[Continuing from Asheville, Part 1]
Saturday morning, we did not wake up in time for breakfast. I’d heard good things about Posana Cafe, the only certified green restaurant in the state, so we headed to downtown Asheville for coffee and brunch.
I’m not sure how certified green lobster can possibly be, but it was rich and buttery, at least.
Next we moseyed over to a little artisan market, where I ogled skirts and scarves while Ty ogled cutting boards and intricate wire tree art, and all we bought were funky magnets. Then down to Kress Emporium, where I could have an probably should have done 90% of my holiday shopping, and a neat little custom-made guitar shop called Axis, where Ty’s lefty upside-down-and-backwards technique got some attention from another customer and the owner, obviously a Jimi fan. We also wandered into a few more shops, including a record store where we got a decent tax-free discount for paying for our vinyl in cash.
By then, it was mid-afternoon, so we decided it was beer-thirty.
We ended up at Wicked Weed, since it had an awesome patio and the weather app showed no rain on the radar map. There was a little confusion with the hostess, who told us we had to wait 20 minutes to get a table just for drinks, but when we sat down outside near the fire pit with our little wait buzzer, a server came over and gave us the beer list and said if we were just drinking, he’d take our orders. He also told us a little about the place – it’s been open less than a year (December 2012), but it’s already winning awards and acclaim. (This was later affirmed by our beer guide.) I debated between two Saisons – Apple Pie and Sweet Potato & Grits – and ultimately chose the latter. Not as sweet as what you would think (no Blue Moon, for example), so I really enjoyed it. Of course, it started to rain, but we just took it upon ourselves to start a trend of opening the patio umbrellas. And by the time we were finished, it had cleared up so we could walk to our next adventure…
… the Asheville Brews Cruise. We hopped on the bus, which comes complete with a funny driver and a popcorn machine, and headed out of town up a mountain to learn how our favorite moonshine is made.
Last January, we attended a Skillery lecture/tasting about whiskey that introduced us to this smooth, delicious moonshine. (Not gonna lie, I’m a bit bummed Skillery changed its focus and no longer offers this type of class.) So Troy & Sons was on our list of places to visit, and when my coworker told me about the brews cruise, it seemed like a great idea to get chauffeured to and from this distillery, since it’s atop a mountain a few miles outside of Asheville.
The tour was given by Troy’s son, so we learned how his mom (Troy) was welcomed to her new mountain home with a knock on the door and no sign of anyone – just a bottle of shine on the doorstep. It tasted gross, but she then had some from another guy “who disappeared into the woods every Saturday” – and this kind, made with heirloom corn, did not have the harsh, rubbing alcohol flavor of Everclear. So she researched it, made friends with farmers and grew the operation to include the only German-made copper still in America, pictured above.
I mean, it’s seriously like Willy Wonka’s whiskey factory. We learned about the head and the heart of whiskey, because what makes Troy & Sons so unique is that it’s all heart – so no bite, no shudder, all smooth.
The only downside (besides the guy asking insanely detailed questions who obviously was trying to make his own ‘shine) was that we couldn’t buy any at the distillery. Fortunately, it’s now available in Tennessee, which it wasn’t last winter after our bourbon class. Apparently, we’re the only state outside of North Carolina where you can get the Oak Reserve.
Then, we headed next door to Highland Brewing Co. I’d only had its gaelic ale in bottles before, but we got to sample all sorts of drafts from light (St. Therese’s Pale Ale) to dark (Thunderstruck Coffee Porter) while touring their massive facility.
It’s been a couple weeks since our trip, so now I don’t remember as much, but there are some hops and barley. They were in the process of brewing the Cold Mountain Winter Ale, which all the beer nerds on the bus were sad wasn’t ready just yet.
After the tour, we hung out at the outside bar since they were getting ready to host a high school reunion. (Jealous, since I grew up in a dry county, where reunions do not take place in breweries…)
Oh, and where Troy & Sons and Highland are located now used to be a film studio, and Patrick Swayze filmed parts of “Dirty Dancing” here, so that was a nice little fun fact to learn.
We hopped back on the bus and inhaled some popcorn for the drive back into Asheville.
We ended where we started, at Hi-Wire Brewing, whose claim to fame is being the only circus-themed brewery. And because we hadn’t left the Southeast, we watched some SEC football and the sunset before walking to dinner.
I knew after sampling four kinds of moonshine and at least seven or eight beers that we’d probably not want to do fancy dining, so we didn’t make reservations, even though our B&B guy said this was the busiest weekend in Asheville and we really should. We tried to get into Barley’s, but the wait was 30 minutes, so we walked up the street to Circle in the Square.
And had a delicious, carb-tastic meal to soak up the alcohol before calling it a night. I’m sure we should have stopped in a bar and seen some live music somewhere, but sleep sounded so much more enticing.
After our B&B breakfast, we checked out and drove up the mountain to Grove Park Inn. I’ve recently gotten into Hemingway and Fitzgerald (I didn’t read Gatsby in high school, though we did watch the Robert Redford movie… quality education), so I was excited to see this place.
I mean, I can definitely see why F. Scott moved in. (Though a bit depressing to know he lived here while Zelda was locked up in an asylum.)
But anyway, it was gorgeous, with fall colors just barely beginning to show. It was a chilly, 48-degree morning, so we were planning to order some delicious-sounding boozy hot chocolate while sitting out in the sunny patio, but it turns out that North Carolina, like I recently learned in Georgia, doesn’t serve alcohol before noon on Sundays. I mean, you can buy wine in a gas station or grocery store (after noon, of course), but if you want brunch at 11, it has to be beverage-free.
So instead, we left our relaxing spot in the sun to explore the hotel before hopping in our car to head up the Blue Ridge Parkway, winding through the back roads out of Grove Park.
Despite being the usual peak season, there wasn’t much color yet. But we saw more and more fall foliage as we gained altitude, stopping at pretty much ever overlook along the way.
We eventually reached Craggy Gardens, or I guess we passed it, but we did a quick mile-long hike up to Craggy Dome to the pinnacle, where the view was simply gorgeous.
Then we sped back down the mountain for lunch. We tried to go to Salsa’s, which everyone says is amazing, but it was Sunday at noon in Asheville and we simply couldn’t find a parking spot downtown. We weren’t about to ruin our weekend of not having to wait for things on the last meal, so instead, we headed out of town on Merrimon Avenue to a place my parents had been.
Luella’s Bar-B-Que, where we decided to just split a three-meat combo plate so we could try the trifecta of BBQ pork, chicken and brisket. Definitely a good decision – although if I have to choose one, it’s the brisket. All the sides, especially the beans, were pretty amazing too.
Oh, and there’s this guy, the BLT bloody mary. A novelty item for sure, but pretty good in theory. I can probably skip it next time. In fact, my next trip I need to hit up all the highly recommended Asheville restaurants on my list that I didn’t make it to:
- Early Girl
- Tupelo Honey
And I’m sure dozens of others.
Anyway, lovely anniversary trip, and it only took me a whole month to write about it. The end.