Paris of the South Pasta and Why Asheville is Calling Me #AVLWineFest

I'll never forget the day that I first heard about Asheville. I had just landed a job at a prestigious college in Montecito, CA, and my boss said he was heading there the next day for a conference. My first thought was, where in the world is Asheville (we didn't have Google back then). And my next was, is there actually life outside of California?

Now, I'll admit this was almost 16 years ago... back before being voted the freakiest city in America by Rolling Stone Magazine. And way before Obama not only helped put Asheville on the map but also one of my favorite rib places. And don't even get me started on your beer, dear Asheville.

But even then, Asheville was calling me. Little did I know that three months later, just like their (completely brilliant and spot-on) recent ad campaigns asks, "Asheville is calling... will you answer?" I would. And I did. And we packed up the cars and headed South.

So, most of us have that one special moment in time. That turning point where your childhood passions and dreams cross the line from make-believe, to wow... they're really coming true.

And for me, that place was Asheville.

So many firsts. From buying our first home. Finally getting up the courage to go back to school at 30 and get my degree (go Bulldogs). My first real writing job, for the Asheville Citizen-Times. And even realizing the dream of starting my first business. In many ways, I actually grew up in Asheville.

And now Asheville is calling me again, for an even greater love- my culinary passion. And now, I not only get to bring you a behind-the-scenes look at the Asheville Wine and Food Festival over the next few months.  But, I also get to experience it first hand and share it with you all.

So, in honor of a city that has also been called the Paris of the South, I bring you this dish. A dish, that uses simple ingredients, yielding unforgettably big flavor. Beautiful, creative and unique, with just a touch of freak.

Two months and counting, Asheville.

For more information, and tickets for the 2014 Asheville Wine and Food Festival on August 21-23, visit

Paris of the South Pasta

1 leek, sliced
7-8 Swiss chard leaves, torn
1/2 c. frozen peas, defrosted
2 c. chicken, cooked and chopped
2/3 c. chicken broth, divided
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4-5 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
4 oz. goat cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
12 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
2 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1-1/2 tablespoon flour
1 pint whipping cream
1 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1-1/2 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Extra tarragon for garnish

For the filling:

Saute the sliced leek in olive oil until softened. Add in chicken, peas, 1/3 c. chicken broth and the juice of 1 lemon. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes or until the chard leaves are wilted. Set aside.

For the goat cheese spread:

In a small bowl mix together the goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and egg yolk. Stir gently to combine. Set aside.

To assemble the pasta rolls:

Lay out a cooked and drained lasagna noodle (I cut off the curly edges). Spread with goat cheese and then add in some of the chicken mixture. Roll up and place in a greased baking dish. Continue with all 12 and then make the sauce.

For the white sauce:

In a medium skillet, add the butter. Once it is melted add in the shallots and saute for a few minutes until translucent. Then add in the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes on medium. Pour in the cream and 1/3 c. broth, and add in the Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Grate in some fresh nutmeg, and stir over medium heat until it just starts to thicken. Add in the fresh tarragon leaves and check for seasoning.

Pour over the lasagna rolls and sprinkle on lemon zest. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until tops are browned and sauce begins to thicken a bit.