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Entries about asheville

'Twas the Month Before Christmas...

‘Twas the month before Christmas, and deep in the hills;

I was looking for places to shake off the chills;

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Quick plans were made and the bags were brought down,

In hopes that we soon would go out of town;

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The puppies were nestled all snug in the plane,

While visions of merriment danced in their brains,

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We were loaded and ready, flying into the sun,

Headed east to the mountains for some quick winter fun-

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We landed in Flat Rock, delighted to see,

A cute little cabin, for Matt and for me.

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I barely had settled and took off my coat,

When what did I see? Well it was a goat!

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We rode into town filled with glorious stores,

And found Renzo’s Ristorante with pasta galore;

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And, what might be a perfect end to this day?

Why a twinkle of lights and great Christmas play.

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The next morning we woke and jumped in the car,

We headed to Asheville to pedal a bar.

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We sipped and we pedaled, we pedaled and sipped,

Then off for some shopping, we dashed and we skipped.

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“Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen,

“On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donner and Blitzen;

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We heard someone shout and we just had to see,

Why, it wasn’t a reindeer, it only was ME!

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As our tummies grew empty, to Limones we ran,

For mussels, ceviche, and caipirinhas in hand;

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But so much fun had made our feet ache,

So we soaked our poor feet with massages at Wake.

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And then in a twinkling, we headed next door,

Where old books were waiting and champagne was poured.

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The next morning the fog was swirling ‘round slow,

As we headed for breakfast at nearby HenDough.

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The chicken was hot and the doughnuts were sweet,

And I ate and I ate, ‘til I just couldn’t eat.

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Then it was down to Georgia, for Christmas again,

At Barnsley Resort, with some of our friends;

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The place was glittering with Christmas decor,

We grabbed up the pups and went to explore;

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There was so much to do, that much did transpire,

We walked, and we shot, we drank wine by the fire.

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The light of the day passed into dim glow of night,

And we walked through the ruins with bright Christmas lights.

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With dinner in my belly and drinks in my hand,

And I couldn’t help but think, “My, this is grand;”

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The next day brought spa dates and pretzels and fun,

And long walks and donkeys, and little dog runs.

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And soon it was time to get dressed up, you see,

For a Christmas party that was so filled with glee.

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And before I knew it, it was already time,

For a final HUGE breakfast that was truly sublime.

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Then we sprung to the plane, it was time to go home,

And bring Christmas to our house, no more to roam.

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Then with my home in sight, I giggled with glee,

It was time to go looking for our Christmas tree.

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And I say to you all, it’s time for happy and bright,

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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Posted by vicki_h 08:41 Archived in USA Tagged christmas georgia asheville barnsley_resort pubcycle hendersonville flat_rock Comments (1)

Let the Shenanigans Begin: Girls Weekend Asheville!

When Matt told me he was going on a duck hunting trip with the guys in November, I knew it was time to plan a girls’ weekend. Travel in our household must be fair and equitable. It was necessary to keep the balance.

I immediately sent the Batsignal into the sky to alert the girls.

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Bags were packed, credit cards were shined up, and husbands were kissed goodbye. We left with modest goals: laugh, shop, and eat. With only 48 hours, it was best to keep things realistic. Finding a cure for cellulite or mastering Italian wasn’t within the realm of possibilities. This trip was for us. It was for reconnecting, renewing our bonds, and wearing pink wigs while drinking copious amounts of wine and beer.

We were headed to Asheville. Asheville has a walkable downtown that is packed with almost 100 eateries in only 1 square mile with everything from Indian street food to classic Carolina barbeque, two dozen breweries (it’s not nicknamed Beer City, USA for nothing), countless craft bars, and endless shopping. It was a perfect location, only 2 hours from home, where everything we wanted was stumbling distance from our loft.

We headed over in 2 cars in an attempt to minimize the mayhem that having all of us in one vehicle might create. This attempt was unsuccessful. Mayhem began almost immediately.

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My crew arrived slightly before the other car, and it was too early to check in at the loft, so we made the short walk to the French Broad Chocolate Lounge to kill an hour. We also managed to kill 2 glasses of wine, a cider float, and a dark chocolate pot de crème. Also massacred were my genuine intentions to “eat reasonably” on this trip.

