“Everybody loves blueberries,” says Ashley Capps, the pastry chef at Asheville’s Buxton Hall Barbecue. Serviceberries, however, speak more to her soul. “They’re blueberries’ wilder cousin—the black sheep,” she says. “They taste like a cross between a fresh currant and a blueberry.” Different varieties of the scrubby trees grow wild all over the eastern United States. Mountain lore holds that their name is a nod to seasonality—when serviceberry trees began blooming in late spring, the ground was warm enough to dig a grave and hold a funeral. Capps grew up in the Piedmont town of Burlington and spent time in the kitchens of chef John Fleer’s Rhubarb in Asheville and Eleven Madison Park in New York (the culinary equivalent of attending both Vanderbilt and Harvard). For the cobblers she makes at Buxton, she plucks serviceberries from a tree that grows outside of a discreet club nearby. (“Membership is, like, a dollar, and it’s mostly to keep the tourists out.”) If you can’t find serviceberries, substitute any berry, plums, or peaches.
There’s just one rule Capps won’t bend. “You have to have more fruit than batter. If a cobbler is more cake than fruit, it’s sad.”