Every week or so, I pick just one piece of food, or one dish, or even one type of food that I ate and thoroughly enjoyed during my many adventures throughout Asheville’s amazing food scene (and beyond!), and I bestow upon it the high honor of being my official “Eat of the Week.” Anything from a block of cheese, to some doo-doo-shaped ice cream, to “fancy vegetables” might be featured as my Eat of the Week! Look for it exclusively here on Stu Helm: Food Fan!
EAT OF THE WEEK: VINEGAR PIE
Dessert at the AUX Bar
Above: When you have a name like “Vinegar Pie,” it helps to be cute as fuck. – photo by Stu Helm
Yes, I do Give Extra Points for Cuteness
It ain’t no secret that AUX Bar’s Chef Steven Goff is my friend and one of my culinary heroes. The hero worship came first, and the friendship followed. We bonded over a mutual love of 1970’s and 80’s punk rock music, and a mutual disdain for authoritay of most kinds, but of course it all started with what I would say is a very similar eatin’ palate when it comes to the flavors, textures, and comfort (aka FAT) levels of food.
What this chef cooks, I will eat and love. Most of the time…
In all the years I’ve known Chef Goff, I’ve only ever eaten one thing — just ONE of all the dishes he’s ever fed me! — that stands out in my mind as being… um… not very good. It wasn’t good! I didn’t like it. Sorry! I rejected it outright at the time, and still carry the memory-stain of it to this very day. That thing was a dessert. Whatever. Some chefs — some great chefs that I love and admire — suck at dessert. Straight-up. So I let it pass, and I just avoided dessert back in the dizzy when I dined at King James Pub. No biggie. Everything else I ate at that much-missed venue was fucking awesome. Like, fucking awesome.
After King James closed and Steven moved to Raleigh, I was left pining away for his food, so when he and Chef Mike Moore (Blind Pig Supper Club) opened the AUX Bar together down on N. Lexington Ave, I was psyched! Not so much for dessert, per se… but after I crushed my in-fucking-credible Animal House burger, I was like, “Why not dessert?” I was going to order the vinegar pie — because it’s called vinegar pie!!! — but I didn’t have a chance to, because before I could ask, it showed-up at the table! Ha ha! Whenever dessert just shows up to my table, it’s always a clear signal that the kitchen is proud of and happy with that particular dessert. Also, in this case, it’s also a signal that they actually, literally, read my fucking mind!!! Whoa.
First: What is vinegar pie? Well, it’s a sweet custard pie. Get any notions of a weird, savory, dill-pickle-flavored pie out of your head right now. No. Yuck. This pie is a delicious, creamy, rich, sweet pie that, yes, has actual vinegar added to the mix, just to give it a little ol’ tang!
Above: The BALLS… of apple on this plate added an extra crunch and healthy element to a wonderful dessert! – photo by Stu Helm
Vinegar pie is essentially a variation of a chess pie, which is the world’s most basic custard pie, made from eggs, sugar, flour, butter, water, and little or nothing else. Chess pie can be fancied-up with some pecans to become pecan pie, or brown sugar to make… brown sugar pie. Here in Appalachia, naming stuff is a pretty straight-forward process. Except for chess pie, oddly, which has a name with shadowy origins that are more legend than truth.
So, back to the AUVX Bar vinegar pie. You can see in the pics that it’s a super-cute, wee little individual pie, or personal pie. SQUEEE!!! It was soops-adorbs, but it had plenty of balls… of King Cobra syrup compressed apples on the plate, that were sharp, sweet, “fresh” and crispy. Also on the pie was some really nice, basic whipped NC cream, and Sunburst Chef and Farmer herbs and flowers. Chef Goff told me that the herbs on the vinegar pies are usually fennel or lemon balm.
The crust on this pie was AWESOME. My fave kind of crust in fact: Doughy and flaky at the same time. Dense, but not sodden with butter. I found out that it was “blind baked,” which is just another term for “pre-baked.” I’m not exactly sure why the world needs another term for pre-baked, but there are probably obscure historic reasons having to do with plague-time Europe, or a sect of bread-baking monks who took a vow of blindness, or whateverrrrrr…. Blind baking prevents the crust from getting all soaking wet on the bottom from the filling during the baking process.
The filling was just as rich, creamy, and staisfying as any custard pie should be, and was just sweet enough for me! Sometimes… South… your pies are, like, whoa. So Sweeeeeet! Not this pie! It was sweet but didn’t make my teeth scream in agony, and the slight tang of the vinegar was there to offset what sweetness there was.
IMPORTANT: This pie does NOT taste like vinegar. Stahp thinking that!!!
The tang that the vinegar provides to this pie is more or less equivalent to that of lemon juice, and in fact it was invented as a substitute for when lemons or other tangy fruits weren’t available. When I asked Chef Goff about vinegar pie he added this to his description…
“Vinegar pie is an old Appalachian pie people would make when they didn’t have anything left in their cabinets. We [AUX Bar] like it because it touches local history and fits all my favorite flavor profiles!”
Y’see how he and I have the same food-mind? Kinda sorta? I mean his food mind is a LOT fucking smarter than my food mind, which is mostly mouth.
Anyhoo, when I asked him “What’s the deal with how awesome this pie is? Are you watching YouTube videos?” I think he called me a “dick,” and then he told me that he actually specialized in pastries in fancy cookin’-school, and at one time wanted to be a pastry chef! Well, la-dee-fuckin’-dah. Who knew? (And who knows WTF was up with that dessert I hated from KJP?!?) All I know is that I’ll be trying all of Steven’s desserts at AUX Bar now, and that I ferkin’ lerved this vernerger per so much I’m making it my…
EAT OF THE WEEK!
“The Blind Pig Supper Club Expands To Produce ‘Restaurant Quality’ Catering Services To The Public And Opens The American Cuisine Brick & Mortar Restaurant Concept AUX Bar.”
Address: 68 N. Lexington Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28801
Phone: (828) 350-3741
Sunday 10AM–2:30PM, 5PM–2AM
Monday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Tuesday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Wednesday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Thursday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Friday 11AM–3PM, 5PM–2AM
Saturday 10AM–2:30PM, 5PM–2AM
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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.