It can be overwhelming when deciding on a place to dine in Asheville with various types of cuisine and flavors to choose from. And the options keep growing as we have become a culinary Mecca, which is positive for our beautiful city, yet daunting when trying to satisfy the noise coming from my belly. So I have to run it down by my three factors: service, mood and flavor. Yes, service takes priority when factoring on my destination. I’m not needy, but basic expectations of service throw in a little small talk, make sure my drinks are always full and PLEASE check the order before it arrives at the table. Simple enough right? Flavor isn’t necessarily even a factor, because of the before mentioned “We are a culinary Mecca.” And well, mood equals ambiance which always changes.
So let's narrow it down by asking where to go for an eclectic dining experience; cozy and warm. A venue that could be romantic or garner that family-style dining experience. Something unique that hits all of my checkmarks. The place that comes to mind is Asheville’s hidden gem...
I couldn’t have said it better, so I'm going to lead off with an excerpt from their website:
"Golden Fleece is a fairy tale, born of a community rich in history and filled with a love of food & culture. Tucked away in the rolling mountains of Asheville in the Grovewood Village, Golden Fleece is a whimsical ode to the earth and the bounty of quality ingredients it provides. It is a celebration of slow-cooked wild game, crackling fires, rustic recipes, and the beauty of naked produce."
Like I said, hard to beat, right?
The restaurant is widely known for its slow earth wood-fired kitchen that creates authentic Greek and Mediterranean flavors. Having visited Greece on numerous occasions while living in the Middle East, I can attest to this. More importantly is the feeling of family exhibited by the chefs and staff.
As the Golden Fleece comes up in conversation, most people confuse it with being part of the Omni Grove Park Inn when in fact it is a separate entity, residing in the woods just below. I’ve been dining there for several years and love when visitors come to town. It’s the perfect excuse to head down to that quaint little cottage. Sorta reminds you of the Shire.
Recently, I hosted a social event with a group of local influencers. The theme of the night was the Whole Animal Feast, lamb being the focus. The feast is custom-tailored to your flavor profile based off a multitude of options listed on their website. There is a lot of preparation involved in cooking a whole animal, so it is only available to parties of 6 or more and requires a month's notice. Additional proteins include suckling pig, guinea hen, wild boar and more. Additionally, they are working on incorporating vegan options from their main menu into the feasts.
The evening began in the front room which also houses the bar. Everyone was greeted with a warm welcome, coats and accessories neatly hung, just as it would be when walking into someone's home. Red wine flowed seamlessly with the conversation as people arrived. After the last guest got a wine we headed into the main dining room and sat at a long table, beautifully decorated. Giorgious Bakatsias, the owner and James Beard Foundation nominee for best restauranter, dined with us for the evening.
Greek-style dining means the table is never without food or drink. The staff moved in and out like ninjas, never interrupting, filling glasses and removing plates. However, we couldn’t help but notice as new dishes arrived, colorfully plated with a keen eye for detail. We experienced so many savory dishes erupting with rustic Mediterranean flavors. The lamb itself took 12 hours of preparation, which included roasting on a spit in the slow earth wood-fired kitchen.
It was first presented to us as the whole animal on the spit by Executive Chef George Delidimos. Then it was taken back, carved and served in a family-style iron trough, garnished with roasted lemon halves, rosemary, sage and thyme. Chef Delidimos then spoke about the cooking techniques and preparation. Being from Greece himself, you could hear his sincere passion and love for his craft. Each dish represented Greek culture in its entirety.
Time flew by and before we knew it 3 hours had passed. Full-on food and wine, everyone raved about the hospitality and how this was one of the best dining experiences in Asheville. This speaks volumes, for these culinary influencers are experts in the food and beverage industry.
Here are some of the upcoming Featured Nights at Golden Fleece:
- Savory Stews - Wednesday
- Whole Fish - Thursday
- Prime Rib - Friday
- Glam Dinner - December 17th (grab your tickets here!)
- Special Menu for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve
Until we break bread again Asheville, cheers!
As always, when visiting the places I write about, tell them I sent you!
Be sure to check out Golden Fleece Slow Earth Kitchen’s profile for more info, menus and events, and don’t forget to keep an eye on The Urban Gastronome to see where he’ll show up next!