Brunch in Asheville

People often ask for suggestions for where they should find a great brunch while visiting Asheville, so I have a few of our favorite places. Here is a link by a local food writer that lists his favorites too. Let us know where you end up and what your experiences are - we like to hear from our guests!

Limones - downtown, always great, and they happen to have some of the town's best margaritas

Sunny Point - in W. Asheville, always a great southern, yet on the creative side, brunch

Taco Billy - in W. Asheville - super inexpensive, fast and delicious

Hole - in W. Asheville - not exactly brunch but heavenly light donuts and coffee

Ambrozia - in N. Asheville - yummy and creative menu

Curate - maybe not brunch, but you can never go wrong there eating anything they serve.




Finding Vibrance in the Winter Landscape (and a Mighty Good Breakfast)

Last weekend, my husband, Steve, and I went for a hike at Black Balsam off the Blue Ridge Parkway - it had been so long since we'd been for a nice walk that wasn't just in the neighborhood! Black Balsam is about one hour away from Asheville, south on the Parkway.

The Art Loeb Trail

The Art Loeb Trail

Since we'd just gotten back in town the day before from having visited family in Georgia for Thanksgiving, we had a seriously bare kitchen. We decided to try out Taco Billy, a new place in West Asheville I'd heard of for having great breakfast tacos, and it became our new favorite breakfast place! Wow was it delicious, fresh and inexpensive - my entire meal, including a cup of strong coffee and a taco, was around $5. My taco was comprised of a homemade "tortilla" made from plantains, filled with avocado, scrambled eggs, sweet potatoes and spinach, topped with the BEST green salsa ever. 

I was thinking that since all the leaves have fallen, and the weather was overcast, that it wouldn't be necessarily visually satisfying, but at least I'd get exercise and fresh air AND get away from the computer. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. There  were still blue mountain ranges in the distance, creeping cedar on the ground, green rhododendron lined paths and golden grasses. We walked for about 2 1/2 hours (the Art Loeb trail to the Ivestor Trail), and followed it up with a nap and dinner at home. Perfect.

Steve feeding the goat - he couldn't resist.

Steve feeding the goat - he couldn't resist.

I Love Clasique

Clasique Studio in downtown Asheville is a gem for locals and tourists alike, both for the variety of services they offer and the wonderfully smart and enthusiastic people who work there. Clasique has acupuncturists, massage therapists and Pilates instructors, and many of the instructors teach two of the three!  

Pilates is one of those exercise regimes that you could do all day without breaking a sweat, walking away saying "that's too easy!", but that is why you need excellent instruction! And you know who can offer plenty of that - the folks at Clasique. I highly recommend some private sessions with one of their instructors so that you can really learn the moves and positioning both so you don't hurt yourself and so that you really get the deep core workout you are looking for (I assume you want this - if not, get a massage and acupuncture treatment instead!). 

Rumor has it that Clasique will soon be moving just down the street to a beautiful, larger space, so check out their website before you go. The studio is within walking distance to both of our places - the Asheville Urban Nest and Drover's Way - tell Brooke we sent you.

Photography Exhibit at Asheville Museum - William Wegman

The Asheville Museum, in downtown Asheville, has an exhibit featuring many of William Wegman's photographs of his famous dogs that is definitely worth seeing. The show will be up through late January, so don't miss it! The museum is a short walk from the Urban Nest (one block) and Drover's Way (1/2 mile). The museum offers free admission on the first Wednesday afternoon of each month!

Fall is Here in Asheville

2015 may be one of the prettiest fall leaf seasons I've seen yet in these beautiful mountains. Steve and I went up to Craggy Pinnacle this week and were amazed at the colors. I highly recommend that if you're coming to Asheville soon that you take a ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the least - better yet, take a hike at Craggy Pinnacle, Black Balsam or Graveyard Fields. You won't be sorry. 



Picnic Time!

Our all time favorite picnic spot that we go to several times, at least, each year, is Craggy Gardens Pinnacle (just north of the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center on the Blue RIdge Parkway). We take most out of town guests there, as it's an easy 3/4 mile hike to a spectacular view and the perfect place to watch the clouds envelop you, then clear, and to watch the sunset. I've also scheduled many photo shoots here, as the greenery along the path is gorgeous in a lush textured way. Big  bonus is that Craggy is only 25-30 minutes from downtown Asheville. 

Click HERE for a recent article in the Citizen Times about great picnic spots:

Photo shoot I had for Asheville's Underhill Rose at the top of Craggy Pinnacle.

