Get ready for a totally groundbreaking, earth-shattering opening sentence: I like going to restaurants. Any kind of restaurant will do, but I especially like going to fancy restaurants, kitschy restaurants, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, locals-swear-by-it restaurants — the list is endless and I want to go to them all.
I have a standing dinner date every few months with one of my friends, Lauren, in which we pick out either a fancy restaurant or a restaurant neither of us have tried before and eat great food.
I have a built-in dinner partner in my daughter, EK, but her tastes tend to veer toward the less adventurous and more toward chain- or mom-and-pop-style restaurants. If there’s a cheeseburger at a Mexican restaurant to be had, she’ll have it. Buttered noodles at the just-slightly upscale eatery? EK’s your girl. She’s just discovered that mushrooms are great after swearing for multiple years that she would never eat one.
I have obstacles to contend with when it comes to restaurant-eating. The first obstacle is the vegetarianism. The second is the food allergies. The third is the pickiness, which is the only one I can really change and I’m trying my best.
There are a lot of restaurants in my side of the South whose only vegetarian option is a salad. They all have the same salad. On every menu, there’s the same salad for those darn veggie-eaters. My particular brand of vegetarianism is strictly no land animals and that’s because I don’t enjoy the texture of meat. (The pickiness strikes again!) I eat shellfish and other assorted water doodads, but I don’t particularly enjoy fish. So, technically I’m pescetarian. Whatevs.
The food allergies one is super fun. These developed later in life and are one-hundred percent cross-reactive with my seasonal allergies. Large swathes of fruits are out, walnuts, anything vaguely related to the latex plant (bananas, kiwis, avocados, melons, etc.), the list goes on and on. Bananas and avocados are the worst and they’re in every. single. vegetarian recipe out there, or so it seems. I can’t actually be vegan because I would starve to death. I tried to be vegan for Lent once and then quickly realized that God doesn’t want me to starve to death.
I also give food-related items up for Lent every year. It’s how I became vegetarian. This year I gave up my most beloved food item, cheese. It was heartbreaking, but I did it. Lent isn’t supposed to be easy, you know?
Circling back around to the point — restaurants. I love them. I love eating at them. I love looking at their choices in serving and silverware. I like the ambiance. Most of all, I love the food.
Here’s how Dinner Date works: I go to restaurants and tell you how it goes. Ready?
Today’s restaurant review is Village Social at Village Hotel on Biltmore Estates (Asheville, North Carolina).
While I wouldn’t personally go back to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina, I can appreciate what a beautiful place it is. However, the high price tag to get into the estate and the obstinate wealth that had to initially go into building it inspires more “eat the rich” feelings in me. Also, the house itself is definitely haunted.
I’m, like, 99% sure that you can tell that it’s haunted by the architecture alone.
My favorite parts of the whole Biltmore affair were leaving the massive crowds at the Biltmore house and exploring the greenhouse — partly because the greenhouse was warm and partly because the plants were out of this world.
I took literally a bajillion pictures while I was inside the greenhouse, but I’m showing some restraint and only sharing two pictures of the flowers and also a picture of this badass bust from the grounds.
Busts are the coolest, especially when they’re throwing all that shade.
Here’s what’s cool about Village Social: the Biltmore Estates runs a field-to-table program wherein items grown on the estate itself are used in its restaurants, and what they can’t provide comes from Western North Carolina farmer partnerships. You can eat a salad and know that the greens were sourced in-house on the Biltmore Estate.
I had the Estate Lettuce Salad and the Beer Battered Brussels Sprouts for lunch, as you can see below.
The Estate Lettuce Salad includes the greens from the estate, roasted peppers, pickled radish, sunflower seeds, Chevre, and Champagne vinaigrette. I had to opt for my salad without the goat cheese, because we went during spring break and that fell during the last week of Lent. By that time, I was old hat at ordering things without cheese and it didn’t mess me up too much.
I enjoyed the salad. I’m really digging pickled radishes right now. I make them at home whenever I do tacos. I appreciated the crunch from the sunflower seeds; croutons would not have been appropriate with the lightness of the salad. The roasted red peppers were a nice addition as well. I wouldn’t have thought to put them on a salad, but it was a good surprise! The different levels of acidity, from the vinaigrette to the pickled radishes to the roasted peppers was playful and nice — I’m sure this salad would have been the bomb with the goat cheese to cut some of the salad’s acidity, however.
Now, the beer battered Brussel sprouts were great. I still dream about them sometimes. The play between the hoppy beer batter and the earthiness of the sprouts was fantastic. The batter was surprisingly light, though it coated most of the sprouts, which you can see in the picture above.
The malt vinegar dipping sauce was the game changer.
Let me be completely honest here: it looks like bacon grease. It has the consistency of bacon grease. I was very wary of dipping my Brussels sprouts into something that looked like bacon grease, but I’m glad I did. The malt vinegar dipping sauce was slightly sweet, but the malt vinegar came through in a very nice way. It was the punch of acidity that the sprouts needed, without overwhelming their distinct flavor.
I’m sticking a pin in these Brussels sprouts so that I remember that I want to recreate this dish.
The big questions as follows:
- Is it vegetarian-friendly? Kind of. Lacto-ovo vegetarian and pescetarian-friendly, yes. There are six dishes plus sides on the lunch menu that are lacto-ovo vegetarian, and seven dishes on the dinner menu. The extra one on the dinner menu is the ubiquitous risotto. Four items on the lunch menu could be made vegan by removing cheese, but two of those options are salads.
- Is it allergen-friendly? For me, eh. Two of the options on the menu out of the six options were immediate no-nos because one contained walnuts and another contained blue cheese. That left a black bean burger, two salads, and the Brussels sprouts.
- Would I go there again? Unless I could get into the Biltmore Estates for under $20, probably not.
Have you eaten at the Biltmore Estates before? Where did you go? What did you eat?