A Travellerspoint blog

May 2014

That time we went to Asheville and ATE ALL OF THE FOOD

Girls Gone Wild in Asheville, NC

Sometimes, you want to travel to exotic locales like Santorini and sip Vinsanto as the sun sets over the Aegean Sea. Sometimes you want to travel to rugged Montana and hike over mountains and glaciers while munching on a bag of granola and watching for an errant moose. Sometimes you want to do nothing more than spend sun drenched days beside the turquoise waters of the Caribbean with a Pina Colada in hand.

Other days, you just want sparkly shoes, 6 jumbo sized bags of potato chips, 4 girlfriends, and a lot of cake.

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The guys planned a spring fishing trip to the Bahamas, so the girls decided, “What better to do than go away for a weekend where we can spend all their money on shoes?”

Girls trips are the best. There are so many reasons why.

1. You can be a slob.

You don’t have to shower or wear make-up. You can leave your hair in a tangled bun and spend the entire morning in that pair of too-big sweat pants with the holes in the butt and the worn out elastic waist that your husband hates. You don’t have to shave your legs and no one will care.

2. There is no judgment.

Ready for a second bottle of wine? Who cares if it’s only 10:00 a.m. Go for it. Want to sit in the middle of the living room and eat an entire cake in your bathrobe or drink champagne out of the bottle while crying in the bathtub? Go ahead. We’ve all done it. Want to watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians? Secretly EVERYONE wants to see it.

3. You can relax.

I typically get about 10 minutes to myself on a Saturday morning before my husband comes blazing in like the Tasmanian Devil demanding that I fix breakfast, wash his favorite shirt, run 4 miles with him, and help him wash the car simultaneously. And I’m supposed to look sexy and awesome while I do it. A Saturday morning with the girls means 4 hours in your pajamas while doing nothing more strenuous than eating a doughnut while reading trashy gossip magazines. Not to mention the rest of the day will likely include piles of comfort food, some sort of spa treatment, and a champagne lunch somewhere with chandeliers.

4. Talk, talk, talk.

Has your husband every shushed you while you were talking because you are interrupting the T.V.? Yeah. Don’t act like you don't know what I’m talking about. The best thing about a weekend with the girls is that we all talk. All the time. Forever. And no one minds. We actually get uncomfortable with silence.

5. Eat, drink, and be merry.

It’s no secret that I can eat a lot for a small person. In my “real life,” I try to rein it in and not give in to my inner piglet. Being married to Matt-the-Superhuman-RoboMan doesn’t help. He has -3% body fat. I remember attending a birthday party for a friend’s husband a few years ago and, as I picked up the fork to start on my 3rd piece of cake, I looked across the table and saw the look of horror on Matt’s face. “I’m sort of grossed out by you right now,” he said. Not with my girlfriends. I can order triple carbs, dessert, 6 glasses of wine, and if I start laughing while I’m chewing and accidentally spit a glob of gooey tortilla chip onto the table, everyone thinks its funny.

5. Girl Just Wanna Have Fun.

Cyndi Lauper was right. We all love our husbands and our lives, but sometimes, you just need “girl fun.” We all know there is a different kind of fun to be had when it’s just us girls. It’s like 8th grade never ended and we are sitting on the bed eating a bowl of M&Ms and wondering who will wake up with a zit. Only with your girlfriends can you laugh so hard that you wet your pants on a downtown sidewalk (sadly, this is a true story).

Hello Girls Weekend in Asheville, NC!

We all showed up with 4 suitcases for 2 days, because, when packing for a girls weekend away, well…..you just never know what you might need. Little black dress? Sure, throw it in there. Flats? Yes. Heels? Yes. Lots of sweatpants to wear in the morning when you are bloated and hung over? Yes, yes. And you may as well throw that old prom dress and the sequined boa in there. You just never know.

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We arrived in Asheville on a Friday afternoon in late April. The weather was absurdly perfect and we found ourselves in what might literally be the most adorable neighborhood in the universe.

We had rented a house in Historic Montford, just a mile or so from downtown Asheville where we planned to spend 2 days eating, drinking, shopping, eating, walking, eating, shopping, drinking, and eating.

We had chosen the house because of its proximity to downtown, but were overjoyed when we saw the insanely cute neighborhood in which it was located. I felt like, at any moment, a unicorn was going to pop out of the bushes or a happy gnome with a bag of gold was going to hop across the street. Seriously.

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Feeling like we had just wandered into some sort of Hansel and Gretel dimension, we found our own adorable cottage and jumped up and down like 13 year old girls exclaiming over the ivy strewn patio, the outdoor firepit, the cozy front porch, and the warm interior.