Photo shoot I had for Asheville's Underhill Rose at the top of Craggy Pinnacle.

My favorite tree on the trail to Craggy Pinnacle. 

My favorite tree on the trail to Craggy Pinnacle. 

Shot on the way to Craggy Pinnacle - created for Gannett Publishing

Shot on the way to Craggy Pinnacle - created for Gannett Publishing

Hanging out at Drover's Way

Why meet at a bar when we can hang on the front porch at Drovers and  watch the world walk by? Our friend, Dot Griffith, stopped by for happy hour yesterday and we enjoyed a nice Rose wine and snacks brought by a Little Sister guest from Illinois. We have had a glorious spring in Asheville so far, and we are happy to have a fun place to unwind. Our guests at Drover's Way stopped by to chat for a bit as they headed out for dinner. We love meeting our guests and hearing about all the new things they're discovering (many we've never heard of). 


Last weekend, when my daughter was home from NYC with a friend, we decided to browse the shops downtown and have lunch at one of her favorite restaurants (so many, always hard to choose). We were walking by Pack Square and stopped by Bomba, a little establishment on the corner with Asheville's Chef Hector Diaz behind it. For some crazy reason I had had never tried it in the several years it's been open, but we were so glad to discover it better late than never. They have delicious $8 meals - surely the best deal in town with creative, fresh, yummy meals big enough to share. We had the pork areas, which were fantastic while rich, but my favorite were the vegetarian papusas - now that was a perfect dish. We also ordered the fabulous fish tacos, but easily could have shared two dishes between three of us.

There are only a few tables, but we were able to get one on the patio just as the Monsanto protesters walked by in very  colorful attire. Photos below...

Vegetable papusas with  fried egg on top at La Bomba

Vegetable papusas with  fried egg on top at La Bomba

Arepas with pork carnitas and salsa

Arepas with pork carnitas and salsa

A few tables available to eat outside on Bomba's patio.

A few tables available to eat outside on Bomba's patio.

Child Friendly Places to Dine in Asheville (Fun for Adults Too!)

I often have guests ask for recommendations on where to go with their kids, but that will be fun for them too (Chuck E Cheese is not what we're after here). So, here are a few recommendations I made to my most recent inquiry about this:

"All Souls Pizza is a good choice on a nice evening - they have picnic tables, really great food, and a field next door where kids can run around. It's in the RAD (River Arts District), a few minutes drive from condo (if you're lucky you can pick up a loaf of Farm and Sparrow bread from their front counter to take home). Your daughter might enjoy the Friday night drum circle at the end of the block in Pritchard Park. There is a creperie on Lexington (down hill from condo) in the courtyard behind Bouchon - they have outdoor seating, candles and often live music. It is owned by Bouchon, but not as fancy. A fun casual pizza chain called Mellow Mushroom is nearby as well with outdoor seating (but All Souls is more special, more seasonally fresh). And everyone loves the French Broad Chocolate Lounge at Pack Place, but go early to avoid the line. As for festivals, there is almost always something going on during the summer weekends, so keep an eye out. Buskers often line the sidewalks downtown on warm nights, so you are sure to find entertainment.

The Bywater is a bar by the river that is kid friendly too. There is the new Sierra Nevada plant that I haven't been to yet, but it is supposed to be amazing with a restaurant, outdoor seating, etc. It's about a 20 minute drive from the Urban Nest. There is always Biltmore too! You can't go wrong there".

We anxiously await the opening of the Smoky Park Dinner Club - another riverside venue that will have a great restaurant and the building is constructed from storage containers! It is supposed to open this summer.


Why We Prefer to Stay at Vacation Rentals When We Travel

Hotels are sometimes great - no doubt about it.  There's the luxury of leaving for the day and coming back to a magically clean room, primarily. BUT, what about when you are traveling with your kids, or other family members? Now you need two rooms, and it get expensive. Not having a kitchen means all meals are eaten in restaurants - which means not only are you spending lots of money, you aren't able to take advantage of the farmers markets, seafood stands, etc to create your own meals (I love to cook).

Therefore, we typically go first to VRBO or Someway to search for our destination, and here are more reasons why:

We enjoy meeting the owners and getting their guidance on restaurants and activities

There is room to move around! 

We enjoy having access to a kitchen to make coffee and breakfast

Free wireless! I get so annoyed when hotels tack on $18/day for internet!

Privacy - you don't have to hear doors slamming all night as can happen in a hotel

You have the comforts of home - sofas, TV's, kitchen, and whatever amenities your host offers. 

What we look for when choosing a vacation rental:

Positive reviews - if they don't have any reviews, we pass. Why take the risk?

