ATAHUALPA: One of the Best “Fancy Dinners” So Far This Year!

Out of the Blue Peruvian Fusion Food Truck Atahualpa Dinner

I got invited to the first Atahualpa dinner in the new series being presented by Out of the Blue Peruvian Food Truck, The Bywater, and Descubre Asheville, and I almost didn’t go, but HOLY SHIT I’m really glad I did, because it was one of thee best “Fancy Dinner” I’ve been to this year! Maybe ever!

Now, it weren’t ezzackly fancy in the traditional way, because we ate outside, at picnic tables, behind a bar, from a pit fire, in a van by the river! Well, maybe not IN a van, per se, but there was a food truck, and an open pit BBQ, and one of the most talented Chefs in Asheville, Santiago Vargas was flippin’ meats, and grillin’ veggies and cheese on the pit. When I saw the menu, I was really happy, because there was a salad, and then NBM: Nuthin’ But Meat. Chicken, beef, and pork. Three of my favorite things ever. There were also some grilled chicken hearts, and those were fucking awesome. I do like me some organ meats, and I’ve eaten all kinds of hearts, livers, sweetbreads and all that shit. Some I like more than others. These chicken hearts were the best I’ve ever had — no kidding —  and a great way to start the evening.

The weather was perfect, the bugs were kept at bay by the smoke from the pit, the music was fun and lively, and with most of the people in attendance being bilingual (at least!) there was a nice, swanky kind of international soirée feel to it!

Above: Husband and wife team, Chef Santiago Vargas tends to the veggies on the grill, while Farrah Razuri-Vargas tends to the patrons at their tables.

The food was phenomenal. Like, SO GOOD. Even the salad, yo. It was easily one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Not for nothing, it had huge slabs of grilled panella cheese on it, which is quickly becoming my favorite thing on Earth.

Above: Of course I took the most grilled-up piece of Panella cheese for myself! #greeed

I mean, Jimminy Crickets, just look at that thing! The grilled tomatoes, the fresh teeny tomatoes, the pickled onions and the cotija cheese crumbles all looked really pretty with the salad greens and all of it, including the salad dressing (which Chef Vargas told me had, like, 30 ingredients in it!) tasted so good together! Best. Salad. Ever.

Aaaaand thus concluded the role that any vegetables might play in this meal.

Above: mmmmmmmEAT!

Okay, first the chicken: It was sooooooooooooo good! I love chicken, it is my favorite protein. I took one bite of this fire-grilled bird, my eyes closed, and I went chicken lovers heaven. Now, my dinner partner Paddy from Asheville Foods Tours is not nearly as big a fan of chicken as I am, yes he likes it, but only when it’s really good. He liked this chicken. A lot. It was cooked all the way through, but remained juicy and tender. The skin was charred and crispy, salty, savory, and delicious,. The meat came  right off the bone, and Paddy said it might be thee best chicken he’s ever had. (Paddy and I like to speak in superlatives when we’re dining together.)

Next, let’s talk about beef. Holy… Give. Me. All. Of. It. Had it been culturally acceptable at our table I would have jumped up on it and growled fiercely at the other eaters, prepared to fight them tooth and claw for this slab of cow. Buhhhht instead, I used a fork to politely take as much beef as I could fucking eat. (There may have been a small amount of growling involved.) The meat was perfectly cooked, inside and out, with a crispy, smoky char on the surface, and oh-so-tender, warm, pink, and perfect in the middle. I wanted to eat this Flintstones-sized Cowboy Ribeye all by myself, and then of course, die a happy a death. “Who cares! Woohoo! I ate this thing, and then I died, and I am satisfied by that ending!”

This meat was of a superior quality, which didn’t surprise me at all when I found out that it was from Hickory Nut Gap farm.

