Stu Helm: Food Fan
Stu Helm: Food Fan
Episode 136: Chef Tom is Back for a 2nd Crack

Episode 136: Chef Tom is Back for a 2nd Crack

Plus: In Praise of Big Pizza, Looking Back at 2023 & Takin' Mom Out for Steak

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The podcast above features Chef Tom’s second time in the co-captain’s seat, and we had a good old time cooking at home, eating pizza, having COVID, a-gain, and a lot more. If you have time to listen, I hope you will enjoy!

Podcast Contents

00:00 - 09:51 INTRO: Checkin’ In w/ Chef Tom
09:52 - 13:05 EXTENDED SHOUT-OUT: Pie.Zaa Pizza
13:06 - 22:00 SOMETIMES I COOK AT HOME: NYE Surf & Turf
22:40 - 28:05 COVID IS STILL A THING: And Tommy Got It
28:06 - 38:32 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS: Go to 200 Restaurants / Teach Better
38:33 - 49:38 LOOKING BACK ON 2023: Asheville Had a Tough Year
49:48 - 52:45 OUTRO: Rabbit Hole, SessionCafe, 12 Bones, Good Bye

PIE.ZAA: On the podcast, Chef Tom gives an extended shout-out to the Pizza at Pie.Zaa, which he loves to skarf down after a long shift at work, so I thought I’d better dig out a picture to show you how big these slices are.

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Those are normal-sized placemats. That cookie (from Morsel Cookie Co.) is frickin’ HUGE. These slices are like a [air of bed sheets.

SURF & TURF: This one comes under the “Sometimes I Cook at Home” header. Dawn and I have a traditional dinner that we like to eat every New Year's Eve. We go out and buy a nice steak and usually two lobster tails, and I make surf 'n' turf for dinner. This year I got our steak from The Chop Shop Butchery and one, absolutely giant-sized lobster tail from Mother Ocean Market Asheville, which I butterflied, and then cut in half.

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I cooked the steak with butter in a frying pan, while the butterflied lobster tail was in the broiler. When the steak was done, I cut the lobster tail in two halves and grilled them in the pan with all the yummy steak juices and butter, then I served it with asparagus, new potatoes, carrots, and mushrooms. It was fricking delicious! I’m old school… and by that, I mean old… so in my world view there is absolutely nothing in this world more fancy-pantsy than surf ‘n’ turf, and I always want to close out the year in style, so I don’t hold back. We also eat 12 grapes in one minute at midnight, and I swear it’s gonna be the way I die. Asphyxiation by grape.

RABBIT HOLE: The very first baked things I had in 2024 was an awesome almond croissant from Rabbit Hole Asheville, which is the bakery cafe next to Sunny Point Café in West Asheville, owned and operated by the same folks. Their baked goods are sooooooo daaaaaang gooooooooooooooood, y’all! This croissant had a very generous amount of almond paste inside of it, and nice crunchy toasty almonds on top.

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The coffee was also excellent, and the two of them together made me very happy. If you haven't been to Rabbit Hole bakery & cafe yet, give it a try. It's excellent!

12 BONES: Dawn & I had a friend visiting from Michigan, and she really wanted brisket while she was here, so we took her to 12 Bones River, where she got exactly what she wanted and was extremely happy!

Dawn & I both got the smoked turkey plate, which is one of my all-time fave lunches ever. Between the three of us we got 6 sides, plus cornbread, and we were all stuffed by the end! Thanks 12 Bones, for always being there and for always hitting all the nails on their heads! 🙏🔥❤️

LITTLE D’S: My mom wanted a small steak, so I did some research and booked us a table at Little D's up on Merrimon Ave in North Asheville, and it was perfect! We started with the Cajun grilled shrimp with Carolina gold citrus rice, garlic wilted kale, pepper relish, and pickled carrots. It was warm, flavorful, satisfying and delicious, as was the sweet potato gnocchi (pictured below), which came with bacon jam, fried brussel leaves, molasses, caramelized onion soubise (gah!), and chili crunch. Both of the plates for these starter dishes were scraped clean.

Next, the kitchen sent out a tuna creudo dish (pictured below) that did not appear to be on the menu, so it may have been one of the specials. It was very pretty to look at and very tasty, tender & buttery, with some very nice accoutrement. Excellent.

All three of our mains were likewise excellent! Dawn got the mahi mahi, which came with white beans, root vegetable and mushroom sauté, cauliflower puree, fried mint, and cider gastrique. I tried hers and it was great! In fact I think I ate about half! 😂 I ordered the grilled heritage pork loin, which was accompanied by charred sweet potato grits, local cameo apple slaw, pickled onion ring, and spiced pecans, with a Benton's glaze, and I devoured it. The chef recommended that I order it medium, so I did, and that was perfect.

And yes, my mom got her small steak, the chargrilled bistro steak (not pictured), which turned out to be not-so-small, but she crushed it and was just as happy as could be! It came with celeriac puree, rosemary, black garlic medallions, roasted cauliflower, and winter chimichurri. I tried hers too and it was cooked exactly right, and was very tasty. Next time we go, I'm getting that! We also enjoyed three of the desserts. We ordered the apple tart a la mode, and the maple ice cream, and they generously sent out the crème brûlée for us to try.

All three desserts were fantastic, but the crème brûlée (not pictured) was a superstar. It was warm, sweet, creamy, and crunchy, and we all agreed that it might have been the example of that particular dessert we had ever had. All around, this was a great meal! The service was excellent, the atmosphere is lively, the chef came out to say howdy, and based on my two experiences at Little D's so far, the menu is top notch! Please excuse the quality of some of these pictures. The lighting was low, which I like, but it makes it challenging to take pics. I kind of pointed my phone at food in the darkness, and brightened them up afterwards. Some of them, like steak, the shrimp, and the brûlée were blurry when I looked at the later. I hope you can still get a feel for yummy this food is though!

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Stu Helm: Food Fan
Stu Helm: Food Fan
This podcast is mostly about food