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: MAC ‘N’ CHEESE
It’s All About That Mac
Above: The burgers pictured above will get their own review on Ashvegas.com. This review is all about that mac.- photo by Stu Helm
Mac ‘n’ Cheese Battle Anyone?
The perennial questions: Whos’ got the best burger? The best pizza? The best tacos in Asheville? In a recent series of Facebook Polls, The People of Asheville decided that Sand Hill Kitchen in West Asheville has the best fried chicken sandwich in town, and just a few weeks ago, three judges picked Fairview Tavern as the best Philly in Asheville. Mojo Kitchen won the public’s approval in the 2018 Wing War, Salvage Station still holds the championship title from the 2017 Battle of the Burger, and way back in 2016, Foggy Mountain Brewpub won the nod from the judges at the Carolina Mountain Cheese Festival for the best Mac ‘n’ Cheese at the event.Wait. 2016? That was a long time ago, Yo, and the field of competitors at the Mountain Cheese Fest was limited to say the least. I was not a judge at that mac ‘n’ cheese contest, and I’m sure that Foggy has great mac ‘n’ cheese (the owners are from Wisconsin, duh) but I definitely have my own thoughts about who has the best Mac ‘n’ Cheese in Asheville. As does everyone else.
I asked Facebook to weigh in with nominees for best mac ‘n’ cheese in Asheville, and there were some great suggestions, most of which I don’t necessarily disagree with. Fig, Storm, Lobster Trap, Luella’s, Mojo, Pack’s, Rocky’s, and Post 70 were all mentioned. Even the Haywood Street Congregation, which serves hundreds of FREE meals every week through their Welcome Table program was nominated. I’ll have to go try it sometime soon. One person, and only one, mentioned the new Foothills Local Meats’ Butcher Bar in West Asheville, claiming that they have the best mac ‘n’ cheese in all of Asheville, and y’know what? I have to say, having recently been there, that person might be absolutely right. No shit.
This Mac ‘n’ Cheese is Fucking Good
Above: Curly, Creamy, savory, goodness. – photo by Stu Helm
I went to The Butcher Bar with my buddy Stephan from Dig Local Asheville, and although I was primarily there to try the burger for my 2018 Asheville Burger Survey, I made a rash and impulsive decision to also get the mac ‘n’ cheese, based on the fact that I was super fucking hungry. Well, the burgers were EXCELLENT (5 stars, Yo), and the fries were killer as always, but the mac ‘n’ cheese is definitely reaching “Best of Asheville” proportions in my mind for sure.
As you can see from the pictures, it’s made with corkscrew pasta, also known as Cavatappi, which — according to Wikipedia — is Italian for “stopper extractor” or corkscrew. Corkscrew pasta works very well for mac ‘n’ cheese, because it has lots of surface, both inside and out, to hold the creamy cheesy saucy goodness. Also, the additional ingredients — Tomato jam, caramelized onions, smoked poblano peppers — add a ton of sweet, savory, smoky, flavor to the mix. To be honest, at first I was a little bit like, “Naw, they done fucked it up by tryin’ too hard,” but then after a few more bites, I changed my tune entirely, and …
by the time I crushed this enormous portion of Foothills’ mac ‘n’ cheese, I was a convert.
The coup de grâce of ingredients in this dish has to be the Hi-Wire Brewery lager cheese that’s in the sauce. We all know that the Foothills food truck has been partnered with the Hi-Wire brewery for a long time, so I think it’s pretty dang cool that there’s a li’l bit of their shared history cooked right in this mac ‘n’ cheese. Beer is a terrific ingredient in food of course, and using Hi-Wire beer in their mac ‘n’ cheese is a great way for Foothills’ customers to experience this strong connection to their friends at the brewery. And for me personally, even though I don’t drink, I still want a chance to enjoy our famously awesome local beer scene in some way, so I really appreciate these types of collaborative dishes that allow me to eat some of the beer flavors that I’m missing out on by not drinking.
Anyhoozles, this serving size was huge, and it took me more than one try to fully crush it. I ate some in the restaurant, while it was nice and hot and fresh, and then took the rest home, where I heated it up the next day, and it was frickin’ great! The pasta stayed firm, the sauce got all creamy again, and of course, reheating those onions and peppers only released even more sweetness, more smokiness, and more flavoriness. Which is not technically a word, but it is totally applicable to this situation.
As I said, by the time I was done with this giant serving of local awesome, I was a fan. I am a fan. I’m saying right here and now that this mac ‘n’ cheese from the Foothills Butcher Bar is an early contender for a Stoobie award! And hopefully a contestant in my upcoming Mac ‘n’ Cheese Challenge! And, too, also, even though I ate it weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about it ever since, and so this week, it is my…
EAT OF THE WEEK!
Foothills Butcher Bar
“American menu made with sustainably sourced meats & other local goods, plus a butcher counter.”
Address: 697 Haywood Rd Unit E, Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: (828) 417-7081
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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.