Mr. Spice and I just spent the nicest little weekend up in Asheville, NC.
I’ve been wanting to do a quick weekend get-away for a while now, somewhere within a few hours’ driving distance so that we could leave after work on a Friday and come back on a Sunday afternoon. I decided on Asheville after asking around for suggestions for just such a place. Plus I kept hearing about all the great places to eat there, so that made the decision pretty easy!
Now even though there’s plenty to see and do in the area, we decided to just take it easy and hang out downtown during our visit. A whole day of window-shopping, used-bookstore shopping, and eating sounded like my kind of fun! I admit to being a huge nerd and researching places to eat during our stay. Is it wrong that I planned the whole trip around where to eat? If so, then I don’t know if I want to be right.
This was our first stop in Asheville. Seriously. We didn’t even check into our hotel first on Friday night, we just drove right to Luella’s Bar-B-Que for dinner.
When the waiter came to take our order for dinner, he ran through the soft drink selections and one of the options was Cheerwine. I’d heard the name but didn’t know what it was, so I asked. Upon hearing that we’d never had Cheerwine before, we were told we just HAD to try it, so we did.
It was described to us as a sort of cherry cola-flavored drink. I love me some Cherry Coke Zero, so I had a feeling I would like it. And I did. I’m actually kinda regretting not picking some up to take back with us, since I don’t know if we can find it in Atlanta.
For an appetizer, we ordered the Dry Rubbed Sweet Potato Chips, which came with a spicy seasoning and some Ancho Ranch dressing on the side for dipping.
I was trying to decide between the Chile Rubbed Beef Brisket and the Smoked Andouille Sausage, so I was happy to see that there was a 2-meat combo plate. I got the brisket and sausage, and for my sides chose mac & cheese and fried okra. Mr. Spice opted for some ribs and coleslaw.
We had the choice of 2 different kinds of sauces — one was a vinegar-based sauce and the other was more of a tomato-based one. I ended up mixing the two.
All in all, we really liked the food here — there was quite a bit to choose from!
Jerusalem Garden Cafe
We started off Saturday by walking around downtown and doing some used-bookstore browsing. Downtown Asheville is very pedestrian-friendly. We had no problem finding parking and everything we wanted to see was easily within walking distance.
After working up our appetite for lunch, we stopped in at Jerusalem Garden Cafe for some Mediterranean delights.
Mr. Spice ordered some stuffed grape leaves as his appetizer. And this also marked the start of him trying to show me how to use my camera better since I kept bugging him about how many people had DSLR cameras at BlogHer Food 2011. He maintains that I can take good pictures without having a fancy-pants camera. He’s probably right, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t want one.
I ordered the marinated olives with feta, salad, and pita. I could eat like this every day.
For his entree, Mr. Spice got the kafta meshwi, which was a grilled ground lamb kebab served with hummus and pita. I took a taste but thought the kebab was too lamb-y.
I had a hard time deciding what to order, but ended up getting the falafel sandwich since I haven’t had it in a while. I’m pretty picky about my falafel, but these were good. Crispy without being greasy and with a great savory taste.
We both thought this was a great place for lunch and we both enjoyed the food.
French Broad Chocolate Lounge
After our Mediterranean feast, you would think we’d be stuffed, right? Well maybe we were, but that wasn’t going to stop us from checking out French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It had been described to us as somewhere where we could get coffee or tea and sit and relax, all while enjoying some artisan chocolates and handmade desserts. We’d heard that this place gets packed, especially in the evenings, with the line going out the door, so we figured if we went in the afternoon we’d avoid the crowds.
Now remember, we were both still full from lunch. So I was just going to get Mr. Spice a coffee and some tea for myself. And then I spotted this:
The Quintessential Chocolate Cake. Chocolate cake layered with creamy chocolate ganache, topped with a thick chocolate ganache, and then all these chocolate curls on the sides. Oh. My.
See how it seduces you with its chocolate curls? Evil, pure evil. We managed to eat the whole slice between the two of us.
But it sure went well with our coffee and tea. I got Earl Gray tea, which is my favorite. The mugs that came with our coffee and tea were so cute! They were handmade and I liked that they weren’t huge monster bowls masquerading as mugs.
After some digesting and people-watching, we noticed that people were starting to come in waves. By this time we were looking at what people were ordering and decided it might be time for round two.
