Road Trip 2013 – Asheville, NC
If you follow me on Twitter you probably know that we recently embarked on a Tour de Southeast road trip. Our wedding anniversary is in June, and we often find ourselves taking trips to celebrate – this year it just got delayed a bit in favor of the long July 4th weekend. Said road trip involved stops in Asheville, Charleston, Beaufort, Savannah and Atlanta and it was a wonderful getaway.
Asheville is a short 4 hours away from Nashville, and a perfect little get away. A great small town filled with local loving hippy types and more breweries than we could count. The folks in Asheville are fiercely proud of their city, and I can’t say that I blame them!
Cucina24 was the first dinner on our road trip and a great way to kick things off. It is an Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown Asheville, and they take pride in making everything from scratch, even their cheese.
First up was our appetizer of house made burrata mozzarella with roasted carrots and cashews. Burrata is a type of mozzarella with a creamy gooey inside, and it was absolutely delicious paired with the veggies.
Burrata Mozzarella, Slow Roasted Carrots, Cashews
Mr Good opted for a pizza topped with mushrooms, beats, greens, ricotta and carrot top pesto. I can’t say for certain because, well, we didn’t ask – but I am fairly confident in assuming they made the ricotta in house as well.
And last, but certainly not least, I enjoyed the duck. Not pictured because, well, the photo doesn’t do it any justice. Perfectly cooked duck breast served over cauliflower, currants, raisins and pesto. Protein perfection.
You say the word “tapas” and its a pretty safe bet that we will immediately be making reservations. Hate to spill the beans so early in this series, but Curate was one of the top meal of our trip. Why there is such a great tapas restaurant in the mountains of North Carolina is beyond me, but I ain’t complaining. Oh wait, the executive chef & her husband used to work at elBulli? Ok, cred earned, enough said.
What else do you start out with at a Spanish restaurant but a spread of thinly shaved cured meats. From a slew of different charcuterie platers, we chose the Tabla de Embutidos Ibericos – a selection that included iberico de bellota lomo, cabercero, salchichon and chorizo; translation: delicious. Accompanied by pan con tomate (thick bread smeared with tomato) – it doesn’t get much more traditional than that.
Tabla de Embutidos Ibericos
Another fond memory from our prior trip to Spain was this fried eggplant dish. I am normally not a fan of eggplant, but if you fry it and top it with something sweet its hard to say no (as with probably most anything..). This version was not topped with the yummy cheese, but was just as good – this time drizzled with wild mountain honey & rosemary.
Berenjenas la Taberna
THE ABSOLUTE STAR of this dinner was the octopus. Few, if any, cultures treat the octopus with more respect than the Spaniards. The octopus was so tender I would have bet serious money that it was cooked sous vide – but alas it was not (good thing I passed on that bet)… if memory serves me correctly it is simply boiled. Whatever it was that they did, it was so tender it almost melted in your mouth. That is skill that only elBulli can teach you.
Pulpo a la Gallega
Our next dish, piquollo peppers stuffed with goat cheese, jumped out at me for obvious reasons (read: goat cheese). However it was not exactly what we were hopping for. We were imaging something closer to the pedron peppers we love so much (which were, as it turned out, decidedly absent from this menu) – but none the less it was still quite the tasty snack.
Pimientos de Piquillo con Queso de Cabra
And last, but certainly not least, another classic treat, Patatas Bravas. Perfectly fried chunks of potato topped with brava sauce (spicy tomato based sauce) and alioli. I realize it looks like ketchup and nacho cheese sauce, but trust me, it is not. It is a fantastic treat on its own – but I can only imagine how satisfying it would be at the end of a late night out.
A perfect example of the local loving hippy vibe of Asheville, Over Easy Cafe is a great breakfast spot who is proud of where there ingredients come from and happy to serve you a delicious meal. Order everything from the classing breakfast staples like eggs benedict, omelets and oatmeal – to freshly made juices and locally roasted coffee.
Like to drink wine? Like a good book? Like to enjoy both at the same time? I am fully expecting that your answer is…. “duh!”. Battery Park Book Exchange is just a block or so north of the main downtown drag and it the embodiment of both of those fantastic pass times. A used book store stocked with over 22,000 books – plus a wine bar inside. As you wind through the store you will happen upon little seating areas which, at our visit, were filled with everything from intellectual couples to a bachelorette party. A perfect pitstop as you are wondering and exploring downtown, or for a glass of wine pre-dinner!
To go to Asheville and not visit the Biltmore would be a bit like going to Vatican City and not going to see the Sistine Chapel. It’s quite simply sacrilege. The grande estate built by George Washington Vanderbilt II in the late 1800’s and remains the largest privately owned house in the US. If you are a fan Downton Abbey, it will be particularly interesting to you, having some “knowledge” of what it takes to run an estate such as this. Be forewarned – it’s not a cheap visit. Tickets top $50 per person, but purchasing them in advance will save you a bit of dough. And I highly recommend you shell out the extra cash and take the butlers tour – very cool behind the scenes look at running the house.