Stu Helm’s Eat of the Week: Fancy Vegetables. That’s Right, I Said Vegetables

 I recently ate a very impressive plate of vegetables — or as, I like to call them: vedgables — at Vivian, and then not long after that I was wowed a random pile of NBVM (nothing but veg matter) that Dawn ordered at Cucina 24. i ate about 1/2 of it. And by “half“, I mean 3/4’s. Both dishes were fucking stellar — even though they were not made out of animals!!! — and since I couldn’t decide which I liked better, this week I’m just picking “vegetables” as my Eat of the Week and I leaving it at that.

 Carrots a la Vicomte from Vivian &
Broccoli Agrodolce from Cucina 24

Carrots a la Vicomte from Vivian

I don’t often opt for vegetables. It’s a character flaw with me. I admit that if I was a better person I would eat more vegetables, and vice versa, but I’m not a better person, I’m a bad person who eats mostly brown food made mostly from gains and animals…. mostly animals. Hey, at least I know I’m a bad person, and I do want to be better. I want to be like the happy healthy hippy people who drink maté and do goat yoga and eat right and feel great. I want to be awesome and eat my vegetables. But, y’know… boooooooring! Except, when the vegetables in question are haute cuisine carrots. Yeah, that’s what I said: Haute cuisine carrots.

Even though I eat like a cave man, I am also a total princess, so the only fuckin’ way I’m eating an entire plate of carrots is if they’re haute as fuck, and basically swimming in wine and butter. Which is exactly what I got on my most recent visit to one of my favorite new places, and early contender for a 2018 “New Restaurant” Stoobie award nomination, Vivian. Carrots, wine, and butter, in basically equal parts. Plus other plant-based objects in the form of wilted lettuce and fresh tarragon. I’m not known for eating a plateful of plants, but when it came to this particular plate, I ate it all the plants, and I loved every decadent bite. Wait, what?

Did I just use the word “decadent” to describe vegetables? Yes I did.
Thank you, Vivian for making that sentence even possible.

Broccoli Agrodolce from Cucina 24

Okay, first of all, this little dish of broccoli agrodolce (“bitter-sweet”) was really pretty to look at, which I didn’t quite realize until I took a picture of, it and shared it on Instagram, where it got a lot of “hearts” and I had to admit, “Yeah, actually, that is quite a pretty little dish!

Secondly: I didn’t order it, Dawn did, and I wasn’t the least bit excited by it or about it, until I reluctantly put a forkful in my mouth, and it instantly became my favorite thing ever.

It was basically a chopped salad of sorts, lightly tossed in a slightly sweet, slightly tangy dressing, and served cold, in the shape of a disc.  It had raisins and toasted pine nuts. When Dawn asked me if we should order it, I was like, “Yeah, sure, get whatever you want.” And she was, Like, “You’ll eat some of it though, right?” And I was like, “Maybe a bite, but don’t count on me to split it with you. I’m getting a pork chop!

Dawn seemed sad that I was blasé about the agrodolce, but she ordered it anyways, and I’m glad she did! She was too, especially when I took my first tentative forkful, and my eyes lit up. “That’s really good,” I said. Another forkful. “That really good!” By the end of the meal, I had proclaimed it best dish of the entire night, and I think I ate more than my half. This was a great meal all around, so for this humble little frisbee-shaped pile of what looks like lawn mower clippings to me — for any cold dish, a salad in fact — to top the charts with me is remarkable, and certainly not usually the case, but this small offering of chopped-up green stuff and crunchy bits was a surprise stand-out for sure. Did I like it more than the pork chop? Yes, as a matter of fact.

I liked it more than the pork chop.
And that’s, like, alternate universe time.

So yeah, if you see this dish on the Cucina 24 menu, get it, it’s fucking great. Likewise with the carrots from Vivian. IF you see them, get them. That’s a big “if” because both places change menus with quite a bit of frequency, so these particular dishes may not be around any more when you go in. So, with that in mind, the point of this review is not necessarily to recommend these particular dishes, but the highlight the awesome power of vegetables, get you — and myself — PUMPED for the upcoming, long, bountiful, and tremendously satisfying fresh, local, produce season! WNC has a high concentration of small farms, doing excellent work, and provided the restaurants and eaters with great vedgables all year round, but especially in the upcoming Spring, Summer and Early Fall months.

Here comes the veggie train! Wooo woooo! Who’s on board?
I am.

Yeah, fine, I’m on board the veggie train. But first class tickets only, please! If I gotta eat healthy shit that grows out of the fucking dirt, then the dishes better have foreign words in the name, and blow my fucking mind with how fucking HAUTE they are. Well, haute veggies is what you’ll find at both Cucina 24 and Vivan, and about 20 other places in Asheville, and that is why I am naming “Fancy Vegetables” as my…


“Honest American food with big flavors that utilizes the bountiful products of the region and the rich history of European cuisine.”
Address: 348 Depot St Ste 190, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday 10:30AM–3PM
Monday Closed
Tuesday 5–10:30PM
Wednesday 5–10:30PM
Thursday 5–10:30PM
Friday 5–10:30PM
Saturday 5–10:30PM
(828) 225-3497

Refined Italian fare & wine list, plus specialty cocktails, in a polished, contemporary setting.
Address: 24 Wall St, Asheville, NC 28801
Sunday 5:30–9:30PM
Monday 5:30–9:30PM
Tuesday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Wednesday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Thursday 11AM–2:30PM, 5:30–9:30PM
Friday 11AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM
Saturday 11AM–2:30PM, 5–10PM
(828) 254-6170


— END —

Asheville Food Tours

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O'SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

From left: Chef Jacob Sessoms of Table; Chef William Dissen, The Market Place; Chef Steven Goff, Standard Foods; Chef Katie Button, Curate; Chef Joe Scully, Chestnut and Corner Kitchen; Stu Helm; Chef John Fleer, Rhubarb; Chef Karen Donatelli, Donatelli Bakery; Chef Peter Pollay, Posana Cafe; and Chef Matt Dawes, Bull & Beggar./ Photo by STEWART O’SHIELDS for ASHVEGAS.COM

Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.


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