I ordered a few of the handmade truffles for us to share, as well as their Nibby Brownie, which contains cacao nibs. I just got a box of nibs from Scharffen Berger at BlogHer Food 2011, but had never tried them before. I really liked the crunch and extra chocolate boost the nibs gave the brownie, so whenever I get to making brownies from scratch I’ll be sure to add the nibs. I loved the truffles we ordered — an Indian kulfi one that contained rose, pistachio, and cardamom, a delicate lavender and honey truffle, and a chocolate-hazelnut truffle. My favorite was the kulfi one hands down. I’m not a big Indian dessert eater, but the flavors went so well with the chocolate.
We were in chocolate nirvana after sampling all these goodies. I can see why there’s a line out the door at night. In fact, we did see a line out the door later that night as we were walking around. What a fun place to just hang out and eat some amazing desserts!
By now, we were beyond ridiculously stuffed, so we headed back to our hotel to be lazy and rest up a bit. Once we felt somewhat human again, we headed back downtown and walked around a bit before heading to dinner. Total confession — I had originally planned on going somewhere else for dinner, but when we passed Kathmandu Cafe on the way to lunch, I knew we had to try it out. Hello, Himalayan cuisine? While we weren’t in the Himalayas, we were in the mountains, so it was fitting. Plus this is probably one of the few places I’ve seen that serves Nepali and Tibetan food, how am I going to pass that up?
Kathmandu serves Indian, Nepali, and Tibetan food, but I wanted to focus on the Nepali and Tibetan options. While we perused the menu, we were served some papars and chutney.
I love papars. Or pappadum. Whatever you want to call them. Crispy and savory, my kind of snack.
For an appetizer, I went with a Nepali option – bara. These were described as mildly spiced ground lentils. I would describe them to you as a spicy lentil cornbread or cake. I’ve had what are called vadas at South Indian restaurants, so I think these may be related, although they look different.
For our entrees, I chose Tibetan specialties. We tried the chicken momo, which are dumplings. They are very similar to the Chinese dumplings we enjoyed during our trip to China last year, except the filling had more of an Indian taste to it. Mr. Spice and I enjoyed these quite a bit.
The other entree we chose was the chicken chau chau, which was described as a noodle and chicken dish. I really really liked this — I could taste garlic, ginger, cumin, some coriander, and a bit of garam masala in the dish. So think an Indian-Chinese fusion lo mein. Really good. I’m going to have to try to recreate it at home.
This wrapped up a really good day of eating. I’m so glad we were able to try Himalayan cuisine. There were lots of other items to choose from and I would love to do them justice another time.
Tupelo Honey Cafe
Sunday morning Mr. Spice and I woke up with a bit of a food hangover from Saturday. But I knew we had to wrap up our short visit with a bang. We’d dined internationally the day before and I felt we should have some good Southern eats to round it all out. Tupelo Honey Cafe had been mentioned several times to me as somewhere we had to visit while we were in Asheville, so we decided to check it out. It’s described more as “nouveau” Southern cuisine, but all I know is the menu looked fantastic.
There are now 2 locations in Asheville — one was downtown and the other was south of the city, near our hotel. Since it was Sunday and prime brunch time, we went with the 2nd location since it took reservations. Smart move, I must say.
Once we were seated, we ordered some drinks. Mr. Spice got coffee and orange juice, and I was going to just stick with water, but decided at the last minute to try some peach iced tea.
While we were deciding what to order, our waitress brought out some fresh biscuits and blueberry jam for us to eat. The biscuits were huge and fluffy, and the blueberry jam just went perfectly with them.
After a lot of hemming and hawing on my part, we were finally ready to order brunch. Mr. Spice ordered one of the specials, which was a chorizo hash, which came with eggs and asparagus. I was so jealous of the hash once I took a bite of it.
But I must say, my selection was pretty dang good itself. I was trying to decide between the Fried Chicken and Biscuits and the Jumbo Lump Crab Meat Scramble, but the waitress pointed out that that would be a LOT of biscuits and the crab meat scramble was a specialty, so I deferred to her.
I’m so glad I listened to her. Jumbo lump crab meat scrambled with eggs, Havarti cheese, and spinach, with some home fries and bread to round it out. I can hear you drooling over the food. It really was that good.
What a way to wrap up the weekend. Our tummies were happy but very full.
We thoroughly enjoyed our little weekend in Asheville. I can totally see us coming up again a few more times — it’s the perfect distance away and there’s so much we didn’t get around to seeing this time. And of course we still need to hit up all the other restaurants we saw and heard about.
Until next time!