Last Tuesday evening I hosted a Chef’s Table Dinner Party with Owner and Executive Chef Ricardo Carrasco of Polanco Restaurant in Downtown Asheville and it was just so amazing, I don’t even know where to begin.
At the end of October, Jeff and I attended Asheville Date Night’s Do Good Date Night where we had the opportunity to meet Chef Ricardo and try his delicious mole tacos. After I posted a photo of my tacos to my Instagram story, Polanco’s co-owner Tori reached out to me and asked if I’d be interested in trying a Chef’s Table dinner. She explained that the dinner features most of Polanco’s menu in small batches and that it’s better to do with a group so that attendees can experience all of Chef Ricardo’s specialties in a fun setting. I thought it sounded like so much fun and asked if I could open the invite up to my Instagram followers. Tori agreed and a little over a month later, 15 of us gathered in Polanco’s gorgeous second-floor dining room to eat, drink and learn all about Chef Ricardo’s passion for cooking and serving delicious, traditional yet creative Mexican fare.
One of the things I love most about living in Asheville is that most of the restaurants have no problem catering to specific dietary restrictions and Polanco is no exception. Chef Ricardo goes above and beyond to offer a variety of creative vegetarian and vegan options on his menu. At our dinner, we had a good mix of vegans, vegetarians, and meat-eaters and not one person went home hungry; in fact, we were all absolutely stuffed.
As guests trickled in, we snacked on housemade chips, salsa, and vegan chicharrones — a dish traditionally comprised of fried pork, but in this case, made with wheat flour and just one example of how Chef Ricardo creatively caters to vegetarian and vegans. These things were addicting. I wish I had some right now!
Chef Ricardo’s culinary journey began in Mexico when he was studying law and decided to open a bar with a friend. He loved it so much that he decided to drop law and attend culinary school instead. He’s since opened five other restaurants, four in Mexico and one in Charlotte.
Food is about more than just eating. It is about culture, storytelling and the recipes that are passed down from generation to generation. With each course he presented that night, the passion and love Chef Ricardo poured into each dish became more and more evident. His excitement was contagious and not one guest left that evening without telling me how much they enjoyed and appreciated the experience.
Chef Ricardo focuses on using fresh, local ingredients in all of his scratch-made menu items. He visits farmers’ markets each week and Polanco’s menu changes frequently to match the seasons.
Our first course was vegan beer-battered cauliflower and it was one of my favorite dishes of the night!
I wanted to eat the whole plate but I knew we had more food coming so I restrained myself. The cauliflower can be dressed with either chipotle aioli or chipotle veganaise. This dish was served family-style for the whole table.
Vegetarian empanadas were up next and oh man, these were so good! From Polanco’s menu: Stuffed masa pastries, fried, filled with queso, side of huitlacoche, capellini mushroom, and garlic, flor de calabaza, tomato and squash. We each had one empanada and then Chef Ricardo brought out more! It’s also important to note that my vegan friend enjoyed her own vegan-cheese-filled empanada.
After this course, I thought, I could make an entire meal out of the last two courses, how on earth are we going to eat more!? But we did!
As Chef Ricardo told us about the next dish, I could feel the excitement in his voice. Mole, he explained, is a traditional Mexican recipe that he’s perfected over many years and takes him six hours to prepare. His version is comprised of over 32 ingredients, including chile peppers and cacao. That evening we were treated to two different types of mole served atop cheese-filled empanadas: a traditional one and one made with pumpkin seeds (the latter, pictured above, was my favorite).
At one point during the evening, Chef Ricardo came around with a plate of fried crickets for the more courageous guests at the table to try.
I wasn’t brave enough but I did snap this fun pic of my friends cheers-ing their crickets before trying them. My friend Amanda remarked that it was the “perfect amount of crunch.” Maybe someday I’ll have the courage to try one myself.
The vegetarian fajitas were by far my favorite dish of the evening. I could go to Polanco every night, eat this every time and never get tired of it. Fajitas are my go-to at most Mexican restaurants and these were among the best I’ve ever had. I think what really took them over the edge was that they were topped with quinia-chia seed hashbrown patties. They were so flavorful and delicious. I need to stop writing about them right now though because doing so is making me SO hungry!
And just when we thought we couldn’t possibly eat one more bite, our sixth course arrived and it was on fire. Literally.
From Polanco’s menu: Ribs, falling off the bone, homemade honey glaze of piloncillo, morita chili peppers, garlic and ginger flamed in mezcal. Now, obviously, I didn’t eat these because I’m a vegetarian but Chef Ricardo did flambé some equally-delicious No Evil Foods plant meat for the vegetarians and vegans at the table. I only had a bite because I was so stuffed but it was great!
And, then, THEN, there was CAKE. Chef Ricardo told us that he makes a different dessert each night. That night he prepared a yellow cake with some type of cinnamoney-sweet icing that everyone absolutely loved. A few people said they’d come back just for that! (He brought out plantains and coconut milk ice cream for the vegan at the table). I don’t know how, but I ate my slice of cake so fast I didn’t have time to snap a proper photo. I swear I have a second stomach for dessert. Anyone else?
My experience at Polanco’s Chef’s Table Dinner was absolutely incredible and I know all of my guests felt the same. Chef Ricardo was so great and all of the food he prepared was delicious! If you live in Asheville or are visiting the area, I definitely recommend giving Polanco a try. I can’t wait to go back!
Polanco is located at 10 North Market Street in Downtown Asheville, NC. The cost for a private Chef’s Table Dinner is $35 per person and beverages, tax, and gratuity are not included in that price.
Disclosure: Per FTC guidelines I am required to disclose that Polanco invited me to attend a complimentary chef’s table in exchange for my honest review. My guests also received a discounted rate of $30 per person, not including beverages or tax. As always, all opinions expressed on Rosey Rebecca are my own and I will never endorse a brand or product that I don’t stand behind 100 percent.
As always, THANK YOU for reading!
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