When preparing for the NCRLA Chef Showdown on August 27, 2018, I went to Southern Pines, NC to meet Chef Matt Hannon (@localchefmatt) and try some of his dishes at Ashten’s before the upcoming competition. (See Article here about Matt: ncrla-chef-showdown-preview-matt-hannon) Southern Pines is only about 2 hours from Charlotte, NC, so it was a great getaway for just one night and we had great food and drinks while there.
First, some background on this restaurant. Ashten’s has been open since 1997 and opened by Ashley and Quinten Van Camp. They are known for using local farmers as much as possible, (and the farmer’s even show up at their back door selling their products.) They take local ingredients and elevate them to a global style with a southern twist. All dishes had local ingredients and all were layered with deliciousness! (Plus, our waitress Vicki was very knowledgeable and friendly.)
I started the meal (well, really had throughout the meal) with two cocktails made from local, unique ingredients. The first was a Sweet Potato Vodka cocktail. Using Covington Vodka , local sweet potatoes for the syrup, nutmeg, and more. It was sweet, but delicious. The second cocktail used local ingredients too, but once she said ‘ginger beer’ I missed all of the other ingredients and knew I needed to have it.
My favorite bite was actually the first appetizer: CV Pilson Farms (from Cameron, NC)’s squash noodles with a perfectly seasoned shrimp bite.
If you know Chef Matt (or follow his Instagram), you’ll easily be able to tell that he not only loves North Carolina products, (but he especially loves foraging for mushrooms in the wild and incorporating those into his dishes.) The complexity of this ‘breakfast as an appetizer’ (I would call it) was not just the highlight, but my date (who claimed to hate all mushrooms) loved and devoured the chanterelles. The Councell Farms eggs with the pickled chantrelles paired perfectly with the salty bacon. (fun fact: Pork is Chef Matt’s favorite ingredient.)
I don’t know about you, but I feel like shishito peppers seem to be all the rage in kitchen lately. I have slightly avoided the dish as I can’t handle spice much, but I learned that only 1 out of every 11 is actually spicy. (Granted, I did find the 11th!) In this well-balanced dish, Chef Matt used Priest Family Farm blistered shishito peppers, local peaches, a local white sharp white cheddar, olive oil, and summac seasoning.
We ordered two flavor-packed entrees: The Pan Roasted Salmon (with Coconut Carolina Gold Rice, Sauteed Shrimp with wild mushrooms and green beans, cashew powder, lime and tamari brown butter) and the Pan Roasted Beef Tenderloin (with confit of Priest Family Farm New Potatoes, Garlicy MacC’s Family Farm Kale and Brown Creek Creamery Blue Cheese Butter.) These two dishes received so many ‘oohs’ while we were eating because there were so many layers of flavor. We especially loved the way the salmon was seared, and the punch of the garlic kale.
To wrap up, I loved the creativity of the Ostrich Egg Angel Food Cake and Ice Cream with local peaches. Perfect was to wrap up our delicious experience, thanks to @LocalChefMatt.
Partner in Crime for the meal:
Location: Southern Pines, NC
Favorite Bite: Shrimp with Squash Noodles