With Forbes naming Asheville one of the top five secret foodie cities, this month I was lucky enough to eat at a restaurant you might easily find: Posana Café, found in the heart of downtown Asheville. The jars of various preserved foods lining the walls, the rustic dark stained wooden support beams, with its upscale lighting and casual atmosphere, Posana gave us a feeling that we were are not dining in the Carolina mountains but more like the west village, Manhattan.
[dropcap]E[/dropcap]xecutive Chef and co-owner, Peter Pollay, graduated at The Culinary Institute of America and has worked with some of the “greats” in the restaurant industry: Chefs and restaurateurs such as Wolfgang Puck, David Burke, Waldy Malouf, and Larry Levy. He has worked in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and finally decided in 2003 to move to Asheville for a slower paced life. When he first moved here he was in real estate, and it was in 2004 when his wife Martha was diagnosed with Celiac disease that he decided to use his cooking knowledge to turn his whole house gluten-free. When the spot opened up in downtown Asheville, they decided to take the plunge and open a gluten-free restaurant. Peter prides himself on having strong relationships with local growers and producers, which enables him to offer the freshest ingredients available in every season, and also has a partnership with the Appalachian Sustainable Agricultural Project, which helps emphasize the importance of operating in an ecologically conscious manner. His passion for opening a gluten-free restaurant was driven by the fact that his wife has specific gluten-free requirements, she calls Posana Café her “Taj Mahal.” Posana Café has completed gluten-free training through the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). Peter not only uses ingredients from local farms, but he makes sure he visits the farms where his produce comes from so that he knows that what he is feeding his customers is the best of the best. The menu is seasonal based on what is locally available and they make everything in house including their drinks. Everything is made from scratch—all the stocks, sauces, dressings, etc., so Peter can say with pride that he knows every ingredient that goes into their dishes.
One of Peter’s main goals for Posana Café is to make sure people come out of the restaurant not saying “this is good for gluten-free” but that “this is great food” and to be surprised to learn that it is gluten-free. He doesn’t make a big deal about the fact they are 100% gluten-free and describes themselves as an upscale casual farm-to-table restaurant featuring a locally inspired, seasonal menu. Being in Pack Square, the restaurant tends to naturally attract tourists that come to Asheville, but I believe the locals might be missing a trick if they haven’t scheduled a bite here yet. Believe me, you need to schedule. When we arrived around six o’clock on a Saturday evening, there was over an hour and a half waiting list—in January, no less.[quote float=”right”]Peter prides himself on having strong relationships with local growers and producers, which enables him to offer the freshest ingredients available in every season.[/quote] I feel like in order to be a successful restaurant in this area, you have to stand out from the norm and offer something that you can’t get at the many other great restaurants found here. One of the main things that makes Posana stand out is the fact that not only do they source unprocessed, premium ingredients, but that their kitchen is 100% gluten-free. I must admit that I disclosed the fact that this was the case to my husband before eating there, as he has a certain perception of gluten-free food not being as good as “normal” food as he would call it. I believe his final words were “that is the best pork chop I have eaten in a long, long time…” We started off with the fried brussels sprouts on a parmesan crisp with balsamic reduction. Growing up I have memories of steamed brussels sprouts that I detested as they just didn’t taste good. These brussels sprouts opened my eyes to a whole new world. I’m not sure if it was because it was served with a parmesan crisp, which being Italian I can’t get enough of Parmiggiano Reggiano, but these were so delicious that I managed to convince Peter to share the recipe with the readers of Capital at Play, you can all thank me later! We then had the pan roasted scallops with beet risotto and the Hickory Nut Gap pork chop with parmesan grits, arugula, radicchio, and pears with a citrus dressing that left our mouths watering for days. Even though we were rather full, we saved a little room for the autumn spice cheesecake, which was recommended to us. I had never eaten a cheesecake like this, it was almost a deconstructed cheesecake, with the molasses crunch crumbs on the side, and a cider gel puree, which complemented the creamy caramel cheesecake perfectly.
click here for the recipe for Posana Cafe’s Fried Brussels Sprouts