Monday Miam-Miam: Savoring Asheville

From the summit of Mount Pisgah, accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway

Savoring the natural beauty that surrounds Asheville, North Carolina was such a treat that I will write more about it on French Friday.

But even when savoring gorgeous land you get to have your food too, right? And in lovely, vibrant Asheville it can be an equal treat.

Sticking with our deal: one table for an independent bookstore, my husband picked the restaurants based on our mutual desire to support chefs who in turn support locally sourced food. Our two top choices proudly display the names of the farms and farmers they work with. They can be proud of their cooking as well.

Our #1 choice is The Market Place located on Wall Street, which is a short, paved, historic street filled with various small shops.

The restaurant has an outdoor terrace, which was packed due to the lovely weather. Besides, there was a band playing inside and I’m a sucker for live music. So we ate in the back of the restaurant, far enough from the bar and the musicians but still close enough to eat en musique.

Our waitress was from Maine, so it created an instant connection. She had also worked and lived in Spain and knew France, so here we had another connection.

The real connection, though, was with the food.

We started with a bowl of edamame soaked in chili soy glaze and sea salt and served in a beautiful bowl. Pottery abounds in Asheville and every restaurant uses very unique stoneware plates and dishes. Now, we are all big fans of edamame at home. They can be quite addictive, and these were very unique but a little too glazed. We definitely had to wash our hands afterwards. Which was a good way to admire a funny poster. Well, only if I had used the male restroom. So I only got the photo.

Although we both read French, we cannot figure out what the bucher tells the steer. Quelqu’un le sait?

I had decided to go vegetarian that night. It’s not a punishment for me since I’m a huge fruit and veggie person. And when you eat seasonal food that grew locally, you can’t go wrong. The roasted indian cauliflower, black quinoa, green curry sauce, shaved fennel and cashew salad was a delish. Lots of colors, flavor, and texture. Which is a nice goal to reach when we cook.

Mine was spicy-tasty like I love my food

I had a bite of the sunburst farm trout, served with lentils, smoked bacon, and a dressing of confit tomato vinaigrette that my husband chose. Man, that trout was a gem. The way the chef prepared it was genius. The skin was infused with flavors and so perfectly grilled. My husband tried to mimic the technique at home. He confessed needing more practice. It’s great, I reassured him. Which was true. Anyway, I insisted, must be the trout. Have you noticed that trout figured on every menu in the two Carolinas?

His

For dessert we split a saffron & wildflower honey crème brûlée, accompanied by a small pink peppercorn biscotti. Which I generously gave away. The honey flavor was distinct and yet subtle. Saffron is unusual with crème brûlée but it was a great addition.

With Two Spoons, please!

 

A glimpse of the French Broad River that flows through Asheville

 

Our #2 choice is Table. Which definitely reminded me of a favorite place of ours in Le Marais in Paris, before this low key, unpretentious Parisian neighborhood became way too trendy, too popular, and thus too expensive. But this is for another topic 🙂

I love small restaurants best. You are neither too far from your dinner companion nor from the other guests. I like the background of conversations, which tend to naturally adjust a notch lower in more intimate settings. Food at Table is served on gorgeous stoneware plates or even on slabs of wood in a room barely larger than a typical American dining room. The tables are just big enough for a tiny vase and a few fresh flowers. Homey and yet classy atmosphere.

Service was impeccable and friendly from the second we stepped in. A small dish of olives was immediately brought to our table with thick slices of bread and high quality butter. We are both bread lovers. Can’t help it when you were born in France. Table bakes its own bread and I owe my compliments to the baker.

Ours

We picked one order of chanterelles as an appetizer. I’ve loved mushrooms since my youngest age. In France, one of my uncles knew his champignons and treated us to amazing foraged mushrooms omelets. Our chanterelles at Table came with tiny tomatoes, citrus, basil, sweet onions, and almonds. A perfect blend that left me nostalgic for those French autumn suppers. I could smell the woods. We ate our chanterelles before shooting their portrait.

Trout again for my dinner companion that night, only whole. Years ago, I embarrassed myself with a whole fish while having dinner with my husband’s boss. He was a cool guy. Still. You don’t want to mess up with bones and skin while you need to appear smart and elegant. So, I’m wary of a whole fish when away from my kitchen. My husband, however, did a fabulous job with his trout, which he found less spectacular in taste than the one at The Market Place but impressive on a plate and impeccable in terms of freshness.

His

I went fishy too and chose the seared tuna. Which was perfect, no doubt due to the addition of corn, blueberries, and okra that complimented the medium rare cooking of the tuna.

Mine

If you like cocktails, wine, beer, and small plates you’ll love the Imperial Life, the bar and lounge situated at the top of a narrow set of stairs, just above Table.

 

Seen along a hiking trail

Now food for the soul!

Art abounds in Asheville, including bookstores. My favorite is located right in the heart of town.

Packed with books of all genres, for all levels of readership, and with tons of authors’ visits, Malaprop’s is my kind of bookstore. Plus, it’s a few doors away from the public library! What can a reader ask for?

But the special treat was to stay at the Grove Park Inn where F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed twice.

Facade of the Arts and Crafts style hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places

The terrace overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains

To find these artifacts displayed inside the hotel gave me the goosebumps.

Zelda died in a fire while hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic, also in Asheville. F. Scott Fitzgerald had passed away eight years earlier.

 

Comments

  1. Thank you so much for this post. North Carolina is my beloved home. It is great to see something so special written. Asheville is a wonderful place. I am so glad you enjoyed your visit there. There is so much to see and do in that area. I never tire from visits there.

    • And I thank you for your lovely words! I really want to return to Asheville and hike the area. I only discovered the two Carolinas recently but liked what I saw enough to ask for more. I will write more about Asheville on Friday if you are still curious 🙂

  2. It all sounds mouthwatering, Evelyne. And I’ll think of you and your husband chowing down on gourmet food as I head out on the trail with my food that only requires, “add boiling water.” 🙂 I, too. like Asheville. –Curt

  3. I haven’t spent much time in the Carolinas, a few business meetings and driving through on my way north or south. The food looks wonderful. I give you credit for having enough willpower to order dessert with two spoons.

    • The Carolinas are still to discover. We barely saw anything. I’m pretty sure that the western part of NC is my kind of place in terms of scenery and small towns. People were really friendly and welcoming. And yes, sometimes I cannot resist and keep my dessert and my spoon just for myself 🙂

  4. beautiful pictures. I love

  5. Behind the Story says:

    I’m a big fan of F. Scott Fitgerald. I was in Asheville once but didn’t know to go to the Grove Park Inn. When my daughter lived in Nashville, we drove to Asheville. We attended a big arts and crafts festival and took a walk in the woods. I don’t remember what we ate. You sure chose a couple of good restaurants.

    • Nashville is not that far, that’s true. I was suprised to see signs for cities in Tennessee while in Asheville. States are closer to each other when on the East coast. Yes, Asheville is big in arts. There are many studios and I particularly admired the pottery. I wish to return and browse through these studios and pick one or two pieces for my home.
      And if you are such a fan of Fitzgerald it’s quite moving to imagine him, alive, writing where you are standing, watching the same mountains.

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