Thursday, August 30, 2012


MISSION:  Find cool ~ as in weather, eateries, farmers market, hikes.  Taste local foods that inspire
                      new home recipes.

DESTINATION:  Vicinity of Asheville, NC

TIMING:  One long weekend

OPTIONS EXPLORED:  Asheville City Market, Saturday mornings
Looking Glass Mountain before a storm
                                           Market Place Restaurant
                                           Cucina 24
                                           The Blue Ridge Parkway
                                            Craggy Gardens
                                            Black Balsam Mountain
                                            Frying Pan Fire Tower

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!  (Look for the recipe below!)

     The annual Wine & Food Festival, the Goombay Festival, and the Topless Festival were all going on this past weekend in Asheville.  And no, I did not.  I did not participate in any.  Rather, we enjoyed a seasonal ale at The Wedge in the River Arts District, two delightful dinners each evening, some shopping at the venerable Mast General Store, and several gorgeous hikes with a view along the famed Blue Ridge Parkway, with an evening meal and overnight at the Pisgah Inn.

Cool?  You bet, in every sense of the word.

This weekend, I'd love to go back for the NC Apple Festival in Hendersonville.  This year it's especially important to support our apple growers.  Some lost as much as 90 percent of their crop due to late spring frosts.  Officials guarantee there will be enough local apples to go around this weekend. 

     The Market Place Restaurant was sold a few years ago by Asheville's original foodie, Mark Rosenstein, a man who created farm to table dinners way decades ago, when he'd take his knife and basket into farmer's fields to get dinner supplies, or scoop trout from a pond when an order was placed.  He led Asheville and the rest of the food world to the world of sustainability, local foods, and wood-fired ovens where he baked bread daily.  

     Rosenstein left his mark on Asheville's Wall Street, and in the very capable hands of William Dissen, the new, young owner/chef.  Here's what he told the ASHEVILLE CITIZEN-TIMES:  "To me, farm-to-table is a celebration of community: it's a place to get together, to party, to share a meal, to celebrate, to have fun."  Amen.  And Amen to his effort at community building as well.  Our meal was truly delightful and reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was relaxing with live music at the bar and a serene dining room.  I'll be back.

     Cucina 24, also on Wall Street, also provided a menu full of locally sourced foods.  The beet salad was especially delicious and oh-so-pretty.  It inspired me to try it at home, and look for a recipe below, my version of beets, chevre and pistachios.  

     You might wonder why I have not included photos of our meals we enjoyed at these lovely eating establishments.  I think taking photos, especially with a flash, disrupts not only MY dinner, but other folks as well.  I love to see good food porn.  I sometimes take shots, but only when a flash is not necessary.  Most times, the dining table is dimly lit, photos.

Breads from Farm & Sparrow

SECOND OP:  Procure picnic supplies from the variety of goods available at Saturday's farmers market in downtown Asheville City Market.  We found fresh, wood-fired oven-baked breads from Farm & Sparrow;  tangy goat cheese from Three Graces Dairy; smoked trout from Sunburst Trout Farms; the season's first apples; and, pastries with local black raspberry jam to just devour right there, on the spot!

Sitting on Top of the World, at Craggy Gardens
      One of my favorite easy and quick hikes is to drive north on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Craggy Gardens, and follow the trail up to the dome.  From there, you've got an awesome 360 view of the world.  No matter the season, it's just great for the view, and because of the breezes, it was nice and cool.  Late summer, you can even pick wild blueberries off to the side of the top. During the fall, all you can see is a carpet of color.  In the winter, icy patches give you a bit of a challenge to the top, but then you get to bask in the full sun.
Skinny Dip Falls

House Bread from Farm & Sparrow bakery
     Near Pisgah, south of Asheville, our favorite cool hike is Skinny Dip Falls, at Milepost 417.  And no, I did not, although perhaps that would have been a great segue from the Topless Festival?  Anyway, you hike down a shaded, root and rock-filled path to a gorgeous rocky waterfall, and you can rock hop up and down if the kid in you prevails.

     Just a bit down the road, hike the Art Loeb trail off Black Balsam that leads to the bald, with views to the horizon and overlooking Graveyard Fields.  An awesome view, worth the mile trek upward.

   And, HWY 276 down to Brevard from the Parkway provides a terrific winding, downhill scenic route, with pull-outs along the Davidson River for picnics.  At Sliding Rock Falls, you can do just that - slide down the rocks on your butt.  Great fun.   Looking Glass Falls has steps leading down to the bottom level, allowing you pretty views all the way down.  Find a big rock on the side for a picnic there, too.


I still crack up remembering a friend who exclaimed, "You can eat the roots, too?  I always throw them away!"   She loved beet greens in salads and stir fry;  now she loves the roasted roots as well.

1 bunch of beets
6 ounce tub of chèvre (ours was flavored with honey and lavendar)
thinning options - 1 to 2 tablespoons simple syrup, Greek yogurt, or milk
couple tablespoons chopped fresh herbs - I used rosemary, chives and oregano
handful of salted pistachios, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Cut the beets from the stems (reserve for salad or to braise).  Wash the roots well.  Place on a large rectangle of aluminum foil, securely wrap them up, and place on a baking sheet, as they can leak!  Bake for about an hour, or until a knife easily pierces the largest beet.  Cool.

2.  Use a paper towel or cloth and rub the skins off.  Cut into bite-size pieces.

3.  In a small bowl, place the chèvre.  Mix in a bit of your thinning option, and whip with a fork or whisk till mixture is pliable.  Place on your serving dish or individual plate.

4.  Top chevre with beets.  Sprinkle the herbs over, then the chopped pistachios.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve and enjoy!

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