Canyon Kitchen

Fine dining in North Carolina’s Lonesome Valley.

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By Hope S. Philbrick

When I arrived for dinner at Canyon Kitchen, I fully expected to have a great meal. I did not expect to realize one of my personal culinary dreams.

Both happened!

Canyon Kitchen, now in its sixth season, is located in Jackson County, North Carolina, in the Jennings Barn at the foot of Cow Rock Canyon. It’s open seasonally, Wednesday through Sunday, which alone seems to say it’s a special occasion destination…though a dinner here will make even the most mundane evening seem special.

At the helm is Executive Chef John Fleer, who has been named one of the “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” by the prestigious James Beard Foundation and is a three-time finalist for the James Beard “Best Chef in the Southeast” Award. The former executive chef of Blackberry Farm in Walland, Tenn. and chef/owner of Rhubarb in Asheville, N.C., Fleer is known for transforming local ingredients into world-class cuisine. At Canyon Kitchen, he uses fresh produce and organic selections from Lonesome Valley’s own community garden and the surrounding area of western N.C.

I’d heard his food was extraordinary, so had to check it out for myself.

Spoiler Alert: You should do the same.

Canyon Kitchen makes a great impression before you even taste anything: It’s framed by trees and meadows and faces a dramatic 1,000-foot granite cliff. The airy dining room features light wood, metal-topped tables, a stacked-stone fireplace, massive exposed beams, and a series of barn door-walls that can be opened in temperate weather.

Things get even better once food and drink are presented.

Servers explain that the menu offerings change frequently—plus, the menu format does, too. The night of our visit, the menu presented four courses, with a few options for all but the starter.

The starter, which was served to all diners that evening, was goat cheese and ricotta ravioli. It was a heavenly pillow of flavor: savory yet sweet, rich yet delicate.

Canyon Kitchen - starter

After polishing that off, my husband and I sat back with our glasses of local craft beer to gaze at the view and await the first course. (A great wine list and handcrafted cocktails are available, too.)

When servers delivered the next two platters, they were an unexpected addition to our feast: Chef Fleer had sent out special preparations of duck and Iberian pork—a delicacy I’ve long heard described and have wanted to taste, but assumed that I’d have to wait until traveling to Spain. We must have looked puzzled as they were presented because the server explained, “Chef Fleer loves to make special treats like this and surprise some diners.” Lucky us! (Iberian pork lives up to the hype; I’d previously enjoyed it in ham form, as the ham is a bit easier to come by in the U.S.)

Canyon Kitchen - duckCanyon Kitchen - Iberian pork
All evening, each dish impressed anew. It was a feast to remember, for its layers of flavor and beautiful presentations.

Jolley Farms spring greens and shaved spring vegetables
Jolley Farms spring greens and shaved spring vegetables
Rhubarb-glazed quail with pickled ginger farro piccolo, strawberries and candied almonds.
Rhubarb-glazed quail with pickled ginger farro piccolo, strawberries and candied almonds.
Citrus-roasted Florida red snapper with country ham braised Tuscan kale, crispy red pepper polenta, fennel and cucumber gimlet salad.
Citrus-roasted Florida red snapper with country ham braised Tuscan kale, crispy red pepper polenta, fennel and cucumber gimlet salad.
Garden herb-rubbed Ashley Farms chicken breast with sundried tomato chicken sausage, spoonbread, roasted asparagus, frizzled leeks and onion jam jus.
Garden herb-rubbed Ashley Farms chicken breast with sundried tomato chicken sausage, spoonbread, roasted asparagus, frizzled leeks and onion jam jus.
Toasted oat custard with spiced strawberries, lemon fool and lemon melt away pebbles.
Toasted oat custard with spiced strawberries, lemon fool and lemon melt away pebbles.
Bourbon tempura-fried chocolate chip cookie dough with vanilla bean ice cream, chicory hot fudge and toasted pecans.
Bourbon tempura-fried chocolate chip cookie dough with vanilla bean ice cream, chicory hot fudge and toasted pecans.

Canyon Kitchen is where dining dreams really do come true.

Odds of Encountering Children: Slim.

More Information…

Canyon Kitchen
94 Lonesome Valley Road
Sapphire, NC 28774
828.743.7696

Read more about Canyon Kitchen

Jackson County NC Chamber & Visitor Center

DestinationCashiers.com

– Photos © HSP Media LLC

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

HopeP_144Hope S. Philbrick is founder and editor-in-chief of Getaways for Grownups. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications nationwide. She’s reviewed restaurants for several Atlanta-based newspapers and magazines for more than 10 years. When not writing, she can usually be found on the road or savoring something tasty.

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