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I had made late dinner reservations for us at the Admiral, but, because we like to drink before going out drinking, we popped open a couple of bottles of wine.

I had a feeling that my “check liver” light might come on before the weekend was over.

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We called the Blue Bird Taxi, because we already knew that NOBODY would be driving that night. Within minutes, a little Prius driven by Calvin the Best Taxi Driver Of All Time showed up.

When Calvin took a shortcut through a mall parking lot and headed for an unlit street, the girls were suspicious that he was taking us to kill us. When he pulled up to a random looking cinder block building between the BJ Food Mart and an empty lot with a rusty barbed wire fence, they were sure.

No. That was just The Admiral.

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The Admiral doesn’t advertise. They never have. You have to find it. And when you do, you feel like you’ve been let in on a secret. The Admiral is unassuming. From the outside, you’d never guess it is one of the best dining experiences in the city.

The interior is dark, with a low ceiling, lots of mismatched vintage furniture and touches of warm lighting. There's an old Budweiser sign with neon strategically blacked out so it appears to spell "Dive." Imagine if Waffle House turned down the lights, played some vinyl records, and decorated with your Uncle Fred’s garage sale leftovers. It’s hip in tawdry sort of way.

However, you don’t go to the Admiral for the decor. You go for the food.

And the food is divine.

It was at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, April 25th that the Asheville Food Insanity began. I am not really sure what got into us. Maybe it was stress relief from several weeks of issues we had all been dealing with. Maybe it was the lack of disapproving stares from our husbands as we polished off piles of chocolates and bags of chips. Maybe it was just the joy of being in a beautiful city on a beautiful weekend with beautiful friends.

We were like sharks in a feeding frenzy. Except that instead of blood, we were incited by the smell of vanilla poppyseed cake and bread with real butter.

We started off with drinks. I also ordered up a warm and crusty baguette with olive oil and house cultured butter. The bread was crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and the butter was obscenely salty and delicious.

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I followed that with a bowl of PEI mussels. I know what you are thinking. PEI mussels in North Carolina? Crazy.

Let me tell you. I have slurped Prince Edward Island mussels on Prince Edward Island, so fresh they were still quivering with salt water. The mussels at the Admiral were some of the tastiest I have ever had. The mussels were drowning in San Marzano tomato broth with just a dash of PBR (hey, it is the South, after all) and chunks of smoky bacon and topped with savory chimichurri. The dish was truly inspirational. After devouring the mussels, I mopped up the amazing broth with the baguette and salty butter.

Yes. I ate an entire baguette in addition to the baguette that was on the mussels. Don't judge.

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I followed that (you didn’t think I was done, did you?) with the pasta carbonara. Thick house made fettuccini was topped with delicate chunks of sweet lobster, bread crumbs, pecorino cheese, and egg foam.

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I sampled the others’ dishes: creamy avocado soup; angus flat iron steak with homemade tater tots, mustard greens, pimento cheese, topped with a fried egg and an amazing curry ketchup; shrimp ceviche tostadas; and pork belly with burnt miso aioli and finely shredded cucumbers and carrots with daikon, kimchi bulgogi, and cilantro.

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Because I was eating like I just escaped from a Turkish prison, I had to get dessert. Of course I did. I had the “Chocolate Milk & Cereal.” A glass of white and dark chocolate ganache sat beside the chocolate gelato topped with house made chocolate cereal puffs.

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Having been to the Admiral before, I knew what came next. The others didn’t. I watched their faces when, at 10:00 p.m., the wait staff pushed all the tables aside to make room for the dance party. A DJ started spinning retro tunes as every variety of hipster started pouring into the place and swing dancing where the guy next to us had just been eating his duck leg.

You just can’t beat the Admiral for amazing food and awesome weirdness.

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We danced badly to everything from Ella Fitzgerald to the Beasty Boys before calling Calvin (now that we were convinced he wasn’t trying to kill us) and calling it a night.

Oh what a night.

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Saturday morning was as beautiful as Friday. The weather was warm and the sky was clear and blue. We felt amazing, despite the amount of salt, fat, carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol we had consumed the night before.

It was time for shopping!

Or eating.

Whichever came first.

We headed downtown to peruse the funky, cool shops that are so abundant in Asheville. We made it about 10 feet from the car when….

FRENCH BROAD CHOCOLATE LOUNGE!!!!!

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Apparently, eating would be first.

For four women with calories to consume and money to burn, the French Broad Chocolate Lounge was an oasis of happiness filled with sunshine, hand-crafted artisan chocolates, and most importantly: CAKE.

