32 Banks Avenue, South Slope, Asheville — Truly a Trio of Temptations
You know by now that I don’t shy away from most temptations, especially those that please and perplex the palate like the occupants of 32 Banks Avenue in Asheville.
There, nestled together in one, renovated roller-rink of a building, are three reasons to salivate — (left to right) Buxton Hall Barbecue, Catawba Brewing’s South Slope Tasting Room and (My head is spinning) Vortex Doughnuts.
Where to start? — That depends on how early you are getting into Asheville, and just how hungry you are.
Vortex Doughnuts opens at 7 a.m. every day of the week, and owner, Ben Myers, and GM, Zachariah Acquaviva, have set the bar high with hand-crafted coffee and doughnut treats that meet their standards for — ‘Tasty,’ ‘Local’ and ‘Twisted.’
Starting with ‘Tasty,’ Vortex doughnuts are made from scratch each morning, from quality, wholesome ingredients. No commercial baking mixes here and no binders, fillers or preservatives.
No industrial doughnut-plopping, conveyor-belt racing, high-speed fryer baths, either. If you like techno-donuts, head over to Krispy Kreme for your sugar high.
At Vortex Doughnuts, every pastry sensation is hand cut, hand fried in Zero-Trans-Fat oil (Ouch), hand iced and served with a variety of artisanal coffees, teas and sodas.
As far a ‘Local’ goes, Vortex Doughnuts uses North Carolina flour and milk, Asheville eggs, French Broad chocolates and a variety of in-season, local and regional fruits.
Even the caramelized bacon on the salted caramel doughnuts comes from local hogs. (Buxton Hall may have played a role in that.)
Now for my favorite adjective to describe culinary creations — ‘Twisted” — Not just the hand-wrenching spiral working of the dough, but the mind boggling, locally and regionally themed taste variations, creative pairings and unexpected combinations that fire the neurons of all five senses. This is where Vortex spins its own Asheville Vibe.
Case in point is one Vortex Doughnuts’ take on ‘coffee and doughnuts’ caught in a vortex. They call it — The Pearing.
This small iced coffee beverage has three shots of espresso, soda water, ginger-pear syrup and is finished with a splash of cream. It’s ‘peared’ with two, mini champagne blackberry ginger cake doughnuts. (Homer Simpson just fainted.)
Which is perfect segue for 32 Banks Avenue’s center spot. No “Duff” beer here — Simply Catawba Brewing’s first-class tasting room, serving its creative array of flagship beers, a steady stream of seasonal sensations and backroom rickhouse filled with barrel after barrel of bold, high-gravity offerings.
Catawba also serves up multiple occasions to celebrate with great beer — Like its upcoming Feb. 13, pre-Valentine’s Day release of Le Sexxy Saison ale, followed by a loving evening pairing of Catawba craft brews and French Broad Chocolates on Valentine’s Day.
On Feb. 28, Catawba hosts a special Cabin Fever Brunch at the South Slope tasting room. This welcome winter break features a five-course meal — created to pair deliciously with Catawba’s craft beers — expertly prepared by the chefs of Omni Grove Park Inn — and elegantly served under the crystal chandeliers of Catawba’s signature rickhouse.
All proceeds of the Cabin Fever Brunch will benefit Asheville’s Eliada Home.
To reserve a spot (or two) for the Feb. 14 Catawba/French Broad Chocolate pairing, or the Cabin Fever Brunch, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You’ll also want to mark your calendar for the March 4 release of Catawba’s PB Jelly Time and the March 17 (St. Patty’s Day) release of ENO Hoppy Pilsner.
Finally, on April 1 — No fooling — Catawba Brewing will celebrate its first anniversary on Asheville’s South Slope. No doubt, 32 Banks Avenue will be hopping that day. (The Pyatts do things first class.)
And surely, the 32 Banks Ave. revelry on April 1, will spill over to the final of my ‘trio of temptations’ — Buxton Hall Barbecue.
To say that Buxton Hall has taken Asheville ’whole hog’ is an understatement.
This popular South Slope eatery does barbecue right — Chef Elliott Moss’ recipe for success is Eastern style North Carolina barbecue — low and slow, for 18 hours over hardwood coals — with a crew working day and night sweating out the details.
Each hog is hand-selected from local area farms with a ‘pedigree’ — names you may recognize, like Hickory Nut Gap Farm, Wild Turkey Farms and many others.
The result of hand-selected hogs and the ‘cooking with love’ results in outstanding pulled pork and ribs, plus side dishes that really stick to your ribs.
Imagine browned Brussels sprouts that developed both rich flavor and color from cooking beneath a whole hog. They melt in your mouth. And if tiny cabbages are not your thing, try the root vegetable mash complete with buttermilk, sour cream and hog gravy; or the chicken bog — sausage, freezer peas with plenty of hot sauce. The spicy collard greens, rich potato salad and simply-delicious cole slaw are other crowd favorites.
Daily specials also delight, including Fried Chicken Sunday, St. Louis Rib Thursday.
Oh yes, you also have to experience Buxton Hall's signature bar with a variety of beers on tap, in bottles and in cans — and daily cocktail libations shaken-up by bar manager, Kyle Gray Beach, like the one pictured in the “Trio of Temptations” photo. FYI, it’s a rye sour.
Better yet, just Google map your way to 32 Banks Ave., Asheville. Oh yes, I’d save that as one of your preferred destinations.