Ashtens The Carolinas Equestrian 01 Nestled on New Hampshire Ave., in quaint Southern Pines, is Ashten’s Restaurant, a spot anyone enjoying the area should make time to visit.  Southern Pines attracts a variety of visitors to the region each year including horseback riders, golfers and more ... and many make it a point to enjoy a meal, or two, at Ashten’s!  The brick exterior welcomes guests to sit down and enjoy an inspired dish along with a “Red on the Right” cocktail.

 Ashten’s opened in 1997 when Quinten Van Camp decided she wanted to open a restaurant.  Luckily her sister, Ashley, had worked in several NYC restaurants and recently moved back to NC!  Laughs Ashley, “After moving back to NC, I was enjoying doing the horse thing!  I relented because I really did enjoy being in the kitchen and creating dishes based on seasonality and my southern heritage.”  Now over 20 years later, Quinten lives in Tasmania and Ashley is at the helm of the extremely popular, and delicious, restaurant.  “Even though Quinten isn’t involved with the restaurant any longer, it still bears half of her name “Ten”.  I always joked that she was “the rear end” of the restaurant!”

Ashtens The Carolinas Equestrian 02 The Van Camp family has lived in Southern Pines since 1966 after her dad, James, graduated from Wake Forest Law School.  “My parents bought some land, a couple of horses and they taught each other how to ride from a book called Learning to Ride, Hunt and Show by Gordon Wright.  One person - who has no clue - telling another person - who has no clue - that their heels are supposed to be DOWN!  They did alright though and both ended up hunting with the Moore County Hounds (and living to tell about it).”  Clearly, a love for horses is a big part of the family.  Though as Ashley recalls when starting Ashten’s, “the first ten years were ‘all restaurant, all the time.’  No time for horses, except the few times I would go to my dad’s farm to ride.  Often, I would take my children and my son, Campbell, really enjoyed being with the horses.”  These days, Campbell and Ashley are often seen at events throughout Southern Pines and beyond.  Ashley has plans to compete her 4-year-old OTTB, ‘V3 Red Thirty-Six’, in Kentucky at the Retired Racehorse Project’s 2018 Thoroughbred Makeover in October.  This is something she wouldn’t have been able to do years ago, but given the stellar staff she has manning Ashten’s, she’s able to hit the event circuit more these days.  Chefs de Cuisine - Matthew Hannon and Joshua Donovan along with Bar manager and “cocktail whipper upper”, William Mayberry, all collaborate and work hard to offer “global cuisine from a southern perspective.”  Ashley’s two loves – horses and food – often collide, especially when top equestrians descend on Southern Pines each spring for the Carolinas International at the Carolina Horse Park.  Ashten’s is the “go to” restaurant for many of the eventers, who have been coming to the area for years.  The restaurant walls are covered with photographs of top riders, including some well-known riders from the “old guard” that influenced Ashley like LP Tate, Marty O’Rourke, and Ginny Moss.  Some newer faces include several locals - John Zopatti, Bobby Stevenson, Bobbie Mudge, Campbell Jourdian, Deborah Day, Jock Tate, Lincoln Saddler and Karen McCollom.

Ashtens The Carolinas Equestrian 03 Ashley’s inspiration for cooking came from her grandmother, Clara Mae, who “was an amazing self-taught cook from Eastern NC who could whip up a feast for twenty in no time and with limited resources.  I loved to hang out in the kitchen with her.  I wish I had asked her more questions and gotten her recipes, but mostly, I was just eating when I was with her!” remembers Ashley.  In honor of Clara Mae, Ashten’s menu selections are still based on local availability and the seasons, they always work hard to have locally sourced produce and meat on the menu.  Often old family recipes are shared and reinvented with a new spin. During the fall, the menu tends to run to comfort foods like slow braised lamb shanks, roasted duck, curries and house made gnocchi.  “My pastry chef, Zarah Wetmore, and I have started working on a fried pie concept using local apples and served with our own duck egg ice cream,” Ashley shared.  Another fun dish that makes its way onto the specials board from time to time is the Carolina Sushi.  The restaurant uses a collard leaf to wrap up sushi rice, house smoked pulled pork BBQ and slaw, then it’s served with a vinegar-based BBQ sauce with hints of ginger and soy sauce.  The staff works together to create dishes, which Ashley admits “sometimes great things happen and sometimes not,” but everyone on the team has a voice, from prep cooks to the Chefs de Cuisine.  Ashley’s favorite dishes “contain the produce that we wait for all year - asparagus, squash blossoms and strawberries in the spring, corn and peaches in the summer, sweet potatoes and hard squashes in the fall.  We are lucky to have so many amazing farmers, ranchers, bee keepers and cheesemakers as friends.”  Ashten’s also uses mainly North Carolina spirits and ingredients to craft their original cocktails, including the “Red on the Right” and “The Double Clear!”  Ashley jokes that their customers “literally get a real kick out of our drinks!”  A few years ago, the bar menu offered the “Mighty Nice” cocktail in honor of Phillip Dutton’s horse, ‘Mighty Nice’.

To plan your next meal at Ashten’s Restaurant, visit www.ashtens.com.