GiustoGusto was on the road again this past weekend visiting the high country city of Asheville. My older brother and his girlfriend recently moved to Asheville to start lawyering, is that a verb?, and we finally had an open weekend to drive up and enjoy all Asheville had to offer. Anthony, my broheme, and I both attended Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, a comparable mountain town in theory but light-years apart in actual fact. Having lived in Boone for almost 5 years and visiting downtown Asheville on many occasions I thought I understood what this town was all about….poor Paulie, you were so wrong! Let me show you what we found:
Currently holding the crown as “Beer City USA” it’s no surprise that the first thing to hit my lips was an ice cold brewsky. We started with something rich and hearty to get things going: Asheville Brewing Co. Ninja Porter, a round-house kick to the face! We spent the rest of the evening hopping from bar to bar, including The Vault with it’s 22oz Pint Glasses and later Sazerac’s for some quality mixology including a fresh Mojito made with Tequila instead of Rum. No playing around folks!
The next morning some serious eats were in high demand. Walking thru downtown I was dumbfounded by how many restaurants this small city had to offer in a 10 block radius. Unlike Raleigh, with it’s large corporate headquarters and various administrative buildings, Asheville’s downtown is almost retail and restaurants only (save the amazing architecture of the court house and town hall above). Clothing boutique, restaurant, head shop, restaurant, belt buckle store? restaurant, you see where I’m going. It took us almost an hour to decide where to enjoy a late breakfast, finally deciding on Early Girl Eatery.
30 minute wait? No problem. We strolled down the block to Woolworth Walk, a large art gallery and craft emporium with a 50′s style diner inside where you can grab an ice cold Cheerwine or double espresso. Look at their machine, gorgeous!
Alternating sips of cheerwine and coffee we moseyed our way thru the galleries until the 30 minutes were up and we were breakfast bound. Early Girl’s dining room feels like an open sun room, light pouring thru the blurry glass windows illuminating wooden tables full of local delicacies like my fried mountain trout and grits for $8. The homemade blackberry jam on every table was a crowd pleaser as well, and I don’t even like jam (I may have to rethink things).
Now for the real fun, a chance to soak in all of Asheville’s curious characters and watch the expressive dance moves of hundreds of happy-go-lucky hippies: The Montford Arts Festival, a glorified block party with live bands, local artisans, and some interesting concessions.
I finally got to try Kombucha, a fermented tea with healing qualities (so they say). It tasted more like apple juice with a little vinegar mixed in, but I think the cape-wearing wizard sipping glass after glass next to me would say otherwise.
Montford, a historic neighborhood just seconds from downtown, looks and feels a lot like the downtown district of Wilmington with large, victorian homes sporting beautiful gardens.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking to Ant and Shannan’s place (a block from the festival) for beers, like the Pisgah Summer Brew above, maybe a short Phil Collins sing along, and then back to the festival to sit in the grass enjoying kettle corn and various musical acts.
For dinner we tried a Montford staple, Nine Mile, a carribean-pasta fusion restaurant serving up such mesmerizing entrees as jerk marinara and zucchini pasta with fresh pesto. I opted for the Concrete Jungle, a light mix of mussels and seared scallops atop linguine in a fresh white wine butter sauce. To my delight the pasta was cooked perfectly and the mussels were as tender as you can find (sorry for the fuzzy photo).
Munching on our Jamaican-Italian entrees to the musical stylings of one Bob Marley look-a-like we noticed a peculiar drink on our neighbors table. Within minutes my brother and I had struck up a conversation with the young couple and, thanks to our beer-induced disregard for boundaries, asked if we could try a sip of their “Lion Paw”. In it’s plastic bottle with small, white cap it looked more like a hot sauce then a beverage, and it was just as pungent. As thick as syrup and as dark as Charlie Murphy this intense elixir tasted like liquified black licorice X 100! On closer inspection we realized that the third ingredient just so happened to be, that’s right, Stiff Cock…Yup…Not much I can say about that except that I now understand it’s intentions…Boing! Big cheers to our table-neighbors for allowing us to sample their cock…this is getting worse and worse.
On our last morning we slowly made our way to West Asheville, the young trendy part of town, for what’s considered the best breakfast joint in the US by Good Morning America: Sunny Point Cafe. The wait was long, about an hour with a list 20 parties long, but lounging in the grass with our brunette beauties drinking coffee and nibbling strawberries growing in the yard was anything but unpleasant.
Dining under the canopy outside we enjoyed extravagant, creative items like Banana Bread French Toast, Maple Glazed House-Smoked Bacon, and local Chorizo hash with cilantro crema. Everything was incredibly rich and almost impossible to finish but ultimately very delicious. The eggs alone were cooked to absolute perfection.
Sadly we rolled our stuffed bodies back to the house, gathered our things, gave Ant and Shanny Felt a big hug and headed back to the Triangle. With over a dozen local breweries under my belt and a new understanding of Asheville and it’s unqiue neighborhoods it’s easy to see why it’s citizens love this blue-ridge oasis so much. Thanks to Ant, Felt, and all of their righteous friends for an Asheville tour to remember. With incredible food and even better beer I’m sure we’ll be back soon for round 2. Cheers!