After arriving for an eagerly anticipated visit at the Biltmore Estate this morning...
...the life was sucked out of me in very short order after only 1.5 hours of being subjected to the crush of a verybroad swathe of slow-moving and mostly polyester-clad humanity. I can only imagine that George and Edith Vanderbilt are in a state of perpetual spin-cycle knowing that such a massive herd of mouth-breathing proletariat lumber through their hallowed halls on a daily basis. Wait...did that sound mean?
What could possibly infuse life back into a such a fragile flower as myself after a traumatic experience of this magnitude? Smelling salts, perhaps? True to form, I went with wine and tapas instead. My superhero sped me to Cúrate (which I'd already sniffed out online and identified as a potential gastronomic point of interest in Asheville). While I was anticipating a positive experience, my expectations were far exceeded by food, ambience and service alike.
Cúrate is a trendy little place boasting a scrupulously-clean open kitchen (with a bar for those who like to observe the action) and a pleasingly authentic atmosphere. It is a family owned and operated establishment billing itself as a traditional Spanish tapas bar and, having had the opportunity to enjoy bona fide tapas in Spain, I'd say that's an accurate statement. We didn't order extensively, but everything we tried was outstanding.
Along with a glass of Spanish wine for me and a local microbrew for UD, we started with an eggplant small plate I was both intrigued by and a little ambivalent about...Berenjenas la Taberna (feather-light fried eggplant slices drizzled with wild mountain apiaries honey and garnished with rosemary). I love eggplant in all its forms, but this was pretty damn magical. Tender, hot, crispy, sweet and savory...this is a crazily unique and completely unforgettable combination. We both loved it. Trust me...you NEED this, even if eggplant is not on your top 10 list of veggie faves.
Having fallen hopelessly in love with Jamón Serrano when we visited Barcelona several years ago, it seemed like a no-brainer when we saw it on the menu. But wait! Cúrate also offers Jamón Ibérico (cured ham from the famous black-footed Ibérico pigs of Spain which are reputed to produce the finest ham in the world) as well as Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (from a select group of the same famous porcine Iberians who apparently won some sort of lottery and enjoyed the luxury of spending all of their pre-ham days on earth being fed solely on acorns, which makes the meat especially flavorful and nutty). Decisions, decisions. Happily, we weren't forced to choose as a selection of all three cured hams was also available for $18 which proved to be a good way to compare their subtleties. Spanish Ham: Our favorite food group.
Since cheese is to ham as peanut butter is to jelly, we decided we needed a sidecar of Tabla de Queso which was a generous assortment of Spanish cheeses served with a complementary fruit compote. Our server brought us some nice slices of rustic bread as an accompaniment upon our request. Exquisito!
Underdog was dead set on ordering the Tortilla Española (a Spanish potato and onion omelet) despite my protests which were instigated by the fact that we were sharing plates and this one sounded kind of unspecial to me. After it showed up, I was forced to eat crow (which I'm pleased to report married particularly well with a little over half of the Tortilla Española). It was fantastic! Tender potatoes and sweet sauteed onion were presented encased in a golden brown, almost souffle-like puffy disk that was far more gratifying than any "omelet" I've ever eaten.
I really loved this place. Spanish tapas are my favorite type of cuisine and these were some of the best I've had anywhere. My only complaint is that the fact that Cúrate is in Asheville and not in Tampa makes me a little cranky.