Gluten-free people, pick up the phone right now and make your reservation for Posana Cafe in Asheville. It's a 100% gluten free restaurant in the heart of downtown, and I swear it will be one of the best meals you've eaten since you cut gluten out of your diet. An entire menu of crazy awesome gourmet dishes made with you in mind. I went gluten-free for about two months. It sucks. It is expensive and it is extremely hard to find cuisine that will make you swoon. You often get stuck with the salad. Am I right?
How does Lobster Mac and Cheese Sound (made with ricotta gnocchi)? Or Crispy Chicken Confit with sweet potato biscuit, Gran Marnier maple syrup and confit pear. What about Pan Roasted Scallops with celery root puree, almond-brown butter crumble, cauliflower, crispy kale and truffle jus. Folks, we're talking serious food here. This restaurant is going straight to the top of my list and I'm not even gluten-free!
Peter Pollay and wife, Martha, opened Posana six years ago with the idea to create a menu reflecting the gluten-free food they eat at home. The restaurant just underwent a fancy redo at the hands of design genius Doug Stratton and it is absolutely beautiful inside. The lighting, which is focused on the food in front of you at every table, is magnificent for us food bloggers. Chef Jordan Arace is manning the kitchen much of the time these days, but the restaurant holds fast to its gluten-free philosophy.
My tablemates for the evening were Laura Huff (my Greenville Small Plate Crawl partner in crime and Carolina Epicurean blogger), Landis Taylor from Asheville CVB and Chef Pollay himself! We were stoked that he decided to sit with us for dinner and tell us all about his restaurant and his path to becoming a chef.
Career highlights of Chef Peter Pollay:
His first notable restaurant job was at City Tavern in downtown Chicago under restaurant giant Larry Levy. Pollay says he was a "must hire" (aka Levy knew his dad) so they really put him through the ringer there.
When Levy started taking his fine dining experience to Chicago's ball stadiums,starting with Comiskey Stadium, he took Pollay with him. The White Socks got into the playoffs that year and went on to the World Series. (Note, I know nothing about baseball, but it was exciting for the Chef.) He worked hard, met a lot of people and watched a lot of baseball.
Pollay has worked under numerous famous chefs including Chef David Burke at his Park Avenue Cafe and Wolfgang Puck at the famed Malibu restaurant Granita. It was the first time Pollay was exposed to real "farm to table" cuisine. Puck worked with three or four local farmers and had fresh stuff delivered frequently, so the menu constantly was changing. Sean Connery, Dick Van Dyke and Nicholas Cage were a few of the celebrity regulars.
While attending school at the Culinary Institute of America, he worked at Hudson River Club under Waldy Malouf on the weekends. When he graduated, he went back to Chicago to work in the Four Seasons Hotel for a while, then headed to Las Vegas and back to the Larry Levy fold. Levy had formed a partnership with Spielbeg and opened The Dive. When it opened in LA, Pollay took his first management position.
After an attempted retirement from chefdom, Pollay found himself back in a Wolfgang Puck kitchen at the famed Spago under Chef Francois. Pollay became the kitchen manager there. "It was an amazing experience," he says. "We were on the cutting edge."
It was 1999. He was tired. He tried to retire, but went back to work within two weeks. Larry Levy was setting up shop in the Staple Center. He took the spot of Sou Chef. They were serving all of the sky boxes and two restaurants. (Again with the sports thing, the Lakers and Kings were in the playoffs and the Lakers won.)
Levy began a partnership with Wolfgang Puck at Dodger Stadium and again Pollay was asked to be a part of the team to get the ball rolling (okay, a bad sports joke. I admit.) It was the National League and he got to see the Cubs play.
It was August 2000. Pollay was due to get married. A little event called the Democratic National Convention was booked at the Staple Center. He asked for time off and was denied. It was finally time to retire.
In 2003, he had a family, he had moved to Asheville and was working in Real Estate. He and wife Martha were talking one day and decided it was time, they'd open their own restaurant. And so it began again.
Believe it or not, I think I left out a few things. Pollay is the real deal. He is an amazingly talented chef. Now back to the food on the table:
This picture does not do this salad justice. This is Posana's famous Manchego Kale Salad. Pollay was recently on WLOS sharing the recipe with viewers. Get the recipe here.
Their Brussels Sprout Salad with pears, roasted walnuts, Three Graces feta, and honey-buttermilk dressing was also freaking amazing.
But the gluten-free are not confined to the salads here. Remember, the whole menu is free and clear. What about Lamb with herb crust, charred Brussels sprouts, potato fondant and rosemary-fig gastrique?
Or Braised Hickory Nut Gap Pork Shoulder, bacon wrapped pork loin, topped with shallot jam, and trotter, accompanied by crispy pigs feet potatoes.
Get out that calendar and pick up the phone. You must make the trip up the mountain for this amazing culinary experience. You can thank me later.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to ya!