Did You Know?

Fun Forums for ‘Foodies’

By Paul Viau | Aug 31, 2016
Photo by: Donated PROUD TO BE FOODIES — Chef Ricardo Fernandez' culinary creations and classes draw foodies from all around the area. Pictured are Suzanne and Ricardo leading a grilling class at their Wildcat Ridge Farm in the Panther Creek area of Clyde.

I know I have somewhat of a reputation for writing and sampling “all things craft beer.” Guilty as charged. In fact, even as I am writing this column, I am looking forward to meeting a friend in Asheville for lunch and a couple craft beers — where but 32 Banks Avenue’s celebrated Buxton Hall Barbecue and next-door neighbor, Catawba Brewing.

Did you know? — Buxton Hall Barbecue was recognized this month by Bon Appetit Magazine as one of the top 10 new restaurants in America. As the Beatles would say, Buxton was “Number nine, Number nine, Number nine.” (That’s #9 not #27.)

Congratulations, chef Elliott Moss, on the success of your “whole hog” approach to barbecue. You make everyone proud to be ‘foodies.’

Yes, I’m confessing to one and all that I am a card-carrying 'Foodie.’ And I’m not alone here in Haywood County. Many of us gather monthly chef Ricardo Fernandez (former chef/owner of Waynesville’s Lomo Grill) and his lovely wife and sous chef, Suzanne, for meetings of The Mountain Cooking Club.

This July, Mountain Cooking Club’s program was “All About Small Plates” — featuring (Warning: prepare to salivate): Seared Shrimp Crostini with Remoulade sauce and Arugula; Sesame-crusted Ahi Tuna with Asian Cole Slaw; Scottish Salmon Tartare Canapés; Mediterranean Summer Bruschetta; Spinach, Onion, Bacon and Gruyere Mini Phyllo Tarts and Cabernet (that’s a wine, not a beer), Poached Pears and Amish Blue Cheese-Walnut Toast Points.

All of these “small plate” dishes were lovingly prepared by chef Ricardo and Suzanne in front of a class/group of 25-or-so local foodies. Since the protein ingredient in many of these dishes was seafood, the discussion quickly turned to, “Where can you get fresh seafood here in the mountains?”

Like most career chefs, chef Ricardo has ‘inside sources’ for most all ingredients — fish included. But many of the ‘classmates’ were quick to point out that Haywood County boasts one of the best local sources for seafood and other gourmet ingredients — Sentelle’s Seafood & Specialty Market in Clyde.

Did you know? — Sentelle’s has been Haywood County’s #1 source for fresh seafood since 1962, and next year celebrates its 55th anniversary.

From the beginning, seafood was a big part of Sentelle’s business. Back in the day, Sentelle's was an open-air produce market, but always kept four varieties of dressed fish ‘on ice.’

These days, Sentelle’s Market has an expansive, 20-plus foot refrigerated case with a bigger and better variety of fresh seafood options than anywhere else in Haywood County.

One look at that case and you’ll notice both the quality and freshness.

The always-Sushi-grade Yellowfin Tuna is vivid orange. The wild-caught sockeye salmon is more red than pink. And the shrimp — all four choices — beckon with the shine of freshness. The fresh, farm-raised Sunburst trout (one of our favorites) is harvested and rushed to Sentelle’s within minutes of harvest.

Sentelle’s sea scallops and Maine lobster tails are ‘ginormous’ and always swimmingly-fresh. And if you are a fan of whole lobster, pick the one that ‘catches your eye’ from Sentelle’s 50-gallon saltwater tank — no fishing license is required.

Perhaps the unique thing about Sentelle’s Seafood is its resident ‘Foodie,’ Debbie Sentelle Milner. She is both swimmingly knowledgeable about the fish and how to prepare it and frequently shares photos of her own seafood creations online.

‘Like’ Sentelle’s Seafood on Facebook, and you’ll know what seafood delicacies are available, and be inspired with new ways to prepare them.

I’ll have more to say about Sentelle’s Seafood in another column this fall.

Meanwhile, back to Chef Ricardo — a native Argentinian whose personal taste turns more to red meat than fish. He’ll be presenting an outdoor feast, Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Fernandez’s Wildcat Ridge Farm in North Clyde — “Open Fire Grilling, the Argentinian Way.”

Wildcat Ridge Farm is Haywood County ‘eye candy’ — about as picturesque as you will find. The property, along the Pigeon River, is dotted with the Fernandez’s award-winning peonies and fig trees. The open grilling event will no doubt center around Ricardo’s hand-crafted Argentinian brick oven and barbecue.

The menu features Charred Calamari and Shrimp Salad, Grass-fed Grilled Beef Duo (Coulotte Top Sirloin Cap and Marinated Sirloin Flap.) Side dishes include Smashed Red Bliss Potatoes a la Plancha, Ultimate Roasted Red Peppers and Classic Argentinian Chimichurri.

Dessert will be Fresh Nectarine Roses with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

Bon appetit, foodies.