Across Our Table sat down with Shannon McGaughey of Salt & Smoke, Asheville's hottest new food venture. Shannon and her husband, Josiah, moved from Chicago three years ago to jump into the Asheville food scene. A chance meeting with Jess and Doug Reiser of Burial Beer Co. on the South Slope led to a fortuitous partnership, making Salt & Smoke the brewery's permanent food source.
The day we headed to Salt & Smoke, they served over 140 people! They were gracious, and their food was inspired, fun, and certainly unlike anything else we are eating in Asheville right now. The highlight of our afternoon was watching the excitement of the other tables as their food was delivered.
AOT: How did your relationship with them begin?
Jess Reiser--one of the owners of Burial--had lost Josiah's credit card. He was totally understanding, and they had a good laugh about it. From there, the conversation shifted to what we were trying to accomplish in Asheville. Josiah had a good friend doing a hoagie pop up at Burial at the time, so he pitched cooking something once a week as well. That one day a week quickly grew into four days a week and then into a full-on partnership. We really have the best relationship set up--basically Josiah and I can't get enough of Jess and Doug's beer and they can't get enough of our food!
AOT: What's your favorite thing about the South Slope?
It really feels like all the businesses in the area are less of competitors and more an industry family. We've had to run over to Buxton Hall for an emergency quart of heavy cream and they were more than willing to help. In addition, The South Slope very much feels like an escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Even though its just a short walk from its center, the general atmosphere of being on The South Slope feels more relaxed and easy going.
AOT: What sets you apart in the Asheville food scene?
We really push to offer menu items that don't fit the conventional bar food or "pub grub" description. The beers at Burial are so complex and artful that we really want to match that in our food. We believe that beer pairings can go way beyond chowing down on a greasy burger, and it's been really wonderful to see our guests' enthusiasm to try dishes with offal, charcuterie, or foraged wild plants. We want to offer a changing menu that explores all the local goods this incredible area has to offer, and we strive to be able to provide these quality ingredients while still keeping the price point affordable. Furthermore, the majority of products are housemade. We take a lot of pride in making sausages, breads, pickles and all sorts of things from scratch; not only does it provide superior flavor, but it ensures everything is all natural.
AOT: Which places inspire Salt & Smoke?
For our honeymoon, we saved up to road trip around France, Italy, and Switzerland. That experience was priceless in terms of food inspiration. We would love the chance to revisit and explore some different countries like Hungary, Belgium, The Netherlands, and Ireland.
AOT: What is the most essential item in your kitchen?
I don't think we could exist without a solid cast iron skillet. Whether you are searing a cut of meat, baking cornbread, or slow roasting a chicken, it make s a world of difference.
AOT: What are your comfort meals?
Being a Kansas City girl, BBQ definitely reigns king for me. When we got married, my dad handed Josiah his secret BBQ sauce recipe...so its definitely a big deal in my family. Growing up in Georgia, Josiah has so many delicious Southern comfort food influences. The first meal he ever cooked for me was fried pork chops, collard greens, and rice & gravy---talk about the way to a girl's heart. And we can never say no to French food---that's the ultimate comfort cuisine---I mean, come on, butter, cream, and more butter...yes please!
AOT: Who does the cooking at home?
Its a pretty even split. Josiah is especially great with saving me after a long shift at Bull and Beggar with late night bites or in the morning with greasy bacon and eggs. I definitely am in charge of running our grocery inventory. I try to buy stuff every month that will inspire us to be cooking different types of cuisine, trying new cuts of meat, and local veggies. We try to have one big home cooked meal once a week, where one of us cooks the entire spread. I often try to steal that meal responsibility so I can flex my cooking skills for chef---tomorrow is veal chop puttanesca with Anson Mills polenta and charred rapini... I'm gonna crush it.
AOT: What's next for Salt & Smoke?
We are focusing on opening up our permanent set up at Burial. We recently purchased a brand new food trailer---essentially a food truck that you can't drive---that will become our official kitchen space at Burial. The food trailer is going to be taken off its axels so it resembles something like a box car container, and will be set up on a platform flush to the brewery so that there will be service window both inside and outside. We hope to be up an running by the end of May. In addition to our brunch service, we will be open Tuesday through Saturday as well. The menu will have affordable price points for all of our small plates and snacks.