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It was obvious that I would simply have to rationalize my eating. Chocolate comes from cocoa. Which is a tree. That makes it a plant. So chocolate is a salad.

It was a crisp fall weekend and fun was in the air.

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Within an hour, the rest of our group had arrived and we were able to meet at the Lofts at 16 Church for our check-in. Because our trip had been planned at the last minute (one needs a lot of advance planning time to book a place in Asheville, NC for a fall weekend), we couldn’t find a place large enough to accommodate all 7 of us. So, we had opted for 2 adjacent lofts.

It was perfect. The lofts were roomy and beautifully decorated. They also offered us some privacy and separation from one another in the event that we felt it necessary to segregate and talk about each other before the weekend was over.

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The original plan involved a 9:30 p.m. dinner reservation at the Admiral so that we could stay late and enjoy the “funky dance party” that takes place around 10:30.

I should have known that “plans” were not going to work with 7 women. At precisely 6:37 p.m. I received the following text from the downstairs loft:

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You don’t tell an apartment full of hungry women that they should just eat some crackers because dinner will be in 2 hours and 53 minutes.

Reservations were quickly cancelled and we made the short walk to Salsas. There would be a wait anywhere at this point, but at least we knew at Salsas we could get some chips to hold everyone over so that we didn’t have a “hangry” incident (hungry + angry = not good).

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Salsas had a cool outside window where we could order margaritas and chips and salsa while we waited for a table.

Salsas was a small, cozy restaurant that touted itself as “Mexican Caribbean.”

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The menu was a smorgasboard of things we couldn’t pronounce and didn’t understand, but that sounded delicious: molcajetes, pom pom poms, paquetes….we didn’t know where to begin.

We started things off with the Anafre Bean Dip, a savory mix of beans, ancho sauce, avocado sauce, queso, sour cream, and pico de gallo served with giant, warm corn chips.

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I went safe with the slow roasted pork quesadilla, but I have to give kudos to Alison who went bold with the pom pom pom, which turned out to be a pile of awesomeness crammed into a giant Puerto Rican pilon.

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After dinner, we grabbed some cocktails at MG Road, but even as mesmerizing as the giant disco ball was, we were tired from travel day and called it a night.

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Our original plans for breakfast the next morning were to head to Biscuit Head, but when we got up, we decided to find someplace that didn’t require driving. I mean, that WAS the point of staying downtown, after all.

I made a quick change and diverted us to Mayfel’s (SEE….I CAN be flexible. I can.)

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Mayfel’s is an eclectic little place that serves up some of the finest southern cooking in Asheville, served with a side of funky.

Breakfast started off with beignets and mimosas, or champagne for those of us who don’t really see any reason to mess up a perfectly good glass of bubbly with pulp. The beignets were warm and crispy on the outside and soft and doughy on the inside, dusted with powdered sugar and served with jam. They were almost as good as the ones from Café du Monde, but came without the mimes and trombone players or the hoarde of onlookers with cameras and sun visors glaring at you from the line on the street.

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The best things about breakfast at Mayfel’s: 1) You can order southern sides like collard greens and fried okra with breakfast and 2) the biscuits are as big as your head.

I had a giant biscuit topped with fried chicken and slathered in creamy sausage gravy with a side of smoked collard greens.

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I ate the whole thing because I didn’t want to look back later and say, “I could have eaten that.” I just can’t live with that kind of remorse.

It was time to do some shopping, so we headed down Wall St. only to find that some mad knitter had gone and covered everything with sweaters. Seriously. There were sweaters on the light poles, sweaters on the parking meters, there was even a sweater on the giant iron. The yarn bombers appeared to have left nothing uncovered.

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We spent the next few hours browsing through Asheville's quaint downtown, filled with unique shops, artisans, and street performers. As we shopped, everyone found something that matched her personality.

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After we were all shopped out (okay, that was a joke – that never really happens), I had a surprise for everyone. I had told all the girls to bring hats, wigs, boas…whatever tacky crap they had in their closet and throw it on.

Seriously, why do they always do what I ask? It’s like magic.

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WE WERE GOING ON THE AMAZING PUBCYCLE!!!!

What is the Amazing Pubcycle, you ask? Why, it’s a pedaling bar that blasts awesome retro music while you pedal around the city with drinks.

