A popular companion for chicken in mid-century American cookbooks (which were heavily influenced by the French food craze), the flat, tender leaves of the tarragon plant have roots back in Siberia. It shows up in Russian cuisine, and in the 14th century started showing up in Italy and France, where its light, licorice flavor was championed by Escoffier. Julia Child sang its praises to the U.S. market. Classically, it’s mixed into cream sauces for salmon and chicken, and it’s a staple in omelet aux fines herbes.
In 2009, Meherwan Irani quit his day job in sales to open his first restaurant – Chai Pani, a unique Indian street food joint in downtown Asheville. Whether it was a midlife crisis or a stroke of genius is debatable. Since then, the self-taught chef has opened four restaurants, one bar, and now, Spicewalla. With four James Beard Award nominations for Best Chef in the Southeast under his belt, he’s finally confident this might just be working out. His restaurants have been written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, GQ, Food & Wine, Saveur, USA Today, and Bon Appétit, among others.