Some of my favorite places to visit in Asheville in the summer are the Tailgate Markets. Small farmers and purveyors from Western North Carolina pack their goods into trucks and gather together in parking lots on assigned days to sell their produce. I love to walk out the door of our Asheville Bed and Breakfast up to the Visitor’s Center where, on Wednesday afternoons in summer, I can see what’s fresh and in season. More than that, the markets tend to be social events in the way that only a small town can enjoy: young children in carriers on their parents backs, dogs of every type (carefully leashed) and friendly faces all combine to create an unexpected street festival. It’s sad when November comes and our friends pack up their trucks and disappear for the winter.
So James and I were happy to hear that the Asheville City Market has found a spot for an Indoor Market this winter and grabbed our chance to go to the opening in the Haywood Park Hotel Atrium this past Saturday, January 12. The Haywood Park Hotel started life as the Bon Marche Department Store in 1923 and the Atrium of the building, located on the corner of Haywood Street and Battery Park Avenue means that the Indoor market can easily be incorporated into a Saturday Morning stroll through town. While you are not going to find much in the green produce department nonetheless opening day offered a good variety of products to explore.
Our first stop as we came in the door was at the table of Cynthia Pierce of the Sweet Life Bakeshop. I do most of the baking at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast but my eye was caught by her selection of vegan baked goods. Vegans are welcome at our inn and I will do my best to make sure they have good and plentiful food but vegan baking requires a special knowledge and skill so I was delighted to find a source for home-baked vegan pastries and muffins. And they were good too!
For the carnivores in the room, there were fresh farm eggs and wild game. James and I had a chicken for dinner that night which was well worth the surplus in price it was so succulent and tasty. When we lived in France, we discovered that the French like to make a big deal out of Poulet De Bresse, a particular breed chicken raised in a specific region of France, and this chicken was as good as any I had there!
James and I next stopped at Roots & Branches where we met Clark Mitchell, the owner and chief baker. Not that you would get this from the name but Clark makes artisan crackers here in Asheville. We sampled a number of them and walked away with a box of Rosemary and Olive Oil Crackers (although the Herb Garden variety was equally tempting). Clark started in his home here in Asheville just a few years ago and now has a “factory” where he employs nine bakers who mix and roll out the dough by hand, baking his crackers daily. I was intrigued by this and hope to visit his factory to find out more.
Beyond food, the market also offers a number of crafts booths, locally made soaps, art and even plants. Tom Ross from High Country Nursery in Fairview, NC was there. His main focus and area of interest is Japanese Maples but he also has a number of what he calls “unusual landscape plants and trees”. We have been looking for a special plant for the wall of the garage facing our new garden terrace and we were intrigued by his Basjoo Banana Plant from Asia which can winter-over at temperatures as low as -20 if mulched. (Of course the bananas are inedible but you can’t have everything!) So we bought two and they are sitting on a sunny windowsill in our living room waiting for their new home to be ready in May.
The Asheville Winter Indoor Market is just short walk from the Carolina Bed & Breakfast. The people are friendly and eager to share with you their experiences and knowledge as well as their products. It’s a good way to get a feel for our city and for Western North Carolina as well!