Hello, little mountain town! I've visited you many times on day trips, but I don't really know you that well. That's going to change, since my sister just moved to you a couple of months ago. You seem to be a little less hippie than you used to be, and that's a good thing, although, girls wearing patchwork, floor-length skirts out on a walk with their hula-hoops are still abundant. Even though I've never been to Paris, I still can't figure why people call you a Paris of the South. Now, if they're comparing you to Boone, NC, yes, you are Paris. Cute town, lots of restaurants, diverse (sort of?) population.Above: some fishy thing on mashed potatoes (to die for, I'm told); pickled eggs and beets on goat cheese clouds (amazing!); tempeh burger with blue cheese and asparagus (not strips of tempeh, but they molded that shit with tons of curry-like spices!). Not pictured is a duo of squab!
We started off right with a night at The Admiral, which I guess you would call a gastropub, but it's got a much dirtier bar feel (ashtrays come out at 10 pm and food stops) and much higher quality of food. To compare for you Philly folk, I'd say it's like the food at Ansill got plopped down into the P.O.P.E. And here's the kicker, the chef is Elliott Moss who used to work in Philly (at Abraccio, I think? not sure, though). Fan-freakin'-tabulous establishment with a menu that changes daily!
The owner's of the Admiral also have a bar, The Whig, in my home town of Columbia, but it's indie/grunge-punk dirty (where you'll find me on Christmas night...and the morning after), and serves much lesser food.My sister was talking up Amazing Savings before we even landed in town. It's a grocery store that sells dented, marred, overstock, and nearing out-of-date grocery items for cheap. If you can make it to $50, they'll give you 5% off your bill! So...we went grocery shopping (this is why I go home with a car) and we made it to $50, but I had to combine the boy's finds with my find's. Is there a place like this in Philly or Wilmington? I know of Big Lots and The Dollar Store, but they're not exclusively grocery items.My sister loves Early Girl Eatery, everyone in Asheville loves Early Girl, but I think we just ordered incorrectly at this popular Southern foods spot downtown, 'cause the menu sure did have us salivating, but not the food. The biscuit covered in herbed gravy was awesome, and the tempeh rueben was up to par, but I had a little problem with my veggie plate. The beets, one of the veggies of the day, had absolutely no seasoning; the mac and cheese had a mild and grainy sauce with a strong overtone of nutmeg; and the squash casserole (I love squash casserole) was plain nasty. That squash casserole smelled like dog food, and I couldn't quite place where the smell was coming from. I think it was bound together with wheat flour, and that was the problem. Yech! The cucumber and onion salad and cornbread were just fine. I think you've got to go a few times to Early Girl and find their strengths. We found their weak spot. Service took forever!On the most gorgeous, warm day we went hiking in the mountains around Hot Springs, NC, which is about a 40 minute drive from Asheville. And they've got hot springs in Hot Springs! It's a super casual joint (the site makes it look luxurious, but it's not), where you bring your cooler of beer and rent one of many private, hot spring fed jacuzzis on the edge of a stream. The boy swore his skin was softer afterward.Everyone in Asheville also loves Doc Chey's, and with good reason -- oodles of noodles, fast! I wish I could have stayed and eaten every one of their noodle creations (the veggie ones, of course) to find my favorite. Above is the tomato ginger udon, which was good, but because of the tomato sauce was like spaghetti Asian-style. Not sure about that. Below is the spicy Thai basil, a smokey, charred noodle dish, which the boy thought could have used more basil.
A few meals at my sister's house, and a night of pizza at Barley's Taproom , and we were out of there. But not before a trip to...the largest privately owned home in the United States! I've been to the stunningly large Biltmore Estates and their gardens and winery many times, but the boy has never been. When in Rome, I say. It's outrageously expensive to visit (something like $60 per person at high season and Christmas), but we snagged the lowest rates of the year ($33 per person) by going in January...and the day they were taking down the Christmas decorations, so got to see almost all of the decorations! Sadly, it was rainy and cloudy, so the boy didn't get to see the gorgeous mountain views from the estate.
Off to Charleston!