Why the costumes, you ask? Why, to add to the fun and levity of it all (or possibly so that no one would recognize us, should someone we actually knew be in the vicinity of said Pubcycle).

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I can hear you now, “Let me get this straight…You’re drank while pedaling your way through the city on a moving bar? How was this possibly a good idea?”

Because there's nothing quite like pedaling a giant mass of steel and wood uphill to the tune of cheesy '80s music while two fisting a beer or solo cup filled with wine. Everyone we passed….the drivers, shoppers, pedestrians, cyclers…..couldn't decide whether to laugh or be jealous and stare in awe. (Jealous. They were definitely jealous.)

Sure, our thighs were burning a little, but that was nothing a few drinks and a rousing chorus of "Girls Just Wanna' Have Fun" couldn't fix.

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I wasn’t sure how this was legal, but I didn’t care. It was a helluva lot of fun. I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it.

At least until we ran out of drinks. And then it was a bit like being in the gym, tipsy, if the gym was in the middle of the street.

As with all good things, the Amazing Pubcycle eventually came to an end and despite attempts at bribery, crying, and clinging to our seats, we had to get off.

It was someone else's turn.

And to avoid an uncomfortable scene where the bride-to-be and her bachelorette party starting beating us off the Pubcycle seats with their giant inflatable penis, we made the wise decision to scoot.

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We ran all the way to Barley's for pizza.

All the way across the street.

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After pizza, it was a quick change back into our respectable selves for a trip to the Battery Park Book Exchange, a delightful combination of champagne bar and old book store.

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After the champagne, I had another surprise for the girls. We were heading to the Wake Foot Sanctuary to reward our tired tooties for all the shopping and pedaling they had done that day.

None of us really knew what to expect. We were a little leery and after a few glasses of champagne, not sure how seriously we could take a foot spa.

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I turned out to be AMAZING.

I can't recommend this place enough.

We were each changed into slippers and ushered into a quiet oasis - a dark room filled with large comfy chairs, each with its own giant copper tub of warm sudsy foot soak. While getting a foot soak, each of us also had someone simultaneously giving us a head/neck/shoulder massage or a foot/leg massage, depending on our preference.

Wake was able to transition 7 loud, laughing, wound-up women into silence, relaxation, and serenity in a matter of moments. We all agreed it was one of the most awesome things ever.

It had been a pretty fabulous day. The only thing that could wrap this party up was a quest for the best burger in Asheville. We found it at the Rankin Vault Cocktail Lounge. This tiny hole-in-the-wall served up a monster of a burger with a giant side of tater tots.

The burger was a an oozing mess of cheese and bacon and it was absolute perfection.

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After that, the girls were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of tater tots danced in their heads.

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Sunday morning brought one final carb-loaded breakfast and Early Girl Eatery served it up just right in the form of the Porky Bowl, filled with grits, fried potatoes, barbecue pork, and an egg coated with Benton's Bacon gravy served with a giant biscuit and a gob of gooey blueberry jam.

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It was a delicious ending to a decadent weekend.

It was that kind of weekend where, when someone at work on Monday asks you what you did over the weekend, your first response is, "Why? What did you hear?", that kind of weekend that puts a smile on your face for the next 5 days, that kind of weekend that makes you laugh until you pee a little.

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Here's to the girls!

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What's Next??? Come with us as we escape to Tortola!

Posted by vicki_h 13:11 Archived in USA Tagged mountains north_carolina nc asheville girls_weekend girls_trip Comments (0)

What I Did On My Christmas Vacation.

Decking the Halls in Sapphire, NC

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For all our love of travel, Matt and I have NEVER gone away for Christmas. It’s just not what we do.

As a child, my family spent Christmas driving. We’d drive from our home to my grandparents in Tennessee, which was 4 hours in one direction. Then we’d load up and drive to my grandparents in Alabama, which was 4 hours in another direction. Instead of hot chocolate by the fireplace, my Christmas was more vinyl car seats and Waffle House.

This is why I declared, upon becoming an adult, that I WOULD SPEND CHRISTMAS AT MY HOUSE. ALWAYS.

It's a rule.

I decorate our big old Victorian house with all manner of glittery, twinkly, pine-scented things. I bake cookies. I make candy. I play Christmas music until Matt is singing Bing Crosby in his sleep.

