Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good Cheap Butt

That was one of the signs at 12 Bones in Asheville, NC.  It certainly catches your attention but not as much as the primal smell of meat smoking over wood and the long line of folks waiting in the scorching mid-day sun to order their lunch.  We were recently in North Carolina visiting friends and family and enjoyed several very nice meals.

Somehow we had gotten onto the Obama food train - one night we had dinner at The Corner Kitchen in Biltmore Park and then the next day after doing the zip-line tour at Navitat (we highly recommend it) we headed over to 12 Bones, where the Obamas had eaten lunch in April.

But there's no line jumping here - no matter who you are. Everyone waits patiently while misters spraying a fine cloud of water give a slight cooling effect.  Review the menu carefully - it's hard to make a choice but make sure you decide what you want before you head to the register to speed up service!

One of our choices was a classic plate of ribs with baked beans, smoked potato salad and corn bread. Honey Garlic Sauce was on the menu that day and it was a perfect sweet and slightly zesty complement to the smoky pork. The ribs were good but a bit too charred - almost crispy at the edges like cracklins.

The smoked potato slad was very different and good but those sides choices were way too filling a mix and the owner of this plate was feeling weighted down after its conclusion.

A more ingenious combo included sides of pulled pork ($1.50), chopped brisket ($1.75), collard greens ($1.50) and "3 Bones" ($4.50) - although they actually served 4!

This mixed plate allowed a tasting of the three most classic barbecue meats without getting bogged down with the heavy cornbread and starchy sides. At $9.25 for the whole plate of four items it seemed like a very good deal versus the 12 bones for $18.

We don't eat collard greens too often but when one tastes a good preparation you just know it - and these were amazing. The collards were cut into nice manageable bite-size pieces, not those long unmanageable strips that you find in many traditional preparations.
Take a good look at the picture. These collards were studded with smoked ham (from ham hocks) to the tune of about 1/3 of the mix. Along with some onions and maybe a tad of garlic and butter it was a very tasty dish. When the greens were gone we drank down the liquid - also know as pot liquor.

The pulled pork was soft, moist and smoky. Never having experienced Carolina vinegar sauce we were very impressed that the lore lived up to it's billing. Eaten with the sticky barbecue sauces offered that day the pulled pork was good but the sauces masked its porcine flavor. When eaten with the spicy vinegar "splash" the pork stood out and the vinegar and spice punched up its flavor without taking over - a much better combination of flavors and one we will always offer when serving pulled pork.

A few other stops included The Tupelo Honey Cafe, drinks on the terrace at The Grove Park Inn, lunch at the Hob Nob in Brevard and a very tasty hamburger and fries at Poppie's Gourmet Farmer's Market during one of the Saturday night garden concerts. 

If you've hesitated going south because you were afraid all you'd find was greasy fried chicken and biscuits and gravy - don't worry, there's plenty of good food to be found in the Asheville area!