When I first started my food adventure around Asheville 5 months ago, I allowed Fodors.com top ten list for Asheville to guide me. So far it hasn’t failed me and it certainly didn’t disappoint on Saturday when it lead me to Tupelo Honey Café for brunch.
The brunch started with the waitress bringing out a plate of biscuits paired with blueberry jam and honey.
The biscuits are ginormous and some of the best that I have ever had especially topped with Tupelo’s homemade blueberry jam.
I had the Fried Chicken and Biscuits (two biscuits smothered in red eye gravy and topped with buttermilk fried chicken).
This was my first experience with red eye gravy. In fact, I had no idea what it was, so I had to Wikipedia it before we left, so I didn’t look like a tourist by asking the waitress. According to Wikipedia:
“Red-eye gravy is a thin sauce often seen in the cuisine of the Southern United States and associated with the country ham of that region. Other names for this sauce include poor man's gravy, bird-eye gravy, bottom sop and red ham gravy. The gravy is made from the drippings of pan-fried country ham, bacon, or other pork, sometimes mixed with black coffee. The same drippings, when mixed with flour, make the flavoring for a white gravy.”
Apparently people in the South take their red eye gravy and how it is prepared seriously. Here is an excerpt I found on Urbanspoon from oceannotionrr:
“How disappointing!!! TUPELO'S redeye gravy was a MILK GRAVY with bits of meat in it????
We thought it must be a mistake and waited for our waitress to fix the mistake. She told us THAT was their redeye gravy.
We asked nicely if they could mix about a half cup of coffee from their ham drippings, but she replied that the kitchen said they had to stick to their menu and their recipes.
I've checked google, and the classic redeye gravy recipe CONTAINS coffee and DOES NOT contain milk.
HOW COULD TUPELO HONEY CAFE GET IT SO WRONG?
NEVER GOING TO TUPELO HONEY CAFE AGAIN.”
Now this previous quotation may come off as snobbish to some of you, but food, particularly Southern food is taken seriously in the South. For example, I have read or heard the following phrase at least a 100 times since I’ve moved to North Carolina, “You can call it what you like, but here in the South, barbecue is a noun, not a verb.” Such rhetorical quips are not meant to come off as snobbish, but rather a way in the speakers’ mind to highlight the personal principle of preserving Southern food culture.
I’m sorry to report to oceannotionrr that I have no dog in the save Southern culture fight, just a fork. Not to mention, he or she’s choice not to attend Tupelo Honey again will mean now I only have to wait 45 minutes for a table rather than an hour ;-). Please forgive me, but Tupelo Honey’s red eye gravy was damn good!
The gravy was light enough to prevent it from sticking to your ribs but thick enough to prevent the fluffy mouth watering biscuits from turning into a soggy mess. The bits of bacon and ham found in the gravy made this dish delectable.
But the true flavor explosion occurred when the red eye gravy made friends with the fried chicken, which was tender and moist. The breading of the chicken dressed with the red eye gravy is simply put a match made in heaven.
My partner in crime ordered the Breakfast Bowl (seasoned pinto beans and goat cheese grits topped with two over medium eggs, two maple peppered bacon strips, cheddar cheese and Sunshot Farm Salsa).
A dish she referred to as banging! I took a bite because she insisted I had to try a bite. Although I’m not a huge grits fan I enjoyed it.
The flavors mixed together well and I would have a huge internal battle with myself the next time I come to Tupelo for breakfast on whether or not I should order the Fried Chicken and Biscuits or the Breakfast Bowl.
Someday I want to try authentic red eye gravy, but until then I can deal with settling for Tupelo’s version.
However, apparently the next trip to Tupelo will involve their burger that is getting rave reviews. Here is a video of it:
Suggestion? Smother it in red eye gravy!
Total before tip- $21.23
Tupelo Honey Cafe
12 College St.,
We walked off our brunch Saturday by visiting the rather new Olive and Kickin’ which carries a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. The shop is set up to allow customers to try all of the selections. I tried a variety of balsamic vinegars including Chocolate Dark, Pomegranate Dark, Jalapeño White, and Black Cherry Dark.
I particularly enjoyed the Chocolate Dark. Olive and Kickin’ describes it as
“rich, thick, and resounds with the complexity of three different chocolates responsible for depth of its’ flavor!”They weren’t kidding your mouth gets smacked around three different times with each chocolate.
We didn’t walk away with a purchase but I’m sure I will be back to purchase birthday gifts for my father, who chose a culinary hobby over a Harley for his midlife crisis.
Olive and Kickin’
32 Biltmore Ave