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It all started under a metal roof in front of a small butcher shop on Old U.S. 70 in 2014. Around a dozen people gathered for an intimate meal, featuring locally raised and sustainable meats and food sourced from area farms.

The weekly meals, hosted by Foothills Meats, were an immediate hit and small groups of people were treated to family-style dinners featuring multiple courses served in various locations around the area.

Owner Casey McKissick, suspended the series in 2017 as Foothills opened its Black Mountain restaurant and moved into the brick building on Black Mountain Avenue. 

In the shiny new butcher shop in the heart of town, the Butcher's Table Dinner is back and the cozy, neighborly vibe that helped the event become a local favorite is as much a part of it as it has always been.

The dinners are $60 per person and served to 12-15 people every Thursday in the butcher shop, adjacent to the Foothills Butcher Bar.

Eleven people were welcomed by McKissick; his wife, Amanda; Foothills head chef, Nathan LeCount; retail manager, Meg Montgomery and bar manager Mark Henry on Dec. 6. McKissick opened the dinner with the story of how the Butcher's Table Dinner, served on an actual butcher's table, came to be. 

"We hosted them for a year on the porch of the original location, right off of (Old U.S. 70)," he said. "We held the series one spring on the stage at Pisgah Brewing Co. After taking a year off to get set up in our new location, we're really excited to bring these dinners back."

LeCount prepared a cauliflower soup, featuring herb creme fraiche and crispy shallots to open the meal. The soup was paired with the Pisgah Brewing Co. Blonde Ale. 

"We've had a really good relationship with Pisgah Brewing Co. over the years," Henry said. 

Part of the dining experience was a close-up look at how Foothills, which purchases whole animals from three area farms, operates. McKissick gave guests a peek at the restaurant's beef demi-glace, which includes broth made from bones of beef butchered in the space. 

"We take responsibility for the whole animal when we purchase it, so we find use for as much of it as possible," he said. 

The soup was followed by a butcher board with house meats and pickles with English cheese curd. The offering featured LeCount's bacon.

"It presents like a deli meat," McKissick explained. "But it is cured and smoked pork belly."

A bit of McDowell County beer

The charcuterie was paired with Mt. Ida IPA, a beer by Mica Town Brewing, the first brewery in McDowell County. 

Jason Snyder and Emily Causey, owners of Mica Town Brewing, were in the dinner group and talked about their brewery. 

"Mount Ida is a mountain in McDowell County and the beer was named after it," Snyder said. "You could almost describe this beer as 'yesterday's IPA' because the trend right now is hazy IPAs, low bitterness, higher hops. This has a little bit of bitterness and heavy on the hop flavor."

Behind the scenes at Foothills

A tour of the meat cooler by McKissick, offered a firsthand look at the dry-aging process and a crash course on specific cuts of beef.

As LeCount introduced a beef tartare with herbs, horseradish cream on crostini, Henry introduced a cocktail that is new to the menu. The Grovestone Cocktail featured gin from Black Mountain's Oak and Grist Distilling. President and head distiller William Goldberg shared the story of the distillery and information on the distilling process. 

A sausage duo plate arrived next, which featured Foothills sausages and flavorful servings of mustard with brussel and kale kraut. 

A pork roulade from Bradley Farms in Saluda included Cuban bread from Four Sisters Bakery in Black Mountain. The dish, which was paired with Peiromo Chardonnay, was dressed with pepper jelly. 

A beef rib roast dry-aged for 24 days and covered with cilantro chimichurri preceded a pecan spiced cake dessert. The cake included Dynamite Roasting Co. espresso glaze and candied pecans and was paired with a spiced cranberry Old Fashioned. 

A neighborhood meal

The intimate setting of the dinner, small groups seated on stools around butcher tables, gives the experience the feel of a neighborhood dinner, McKissick said.

"We want everyone to enjoy the food, enjoy each other's company and have a good time," he told the group. "This whole gathering is designed around bringing people together over good, honest meats."

Of course, an evening featuring so many courses and drink pairings involves a good amount of preparation. Individuals or groups looking to attend a Butcher's Table Dinner must reserve a spot at foothillslocalmeats.com/butchers-table/

"This kind of dinner is a unique experience," McKissick said. "Over the years we've got to see this grow into a really special event, and we'd like to see it continue to grow here."

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