Asheville

The Asheville What I Eight: Where To Stay & What To Do

With home base in Charlotte, NC, over the years I’ve carved a niche out of showcasing restaurants and travel spots, local food stuffs and farms across the Carolinas. With fall on the horizon, I thought it a good time to explore the mountains and turn the focus on where travelers go to take in the color of the season. This post originally hit early in September when Hurricane Florence was just a whisper, swirling far out over the  ocean.

In the aftermath of the storm

As I add new info and video to this post now,  I couldn’t just start an update without a mention of what our Old North State has been through these past two weeks of September. It is now just a week after Florence has come and gone and while the western part of North Carolina luckily dodged the bullet of destruction in Hurricane Florence’s path, that was not to be the case for those in Eastern North Carolina.

Homes and businesses have been destroyed, trees and power lines are down and many roads are impassable. Road conditions in some parts of the state are so bad that the NC DOT is telling travelers to circumvent the eastern part of our state as they travel this month and possibly next.

Carolinians, North and South are a resilient bunch. As I write this, situations are being assessed, many to our east still can’t get to coastal property to even see what damage took place.  Chefs and other food-centric folk who are able, are working together to feed those in need of a hot meal meal and a compassionate hug or handshake. The Red Cross and many other groups like Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen are set to help raise funds and prepare for recovery.

In Western North Carolina, the rains have come and gone. September is here, school is well underway and summer is nearly gone. I’m delighted to report that weather in Asheville is gorgeous this time of year and suggest you plan a visit soon.  Its been the “Summer of Glass” in Asheville; and while it is winding down, the fabulous Chihuly exhibit is up at the Biltmore till the end of October.

It is still time for a change of season and while our hearts are with the many in our state in Eastern North Carolina, I now take you west and a bit north. to enjoy all there is waiting for you over a long weekend or midweek two-three day getaway to Asheville, NC.

Lots of deliciously colorful reasons to visit Asheville, NC

If you are up for a little seasonal “leaf peeping”, you are not alone. Aside from cooler climes, the impetus for travel this time of year for many is the Fall Color. “Leaf Peepers,” as they are known, are folks who love the change and they flock to the mountains to take in season, but man and woman  cannot live by a change of color alone. There must be food and drink, great places to stay and other things to do- Asheville has all that and more.

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This ” What I Eight in Asheville, NC” is a list of eight-plus  places to eat, places to stay and things to do while you are up in Asheville this fall to look at the leaves. 

What Every Asheville “Leaf Peeper” Should Know

North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains enjoy one of the longest seasons in the country to enjoy the fall color. Those who love this last quarter change of seasons can thank the high peaks and varying micro climates for the range found in the 5 week span known as “Peak Season.” Its the perfect time of year for  “Leaf Peepers”  or those who come to drive around and enjoy the color. 

No doubt, Asheville, NC and surrounds are the perfect spot to take in the season, offering views from the tallest mountains and the foothills below.

Don’t panic. You have plenty of time to enjoy, so plan a trip or two or three to take it all in…Its already started on some of the highest mountain peaks as we end this first week in September: but  move down from the mountains to lower elevations and the change of color  generally continues through the last week in October/first of November.

Ask any food writer and you’ll get a different list of all there is to do (and eat and drink) in Asheville NC

There are, of course, lots of eating and drinking opportunities in Asheville – and we all love the tried and true Curate, Rhubarb, Posana, Limones and more; but in this post, I offer a couple of new spots for food and drink you won’t want to miss.

So, while you set out to enjoy Asheville’s leaf peeping opportunities – here is a short list of where you should eat, where you should stay and some other fun activities to take in while you are there. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

It was my pleasure to appear on WCNC’s  Charlotte Today in early September where I  was able to highlight six of the spots I share today in this post.

So much more to show and tell, delighted to have room here to give the details of the places I mentioned on the show and add to the list as well.  In the mix look for the scoop on a wonderful place to take in a great yoga class, an upcoming event where you can enjoy wine and cheese pairings at a vineyard and two locations of a wonderful spot where you can sip perfectly steeped tea for two.  Its all here designed  to inspire you as you plan your Autumnal Asheville Adventure. #TellThemHeidiSentYou

Start Your Asheville Stay with a Place to Call Home-Base

Lucky for all of us, the best place to stay in Asheville is also one of the best places for breakfast. And even luckier for us all there are 13 different locations!  

Check out any of the 13 member inns of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association. Not only can you plan your stay in your choice of inns – from real log cabins to historic homes –  but you’ll get concierge service that, to my mind, no hotel can match; plus a fabulous 2 to 3-course breakfast each morning. Amenities vary from inn to inn but there is often wine and snacks to enjoy in the afternoon before you make plans for dinner; and fresh baked cookies to enjoy anytime, day or night.

Breakfast service at any of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association Inns also varies,  but is always a wonderful way to start the day. Some inns offer seasonal specialties, while others keep detailed records and  won’t serve the same guest the same thing twice.

