Some of y’all might remember that time my mom and I put on our masks and drove up to Avenue M to get a veritable FEAST of take out goodness from Chef Andrew McLeod during the pandemic last year. [ At Avenue M in North Asheville, dial ‘M’ for mmmmm! ] Well, that was a spectacular meal that earned the chef and restaurant a nomination for my 2020 Meal of The Year Award [ Stu Helm’s 2020 Food Fan Awards Part 2 – “Eatin’ All Day” ], so when my mom and I were both vaxxed-up and ready to start dining out again, she suggested that we hit-up Avenue M first.
The Chef seemed excited to have us, and he texted me asking if we wanted to order off the menu, or if he should, as he put it, “fuck you up.” I opted for the latter, and it was a right royal fucking for sure! A parade of food was trotted out before us unlike any other that my mom had experienced, and at a certain point in the meal, she looked a little overwhelmed. Fortunately they also provided us with may to-go boxes! It was more food than any two humans of our size could possibly consume, and towards the end, we were literally taking two or three bites, and then packing the rest to go. That did not stop either of us from tearing into all three desserts, however, one of them before I could even take a picture! LOL In my family, our crest of arms says, “I couldn’t eat another bite… got anything sweet around here?” Word.
Below are some of the highlights of the meal, and if you’d like to see all of the pictures you can go to Ashvegas, where they are featured in one of my Food Feeds [ STU HELM’S FOOD FEED: Chopped Cheese, Charcuterie, a Feast for Five for Two, Asheville Food Fans Podcast, aaaaand Chicken Wings ]. I also wrote a stand alone review of the chicken wings [ AVL Wing Thing – Avenue M – N’duja Dry Rub ] but let’s start this review with charcuterie!
Chef Andrew cures his own charcuterie meats and as i write this he is about launch his own brand of “King Salumi” products, so you know that this board was bangin’. So many kinds of meats, all house-made, including bologna and a “slim jim!” Plus some made out of venison, and a nice variety of textures and flavors. I wanted to eat it all, but they warned us to pace ourselves, so I didn’t. I brought much of it home and ate it the next day, and loved it. I had a few odd pieces of this and that left, which I chopped up into some pasta at home, and it was killer. Look for King Salumi meats in the Chop Shop on Charlotte Street soon, and be sure to snap into a sli…ice of bologna!
In addition to all that tasty meat, there was even more tasty meat…
What you see above are slices of duck bacon on yummy toast. Gah. I could have eaten ten of them. But again, pacing ourselves. On the plate with the duck-bacon toast is one of Chef McLeod’s signature items in my opinion. He’s been posting pictures of it on the internets, and it’s had the whole town intrigued, including me. I even mentioned the mysterious “green disc” to my mom before we showed up at M to eat. The disc is a very rich, flavorful, layered tart, made with chicken liver pate, creme fraiche, parsley, and chervil. It was delicate, creamy, subtle and delicious. If you like pate, you’ll love this green disc! It’s pretty to look at, and was a pleasure to eat!
One of my favorite dishes of the evening consisted of asparagus, cooked al dente, and served chilled in a creamy sauce that had a flavor just like egg salad! It had capers, and chives, and little fancy bits, so it wasn’t an ordinary egg salad, but was definitely picnicky in a way, and was really fun to eat. It was also pretty to look at, and had a very pleasing color palette, as you can see, made up of mostly shades of green and yellow, with a bit of red and gold here and there. Presentation seems to be one of the strong suits of this kitchen for sure.
Many of my favorite chefs like to combine humble concepts with fancy concepts, high brow food with trashy food, and mix up their plating & presentation, going from artistic and sublime, to whimsical and fun. The asparagus sauce above is a great example of that whimsical nature, and both the nduja wings I mentioned, and the giant-ass ribs pictured below came to our table in red-and-white-checked-paper motif! The wings were excellent, and I learned how to pronounce n’duja four different ways while writing about them, and the ribs… good lord the ribs.
These might be the best ribs I ever ate. They came apart like butter. They came off the bone like nothin’. They tasted fabulous. I ate the shit out of them, and got all up in them like we was makin’ out, even though I don’t usually like to bathe my face in ribs while dining in public, I didn’t give a shit. I was all, like, “Whatch’all lookin’ at? I BEEN IN LOCK DOWN!” And I went at them with reckless abandon. When I was done, there was nothing left but bones, and if smoking were still allowed in restaurants, I would have lit those up like blunts and passed them around the room. “Yo. (suppresses cough) Hit this, Bruh.”
At this point, we’re 7 courses deep, one of which was a ball of cheese (again, see my latest food feed for pictures of EVERY dish we ate) and my mother and I are thinking that we’re all done, and we’re kind of hoping that dessert is lite, so when the “pasta courses” started coming out, my mother gave me a look that said, “What the Hell have you gotten me into you horrid child?” Then this came to the table…
…and my mom snatched up some before I could even get my camera out! LOL She of the look. Now downing gnudi like she’s hasn’t eaten in weeks. Gnudi is gnocchi’s cousin, made out of ricotta cheese instead potatoes. So yes, more balls of cheese. They camein a pea puree, and were covered in a cheese sauce called pecorino romano fonduta. So yes, cheese on cheese. Fuck the world, them shits were good. So sof’. So pillowy. So full now. So didn’t stop there…
More food came out of the kitchen, more pasta, different shapes, various colors, wonderful aromas, whole parts of animals. Somewhere along the way, this happened…
Fucking duck leg in mustard cream sauce. YES! Eat eat eat. And then this happened…
Pan roasted salmon, with wilted spinach and the chef’s own miso mustard. And this happened…
And this happened…
And this happened…
Jesus. That’s chitarra in the picture directly above, which is a kind of square, egg pasta, served here with lamb sugo (sauce) that was fucking divine. A sugo is a thinner sauce than a ragu, BTW, which is something I learned just now when I googled “sugo.”
My mom and I were nearly comatose when dessert hit the table. Y’know, the desserts we were hoping would be lite? Like, 6 courses ago? Yeah, that dessert. Or should I say those desserts?
A fucking doughnut with a doughnut hole on top, and a big, thick, sweet ‘n’ sour blob of lemon curd on the side. Plus a small, very refined, yet decadent, hazelnut chocolate tart with creme fraiche ice cream on top.
And as you can see, this time it wasn’t just my mom who started eating before I could get pictures. We both started ripping into all three desserts, and although I got strategic pictures of the two above that mostly conceal the fact that we took bites already, one was too far gone, so fuck it, below is our almost entirely destroyed “Uncrustable,” a grilled brioche parfait, with a very nice muscadine sorbet, and one of my personal favorite unsung ingredients, peanut butter powder! We crushed it. CRUSHED IT.
My friends, we nearly died that night. My mom and I waddled out of there, many to-go bags in hand, and I ate the leftovers for days. It was all great re-heated, like stellar goodness! I ended up warming up that cold asparagus dish, and kind of mixing it with melted burrata, which was the large ball of cheese I mentioned twice, and it was fucking amazing! Below is a picture of the burrata. You can’t really see the cheese ball under the spicy goodness on top, but believe me, burrata is basically a ball of very soft mozzarella with a creamy center of even softer mozzarella. It was fucking good.
Anyhoods, that was the dine-in restaurant meal my mom and I have shared since we both vaxxed up and I made a lot of jokes about being overwhelmed by food, but it was a fucking awesome experience for both of us, and having tried at least HALF THE MENU, I can recommend Avenue M for all the eaters out there in Asheville. From hot wings to haute cuisine, y’all. Great stuff all around.
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