> One of the many nice things about Asheville in the winter is the accessibility of many of the sites and activities. Pretty much everything is open but the crowds aren’t there, giving one a unique opportunity to really enjoy the sites. James and I have a friend visiting us from Ireland and this weekend we took some time off from painting and cleaning at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast to show her some of our town.
Imagine visiting the Biltmore for half-price and having the privilege of being the only people in the house. Trisha and I wandered through the house at our own pace, lingering to enjoy the view of Olmstead’s gardens out the windows as long as we liked while asking as many questions of the docents as we needed. We weren’t rushed and we did not have to jostle and be jostled by the crowds in order to see everything. After we finished (and we were the last people to leave) James met us at the Winery in Antler Hill Village. We took a short tour (the Winery is open until 7PM) and then were given a wine tasting of up to fifteen wines (!). Needless to say, we did not avail ourselves of all of the wines but we did enjoy tasting three or four before we moved over to the “Premium Tasting Bar”. These wines are the prize winners and one has to pay for the tastings but at $3 a glass it is a pretty reasonable way to enjoy a glass of wine before dinner. I was interested to discover that the Biltmore Winery makes very nice dessert wine, redolent with the aroma of peaches and plums with a very nicely balanced finish. That makes me sound much more knowledgeable about wines than I am but I really could smell the fruit as I sipped it. If we had not already made reservations at a restaurant in town we probably would have stayed on in Antler Hill Village to try one of the many restaurants there–another time!
Unlike the Biltmore, Table was anything but empty. The restaurant bustled with customers, and waiters with a line of people waiting to be seated. While we waited for our table to be free we enjoyed watching the chefs cook in a narrow kitchen right behind the bar. I don’t know how they manage since it seems hard to turn around in there but the food they were plating looked delicious and my choice, at least, was heavily influenced by what I saw. Table was nominated for a James Beard Award last year and they deserved it! The menu is written freshly every day so there are no “specials”. We ate fennel and cauliflower soup with curried oysters, veal sweetbreads, beef sauerbrauten and grilled fish and were eager to try dessert. And in spite of it being more than we needed,we were glad we did: coffee flan with black pepper sauce and chocolate along with a chilled pear soup, coconut ice cream and chestnut puree!
Today (Sunday) we finished painting the trim in the hall in time to walk to the Civic Center to see Bill Cosby perform. I can remember Cosby from my childhood but his humour has not faded and he had us all laughing along with him. Actually I think I enjoyed it even more as his age and mannerisms reminded me of my father telling stories.
Not a bad weekend for a town in the “slow” season!
One other exciting thing happened this weekend: my cookbook arrived! I started writing Recipes From A Big Family about three years ago when I realized that it would probably be easier to compile all of my recipes in one book than it was to keep writing them down and sending to them to people as they asked for them. Before the book was completed, James and I bought the Carolina Bed & Breakfast, so I added a chapter of recipes from here as well. With James’ encouragement and some help from my daughter Sarah, I made a push to finish the book and now here it is for sale at our inn! It has almost 100 recipes, and 50 color photos and is full of stories and advice from my years overseas and at home, cooking for large groups of people as well as small. If you are interested in purchasing a copy you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 828-254-3608