by Sandy McLeod [caption id="attachment_546" align="alignleft" width="261"] Tapas, or small plates, are a favorite among the visitors and locals in Asheville, NC and there are many excellent restaurants that specialize in this.[/caption] Asheville restaurants have received some well-deserved recognition. There is an air of excitement about the Southern mountain town with a reputation for fine cuisine - and for good reason. Asheville recently received the official title as a Green Dining Destination™, thanks to the hard work of Asheville Independent Restaurants (AIR) and the Blue Ridge Sustainability Institute (BRSI) in assisting with the creation of 15 Certified Green Restaurants throughout the city. The availability of fresh food from local farms and the highest quality hand crafted food items makes Asheville an ideal place for many chefs to practice their craft.

On the heels of Asheville Restaurant week, one month later AIR is sponsoring another palate pleasing event:  The Small Plate Crawl from February 26-28. The number of participating restaurants has increased over last year and so has interest among foodies, locals and visitors to the area. 

  Small plates can be purchased for $3-8 at participating restaurants, located in every section of Asheville. Restaurants participate all three days during the same block of time: 11:30 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.  Visit a different restaurant each day, or several restaurants in one day.  Eating small plates means there is always room for a taste of something more.   Participating Asheville restaurants include:  The Bier Garden, Biltmore Estate; - Bistro - Cedric's Tavern, Bistro 1896, The Blackbird, Chai Pani, Carmel's Kitchen & Bar, Creperie Bouchon, Curate, French Broad Chocolate Lounge, Karen Donatelli Cafe, The Lobster Trap, The Market Place, MG Road, Neo Cantina, Plant, Pomodoros (Arden Location Only), Sazerac, Strada Italiano, Tupelo Honey Cafe (both locations), Vincenzo's, Zambra, Sunny Point Café and Posana Café. More restaurants may be added to the list as the Small Plate Crawl draws near. [caption id="attachment_547" align="alignleft" width="302"] Zambra is a local favorite for tapas.[/caption] Biltmore Estate is participating in 2013 and some newer restaurants such as the Black Bird and Plant will also take part in this year’s small plate crawl. Some of these establishments specialize in small plates as their main menu.  The short list of restaurants that serve tapas includes Zambra, a local favorite for many years. At Zambra, expect a traditional Spanish style interior and décor and a wide selection of tapas and fine wines. [caption id="attachment_549" align="alignright" width="297"] Sazerac is a wonderful nightspot that evokes an atmosphere of urban chic.[/caption] Sazerac serves small plates and new and classic cocktails mixed with fresh ingredients in an upscale urban environment. Then there is Curate, a tapas bar whose chef, Katie Button, recently won the Robb Report Culinary Masters title. These restaurants have staked their culinary reputation on creative small plates and are sure to excel in this type of cuisine. As a way of thanking diners for coming out to the event and motivating them to sample more restaurants, AIR is offering an ‘AIR pass.’ Diners use the AIR pass to enter drawings and win prizes.   Participants are asked to print the pass at the AIR Website: and bring it with them. Simply request validation after dining.  A minimum of five restaurants must be visited to enter the drawings. Diners may leave their AIR pass at the last restaurant they visit to be entered in the AIR drawings.   Recently, quoted Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Stephanie Brown as saying, “The Asheville area prides itself on a food culture that embraces fresh, innovative cuisine that integrates product from local growers and artisan food producers.” This combination makes Asheville an attractive place for some of the most talented chefs to practice the culinary arts.   The Small Plate Crawl is a unique opportunity to sample some of the finest restaurants in Asheville affordably. It’s also a great reason to get out, see friends and celebrate life - and avoid the winter doldrums. Find a luxury cabin rental in Asheville, close to all of the paricipating restaurants in the Small Plate Crawl.