Friday, August 16, 2013

Our Three-Generational Girl’s Get-Away to Asheville


            Among the four of us we have an age range of over sixty years.  My sister Lila and I are hardy hikers.  Mom likes to stroll.  My niece favors vegetarian food.  Lila is gluten-free.  Three of us think chocolate is soul food.  My mom doesn’t eat sweets.  We share an avid interest in the arts including my niece who is a graphic designer and resident of Asheville where this epic “three generational girl’s getaway” took place.  But could we please everyone?

            We were mighty pleased with the large, luxurious accommodation at the new boutique hotel Posh.  Located in Biltmore Village, each condo is over 2,000 square feet and includes two bedrooms and baths, kitchen, living room and a massive entry/hallway.  We felt like kin to the Vanderbilts as we walked the two blocks to their Biltmore mansion, window-shopping along the way.  A cute sign “Welcome Antman Girls” and a bottle of wine greeted our arrival and hinted of the concierge attention to detail that Posh provides.  We happily toasted our adventure on our private terrace. 

            My niece Hanna was eager to tour us to arts venues and the River Arts District where over 160 artists have working studios and galleries.  Weaving to wood, painting to paper and especially clay are attractively displayed in transformed warehouses.  Some, like Sheila Lambert (“Attorney at Law, Potter at Heart”) are serious amateurs but at Bookworks Ulrike Franz was preparing for her art opening and expertly pulled a print from the bulky press onto her handmade vegetable paper. We made a promise to return for one of the Arts District’s biannual studio strolls.   

            Dining experiences ranged from picnics to gourmet.  A particular highlight was Posana Cafe.  Like the architectural wonder in India which the emperor built for his wife, Chef Peter Pollay calls his menu a “Taj Mahal to my wife” who requires a gluten free diet.  It’s “a nice comfortable place for people with celiac and for people who don’t need to worry, they don’t notice it.” A tremendously creative décor is the backdrop for flavorful dishes including noodles made from zucchini, salad with hemp seeds, ricotta gnocchi and the best brie we ever had which Peter noted was from Three Graces Farm nearby. 

            We also carried a perfect picnic from Laurey’s Gourmet Comfort Food to a shady table outside one of my favorite Asheville destinations, the Folk Art Center.  A pretty drive up the winding Blue Ridge Parkway leads to this collection of beautifully curated mountain crafts that vividly portray the rich Appalachian culture.  Laurey’s tasty dishes, especially the kale salad, put a smile on everyone’s face and made us eager to meet some of the artisanal food producers. 
     And so we headed out to cruise the new Western North Carolina Cheese Trail.  A colorful map covers 33 counties where 11 farms are open for visits.  We chose the two closest to Asheville, Looking Glass Creamery and Hickory Nut Gap Farm, and had a delightful afternoon tasting and buying cheeses, picking berries, trying homebrewed kumbucha and reveling in the agrarian scenery:  crowds of baby chicks in a hatchery, goats engorged with milk, kids driving tractors and a bumper sticker that captured the sentiment “Local food, thousands of miles fresher.”

            A sensational Asheville experience is the super-popular French Broad Chocolate Lounge where even at 3 PM on a Friday there was a line out the door to indulge in their house-made truffles, desserts, coffees and wines.  Carried away with choices, our table was soon crowded with the best chocolate cake we’d ever had, a sinful drink called The Jitterbug, crème brulee, a parfait with strawberries and champagne and French press coffee.  Oh my.  The story behind the Lounge is almost as interesting as the desserts.  On a two hour tour of the Willy Wonka-esque factory we learned the science of transforming 12 tons of chocolate, mostly from Peru, into what the Aztecs call “the food of the gods.” Jael and Dan Rattigan began this chocolate dream with a Costa Rican farm and are now two of Asheville’s most celebrated entrepreneurs.

            At Dough we got to try our own hands at making dessert.  In a Blueberry Crostata Class led by Henny Pennypacker, we surprised ourselves by making excellent pie crusts following Penny’s instructions:  “when adding liquid, toss, don’t squeeze…” and left with four pretty pies and four more crusts to replicate our lesson.
            For a dose of Asheville’s counter-culture, we visited Rosetta’s Kitchen where the graffiti walls and slogans (“Together we are displaying our oneness”) were the backdrop for a vegan Pad Thai and spicy chili dinner.  Tattoos and dreadlocks added atmosphere and a pay-what-you-will beans and rice plate brought in colorful characters. 

            For a fitting end to a busy trip, mom enjoyed a massage at Sensibilities Day Spa.  She emerged smiling and relaxed.  Street musicians serenaded as we took our final stroll together.  “Why don’t we do this more often?” mom said.  Our sentiments exactly!

For Additional Images:
Three Generational Girl's Getaway to Asheville

If You Go:

Posh Boutique Hotel also hosts weddings