Fortunately, I didn’t die, so I was able to enjoy the pork as well, and yep, fuckin’ aye, it was great too. I do eat a LOT of pork in this town, and this was some damn good pork! Again, cooked just right, and flavored perfectly. This one went very nicely with the chimichuri sauce that came with all this meat.

Atahualpa, by the way, was the last ruler of the Inca empire who reigned from 1532 CE until his capture and execution by the invading Spanish forces led by Pizarro (one of history’s greatest monsters) in 1533. If you ever want to get super-angry, just read a book or watch a video about Pizarro. Dick.

If you wanna get super-not-angry about anything, go to the next one of these Atahualpa dinners, the more casual Inca dinners, or just go say hi to Chef Vargas with his regular (awesome) food truck items 6 days a week, Tuesday through Sunday from 12:00 noon to 3:00pm and again from 5:00pm to 9:00pm at The Bywater!

This was simply the best over-all experience I’ve ever had at a ticketed, fixed menu, seated dinner type of thing. Every single bite tasted great, and the execution was flawless. Right when I was ready to eat, chicken hearts came out, a few minutes later, salad came out. Shortly after that, the meat board showed-up, then when we were all meated-out, we each got a cookie!

I should also mention that the drinkers seemed to enjoy their drinks, and my non-alcoholic beverages were house-made and awesome! The drink service, and table service were provided by The Bywater, and they were very pro, and efficient, and friendly, and accommodating.

This night was a fucking pleasure from start to finish, and Paddy and I already have our tickets for the inca dinner on Thursday August 15th! There’s another Atahualpa dinner on Monday August 26th.

If you want to keep up with these dinners, you can check or follow Descubre Asheville or Out of the Blue Peruvian Fusion Cuisine on Facebook.

Thank you, Luis from Descubre, as well as Chef Santiago and Farrah for inviting me. Thanks to the Bywater staff for the great drinks and service. Thanks to Paddy for always being up for a fun meal, and thanks to all the other guests there, including members of the Spanish-language indie media, who I’m hoping to spend more time with! This dinner reminded me of something Aimee Diaz once said to me, about how parties where she can hear more than one language being spoken are just more fun to her. I agree one hundred percent!

Below: Please enjoy these last few pictures, and at the very bottom is the original press release for the Atahualpa dinner featured in this post.




“Come and join us on a savory trip to the heart (belly) of South America.
Our Atahualpa Dinner series is more than a meal, we will explore tradition, culture and food.

Chef Santiago Vargas and Descubre Asheville are proud to host the first of many South American Dinners in Asheville.


Welcome reception. Mí casa es su casa
Enjoy a traditional Pisco Sour, while you get to know Chef Santiago Vargas. Santiago will share his inspiration for this event and why he believes Asheville is ready for dinner events that go beyond a fancy meal. This is a journey to the South American farm. If you are a meat lover this is an event you don’t want to miss.

The place
The Bywater Asheville, a beautiful setting along the French Broad River with an amazing outdoor grill is the perfect location for a night of awesome food, make new friends and to promote multiculturalism. Yes friends Español is welcome here, we are happy and excited to create events that are inclusive and where we all share our love for food.

The menu.
*1st course
Welcome cocktail Pisco Sour
*2nd course
Chicken Anticucho
*3rd course
Family Style Salad
*4th course
Board with HNG Cowboy Rib eye
peruvian wood fired chicken (Pollo a la brasa style)
Bone in Pork Chop
Chimichurri sauce
*5th course
Alfajores (Peruvian Cookie)

*This event is bilingual, as we will address our patrons in English and Spanish.
Must be 21
We will kindly accept cash gratuity
GET your tickets today as they will quickly sell out. h
Event by reservation only, limited seatings. Served family style


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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3 thoughts on “ATAHUALPA: One of the Best “Fancy Dinners” So Far This Year!

  1. Pingback: 10 Things I Ate About Asheville: Blood, Burgers, Bacon, Brisket & Other Words That Don’t Start with the Letter B | Stu Helm: Food Fan

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