Christmas is my thing.

So, when Matt asked if I’d be willing to go away for Christmas this year, I am pretty sure I started to hyperventilate.

Before I managed to work myself up into a full blown panic attack, I stopped to think what it might be like to go away. Maybe I could make this awesome? Maybe this could be even better than being at home? Was it possible?

Could I go away for Christmas?

After looking at hundreds of potential Christmas options, all of them wooing me with their cozy cabins and snow laden streets…..I decided on the mountains of North Carolina. In the end, being able to take the dogs and go somewhere we could drive to in case the weather was too bad to fly was more important than whether or not the destination guaranteed me a white Christmas, actual reindeer, or had “tap your own” maple syrup farms.

It was Christmas Eve and we were headed to Sapphire, NC.

Because we were driving into the mountains, I had stocked the car with anything we might need in the event of a snow storm: a shovel, sleeping bags, hats and gloves, a gallon of water, flares, and 18 granola bars.

Given that it was about 50 degrees outside, this was probably unnecessary.

What I should have packed were paper towels because we discovered on the winding, twisting, mountain roads that Rooby is prone to car sickness. She is also unable to hold her 5 month old bladder for 2 hours. We arrived at the cabin with Matt still trying to wipe the dog vomit off his arm with an old Dunkin Donuts napkin we found in the glove compartment. I arrived with a lap full of dog pee.

Things were off to a rough start.

But all that changed when we pulled up to the cabin.

I knew I had chosen the perfect place.

It was rustic, but luxurious. Crafted out of 150 year old hand hewn historic timbers salvaged from two old barns, one of which stood on the battlefield at Gettysburg prior to and during the Civil War. The other barn was built by Amish craftsmen. The salvaged materials were lovingly crafted into a cabin that can only be called a work of art.

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While Matt got a fire going in the enormous fireplace, I set up a Christmas tree that I had brought with us. The end result was cozy Christmas perfection.

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We had Christmas Eve Dinner reservations at Paoletti’s, an intimate Italian restaurant that has been a favorite in the small town of Highlands for over 28 years.

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I wasn’t sure how I would feel about eating out on Christmas Eve, but we threw on something festive and stepped out into the crisp December air.

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Paoletti’s was a warm and indulgent experience.

The restaurant was PACKED. All of the people made it lively and festive. There was warmth and laughter from every table. Candles glowed. Lights twinkled.

Seriously…..it was merry and bright! Corny, but true.

We started off with cocktails while we looked over the menu.

Dinner started with a tomato caprese, with fresh basil and balsamic, and an arugula salad with goat cheese and pecans. We followed the salads and cocktails with a bottle of red wine and some hearty pasta. I have a weakness for meaty red sauce, so I dove into the Spaghetti alla Bolognese while Matt opted for the Penne alla Vodka. We wrapped up the evening with tiramisu and chilled limoncello.

I genuinely thought I’d be a little sad that I wasn’t at home, but I can’t remember a Christmas Eve I enjoyed more.

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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We woke up to the smell of woodsmoke and had coffee and cocoa by the fire. The only thing that would have made it a more perfect Christmas morning was snow.

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Christmas Day was a warm and cozy affair. There were presents and new toys for the dogs. I baked cookies. We simmered mulled wine. We took a soak in the big teak tub on the porch beside a roaring fire.

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I made a big Christmas dinner: rolls with olive tapenade, a pear and goat cheese salad, green beans with bacon and mushrooms, honey glazed carrots, parmesan crusted mashed potatoes, and the two biggest filets I could find grilled perfectly on the outdoor barbecue.

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Oh, and don’t forget the red velvet cake with a giant layer of cheesecake filling that I made.

Oh yes I did.

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We wrapped up the night with snacks by the fire while we watched old Christmas movies.

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The next morning brought a beautiful clear sunrise over the mountains and a hearty breakfast by the fire.

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Thinking we would be cabin crazy by this point, we had decided to drive to Asheville for some massages, shopping, and food.

Things started off well with massages at the Grand Bohemian hotel spa in their rustic luxe surroundings.

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We followed that by the best barbecue known to man at 12 Bones in the River Arts District. It didn’t look like much, but any place with a line has to be good.