I couldn’t decide. A thick brownie with coconut? A sipping cup of hot liquid chocolate truffle? A fat slice of maple cake with smoked salt? Dark chocolate honey salted caramels?

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French Broad doesn’t make chocolates. They make magic. And happiness. Magical chocolate happiness.

I settled on the vanilla cake with poppyseed buttercream, lemon curd filling, and a drizzle of lemon sauce. It was indeed a little slice of sunshine.

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We spent the next couple of hours wandering the streets of Asheville with its eclectic shops, historic buildings, and sidewalk buskers with cute puppies.

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We found ourselves at the Grove Arcade, home to one of my favorite places in the entire world: The Battery Park Book Exchange.

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Why?

Because I love old books.

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And because I love champagne.

Battery Park has both.

DE-lightful.

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We polished off a bottle of champagne and realized we were about to be late for our lunch reservation at Curate.

Dear Lord! Missing a meal was out of the question. Run, ladies, RUN!

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Curate, a tapas bar, is regularly rated as the #1 restaurant in Asheville.

(by people who have obviously never been to the Admiral where you can eat the most amazing meal of your life while watching a guy with a handlebar mustache and a banana tattoo dancing to a Buck Owens song while munching on a ramp waffle downed with a PBR in a can)

The restaurant is cozy and warm and everything on the extensive menu is carefully and artistically prepared. “Curate” means “cure yourself,” and we were suffering from needmorefooditis.

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Let the healing begin!

As she prepared our red wine sangria tableside, the waitress suggested we order 3 dishes each. We took her at her word and ordered 12, yes TWELVE, dishes of food. Everyone chose 3, but the plan was to share them all.

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First up were the artichoke chips with yogurt dipping sauce, so delicate they melted in your mouth.

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Next we had spicy chorizo wrapped in potato chips. In the South, this is called a “pig in a blanket,” although this was much better than the Vienna sausage and crescent roll version that we used to make in my trailer park youth.

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That was followed by grilled pequillo peppers stuffed with Spanish goat cheese.

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After that came the kumato tomato salad with preserved Spanish bonito tuna and black olives drizzled with olive oil and sherry vinegar.

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But wait! There’s more! We had warm octopus flavored with sea salt, olive oil, and paprika with a puree of Yukon gold potatoes. Okay, maybe not my favorite dish (I am more of a pig-in-a-blanket kind of girl), but we were here to try new things, so…when in Rome….eat the octopus.

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We felt the need for something green to quiet the voice of our mothers in our heads that were trying to tell us to eat something with vitamins, so we ordered a spring salad with baby artichokes, radishes, sunchoke chips, baby greens, yogurt, and a lemon vinaigrette.

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We stuffed mom back in the closet and moved on to the meatballs with cured iberico de bellota ham in a robust tomato sauce.

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Then, it was on to the grilled iberico pork skirt steak with fresh rosemary and thyme.

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This was followed by lamb skewers marinated in Moorish spices served with house made pickles.

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The patatas bravas were to die for. Leave it to the pig-in-the-blanket girl to also love the dish that looked like home fries slathered in mustard and ketchup. In reality, the crispy potato chunks are topped with a spicy tomato brava sauce and a savory aioli.

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Next up was sautéed spinach with raisins, apples, and toasted pine nuts. (You're welcome, Mom.)

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For our twelfth and final dish, we had a sandwich made from catalan sausage, peppers, and caramelized onions on a crusty baguette.

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Yeah.

We ate all of that.

After lunch, we had a pretty good sangria buzz going on. What better to do with a sangria buzz than go shoe shopping?

If you recall, the impetus for this trip had been the fact that we had been unceremoniously dumped by our men who were no doubt partying it up with frozen drinks on the sunny beaches of Abaco while pretending to fish.

That’s why I decided Matt would buy me an expensive pair of shoes.

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The sangria might have also had something to do with it.

We finished our shopping day strong and headed back to the house for some downtime (and wine) to prepare ourselves for dinner.

Yes. We planned to eat dinner.

After all of that.

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But first – we headed to the rooftop Sky Bar to watch the sunset in style. We called Calvin the Taxi Driver and he showed up promptly in his shiny little Prius.

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I had read about Sky Bar and was dying to check it out. Hidden at the top of the historic Flatiron Building, it is all marble floors and dim lighting with a classy 1920’s vibe. It is magical. Hidden. The kind of place you find by accident and where you can ride a noisy old elevator to a cool fire escape where hand crafted cocktails and amazing sunset views are waiting for you.

