Americans don’t like radishes. Spicy yet spiritless, these pungent roots do little to please the palate. And so, we pick them off our salads and give them the side-eye at the grocery store. We even voted them the second-most-hated veggie in a poll conducted by the organic food company Dr. Praeger’s a few years back. (Turnips were first.)
And yet, on a balmy Friday evening in June, a table of adults are willingly munching on radishes — and enjoying them. One patron sneaks a bite off her husband’s plate. Another, looking bewildered, wishes for a second helping.
“That may be the best thing I have ever eaten,” he muses cautiously, as though deceived by his own tongue.
It does help when the vegetables have been shaved paper-thin and served atop a warm ricotta tart graciously anointed with brown butter and whimsical calendula petals. But that’s beside the point. People are eating radishes, and that’s a win for Dan Williams, executive chef at The Silo Cookhouse in Horse Shoe.
A coolly tattooed millennial who previously worked at The Inn on Biltmore Estate and Rhubarb in downtown Asheville, Williams feels a “responsibility” to give guests a new experience. “Take celtuce,” says Williams. “Nobody has ever seen or heard of celtuce, right? But if we can explain that it’s this beautiful apple-celery hybrid, and then treat it in a way that really highlights the vegetable’s sweetness, we’re doing our jobs.”
A proponent of farm-to-table fare with a Southern Appalachian underpinning and an Italian twist, Williams put down roots at The Silo Cookhouse last December. The eatery is located on The Horse Shoe Farm, 85 acres of rolling pastureland — it was once a cattle farm — flanking the French Broad River. The Turchin family from Los Angeles purchased the holding in 2017, intent on development. “But as we got to know the land,” says family matriarch Rachel Turchin, “we were struck by its serenity and magic.” The plan pivoted, instead, to preservation and hospitality. Today, the destination features a series of boutique guest houses and the full-service Stable Spa.
But as the venue coalesced, one element was missing: food.
“As we grew, the food-and-beverage needs of our guests grew as well,” explains Rachel. She and Jordan initially whipped up dinners out of their personal kitchen, and then, she says, “our home-cooked meals grew into dinner parties.”
Today’s full restaurant team includes Williams, sous chef and pastry guru Kyle McAlee, and cook Tory Bogin, a “very strong executor of ideas and concepts,” says Williams. The culinary trio dishes up an à la carte menu that spotlights fresh, hyper-locally-sourced products like ramps foraged from nearby forests and grass-fed ribeye from French Broad River Cattle Farms five miles down the road.
“My approach to food is to put something beautiful on the plate and get out of the way,” says Williams. “I don’t try to overwork things.”
But it does, in fact, take lots of work to deliver top-end cuisine that’s equally delicious and approachable. It also takes a community of growers, ranchers, vintners, brewers, and other food entrepreneurs who are wholly dedicated to their respective crafts. With this in mind, the restaurant partners with regional purveyors to host regular Supper Clubs that revolve around a prix-fixe menu featuring the vendor’s products.
In June, The Silo Cookhouse teamed up with Tiny Bridge Farm in Hendersonville to unveil a produce-centric feast. The meal (which, like all meals at the eatery, was served at a communal table) began with an amuse-bouche of raw vegetables with buttermilk-and-dill sauce and was followed by delicacies such as beet tartare — a fine mince of zestily dressed vegetables topped with chèvre and fried capers — and an Asian-inspired cucumber salad with nori and tōgarashi.
For mains, the kitchen offered the guest’s choice of chicken and mustard greens, beef tenderloin with hakurei turnips, pan-roasted fish, or orecchiette (a charming, ear-shaped pasta typical of southern Italy) with a bitter-greens pesto. After a palate cleanser of pea-and-mint sorbet, patrons closed out the night with steaming mugs of ShareWell Coffee and generous slices of strawberry-rhubarb Charlotte royale and carrot cake.
“To see our produce through someone else’s eyes was a full-circle moment,” says Ed Graves, who owns and operates Tiny Bridge Farm with his husband KP Whaley.
“A lot of times we just see the weeding, washing, and chores associated with growing food,” adds Graves. “It’s a treat to experience the sense of play and joy that goes into cooking and serving it.”
“Our wish,” adds Rachel, “is that those moments of connection give our guests a sense of presence — a break from the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives.”
The Silo Cookhouse at The Horse Shoe Farm, 205 Horse Shoe Farm Drive, Hendersonville, open Wednesday through Saturday, 5-10:30pm; reservations are recommended. For more information, call 828-393-3034 or see thehorseshoefarm.com/thesilocookhouse.