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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

there's something to be said about asheville

the days were wet and gray, the cabin was different that expected, and the evenings offered a fairly mellow nightlife.  all of which made for a most pleasing experience to place worth going back for a visit.  the food, the drink, the sights, and the artsy mountain folk.

arriving after a cozy and slightly cramped night's sleep, we took advantage of the kitchen in our cabin, far out from civilization.  lunch consisted of grilled cheeses on seeded multi-grain bread with a local holiday cheese (nice nutty flavor), and sauteed garlic and spinach with a side of vegan butternut squash and apple risotto, all from the farmer's market in coventry, ct.  outside was damp and soggy, so it only seemed right to take advantage of the hot tub, warm up next to the fire, and take a nap.  the rain stopped just in time to venture into downtown for dinner.  a short walk up biltmore ave offered many restaurants, all very desolate.  with tummies starting to grumble, we stumbled up to a very crowded Vietnamese restaurant with hearty portions.  it was pete's exectutive decision that brought us into doc chey's where we sampled

some delicious local brews...

and thai basil and Thai spring rolls...

followed by a Mongolian steak and rice plate for Pete...

 and japanese miso bowl for Emily.

all the meats are legit and the produce sourced locally.  the dishes were so well prepared, fresh, and not loaded with salt.  feeling full and seeing that not much was going on around town, we headed back and settle into the cabin for the night.

breakfast at the early girl eatery, began a day of biscuits and grits.

the early girl benedict is a well-balanced tower of a meal with a crispy grit cake foundation, then steamed spinach and a poached egg, topped off with a tomato hollandaise and served with a homemade biscuit topped with local imladris farm handcrafted jam.

obviously, food is very important to us and has played a critical role in the decision to stop at many of our destinations.  another resource that has offered inspiration is 1000 places to see before you die, a nice sized book guiding readers country-by-country through the world, pinpointing the most important sights, hotels, festivals, and places to eat.  this trip's first stop from the list just happened to be the biltmore estate located just south of downtown in the mountains.  driving up to buy the tickets, we had no idea what lay ahead of us.  the drive to the parking lot winds through just a fraction of the estate grounds that stretch 140 central parks.   with the estate still out of view and the anticipation building, patrons walk through an alcove revealing a pristine lawn about 5 football fields long with this stunning, ginormous, french inspired "home" sitting at the end of it. 

 after picking our jaws up off the floor, we toured the estate with an audio guide and marveled in the structure, lifestyle, and history of the biltmore.  photography is prohibited inside, so to marvel in the wonder, better pay a visit to this national historic landmark!

this place is definitely worth another visit during the spring and summer when the gardens are in full swing.

in need of some exercise, the osley clan set out to find a nearby hike.  winding down little stoney fork and black oak grove, the mountain roads our cabin was off of, a lot on the side of the road looked promising.

the trails were marked with stacked rocks where they forked and took us tiptoeing from rock to rock across several streams, over fallen trees, while treading the wet leaves.

all that fresh air and hiking built up quite the appetite!  it was a tad early for dinner, so it seemed like a good time to check out one of asheville's local breweries.  after doing some research, we decided on the green man brewery.  the atmosphere was similar to cisco brewers on Nantucket, with locals of all ages and a few tourists trying flight samples.  with more inside space,  the dart boards and a pool table made for a nice addition.

the force was with us while sampling...


an ipa, esb, stout and porter.
the stout was the favorite!

passing a skinny window, nestled in between the cinder blocks of the building's wall, the twinkle of a comfortably lit bar, caught our eye.

the thirsty monk has a diner feel with chill music and beer taps hanging from the rafters of the ceiling. instead of having a set flight sampler, the taster is able to choose from a large list with insightful descriptions.

its hard to find words to describe the splendor of the dinner that followed.  tupelo honey cafe boasting "new south flavors and scratch-made fun" was a recommendation from our dear foodie friend, leah. still dreaming about this meal...

let the pictures do the talking:

first course of biscuits with blueberry jam

honey chipotle chicken wings
served with bleu cheese dressing

                                                                                                                                                              creamy stroganoff:  pork tenderloin in cremini mushroom gravy over goat cheese grits and topped with jalapeno cilantro pesto and sour cream

blackened catfish is topped with sunshot salsa, served over goat cheese grits

sweet potato creme brulee

all served on cornflower fiestaware!

the next morning, torrential downpour made for a harsh wake-up call and a quick send off. stopping downtown for one last asheville treat, the green sage coffeehouse provided us with the energy neccessary to maneuver the rainy mountain highways.  (fresh squeezed carrot, oj, and ginger juice, local kombucha, and a perfectly moist blueberry muffin)

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