I am not sure what made me think we could show up 10 minutes before sunset and simply waltz out onto one of the most awesome, and space limited, places in Asheville.

When we arrived, we did not glide across the marble floors. We were not ushered onto the ancient elevator. We were not whisked away to a rooftop paradise.

No. We were shown into a little bar on the lobby floor of the building where there was a T.V. showing the amazing sunset that smart people, who actually showed up at a reasonable hour rather than dashing in at the 11th hour because they spent too much time putting on their mascara, were watching above us.

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I consoled myself by trying the house infused pineapple-strawberry tequila and looking at my new sparkly shoes.

However, I had barely had time to say, “Dios Mio!” before the elevator buzzed and we were motioned forward.

The elevator didn’t look like it had changed much in the last 90 years. The cage was pulled closed and we were on our way up.

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And we hadn’t missed the sunset. The view was magnificent.

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From the on-site infused liquors to the hand crafted specialty cocktails, the Sky Bar had a drink menu that was as exceptional as the sunset views over downtown Asheville.

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We stayed until the fiery sunset had cooled to a soft sky over the twinkling lights of downtown.

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It was time to eat again!

We walked to Limones, a Mexican Fusion restaurant in downtown Asheville.

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The dark wood floor, soft lights, and happy faces let us know we were in for a great meal.

When I saw the Caipirinha on the drink menu, I had to try it. After spending 10 days in Brazil, I have had my fair share of Caipirinhas and have yet to find one stateside that is made correctly. A proper caipirinha has 3 ingredients: Cachaca, limes, sugar. For some unfathomable reason, American bartenders insist on adding soda or some other watery, sugary substance to the drink.

Limones got it right. It was just like being back on the sandy beaches of Ilha Grande with a bowl of salty olives and a stray dog running around my feet.

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The four of us shared 3 appetizers, because we simply couldn’t settle on anything less. We started things off with the ceviche sampler. The included the ceviche del Mercado, which was made with the fish of the day marinated in lime juice and served with guacamole & red onions. There was also the ceviche verde which had papaya, avocado, and lemon. Finally, there was the spicy ceviche with jicama, cucumbers, avocado, and cilantro. All were accompanied by warm tortilla chips.

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We followed the ceviche with the slow braised short rib nachos with smoked chile crema, guacamole, and salsa verde and the lobster nachos with crema, guacamole and serrano.

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For dinner, I dove into the chorizo burger. The beef was mixed with spicy ground chorizo and the burger was topped with poblano peppers, cilantro aioli, caramelized onions, and cheddar cheese.

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Because we couldn’t end a meal without consuming at least 3 dishes each, we ordered 2 desserts to share: the tres leches cake with peaches, pecans, and mango chile sauce and crispy hot cinnamon brown sugar churros with caramel sauce and Mexican hot chocolate.

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We were the last ones in the restaurant because we literally stayed until there was no food left in the kitchen. I'm sure when we left, the kitchen staff applauded.

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I then went and lay prostrate on the sidewalk praying for Calvin to come pick us up before my stomach started to hemorrhage.

Calvin! Our hero!

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Sunday morning meant one thing: Early Girl Eatery.

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I’m not sure why we were still hungry. I’m not sure we WERE still hungry, or if, at this point, we were simply being driven by some primeval instinct to just try to eat anything that didn’t run away first.

There is always a wait at Early Girl, but there is a reason. It is just that good. We stood out on the sidewalk and literally drooled over the menu, like we hadn’t eaten in weeks.

It was pathetic.

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This was my breakfast. Mine. Alone:

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That’s a giant buttermilk biscuit topped with Benton’s bacon smoky gravy, a fried green tomato napoleon atop buttery grits, and a porky bowl (aptly named) which consisted of home fries, BBQ pork, and scrambled eggs smothered in gravy and farmstead cheese. I’m pretty sure I also ate some of Valerie’s banana bread.

I’d like to say those dishes were split, but they weren’t. They were just mine. And I ate them.

I am so ashamed.

Okay, I’m not really. I’m just saying that so you won’t judge me.

What a weekend! We laughed until we cried. We shopped until we ran out of money.

And we ate until Asheville ran out of food.

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Next up: What happens when 6 people spend 7 days on a 46 foot boat in the Exumas? Madness. Mayhem. And a helluva lot of fun. Find out who cries, who gets diarrhea, and who ends up with the black eye this time. Coming soon to a blog near you!

