© John Kernick

The chef behind Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina shares everything she loves about the hottest trend in Barcelona and why she brought it stateside.

Elyse Inamine
August 21, 2017

Most of us are just fine with a cup of coffee and the paper on any given Sunday afternoon. But for Katie Button, the Best New Chef of Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina, the last day before the work week starts up again is meant for something more ambitious and, ahem, spirited.

“That’s vermouth time,” she says. “It’s the day off when you’re going to eat a big lunch with your friends, hopping from vermouth bar to vermouth bar. Sunday is a good day.”

It certainly is, when you’re spending the day eating, drinking and wandering to and from the newest trend to hit Barcelonavermuterías, or vermouth bars. The city has seen a rise in these type of cramped bars with stellar food that usually comes out a can, and Button’s become somewhat of an expert after hitting them up during her yearly trips back.

“Every vermouth bar should offer vermouth and soda siphons to top it off, canned seafood, chips, high-top tables to stand around and a loud, bustling atmosphere,” says Button.

Button’s such a fan that she brought the trend home to Asheville this past spring with her husband and co-owner, Felix Meana. They bought out the space next door to Cúrate and outfitted it with a zinc bar, hanging jamóns, barrels of sherry, cider and vermouth and mirrors painted with cheesy food cartoons, drawn by a local artist and just like the ones you’d find in Barcelona.

At their vermutería, Meana pulled together the largely liquid menu with cider (featuring makers like Shacksbury and Foggy Ridge), 10 sherries and, of course, vermouth (“Axta is the perfect entry point,” says Button). The food is simple and brief, as it should be, with pintxos like the classic gilda (anchovy, olive and piparra, a Basque pepper) and mejillone en escabeche (pickled mussels) and berberechos con salsa vermut (cockles in vermouth sauce) straight from the can. And so far, it’s been a hit with the locals stateside.

“It fits with the timing of the craft cocktail movement in the U.S., and people are now discovering vermouth and sherry here, but mostly in cocktails,” says Button. “It kind of matches what’s happening in Spain.”

And it matches with the new energy of Asheville.

“Why we fell in love with this city is its walkable downtown full of shops and art galleries, so a vermutería was exactly Asheville needed—a place to pop in for a drink and a snack in the middle of the afternoon before continuing downtown,” says Button. “If it were my day off, there’s nowhere else I would rather be than sitting in a vermutería, snacking on chips, olives and berberechos while sipping a glass of red vermouth.”

And we have to agree.