Are you talking to the owners or their assistant, or a management company? We prefer working with the people who really have a stake in the place

Do they communicate in a prompt and friendly way?

Are they easy to deal with in terms of making payments?

Do they charge a cleaning fee or is it included?

Are the pictures available that really show you the space?

If they are out of town, will they leave us contact info for a backup person?

Last summer we stayed at two wonderful vacation rentals - one in Bellingham, WA (between Seattle and Vancouver), one in Vancouver, and one on Orcas Island. I highly recommend these three because they were all in great locations, were run in a friendly and professional way, and were SO helpful in helping us choose our activities. 







Lunch at Rhubarb - Delish!

Rhubarb and it's deservedly admired chef, John Fleere, have created yet another wonderful option for fine dining in downtown Asheville. If you've visited Asheville in the past few years, you already know that the popular restaurants are getting increasingly difficult to spontaneously stroll in and get a table. Rhubarb is no exception. However, we had no problem getting a table for lunch, so my daughter, Hannah, and I decided to check it out. The menu is so creative and alluring, but not in a fussy, over the top way, and we settled on a farmer's market salad and their hamburger with Benton's bacon. I felt that both were about as good as it can get - the salad had an assortment of roasted and raw vegetables with a parsnip puree and a creamy, fresh green dressing (I can't remember exactly what it had in it, but it was perfect). The burger had everything you'd want - soft bun with crispy edges, flavorful burger, not too huge, and full of flavor. The food was fantastic, and I really love the decor.  Below are a few shots so you can see for yourself.

I love the walls!

I love the walls!

The market salad

The market salad

Lynne and Hannah

Lynne and Hannah

These Folks Make Us Happy (maybe they'll help you too)

As 2015 is just hours away, I've been thinking of people that have helped us thrive in 2014, both personally and professionally, so I wanted to thank them as well as evangelize their services to our guests, as I think you may enjoy them the next time you're in Asheville.

1 - Longview Acupuncture - Billy Roberts can help you elevate pain and just de-stress with acupuncture and Tui Na treatments. Conveniently located in W. Asheville minutes from downtown, why not make an appointment to make your vacation that much better.

2 - C & Co - Since I discovered Christi's handmade skin products at C & Co in downtown Asheville, I've been buying them for my family and friends to spread the love. Christi makes all of her natural body products including body lotion, facial products and baby goodies in her shop, and she is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about what she makes. Stop by and you'll feel better and be hooked, I suspect.

C & Co on Broadway downtown

C & Co on Broadway downtown

3 - Twilight at the Grove Park Spa. It's a little known fact that you can get a spa pass valid weekdays from 5pm till closing for $60, with no treatment required. I get together with girl friends for a way to catch up and unwind as we soak in the various hot tubs under waterfalls and stars. Enjoy a bottle of wine if you like too, as well as swim in the water while listening to underground tunes, and to liven things up,  jump in the cold plunge pool !

4 - Need a massage? Grounded Massage Therapy and Yoga provide exceptional massage treatments and will come to you as our guest in one of the Urban Nests. We love Mackenzie's massages and yoga instruction and can't say enough nice things about her. 

Mackenzie Thomas

Mackenzie Thomas

5 - Thinking of moving to Asheville? I can't count how many guests have told us that they are staying with us to try and find a place to live so that they can move here - they come from all over the country. What better base to conduct your search than with one of our places where we are available to give you the local perspective? We have worked with two agents here in Asheville, both of which we highly recommend: Marie Morris of Beverly Hanks and Bill Palas of Appalachian. Both are hard working and know the ins and outs of Asheville real estate. Give them a call before you arrive in town to get on their schedules if you want to look at houses, businesses or land. We have other realtor suggestions if those two are booked.



At Long Last...The New Chocolate Lounge is Open

If you've heard anything about the food scene in Asheville, surely you've heard about the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. They probably run neck in neck with Curate  in terms of press coverage received in recent years (both deservedly so, in my opinion).  Their new home is located on Pack Square right next to the Asheville Art Museum, and it is a huge upgrade on the old location in scale, content and design. The light filled, open space offers much more room to sit and wait in the inevitable line, and they've added a store that sells their new homemade ice cream and truffles (now you don't have to wait in line for those to-go  items, a huge improvement). You can be sure they still have the same delicious items we've all come to love, such as my personal favorites: chocolate topped macaroons, coconut brownies and chocolate dipped ginger cookies. Really, you can't go wrong with anything there...assuming you like rich, high quality chocolate, that is.