Posted by vicki_h 15:22 Archived in USA Tagged north_carolina asheville girls_weekend girls_getaway Comments (0)

Third Time’s the Charm

One More Trip to Banner Elk Winery

We spent a wonderful spring birthday weekend and a beautiful fall weekend at the Banner Elk Winery & Villa a couple of years ago, so when I got an email that they were having a “reserve one night, get one free” sale, I jumped on it.

I reserved the Alacante Barrel Suite, the biggest room in the house, for our anniversary weekend. I had always wanted to stay in that room, but had thus far been too cheap to pay the price tag. This was my chance! Besides, Matt would appreciate a weekend away much more than matching “I Love You” t-shirts or a singing fish to hang on the wall.

Nothing says “I Love You” like a weekend full of wine and fireplaces.

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TEN BEST THINGS ABOUT OUR WEEKEND AWAY:

1. The Alacante Barrel Suite.

The Alacante Barrel Suite was bigger than my first apartment. And it didn’t come with a creepy neighbor that wandered the hallway in his boxer shorts and smoked cigarettes by my door. As an added bonus, it had actual working heat, unlike my first apartment. It was also gorgeous. Unlike my first apartment.

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2. The Wine.

The best part of staying at a winery is that there is really no time of day that it’s not appropriate to drink wine. Except for breakfast. But that’s what mimosas are for.

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3. Getting Outdoors.

The highlands of Western North Carolina are filled with opportunities to get outside. For the less adventurous (or those who don’t want to mess up their pedicure with something like hiking boots), there are countless drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway or any number of winding country roads.

Nearby mountains and parks like Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain, or Cherokee National Forest have an abundance of hiking opportunities. There is also white water rafting, trout fishing, kayaking, and mountain biking.

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We chose to do a hike on Roan Mountain. The hike takes you 5 miles across a ridge that connects 3 balds: Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald. An Appalachian bald is a mountain summit that is not a peak covered with dense forest, but rather a large grassy area.

As I walked, I was not really thinking about how many miles I had hiked, I was thinking about how many glasses of wine I had earned.

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4. Hidden Surprises.

I love finding out of the way, off the beaten path, little known surprises. In many cases, this has taken Matt and I on wild goose chases where we drive for an hour through winding country roads looking for “this place I read about” only to find an abandoned building with a paper sign taped to the window that says, “Closed Forever.”

I convinced Matt to follow some obscure signs in the tiny community of Roan Mountain that promised Pizza. He was dubious, but it was that or eat lunch at the gas station with the 3 day old hot dogs spinning in their own fat by the microwave burritos. We found ourselves at what appeared to be a garden shed.

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He looked at me and said, “Are you sure?”

Am I EVER not sure when it comes to eating?

We went inside and were greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread, garlic, and wood smoke. Fresh loaves of crusty sourdough bread were stacked in brown paper and a wood fired pizza oven glowed in the back of the kitchen.

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Smoky Mountain Bakery is where Tim and Crystal Decker have been crafting artisan breads and pizzas for about 5 years. The cinder-block and wood shed that houses the bakery only had a couple of tables, so we claimed one and ordered the Friday special: a 3 topping pizza, 2 salads, and 2 sodas for $15.

The pizza was ready in about 10 minutes with a perfectly charred crust topped with savory sauce, gooey cheese, pesto, roasted garlic, and pepperoni. It was PERFECTION.

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We also saw this strawberry cheesecake in the dessert counter. It was so good we couldn’t even wait to cut a slice. We ate it right out of the box. Classy.

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5. Rest. Relax. Rejuvenate.

I once surprised Matt with an in-room massage on a weekend getaway. When the massage therapists showed up, there was a male and a female. I prefer not to be massaged by a dude. I’m sorry, but it’s just weird. Matt and I quietly conferred and we agreed that he would be as uncomfortable watching me get rubbed down by a dude as I would be getting rubbed down by a dude, so he sacrificed himself and let me have the female massage therapist.

Apparently, being massaged by a guy wasn’t the worst part of the experience for Matt. It was being massaged by a guy with REALLY BAD BODY ODOR.

Poor Matt.

So this time, I booked us massages at the upscale Chetola Resort in nearby Blowing Rock.

And I specified no dudes. And no B.O.

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6. Shopping.

I love the quaint little shops in Banner Elk and Blowing Rock. I can waste an entire day wandering around looking at adorably displayed nonsense that I don’t really need.

Especially if the shop has FREE CUPCAKES.

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7. Food…..Yum.

We were disappointed that our favorite restaurant in the area, Artisanal, was not yet open for the season. Another restaurant I really wanted to try, The Gamekeeper, was also still closed. No matter. We had some phenomenal meals.

The Winery & Villa provided us a great breakfast each morning.