I recommend staying at a new place each visit until you work your way through all thirteen options – availability and reservations links for each inn are on the website here. Enjoy them all. Each inn in the Association serves 2 or 3-courses breakfasts.  Many start with a view, for example the stunning views of the mountains at Wildberry Lodge  or this charming view of the gardens at Beaufort House Inn.

Sit at a table for two or with a group to discuss plans for the day. Some courses are prepared tableside so that guests can watch innkeepers make preparations.  This is the case at Sweet Biscuit Inn (breakfast table pictured below) where innkeepers Christian and  Claudia Hickl end the meal with the  preparation of French crepes to order for each and every guest. Each innkeeper in the Association offers a different spin on the start to your day and you will love them all!

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Asheville’s Little Spots for Big Flavor: Hole Doughnuts and Taco Billy’s

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Hole Doughnuts  – 168 Haywood Road. Open 7:30-2Pm, every day. Closed Tuesdays. 

If you’re not spending the night and need a quick bite before the leaf peeping begins; or are in search of a mid morning or early afternoon snack, visit Hole Doughnuts.  Who doesn’t love a just-made doughnut and coffee. At Hole you will find  made-to-order doughnuts crafted from organic stone ground Lindley Mills flour, unrefined organic cane sugar, sea salt, cage-free eggs and whole butter. All Hole doughnuts are fried in GMO-free rice bran oil. deliciously sweet and good for you too!

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Taco Billy’s – 201 Haywood Rd, Asheville, NC. Open 7am – 3 pm, every day but Monday.

The place is small and there is a chance, if it weren’t for all the cars parked out front and the people happily eating on the porch, you might even think it closed and abandoned, but don’t pass this one up!   If you are in need of something more savory than sweet, this fun and quirky little taco shop will fit the bill. Breakfast tacos (served all day) are the jam here, but there is plenty more on the menu for more of a lunchtime meal. Order two or three – they are small – you’ll want a variety of tastes, as it’s too hard to just land on one menu item. These tacos are  stuffed with big flavor of braised meats, chicken and veggies with several vegan and vegetarian options, as well. I love that they source local produce and product and feature non-commodity meats for most everything on the menu. To drink, don’t miss the serve yourself aqua frescas always in a variety of homemade fruity flavors – watermelon and mango are my current favorites!

Before Dinner in Asheville, let’s start with a beverage or two…

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Lets face it, Asheville is a city known for its liquid commodities. Sovereign Remedies is a much-loved cocktail bar (now with more of an emphasis on food) and breweries of one kind or another are at nearly every turn, but in the theme of this post, let’s try something new.

Most of the restaurants I have noted here have pretty cool bar/beverage menus, but if you want to make it more than a one-stop evening, kick things off at the Times Cocktail Bar located at the S&W on Patton Street.

The Times was home base to mixologist Joe Nicol, recently named NCRLA Mixologist of the Year at the annual NCRLA Chef Showdown held in Charlotte on August 27. Like Joe, the team at The Times crafts cocktails with a local twist and always a fun garnish on the side.

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The photo above was one we enjoyed  at the bar and I am still thinking about the clever way the edible baby’s breath was clothes-pinned on the glass just for fun.

The cocktail to the left is called “Left Turn at Albuquerque.” It features NC’s Fainting Goat Spirits Emulsion Gin and is the pour that clenched the Mixologist of the Year honors for Joe Nicol at the NCRLA Chef Showdown. Photo creds here go to my friends Candice and Dan at The Beautiful Mess photography in Charlotte.

When it’s time for dinner in Asheville… Go to Aux Bar, Mela Indian and Plant for flavors you are going to love!

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Two recent trips to Asheville found us dining  at these local places we now list as some of our favorites…

Aux Bar – 68 North Lexington Ave.

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This newest of restaurants on Lexington offers dining inside and out. Owned by  butcher and chef Steven Goff, Aux offers a varied menu of farm to fork proteins, from pork to beef to seafood. The menu highlights regional ingredients with a focus on the traditions and tenants of Appalachian Cuisine. This is what eating and drinking local is all about – fine local food, incredibly well done!

We enjoyed it all from starter plates to dessert. The oysters – photo above  – were divine! The trout pate and the pimento cheese – served with fresh made pork rinds that offer a snap you won’t believe were among our favorites. The trout entree and fried duck wings – photo below –  are not-to-be-missed plate, as well. Cocktails were smooth, desserts were just the right amount of sweet – what’s not to love?

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And just next door to Aux,  make plans to stop in at  Mela Indian Restaurant  70 N Lexington Ave.

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Mela Indian Restaurant offers a diverse taste of authentic North and South Indian dishes. Open for lunch with a buffet and then for dinner with full menu of delicious cocktail and dining options, Mela is now one of my favorite Indian restaurants in or out of Asheville. Warm Naan, shown here, and the Samosa Chaat starter – photo below – make for a fabulous start to the meal and are large enough to share, or take home for lunch the next day. Enjoy all the classics as well as  a variety of perfectly prepared meat full and meatless daily specials.

