I’ve just returned from my 4th visit to the amazing city of Asheville, North Carolina where my son lives. My mom was with me and we decided we wanted to see things we hadn’t seen before and be tourists!
On past trips, I have driven through the Blue Ridge Mountains, walked around the River Arts District, shopped in town and eaten many incredible meals. Each time, I had hoped to get to the famous Biltmore Estate but never did. This time, I decided I would have to go. I didn’t realize the size of the place. It’s an 8000 acre estate that was the family home of George and Edith Vanderbilt with 250 rooms, 43 bathrooms, an indoor pool, a bowling alley and the list goes on and on. There is a self-guided tour around that allows you to see a good portion of the massive house and once finished, there are still the beautiful gardens to explore. At that point, both my mom and son were done with exploring and ready to head to the estate’s winery, included in the price of admission.
The Biltmore winery opened in 1985 and has since won many awards and medals for their wines. It was fun being able to taste through a whole list of wines including some special reserve wines only sold at the estate. My mom particularly enjoyed the Chardonnay sur lies and for $12.99 seemed like a real bargain.
While the weather was unexpectedly warm that day, the temperature dropped quite a bit that night, and with my Florida blood, we decided to eat close to our hotel. The Aloft is in a great location on Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville and there are at least 5 restaurants that I counted on that street alone. Our choice was Chestnut, directly across the street that my son and I both heard had some exciting American dishes. We decided on a few smaller plates, fried calamari on kale salad, fried green tomatoes, house smoked pork belly over jalapeno cheddar grits and a charcuterie plate. I have to admit that I enjoyed the pork belly the most. It was moist and juicy and the grits had a delicious creamy texture. Plus, there was some fried kale on the plate that was crispy and salty. Basically, this dish covered all my taste buds.
The next tourist activity we decided to do was the hop on – hop off bus that takes you around 10 different spots in Asheville, I thought this would be a perfect way to see things without my mother having to walk around so much again. Asheville has a lot of interesting history and actually has one of the most impressive collections of art deco architecture in the United States. We drove through some very pretty neighborhoods including Montford, Norwood and Grove Park where the Grove Park Inn, one of America’s top resorts is located. What a place, built with granite boulders and with fantastic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’ve already decided I will go back to stay with my husband.
Now for lunch, my son had only one request and that was to go to Curate, perhaps the best restaurant in all of Asheville. Chef Katie Button is highly acclaimed for her innovative and delicious approach to small Spanish style dishes that all are so good it’s hard not to order everything on the menu. The wine and drinks are also a perfect match to the level of food served here. I love eating this way as you get to try so many different things without ever feeling too full. Here are the dishes we ordered: butternut squash soup (that was my mom’s only), cod & potato puree, selection of ham and selection of cheese, fried eggplant drizzled with honey, peppers stuffed with goat cheese, grilled chorizo with olive oil potato puree, grilled Iberico pork ‘skirt steak;’, sauteed spinach with apples, raisins and pine nuts, sauteed mushrooms in olive oil with sherry. Accompanyting my meal was a most delicious glass of Oloroso sherry. In fact, that became my dessert while my son and mom drank their coffees. This restaurant is truly a food lover’s dream.
My mom and I went off to shop. I can not go away with my mother and miss out on shopping. Fortunately, there are a lot of fun and cute shops in Asheville that kept us busy and the walking really helped me avoid a food coma.
My son works at an Indian restaurant in town called Chai Pani and my mom wanted to check it out. Now, she really doesn’t eat any spicy food and has probably only had Indian food once in her life so I was a bit concerned but hoped for the best. This restaurant is different than most since it specializes in street food so is more casual and light than the usual Indian. Rather than experiment, I thought it would be best to order a simple tandoori chicken salad for my mother. We also ordered the okra fries one of their signature dishes. These were matchstick size pieces of okra flavored with lime, salt and seasonings and were quite addictive. I also had the special of the day that was a chicken in red curry. It was spiced perfectly and although it was a small dish, it was just right after the big meal earlier in the day (and all that okra!) The Chef , Meherwan Irani was nominated for a James Beard Award for best Chef in the Southeast and I wish I had more time to eat more of his food. Glad my son is working there.
This was another great trip to Asheville, and I can’t wait for the next one.
All the best,