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We also had an incredible dinner at Vidalia in downtown Boone, NC. I never met a french fry I didn’t like, especially parmesan truffle fries with a creole dipping sauce. Matt opted for a Caesar salad and white wine steamed mussels. For dinner, I had the crispy pork served with Cheerwine BBQ sauce, stoneground grits, and smoky collard greens. Matt ordered the oat crusted NC trout with applewood bacon jam, green apple slaw, and fingerling potatoes.

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Lunch at Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock started off with a drink called the Sparkle Pony. Yes, I only ordered it because it said it had edible glitter, but I was not disappointed.

Edible glitter is tasty.

Especially when served with tequila.

We shared the lobster mac n’ cheese and the chicken tamales.

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There was also a fantastic dinner at the Painted Fish in Banner Elk. When we arrived, I thought we had made a mistake. It was in a strip mall and it reminded me of a Shoney’s. Not that there is anything wrong with Shoney’s.

Unless you are under the age of 68.

However, the food was FANTASTIC. And I ate enough of it to be sure. We started off with the tuna nachos and French Onion Soup. I followed that with a bacon and cheddar burger. I don’t remember what Matt had because I was buried in a crispy pile of herbed tater tots. TATER TOTS!

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8. Crispy Crème Doughnut Cheesecake.

Sure, this could come under food, but it was so good, it deserves it’s own category. The Painted Fish in Banner Elk a cheesecake that had a doughnut crust and chunks of Crispy Crème glazed doughnuts inside. Someone decided that wasn’t decadent enough and topped it with a carmel bacon sauce.

Oh Dear Sweet Gooey Doughnut Heaven.

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9. Horses and Rainbows.

Really. What’s better than horses and rainbows? Nothing. Except maybe kittens.

Or free wine.

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10. Time. Together. Away.

Because that's really what it's all about, isn't it?

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Posted by vicki_h 08:45 Archived in USA Tagged wine winery boone north_carolina banner_elk blowing_rock roan_mountain Comments (0)

Do You Have Time for a Quickie?

Another mini-cation on Guana Cay

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I don't have to tell you that Matt and I can’t go very long without the itch to get out of town. Unfortunately, our lives and jobs are demanding and don’t often allow us the luxury of a full week off, so we make do with lots of mini-cations.

Who says a 3 day jaunt can’t be a full-blown vacation? A mini-cation can recharge your batteries and provide some much needed downtime.

It was March and the world was just starting to thaw, but it still wasn’t warm enough to get outside. I want to speak to the person that decided that spring begins on March 20, because that person is just a LIAR. There was no spring outside my door.

I was pretty sure that if I had to spend one more weekend cooped up inside with Matt watching “Game of Thrones” in a marathon frenzy, my head would explode.

It was time for a getaway, and there is only one place I can go when I need to getaway but haven’t spent my requisite 9 months obsessively planning my vacation in such precise detail that I know exactly what time I will be brushing my teeth on Day Four.

Hello, Guana Cay!

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Guana welcomed us with open arms, a beautiful sunset, and some darn good ribs.

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Day One: Abaco is for Lovers Lubbers

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We wanted to try something new. We had contacted Austin & Amy of Lubbers Landing about spending the night. I mean, if their tuna burger is that good, how awesome must the cabins be?

As we boated over to Lubbers Quarters, the water astonished us with light and color. It doesn’t matter how many times I see this water…it still amazes and delights me.

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We made a pit stop in the small bay at the narrow point of Man-O-War Cay. The sand is soft, the water is shallow, and the beach is a gentle crescent. It’s one of the most perfects spots in the world.

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If you walk onto the beach, you’ll see that all that separates the sea from the ocean is a road. Cross the road, and the raging Atlantic rushes at you in a mist of salty water. It’s simply a breathtaking spot with a 360 degree view to die for.

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Getting pretty hungry, we decided it was time to move on.

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we stopped at Firefly for lunch. The Firefly Sunset Resort is located near White Bay on the Sea of Abaco side of Elbow Cay. This upscale resort has some of the best dining in the Abacos.

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We discovered they also have some of the best drinks!

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Most restaurants in the Abacos have a menu that looks like this: Fish (fried, grilled); Ribs; Hamburger; Cheeseburger; Cracked Conch; Conch Fritters; all entrees served with french fries, baked mac n’cheese, and potato salad (aka, how to have a heart attack in 3 days).

Firefly had a menu so delightful that I literally became giddy and lightheaded. Or maybe that was the drink.

