TABLES FULL OF TAPAS IN ASHEVILLE
As a native Midwesterner, I’m not quite sure what to do with all the humidity in Charleston. I recently told my family in Kansas that if they looked out the window they could probably see my hair. It’s that intense. How does one escape this kind of oppressive moisture? A quick look through the July|August issue of The Local Palate offered the perfect idea for a reprieve.
Asheville, North Carolina is featured as the ideal summer Gourmet Getaway. It’s cozily settled in the mountains providing a crisp, refreshing breeze and is the ideal size for leisurely walking through downtown over the course of an afternoon. My boyfriend and I quickly decided a trip to Beer City was much needed.
I’m not much for event or party planning, but I do love compiling trip itineraries, mostly because I love trying new restaurants and finding hidden gems. I started organizing our trip by looking through TLP’s Gourmet Getaways piece. Cúrate, The Admiral, and French Broad Chocolate Lounge were a must. Nerd Alert: The Asheville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was also consulted. Happily, they provided me with great additional information.
Upon arriving on Friday afternoon, our first mission was a stroll through downtown. We first noticed how invigorating it was to walk uphill. We have nary an incline here in Charleston so walking uphill was almost a foreign concept. Our ascent took us to Battery Park Book Exchange, a book lover’s paradise. Filled with over 60,000 books and a binder full of wines by the glass, this could easily have been our only destination of the trip. We sunk down in an over-sized couch with a glass of Portuguese wine and perused picture books. Eventually peeling ourselves off the couch was no easy feat, but we had a big engagement: dinner at The Admiral.
This quirky dive was everything I hoped for. Low lights and even lower ceilings, crafty and intriguing cocktails, and a menu featuring an extensive list of small plates. I’m an “options” girl so I love ordering a bunch of little bites and sampling everything. This list did not disappoint: beef tartare with Sriracha aioli, mussels with coconut milk curry, and blackened North Carolina flounder with goat cheese grits that made me want to weep. I will eat tree bark if it has goat cheese on it. I’m that in love.
After such a tremendous dinner, Saturday morning required a long walk. We ambled through the River Arts District, checking out galleries and live demonstrations. After gazing through photographs, paintings, and blown glass, we inevitably ended at The Wedge, one of the dozen local breweries downtown. A pint of Julian Price Pilsner and a Witbier were just the fuel we needed. Plus a game or two of viciously competitive “cornhole” never hurt anyone.
After a few more hours of strolling around downtown and a hit of chocolate from French Broad, we made it to Cúrate for dinner, where Chef Katie Button is doing magical things. The table de embutidos, a medley of pork that we would have been remiss not to try, shaved raw trout over fresh tomatoes and black olives, lamb skewers with Moorish spices, and grilled chorizo with olive oil potato purée all graced our table. Yet another table full of tapas—definitely the right move.
We had one more big decision before leaving town: venue for Sunday brunch. It was a toss-up between the oft-lauded Tupelo Honey Café and Hominy Grill’s sister restaurant, Early Girl Eatery. EGE won based solely on wait time and we were certainly not disappointed. Biscuits and gravy for him and an inventive twist on eggs Florentine for her successfully completed the culinary tour d’Asheville. The sweet mountain air and excellent dining recommendations were perfect antidotes to my frizz-fest and the hot, hot heat of Charleston.