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In search of  vegan cuisine? This nationally-known Asheville option does not disappoint…

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Plant , located in Asheville at 165 Merrimon Avenue.

This little spot is one of our longtime faves. Lots of other folks must agree as Plant was recently named one of the best Vegan restaurants in the country by Zagat.  The culinary skill and preparations that go into the menu here are truly unbelievable.  Plant is more than just raw veggies, its real food, all plant-based. Chef and owner, Jason Sellers, offers a small dinner menu full of big flavors from salads with mushroom “bacon” to hummus platters with falafel, rich braised tofu with the best green curry and a variety of roasted and pickled veggies. Finish it all off with cashew and coconut-based iced creams in a trio of delicious flavors – you’ll love every bite!

Let your Asheville visit include time for Tea 

Dobra Tea is a great morning or afternoon getaway when you just need a moment of  calm to breathe and take time for yourself. There are two locations of this charming little tea house. The first in Downtown Asheville again on Lexington Ave near Mela and Aux Bar. The second in the RiverArts District. Be prepared, this is not your mamas iced “Church Tea” or a pot of hot water with your choice of prepackaged bags.

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This is traditional tea service of aged loose leaf tea, steeped before your eyes and poured with an element of ceremony. Which blend to try? The menu is a tome of choices, each with a story about harvest and history. Read through and do what we do: try a different variety each time. Food items on the menu at Dobra range from hummus and veggies to tea cakes and seed cookies  at the downtown location with slightly heavier fare at the location in the RiverArts District.

Asheville Salt Caves and Yoga to Rejuvenate

If you love the tranquility of massage and meditation mixed with  the restorative spirit of a spa, then you will love Asheville’s Salt Cave. Located at 12 Eagle Street in downtown Asheville.  The man-made room is dimly lit with a light mist in the air. 20 tons of pure pink salt, poised on the floor, walls and overhead, naturally recreate the micro climate of a salt mine. Incredibly well done, the temperature and humidity levels are kept at that of a naturally occurring cave.  Book a spot in a public or, better yet, your own private session, relax in a zero gravity chair and take it all in – you’ll feel like new, I promise.

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Always good to take time out when you travel to take care of yourself. Aside from tea and some meditation time in the Salt Cave, take in a Yoga class or two to work out the kinks and work off the stress. My last stay in Asheville I discovered this wonderful little Yoga studio with regular classes daytime and evenings too. Purna Yoga 828, located in the River Arts District at 697 D Haywood Road has a full line up of wonderful yoga classes for folks at every level. I very much enjoyed a “Wall Yoga” class during my last visit – a technique new to me using moveable bands and ropes connected to the walls  to create tension and more give and take as we stretched. Check out the weekly schedule on Purna Yoga’s website and plan to take in a class on your next Asheville visit.

And Asheville has Wineries, too!

Looking for a reason ot wine away the day in Asheville?  Go to Leicester NC – a short 20 minute drive from downtown Asheville,  where you will fine Addison Farms Vineyards, a lovely family owned vineyard, winery and tasting room. 

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A fourth generation farm, the family decided in 2009 to work the land as a vineyard in an effort to keep the land and the farm in the family. Today they grow six different grape varietals on several area properties and produce a series of delicious award winning wines. The tasting room is open year-round Friday and Saturday from noon to 5pm, and on Sunday from  1-5pm, During this Leaf Peeping season, they are also open on Thursdays noon to 5pm from  through October 31.

On Sunday September 23, make plans to visit the vineyard and enjoy a five course progressive wine tasting tour paired with bites of local flavors. This Taste and Sip of Appalachia is a perfect way to start or end your Asheville getaway with fabulous views, stories about the farm and more info on the family’s approach to wine making. Check in here for more info and reservations.

With Thanks for this Partnered Post…

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I’d like to express my thanks to my friends Glenda and Ken Cahill at Wildberry Lodge in Leicester, NC located just outside of Asheville ( and not so far from Addison Farm Vineyards) for partnering with me on this post. Wildberry Lodge, one of the 13  members of the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association is a real five bedroom log cabin, with two separate private suites.             The inn was built log-by-log on a picturesque Asheville area mountain top with the perfect scenic Blue Ridge Mountain views.

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Tom and I have stayed at Wildberry Lodge several times and enjoy the peace and quite of it all. The oversized stone fireplace in the common area living room sets the mountain cabin tone. Its the perfect place to read, relax and renew… indoors or out.  You’ll enjoy the mountain trails, a teepee, friendly goats and Highland Cattle. The weather is perfect now for the outdoor stone fire pit – roasting marshmallows and making s’mores await and when you are ready all that Asheville offers is just a short drive into town.  Make reservations now and start your Asheville adventure today! #TellThemHeidiSentYou

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