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I had a hard time deciding between the Panko Crusted Fish Cakes with Fruit Salsa or the Stone Crab Quesadilla with Mango Pineapple Salsa and Chipotle Sour Cream. Wait, maybe I should get the Curry Lobster Salad tossed w/ Garam Marsala & Citrus Juices?

Too many choices. Too little stomach space.

At the very last minute, much like a squirrel that can’t decide which side of the road it wants to run to, I went for the Fish Taco. It came out with crispy romaine, sweet-hot Vidalia onions, & savory heirloom tomatoes wrapped in a chili dusted tortilla. It came with crispy sweet potato fries. We also tried the bacon wrapped lobster skewers with lemon garlic aioli.

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Don’t worry. I still got my mac n’cheese. I’m not crazy, after all.

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We made a quick hop over to Tahiti Beach on Elbow Cay after lunch. It was low tide and I never get tired of seeing the sandbars that make their daily appearance in the shallow water.

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We saw Austin from Lubbers Landing on his kiteboard. He was whizzing through the water and flipping through the air.

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That’s when I remembered we hadn’t made a reservation for dinner.

Like many restaurants you find on the smaller cays in the Bahamas, you have to let Lubbers know you are coming to eat dinner by 3:00 p.m. and you have to order your food at that time. Otherwise, you won’t be eating. They don’t get enough foot traffic to simply have food out ready to prepare “in case” someone happens to come by.

It was 3:05.

I started to have heart palpitations.

There’s a saying around my house, “If Vicki’s hungry, ain’t nobody happy.”

No dinner?

My mind quickly went to the bag of chips we had leftover on the boat from earlier in the day. I thought about running back to the boat so that I could hide it in case I needed it later for emergency provisions. Maybe I could find an old granola bar stuffed in the bottom of my bag.

It was every man for himself.

Just before I made a mad watery dash back to the boat in an attempt to hide any food that was left in my tote bag, Austin came over.

“I have exactly 4 lobsters left,” he said. “You guys want them for dinner?”

God bless Austin.

We left the beach and headed in to the dock at Lubbers Landing. We were greeted by Austin & Amy, sunshine, and one gigantic saltwater margarita.

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After drinks, Amy showed us our cabins.

Lubbers Landing has only 3 cabins, all nestled privately in the woods and connected by a maze of raised wooden walkways with rope railings. It is like the world’s best grown-up summer camp.

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Each cabin is unique and is furnished beautifully with Amy’s eclectic and artistic touch.

They were rustic, yet luxurious, with soft bedding, air-conditioning, and high end furnishings. Special touches like seashells, handmade pillows, or Amy’s handpainted signs gave it a personal touch.

I was in heaven.

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Our room even came with a Chihuahua.

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I was trying to figure out how I could live here forever without Austin & Amy noticing, when Matt reminded me it was time for dinner.

Ecclectic stemware and soft lights greeted us as we sat down at a thatched umbrella table looking out at the Sea of Abaco.

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The lobster was grilled and served with a fresh salad, house made dressing, and their signature home-cut fries.

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Just when we thought adult summer camp couldn’t get any better, Austin built us a bonfire on the beach where we sat and sipped our wine, ate chocolate cookies, and listened to Bob Marley tunes.

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Day Two: Time to DEVOUR!

Sunrise is beautiful on Lubbers Quarters. I thanked God for the beautiful sunrise and I thanked Austin & Amy for the most perfect place to watch it.

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After some much needed coffee, which Amy makes early every morning and leaves out for guests, we decided to walk along the path behind the cabins. Austin said it would take us to a beach.

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It took us to a pretty little beach with a swing and a makeshift bar. I can only imagine what that water would have looked like if the sun had been out.

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Breakfast is a casual affair at Lubbers. When we were ready, Amy asked us what we wanted and cooked it up. Breakfast was a fried egg sandwich with peppers. Oh yum!

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We lounged around all morning, but eventually, we had to get a move on. We hated to leave, but gave Austin & Amy a hug “goodbye” (Where else do you get a hug when you leave a hotel? I mean, really?), and headed for Green Turtle Cay.

We docked in New Plymouth, grabbed us a golf cart, and made a quick stop at Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar for a Goombay Smash. Then it was off to the Green Turtle Club.

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We had afternoon tickets to the Coco Beach Party that was part of the Devour Food and Film Festival that was taking place on Green Turtle Cay. Devour is an international festival celebrating cinema, food and wine culture that takes place in Nova Scotia and is in its fourth year.

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This was their first year having a festival in the Bahamas. Called “Devour! The Beach,” the event included several days of food & wine events and film screenings. Our tickets were for the all-afternoon-rum-infused party at the Green Turtle Club where chefs would take turns grilling lobster, making fresh conch salad, and roasting wild boar.

