ASHEVILLE, N.C.— Condiments used to be an afterthought, but that’s no longer the case. For some Asheville chefs, condiments are now the driving force behind making a good dish great. And while the classics — mayo, mustard and ketchup — still hold center stage, there are more choices than ever to inspire you to step up your flavor game.
Mad about mustard
At the Rise Above Deli, located inside Hillman Beer on Sweeten Creek Road, all the condiments are made in-house. Brandon Murry, the deli’s co-owner, says the mustard, mayonnaise, Thousand Island dressing (they call it special sauce) and sauerkraut (yes, that’s considered a condiment) are all made from scratch for the brewery’s succinct but intriguing menu of sandwiches and salads.
The mustard is whole-grain, incorporating both yellow and black mustard seeds. The yellow seeds provide the initial spiciness on the tongue, says Murry, while the black seeds carry that heat up through the nose and eyes.
“We use a little more yellow than black in our mix for a spice that’s just right,” he says. “For our soaking liquid, we use an equal mix of apple cider vinegar and Hillman’s ESB [extra special bitter] beer to help create a slightly milder mustard that doesn’t overpower everything it’s put on. And the addition of brown sugar gives it just a bit of sweetness without making it too sweet.”
The mustard is served with the house-made soft pretzels plus on the Pig Missile (pretzel bread and sausage) and pastrami sandwiches. It’s also for sale at the brewery in 8-ounce jars.
When it comes to the locally made mustard retail game, Lusty Monk has been making a name for itself in Asheville for a decade. But lately, there are some new players in town. Jim Brooks, founder of Woogie Foods, builds houses by day, but in his off hours, he’s busy producing mustard. Both of his company’s varieties — original beer mustard and red curry beer mustard — use Highland Brewing Co.’s Oatmeal Porter as a staple ingredient.
“It’s hard for me to choose my favorite way to use it, but mostly I like both varieties on brats, as a chicken wing marinade, in salads or deviled eggs,” says Brooks, who has been making his original recipe for 30 years but only recently began to market it. “The list really goes on.” Woogie’s products are available at local breweries, tailgate markets and groceries, including Ingles and Earth Fare locations.
Murry says Rise Up’s mayonnaise recipe uses whole eggs, as opposed to egg yolks, which is standard for most recipes, to eliminate waste. And the mayo finds its way into — and onto — several of the deli’s dishes: It’s used it as a coating on the outside of the sourdough buns for the patty melts to create a crispy crust, and it can also be found in the smoked turkey sandwich and potato salad.
Rise Up’s Thousand Island dressing is a mix of the house-made mayonnaise, tomato paste, vinegar and pickle relish. Tomato paste and vinegar are used instead of store-bought ketchup, Murry explains, so the kitchen has control of exactly what’s going into the food. The pickle relish is ground up house-made pickle salad (bread-and-butter pickles with cucumbers, onions and carrots). “We slather this dressing on our Reuben in copious amounts,” he says.
For those who prefer a Reuben from a vegan venue, Rosetta’s Kitchen has a tempeh version that boasts an herb-walnut sauce that is sure to stand up to the boldest of condiments. Rosetta’s also makes its own vegan ranch dressing, Korean barbecue sauce, chipotle ketchup and honey mustard.
“For many customers, it’s a fun throwback to familiar tastes they haven’t had the opportunity to enjoy in years because of life choices or health requirements around diet, so they are thrilled to enjoy things like ranch and barbecue sauce in a different context,” says Brandi Hubiak, Rosetta’s bar manager.
Green Sage Café‘s three locations accent menu offerings with a house-made vegan chimimayo — an egg-free, soy-free chimichurri mayonnaise flavored with cilantro, spinach, parsley and garlic. Key ingredients include safflower oil, brown rice syrup, apple cider vinegar, pea protein and more, says Green Sage community coordinator Seth Cole. “It’s quite tasty — especially on our avocado TLT [vegan tempeh-lettuce-tomato sandwich],” he says. It’s also good on the beet burger, aka the Green Beetle Burger, and the Nori Bap, which is a spicy tempeh sushi sandwich.
Pickles and kraut
As for vegetable-based condiments, when life gives you broccoli stems, make pickles, says Blue Dream Curry House co-owner Sean Park. “Broccoli stems are often thrown away, but we started pickling them to reduce waste,” he explains. “They go great with just about any dish and are good to just snack on alone.” Park pickles the stems in a vinegar brine.
The same can be said of the house-made sauerkraut at Rise Above Deli, which can be eaten as a side dish and is also heaped on the menu’s Reuben. The best thing is, the deli’s fermented kraut is nothing more than cabbage, salt and time. “We ferment our kraut in-house every week,” Murry says. “It’s unpasteurized so it has all the good bacteria and is great for you.”
Middle Eastern munchies
Two of the most popular condiments at Baba Nahm, a Middle Eastern eatery in the Grove Arcade, are lemon tahini and harissa sauce, says general manager Ashley Osgood. The lemon tahini accompanies almost every dish, and harissa — a blend of roasted red peppers, dried spicy peppers and tomato — adds a spicy kick to several menu items. It also serves as the house hot sauce for diners who want to take things up a notch.
“Our amba sauce is also delicious with the chicken and lamb shawarma and the falafel pita,” Osgood says. “Amba is our version of a sweet-and-sour sauce and is a blend of green mango and honey.” It, along with some of Baba Nahm’s other fresh condiments, can sometimes be found for sale in restaurant’s grab-and-go cooler.
So, the next time you sink your teeth into a juicy burger, you might actually find yourself saying, “Pass the harissa, please.”
Rise Above Deli is at 25 Sweeten Creek Road. To find Woogie Foods mustards, visit woogiefoods.com. Rosetta’s Kitchen is at 111 Broadway. Green Sage Café has locations at 5 Broadway, 1800 Hendersonville Road and 70 Westgate Parkway. Blue Dream Curry House is downtown at 81 Patton Ave. Baba Nahm is at 1 Page Ave. in the Grove Arcade.