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Matt’s ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and his smoked potato salad had chunks of smoked meat that made it maddeningly good. The jalepeno cheese grits were delicious. My pulled pork was so juicy it made my mouth water, making it hard to remember I also had mac and cheese and sweet vinegar cole slaw. The square of cornbread was so moist and so tender it was more like cake.

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My favorite had to be the wedge salad, though. The menu described it like this:

Iceberg wedge with sugar bacon, tomato, cucumber, fried onions & spicy ranch.

What it didn’t say was that there was a plethora of crispy bacon…..that it was drowning in the most savory, spicy dressing that has ever existed…..and that it was BURIED UNDER A MOUNTAIN OF FRIED ONIONS.

FRIED ONIONS, GUYS!!!!! A MOUNTAIN!

This ridiculous pile of awesomeness is only $5.

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Oh, wedge salad, will you marry me?

After the high of fried onions left us, things started to go downhill. Quickly.

Remind me NEVER to go to Asheville on the day after Christmas again.

Asheville, a tranquil bohemian downtown that I have come to love, was a thriving, fire breathing monster. There were so many bodies on the sidewalks, that you couldn’t move from one location to the next without getting jostled and shoved like you were trying to get the last loaf of bread at the Piggly Wiggly on a snow day.

It was horrifying.

We quickly cancelled our dinner reservations for that evening, ran screaming to the car, and made our way back to the peace and serenity of the cabin.

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Were we becoming home bodies?

Why yes, I think we were.

A few more days and we'd be spending all day in elastic waist sweatpants and eating Little Debbie's while we watched the Home Shopping Network.

The cabin called to us like a siren. We couldn’t escape it. It was warm. It was cozy. The fire crackled and the sun glowed on the horizon as it set over the softly rolling mountains. The dogs sat curled up on the floor chewing all their new toys at once.

It was just a wonderful place to be.

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So, instead of a dressed up night on the town at Limones in Asheville, I got creative and tried to figure out what to make from our Christmas leftovers.

Filet, mushrooms, green beans, and carrots were quickly sauteed in a skillet with some fresh rosemary I had from the potatoes:

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Cream and butter were added, along with some spices, to make it creamy:

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Then the parmesan mashed potatoes were placed on top, it was baked, and VIOLA!

A Shepherd's Pie, y'all.

Top that, Paula Deen.

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Oh.....and smoked salmon canapes!

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Not bad, if I say so myself. Maybe if Shelley Duvall has made Jack Nicholson something like this in the Shining, he wouldn't have gone cabin crazy and tried to murder them all.

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Another beautiful sunrise greeted us the next morning. We knew better than to make plans that didn’t include spending 95% of our day at the cabin, so…..we didn’t.

Matt chopped wood. We ran around in the woods with the dogs. We read by the fire.

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We made a quick run into Cashier’s for pizza and wine at Slab Town pizza. We even managed to stroll around in a few of the quaint shops before we literally ran back to the cabin.

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Seriously. We loved it there.

In hindsight, we should have just had our last meal at the cabin, but I had only brought enough food to make one meal and we had already managed to get two out of it. Three was simply out of the question unless we wanted sugar cookies and scrambled eggs for dinner.

We had made reservations at the Brown Trout, primarily because I saw lots of white twinkly lights and a fireplace when I searched it out online.

And it did indeed have lots of twinkly lights and a fireplace.

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Unfortunately, that is where the awesomeness ended.

The food was fine….spaghetti and meatballs for me (hey, there is nothing wrong with spaghetti, pizza, and spaghetti a 48 hour period….nothing…it was my Christmas and if I wanted to spend it eating spaghetti every day, I could) and the trout for Matt. It was good, not special, but good.

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The problem was that it took an hour and a half to get our meal served in this very uncrowded restaurant.

An hour and a half for average food is not fabulous. This is Matt's "I'm unimpressed" face:

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Maybe if my plate had been covered in fried onions when it arrived……

Our last morning dawned misty and cool. The fog rolled over the mountains and into the valley as we packed up Christmas and headed home.

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When all was said and done, did I like being away for Christmas?

So much that we are already planning for next year.

Happy New Year!

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Next up? We’re heading to Key West to EAT ALL THE FOOD.

Posted by vicki_h 13:40 Archived in USA Tagged mountains christmas highlands north_carolina asheville blue_ridge cashiers Comments (0)

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)

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