Wait a minute. Abaco? Wild Boars? Whaaaaaaa? Was someone trying to say that there were wild boars on Abaco???? Don’t ask me why, but I had an irrational fear of wild boars as a child. It’s not like I lived in an area with wild boars. Nor had I ever actually seen a wild boar. It’s more likely that my older brother showed me a picture and told me that they were in the woods waiting to gore me to death, leaving me terrified every time I tried to walk through the woods alone, certain that a wild boar was hiding behind every tree. Do wild boars even live in Georgia?

It's just like the irrational fear I have now of snakes coming through the bathtub drain. It doesn't have to be possible in the real world to be scary. I mean, just think about MONSTERS. Okay?

My mind was now filled with images of me laying on the beach and being gored to death by a wild pig. Were there really wild boars on my beloved Abaco?

Apparently, yes. Like most things in the Bahamas, it all started with the settlers. They didn’t just show up with a bottle of rum and a desire to tame an island. They brought household goods, seeds and plants, and, you guessed it, livestock. That would include pigs. Combine that with the occasional shipwreck where it was every man, woman, and pig for himself, and you ended up with some loose pigs that eventually became the wild pigs that live on Abaco today. Thanks to a plentiful supply of fruit, sugarcane, and thick forests in which to hide, they continued to roam, forage, and have lots of babies.

I guess I was going to have to start carrying my pepper spray in my bikini.

When we arrived, we made straight for the rum punch table, because we are classy like that.

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The first station had Abaco wild boar with Bahamian potato salad and cole slaw. I did not expect to like it. I’m not sure how I thought wild board would differ from farm pig. I guess I thought it would taste like something that had been eating tough coconut shells all it's life and running from dogs, but pig is pig. That was some fine pork.

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There was fresh conch salad, grilled lobster tail with roasted garlic, tacos with goat cheese and charred poblano guacamole…oh, so much food.

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I had a bit of a conundrum when I had been standing in the taco line for a good 20 minutes. It's important to note that I don't believe in waiting in line for food. The line was short and I was close by, AND I LOVE TACOS, and I was all jacked up on rum punch and goombay smashes, so I hopped in it. I reached that point, a good 15 minutes later, where I started to wrestle with the, "Do I get out of line?" question. You know, when you've already invested so much time that you can't make yourself quit, but you know that the longer you have to wait, the stupider you are going to feel. But I reasoned with myself (the way we do in these situations), "These must be AMAZING tacos if they take so long to make and so many people are waiting for them, right?" So I kept waiting. Like a dipshit. Another 10 minutes passed.

That's when I discovered I was in the LAMB taco line.

I don't eat lamb.

I generally try to avoid eating anything in its infancy.

Pisser. I had invested 25 minutes in this line. What was I supposed to do now?

So I ate them. And, yeah. They were good. But I'll never be able to listen to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" the same way again.

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Drinks were flowing, music was playing, and a good time was had by all.

Well, except for those conch. I don’t think they were having a good day.

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We ended the day back on Guana at Grabbers.

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We had conch fritters, frozen grabbers, and a thick slice of mango cheesecake because there is no such thing as calories when you are on vacation.

Everyone knows that.

Day Three: How NOT to End Nippers Sunday Vomiting Off a Dock

Sunday morning greeted us with a beautiful sunrise.

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It was much sunnier than the previous day, but it was SO WINDY. We decided to leave the boat docked and waste the morning in the sunshine at Grabbers.

There are worse ways to waste a day.

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Around lunchtime, we wandered over to Nippers. It was a quiet day We ordered up lunch, and, since I had my fill of pig the day before, I declined the buffet (yes, hell just froze over) and got a cracked lobster sandwich.

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And some fried buffalo lobster bites, because one fried lobster is never enough.

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It just wasn’t a day for dancing, so we chose to walk down to High Rocks instead. This is the most beautiful stretch of beach that you can reach by land on Guana Cay.

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We wrapped it up with a quite dinner and a beautiful sunset at Grabbers.

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See….I can do a quiet, relaxing, respectable trip. I just don’t like to make a habit of it. ;-)

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Next up: 6 adults on a sailboat for 7 days in the Exumas. We’ll either kill each other before it’s over or we’ll have the adventure of our lives! Stay tuned……

Posted by vicki_h 11:16 Archived in Bahamas Tagged island caribbean tropical bahamas nippers abaco elbow_cay guana_cay grabbers lubbers green_turtle_cay Comments (4)

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