Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Asheville, NC

Despite being a native of North Carolina, I have very little experience with eastern or western North Carolina. My time has always been spent in the Piedmont, and quite honestly, I think there are much better places to spend my limited vacation time and money than North Carolina. My nephew recently moved to Asheville, so my wife and I decided to visit for a short weekend trip. The first thing I noticed when trying to find a place to stay were the lofty asking prices for hotels in the area. We just decided to use our Hilton Honors points and stay at the Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park. The hotel is new, as is the Park, and is in a rather self-contained village of restaurants (P.F. Changs, Brixx, Cold Stone, Roux at the Hilton, etc.), a theater, stores, businesses, and residential spaces. The hotel was wonderful, the front desk staff members we dealt with went above and beyond in the customer service realm.Our room was somewhat small, but very nicely appointed. The bed had the best linens of any I've ever experienced in a hotel. Ditto for the bathroom linens. The shower was a nice, walk-in model with glass doors that open and shut- no sliders. The TV was great, a 37 inch LG with HD service. We were on the go much of the time so we did not eat in the restaurant, so I can't speak on that. The elevators were great- exceptionally fast. The lobby was very nicely appointed and comfortable. My only quibble was the location, it was a good haul to downtown Asheville where my nephew lives, but, all in all I would love to stay there again.

We had reservations at Chelsea's and the Village Tea Room. I had assumed I'd reserved high tea, but found out they don't serve until 3:30. I should've been informed of that on the phone. Why would I make a reservation for lunch? Anyway, that disappointment aside, we had a good lunch. My nephew and I had the Monte Cristo and fruit, and it was delicious. I also had a tea called tippy assam. It was good, but definitely needs sweetener as it is very bitter. My wife had an excellent chicken salad sandwich that was bursting with flavor. The desserts looked wonderful, but we did not partake. The cake slices were enormous. I look forward to going to high tea here one day.

We had dinner at the Early Girl Eatery in downtown Asheville. This is a busy little restaurant and was highly recommended by my nephew. He got an amazing looking southwestern style omelet. I had a breakfast scramble of farm fresh, free range sausage, bacon, eggs, chives, and sweet potatoes. It sounds weird but the flavors were intensely amazing. It also came with a great biscuit. For dessert I tried a slice of Lady Baltimore cake. I had heard of this white cake with rum infused icing, apricots, and nuts but had never tried it. It was quite good, though sadly a little dry. We then visited Greenlife Grocery. This was a great grocery store with a health food/organic/green bent. After chilling out with my nephew for a few hours at his place we went back to our hotel for some rest.

The next morning we checked out of the hotel and after some adventurous directions from our idiot of a GPS unit, we arrived at the South Asheville location of the Tupelo Honey Cafe. It was naturally crowded for a Sunday at 10:00, but we didn't have to wait. We ordered biscuits and milk gravy with bacon, sausage, and ham. We were also given biscuits, butter, tupelo honey, and blackberry preserves while we waited for our entree. It was a good thing, as it took a long time to get our food. The preserves were some of the best blackberry preserves I've had. The biscuits, while large, were just so-so. I need to give a shout out here to a place in High Point/Archdale, NC that has the best biscuits by a mile of any place I've ever had them (including homemade). It's called BBQ Joe's and their biscuits are amazingly flavorful and HUGE. Their tenderloin biscuit is to die for. Anyway, our food finally arrived and looked great. The bacon and sausage were great, the ham so-so, the biscuits were OK, but the milk gravy was not very good. It was way too spicy. In fact, it had cajun spice in it. That should be noted on the menu. I'm used to lots of black pepper in my gravy. I also like cajun spices and sauces. However, I wanted good old Southern style milk gravy with black pepper, not what I got. My wife doesn't like spicy food at all, and she complained about it. Our waitress was great and didn't charge her for the food and offered to give her something else. I will definitely give them another chance, I'll just order something different next time.

After that we went with my nephew to his volunteer radio gig and I helped out a little with some voice acting. It was fun, if a bit hot in the non-air conditioned studio. After the show we went back to Biltmore Park and had lunch at Brixx Pizza before heading home. It was good, we had a Margherita pizza. It definitely was not in the same league with Shenandoah Pizza, but it was better than most. I look forward to going back to Asheville and seeing and sampling more of what it has to offer.

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