(Field Trip Fridays are interesting, fun, food-related and/or fishing adventures I like to share with you!)
My husband and I recently spent a few days in Asheville, North Carolina. . .a much-needed escape from Florida.
Summer in western NC is beautiful, with its abundance of farmers markets, scenery and outdoor events. We stayed in downtown Asheville, a laid-back, walkable city with great restaurants, music and art. This trip was all about exploring – no agenda or schedule, just us stumbling through interesting areas. There’s no way to share it all, so I’ve included highlights 🙂
Our downtown condo offered great views, including this one with a double rainbow after a bout of rain:
My artist hubby especially enjoyed the River Arts District, a community of industrial buildings on the French Broad River that began transforming in 1985 and is now loaded with working artists – some with open studios; others by appointment. They’re happy to share their creative processes, so be sure to ask questions! And 0f course I had to visit their farmer’s market, chock full of fresh, local produce.
Downtown Asheville’s The Black Bird restaurant offers a nod to southern fare. Original owners handed over the reigns in 2019 to a Boston chef who continues to offer a menu filled with locally-sourced products. I had vegetable Wellington with sweet potato, fig and pecan (unique & delish); hubby had fried chicken and some of the best mashed potatoes he’s ever had. We shared perfectly-cooked grits from a local mill, flavored with Parmigiano-Reggiano and fresh corn, and even had room for the tasty crawfish slider (Chef’s Snack). But the ‘funnest’ dish was freshly-fried pork rinds topped with spice and a drizzle of honey – hot and crackling upon delivery, and absolutely delicious.
We drove a short drive east to Black Mountain, a small town with a thriving downtown. For lunch, we enjoyed an amazing Cuban sandwich at Cousins Cuban Cafe. The owner/chef, Betty, a first generation Cuban American from Miami, gained culinary chops from her Cuban parents. She also makes amazing pulled pork – not traditional, she admits, in a Cuban pressed sandwich, but a nod to NC tradition. Herschell’s is a family-owned biz offering locally-sourced products, including delicious Sourwood honey (available only in certain parts of NC, TN & GA, so be sure to get some). We even stopped at a roadside flower stand – I especially liked the pickle jar bunch 🙂
Franklin is about an hour southwest of Asheville and we took the scenic route through the Blue Ridge Parkway to get there. I loved Yonder Market, with all its local produce, bread, soap, grain, and lots more (BTW, it’s not every day you get farm eggs with hand-drawn unicorns & rainbows on the carton). Caffe Rel (in a gas station, of all places) was closed, but apparently serves amazing French fare, so we’ll be back. We ended up at The Gazebo Creekside Cafe – a family-owned spot with delicious, classic sandwiches, along with a big dose of southern hospitality.
There’s a reason the Omni Grove Park Inn is always on lists of top sunset spots in NC, and we were lucky to catch a good one. It’s a majestic place, oozing with history and charm, especially the main hall which is filled with Arts and Crafts-era furnishings and fireplaces big enough to sit in, so be sure to visit.
I love to tour local farms, so I found John McEntire at Crooked Creek Mills in Old Fort. John has to be one of the nicest people on the planet, giving us an impromptu tour, sharing insight about his products and methods (the small batch, old fashioned way), and sending us off with grits and homemade sorghum syrup. He’s been milling grain for many years, and was even born in the house on his property! He mainly sells his corn, artisan wheat, and heirloom rye to local breweries, distilleries and restaurants, including the awesome grits we had at The Blackbird.
I’ll leave you with pics of a few of the gorgeous flowers I spotted throughout western North Carolina:
Ginny & Joe Solomon
Had a trip planned there to celebrate my birthday this month and my husband unfortunately severely sprained his foot a week before our departure….bummer! We both were so looking forward to seeing Asheville! We are located an hour north of Tampa and really wanted to escape the Florida heat as well. Thanks so much for sharing your fun trip with us, I think my favorite photo was of the beautiful roadside flower jars (I would not have been able to resist purchasing one!)..
Sorry to hear about your hubby, and hopefully you’ll be able to get up to Asheville soon. Yes – I’m a sucker for roadside stands, especially when they’re sweet flowers in little jars 🙂
Next year at this time you should be able to visit New Claire in Marble NC. Andrews has a great wood fired pizza place< a winey and fun antique stores. Murphy has a a wonderful art studio showcasing local artists and Brasstown has The John C. Campbell Folk School. We are still at Plnet Claire Farmacy untiul next year.
So many great places to visit – thanks for the suggestions! Hopefully I’ll get to see you before you leave that beautiful property of yours 🙂
Oh, I would love to have the recipe for the grits and corn dish. Sounds like it would be good with Old Bay spiced shrimp added in at the very end while still hot!
For these stone-ground grits, while I don’t have the precise recipe, I think it would likely be a ratio of 3:1 (water:grits), a little salt, cooked slow and low, covered; remove from heat, add heavy cream, S/P, parmesan and a little butter (plus the fresh corn kernels). I like your idea of adding Old Bay-spiced shrimp, too!
Sounds like you and Brendan had a great time. I just returned from a little cabin in Franklin, NC. Played mountain golf and fly fished and really enjoyed that 70 degree weather!
Oh, how I wish we had 70 degree weather while up there – it was pretty hot. So funny that you were just in Franklin, too!
Keith and Barbara Bollman
What a great trip to Asheville. You were getting close to Keith and I. Come visit next time. Barbara and Keith Bollman
Hi Barbara! Did you say you’re in the Westfield area? Maybe next time we’re up there we’ll check it out!
Love the travelogue! Sounds like a fun food and art adventure.
We packed a lot into 3 full days 🙂
Truly enjoyed reading about your little trip. The photos were lovely and descriptions of the places visited made me feel I was there. Happy you and hubby had a nice time .
Thank you! I hope you visit Asheville some time soon 🙂
Nicole, Tim and I have had Asheville on our list of ” want tos”, but you have moved it to the top we will definitely take your newsletter with us when we go
Oh, I think you’ll love, it Nikki – it’s definitely a ‘foodie’ town so there’s lots to enjoy. We’re thinking of heading back in September 🙂