot Fish, just launched in January on Asheville’s South Slope, but chef Ashleigh Shanti has had other irons in the fire as well. The former Benne on Eagle chef de cuisine and 2020 James Beard Award Rising Star Chef finalist has announced plans to release her debut cookbook, Our South: Black Food Through My Lens, on Oct. 15.

Our South‘s 125 recipes explore Black foodways through the chef’s experience, “offering readers an intimate look at the regions that have defined her culinary identity,” including Black Appalachia, the South Carolina Lowcountry, the Southern Midlands and Shanti’s native coastal Virginia, as well as dishes she cooks today. Hot collard and oyster dip with fried Saltines, grilled sorghum chicken on a stick and rice custard brulée with strawberries are a few standouts.

Kitchen kids

Slicing, dicing, sautéing and the science of sourdough starter are part of the syllabus for Asheville Mountain Kitchen’s hands-on cooking camp for kids ages 8-14. Chef/owner/instructor Ofri Hirsch is offering four weeklong camps beginning Monday, June 10. Each session presents five areas of study, starting with Knife Skill Mondays. “Like anything with risk, you have to be taught. We show them how to hold a sharp knife and use it, so fingers are out of the way,” Hirsch assures.

Every day includes a walkable destination: The Italian food class will visit olive oil shop Olive This!, and sourdough baking sessions include a walk to The Rhu. Camp takes place 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. daily at 16 Eagle St.  Meals are included in the fee, which is $400 per student (15% sibling discount).

For more information and to register, visit avl.mx/dn7.

Gardening is elementary

The Bountiful Cities FEAST program in Asheville City, Buncombe County and Madison County schools provides cooking and gardening classes that teach and touch over 1,500 students a year. Funds from FEAST’s upcoming series of school-based spring plant sales will help support its activities throughout the year.

According to outreach coordinator Cathy Cleary, the sales will offer a little bit of everything — vegetables, herbs, flowers and houseplants — at all different stages of development. “Many of the seedlings were planted by elementary students in our FEAST program, so they get to see the direct impact of their work at these plant sales,” Cleary says.

The outdoor sales take place at these elementary schools: Francine Delaney New School for Children (119 Brevard Road) — Thursday, May 9, and Friday, May 10, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; Lucy S. Herring Elementary (98 Sulphur Springs Road) — May 10, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Isaac Dickson Elementary (125 Hill St.) — May 6-10, 7:30- 8 a.m. and 2:30-3 p.m.

For more information on FEAST, visit avl.mx/dn9.

Rice as nice

In late March, local chef J ChongHP Patel, president and CEO of BCA Hotels; Tim Love, director of economic development and governmental relations for Buncombe County; and Carol Nguyen Steen of Biltmore Farms gathered at Highland Brewing Co. for the creation of a rice lager to honor Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in May. The easy-drinking beer — named Xie Xie, Chinese for thank you — will be tapped on Thursday, May 16, aka  Oscar Wong Day, as recognized by the City of Asheville and Buncombe County.

The idea was the brainchild of Ana Reynolds, Highland’s production services specialist, who is of Filipino-German descent. In a press release, Reynolds explains, “A rice lager is an exciting West Coast style that aligns with owners Oscar Wong and Leah Wong Ashburn’s Chinese heritage.”

Highland Brewing Co. is at 12 Old Charlotte Highway. Visit avl.mx/8ze for taproom hours.


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About Kay West
Kay West began her writing career in NYC, then was a freelance journalist in Nashville for more than 30 years, including contributing writer for the Nashville Scene, Nashville correspondent for People magazine, author of five books and mother of two happily launched grown-up kids. In 2019 she moved to Asheville and continued writing (minus Red Carpet coverage) with a focus on food, farming and hospitality. She is a die-hard NY Yankees fan.

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