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!


cornmeal-currant biscotti; a tuesdays with dorie post

IMG_5013It has been a while since I baked with the TWD gang.  The holiday season is generally a hectic one for me and with all that I was baking for gifts, I just decided not to bake anything more, because baking it means eating it and I have gained more weight than I care to admit at this point.  (thanks menopause…)

Even so, I am a sucker for anything that claims to be a biscotti and to make matters worse, I apparently hoard cornmeal.  When I checked the pantry for cornmeal, I found a complete rainbow; white, yellow, blue, roasted yellow and bloody butcher red.  A quick look at the different colors led me to choose between the organic blue and the organic bloody butcher and since the latter was more coarsely ground, it was my first choice.

IMG_5027Stone ground cornmeal is always more coarse than the regular grind but the bloody butcher had a large range in particle sizes and makes it very easy to see the meal in the dough.  This particular batch was grown and ground right here in Virginia and it is from Blenheim Organic Gardens which is located in Washington’s Birthplace, yes, that is the name of the town and no, I did not make that up!  They come to the Williamsburg Farmers Market when it is open and I look forward to the return of the Market in March.

IMG_5023There was a box of currants lurking in the pantry and since they were a little dry, I added several tablespoons of dark rum to them and heated them so that they would plump up.  To offset the extra liquid, I cut out the extra egg yolk and that made the dough slightly drier than I would have preferred.  However, now that we have our own egg laying hens, I hate the thought of wasting an egg white.  The recipe calls for the dough to be formed into a log and cut into scone-like wedges.  After asking one of the other TWD bakers how they worked out like that, I decided to go with a slice and bake log which is what most of the recipes I read called for.  The result was a crunchy, crumbly cookie.

IMG_5056The weather took a sudden turn towards winter today and turning on the oven was comforting in many ways and so was the scent of cookies baking-although, I really do not need to be eating cookies at this point!  The bottom line, I love currants and cornmeal but it is not likely that I would think to make these again, at least not with this recipe.  Personally, I would like them to be a little sweeter and a little crispier.  Either way, these cookies are a lovely accompaniment to a cup of hot tea, especially on a chilly day!

To see how the other bakers fared, visit the Tuesdays with Dorie website and consider baking along with us!


local friday; a hike on the back bay trail

IMG_1155When our daughter came to visit last month, she had only a few requests:  she wanted to visit a winery and she wanted to go to the beach.  Fortunately, in Williamsburg, Virginia, both requests can be met quickly because there are wineries all around us and the beach is just over an hour away.  We set the GPS for Virginia beach and went on our way.  After one of the best breakfasts I have had in a while (beachside no less!), more on that another day, we walked the boardwalk and visited some shops along the way.   It was a windy day and we decided we wanted to see more than the typical tourist beach stuff so we drove further down the coast to the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, is about 30 minutes from the main drag on the beach and it features multiple trails and activities.  The trails lead to the bay and the beach.  You can also launch boats, canoes and kayaks here as well as travel by bike.  Since we were on foot, we took the Charles Kuralt trail.  It was cool out but sunny and breezy and we wandered all over.  The walk from the trail to the dunes was easily negotiated along the raised boardwalk.  Until you hit the base of the last dune, you can see the footprints that lead up over it to the beach and it was impossible to do without getting sand in our shoes!

IMG_1158Along the way, I spied what almost looked like a champagne cork sitting on top of the sand.  A closer inspection revealed that it was a mushroom.  Imagine that-a mushroom growing on the sand, the mycelium was actively fruiting and we saw many of them around us.


At some point, I hope to get this identified but it will be tricky, we did not bring it with us because you cannot remove things like this from a refuge.  The color of the gills was a rosy red, almost a purple tint to it.  If anyone has a clue as to it’s identity, please, leave a comment.

IMG_1147We walked to the beach and found it nearly deserted.  Swimming is not allowed here but fishing is and the only other people we saw had multiple lines in water.


It was a beautiful day with a deep blue sky, and the visibility was very good.


Walking along the trail we passed a marsh where migrating birds will stop to hunt.  Can you see the Great Blue Heron near the center of the photo?  We have seen many of these birds all around the country.  Although this is part of a birding trail, this guy was the only bird we were able to spot!


The trails around the Visitors center are interpretive and they are also at water level.  What this means is that at high tide, some areas are flooded.  We couldn’t take the one trail because it was about 6″ underwater in one area and neither of us had on waterproof boots.  The marsh that the path cut through was almost like a corn maze at times and we could not see anything but the plants on either side of the walkway.  This wet area with its tree roots and grasses was eye-catching.  It was nearly impossible to see where the water stopped and the plants started.  The only clue was the rings on the surface of the water.

IMG_1124A shot from further away of the reflection pond.


When you visit a wildlife refuge, you hope to see the wildlife.  Aside from a bunch of seagulls and a heron, we only say this snake.  Actually, it is a cottonmouth and it is not a snake you want to mess with.  Luckily for me, he wasn’t threatened by my presence and let me take his picture.

IMG_1121You can see how well he blends in, we walked past him the first time.  A teacher leading a group of students on the trail pointed him out to us in warning and we were grateful.

Do yourself a favor, visit the refuge and take in the sights and see what wildlife inhabits the area .  There are multiple activities from bird walks to whale watches available.

Winter waterfowl walks

Whale watching

535412_193698534082190_1827035283_nclick on the image to visit the Friday Favorites linkup on the Virginia Bloggers website!