Asheville; the beer and barbecue version

img_7001After hiking up Black Balsam and climbing the equivalent of 75 floors (yes, we are fitbit geeks), we were thirsty and hungry.  Luckily, Asheville has an abundance of breweries and barbeque restaurants.  We left the car at the guest house where we were staying and walked a few blocks over to Catawba Brewing Company and Buxton Hall Barbeque.  Honestly though, I have not developed much of a taste for beer and did not indulge in any of the brews on tap.  Catawba Brewing Company is located in a large open space with plenty of seating options to match the number of brews available on tap.

img_7002Beer Kegs are all over the space.  These were located near the entrance and under the chalkboard that announces upcoming events and releases.

img_7006The back wall of the building is lined with windows, the seating area is bright and open racks of kegs line the walls.

img_7007When I mentioned the large amounts of brews available on tap, I really wasn’t exaggerating.

img_7010Located right next door to Catawba Brewing is Buxton Hall Barbeque.  They had me at pie…This pie case immediately caught my eye, and those are real pies, not just for show!

img_7011Like the brewery, the space is large and open and so is the kitchen.

img_7021We were seated near the bar.  The restaurant was packed and it was a Wednesday evening, after Labor Day.  Like many of the restaurants around town, the sources for the ingredients used in the kitchen are on the menu.  Since we were starving, we ordered full plates!  Fried chicken is a weakness of mine and I will order it on occasion but when I read that this version was made with smoked chicken, I had to order the quarter dark plate.  Alix decided to indulge in barbeque and neither of us was disappointed!  It is easy to see why Bon Appetit and Southern Living magazines called Buxton Hall Barbeque one of the best new restaurants for 2016.  Be sure to save room for pie, we had a slice of the Banana Pudding Pie and it was worth every calorie; creamy custard, homemade cookies and caramelized marshmallow topping, the perfect end to a wonderful day.

img_7024An open kitchen means that everyone can watch you work.  Seeing this cook prepping away brought back many memories of long evenings spent working the line and prepping for the next day.  Back then I worked in the pantry and spent many hours picking stems off spinach leaves and peeling shrimp 10-50 pounds at a time; I do not miss that at all!

img_7025Looking forward to going back to Asheville so that I can try some more of the restaurants.

Gan Shan Station; hungry hikers paradise

img_6986One of my favorite things about traveling to new places is the chance to try new restaurants.  Trust me folks, Asheville did not disappoint!  Every meal we had was well worth the visit.  After our big hike up to Black Balsam Knob, we followed another recommendation from the wonderful folks at Local Provisions (the first being the hike up to Black Balsam Knob) and went to Gan Shan Station for a late lunch.

This small indoor space makes great use of the natural light and we were seated at a table that was next to the large wall of windows in the front of the restaurant.

img_6988Having hiked at least 6 miles (did 9 miles of walking for the day), we quickly drained the water bottles placed on the table.

img_6990This old building was perfect for camera play-I loved the light fixtures hanging above the tables.

img_6991Sorry, couldn’t resist…

img_6992My choice for lunch was a spinach and tofu salad.  Trust me when I say that this is not what I expected.  It was also as delicious as it was different, those crunchy bits on the top…Seriously though, this dish was only offered as a special and for those of you who visit the restaurant, I hope they offer it again!  It had a little bit of a bite to it but the crumbled tofu and cooked spinach were well flavored and served cold-perfect and refreshing for the hot day and the hike we had just completed.

img_6994The rest of our meal included pork dumplings and fried tofu.  Be sure to check the special board to see what fillings are available for the dumplings because they change them frequently.  We devoured them!  The filling was a typical Asian style pork recipe with ginger and garlic and all of the other ingredients you would expect to find but it was the sauce that made them.  It was a creamy peanut sauce with what I think was a touch of red curry and if we had been there alone, we might have fought over who was going to have it all.

The fried tofu was light and crispy, fried to perfection in a well seasoned starch mixture and again, the sauce was a big part of the success of the dish.  It was not your typical salty-soy sauce and we used it freely as we ate the crispy sticks.

img_6996Between us, we also shared a grilled vegetable salad that included squash, peppers and avocados.  This was the first time I ate a grilled avocado and honestly, I don’t think it made any difference to the flavor; ripe avocados are the food of the gods and nothing can improve that!  Again, be sure to check the special board, that is where the good stuff is.  At least it was on our visit because most of what we ate, was ordered off the board and not the menu.

img_6999And if you need any proof, we joined the clean plate club and walked away feeling full but not stuffed!  It was the perfect way to refresh ourselves after our hiking adventure.

img_7000The verdict, if you are in Asheville, take the trip over for lunch, it isn’t in the downtown area but it is worth the time you will need to get there.  My plan is to go back sometime and try the dinner menu.

img_2344Remember that mention of Local Provisions?  We were staying nearby and walked over for cocktails before heading out to dinner.  When I read the description for the Midnight Voyage, I had to have one.  It was the first time I have ever tasted Honeysuckle Vodka and I probably could have consumed a quart of this mixture!  The cocktail is a blend of honeysuckle vodka, Creme de Violette, St. Germain and lime juice.  It was a little sweet, very citrusy and just a bit floral; it was also like a glass of grown-up limeade that did not remind me of really bad margaritas, which is something lime juice generally does for me.  They knocked it out of the park with the addition of a stem of begonia flowers.  How is it that this gardener did not know that begonias are edible???  They have a tart flavor that will get you at the back of your jaw but in this drink, they were the perfect addition!


Hiking the Black Balsam Knob area; a girls trip

img_2347Recently, I flew to Atlanta to visit one of our daughters.  Once she had picked me up from the airport and we were on our way for some much needed coffee (it was only 7:30am at this point), she surprised me with the news that we were headed to Asheville.  Hiking was on our list of things to do and we set off on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We stopped on several occasions just to admire the view.

img_6960As we drove on, we gained altitude and the views just got better and better.

img_6961We were lucky, the weather was perfect; sunny, clear and not too hot.

img_6965At one stop, the old Buck Spring Lodge site is near the Pisgah Inn on the Mt. Pisgah Summit and there are a few trails around the parking area.  Take the stone stairs and follow the trail toward the inn, the views are worth the walk.

img_2353We were headed for Black Balsam Knob and we drove on.  These were spotted on the Flat Laurel Creek Trail.  If anyone can identify these, please do-I have no idea what they are.

img_2349Even though were around 6000ft, honeybees were present.  While I am sure that the altitude was not an issue for them, I could only wonder if they were there because a beekeeper has hives out there somewhere or if there were feral bee colonies.

img_6976These were spotted along the Art Loeb trail as we hiked up to the top.  They had finished blooming for the year and were loaded with seeds for next years blooms.

img_6971There was no shortage of Mountain Ash berries.

img_6980And with goldenrod in bloom, the bees had plenty of flowers for foraging.

img_6984Again, I am looking for an assist on the ID, if you know what this is, I would love to know as well!

img_6973When we finally did reach our goal, not the entire trail but a nice high elevation, we were standing on this rocky spot.  The pattern in the surface of the stone is intriguing.

img_2355We stopped for a bit and enjoyed the view.  If you want to take a hike near Asheville, we highly recommend making the trip to Black Balsam Knob.img_2351img_2354img_6969img_6966img_6968My hiking partner, Alix.  It was a wonderful surprise and it was a perfect afternoon!