by Robert Mason Jr.
You can call it a whirlwind tour of Asheville, N.C., a weekend getaway, or a vacation in a box.
I call it a good-time mix of music, food, spirits and friends.
We didn’t do it all, but we tried and there’s plenty more where that came from.
Let’s review the highlights. From my perspective—which may not be the most popular, most relative, most appropriate, most politically correct, most respected, most acceptable, or most favorite, even among my travel buddies—the best of Asheville includes…
• Welcome to Downtown Asheville on a Thursday evening, the Bluegrass Jam at Jack of the Wood, the original home of Green Man Brewing and a locally sourced pub. The venue is recognized as a Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina site, offering an Old-Time Jam on Wednesdays and a variety of genres on Fridays and Saturdays.
• Local craft beer: Green Man IPA.
• Pub fare: Jack’s Shepherd’s Pie.
• Late night exotic cocktail: the Peaky Blinders mixed by “Joe the Bartender” at The Times at S&W, a 20s-style bar.
• Late night locals dive in the downtown area: Foggy Mountain Brew Pub.
• Tourist attraction: Biltmore House & Gardens. George Vanderbilt’s 250-room house has over four acres of floor space.
• Room at the Biltmore House: (tie) the library and the billiard room.
• Garden: Rose Garden.
• Rose: Mr. Lincoln.
• Winery in the greater Asheville area: the Biltmore Winery, the most visited winery in the nation.
• Biltmore wine: Biltmore Estate Limited Release Chenin Blanc, sweet, fruity, floral aromas, citrus flavors. I like ’em sweet and this is my new favorite.
• Southern scratch-made cuisine: Tupelo Honey.
• Biscuit: Tupelo Honey.
• Quote of the weekend: “A good biscuit is a thing of beauty!” —Azalee.
• Outlaw alternative country rock honky-tonk band: Uncle Ben’s Remedy, appearing at Jack of the Wood.
• City tour: Gray Line Historic Trolley Tours of Asheville.
• Burger: Burgerworx. Customized burgers your way.
• Bookstore: Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, a used book store in the heart of Asheville, combining wine and good reads.
• Ice cream: The Hop Ice Creamery.
• Flavor by the scoop at The Hop: (tie) lemon cream, strawberry and cardamom.
• Happy hour treetop view: The Omni Grove Park Inn.
• Outdoor concert in the park: 52nd annual Shindig on the Green at Pack Square Park, music and dance traditions of Southern Appalachia, a Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina event. Bluegrass, old-time and square dancing to start the evening.
• Street musicians: Vader Landers and The Do Rights.
• Pronunciation goof: (tie) concierge, as in inflated doorman, and tempranillo, as in the grape.
• Creative cuisine: Chestnut.
• Soup: (tie) Chestnut’s scratch-made lobster bisque and chicken gumbo.
• Medium plate: (tie) Chestnut’s pickled green tomato tower, petite filet, hand-rolled goat cheese ravioli.
• Charcuterie: Chestnut.
• Tavern: Pack’s Tavern.
• Orange crush: Pack’s Tavern’s frozen orange concoction—the coldest drink in Asheville.
• Classic rock band: Flashback appearing at Pack’s Tavern.
• Morning hike: The Botanical Gardens at Asheville adjacent to the campus of the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
• Cidery: Urban Orchard Cider Co., “all ciders are crafted from Hendersonville, N.C., apples and aged a minimum of 8 months.”
• Cider: Urban Orchard’s Sweet English Cider. Tastes just like a Hendersonville apple.
• Barbecue: Luella’s Bar-B-Que.
• Deviled eggs: Luella’s Bar-B-Que.
• Collard greens: Luella’s Bar-B-Que.
• Black eye pea salad: Luella’s Bar-B-Que.
• Grits with green chilies: Luella’s Bar-B-Que.
• Souvenir: (tie) the CDs “Do Right or Don’t” by Vader Landers and The Do Rights, “Not Far From The Trees” and “Yesterday’s Clothes” by Uncle Ben’s Remedy; bottles of the Biltmore Estate Limited Release Chenin Blanc, the award-winning Biltmore Estate Pinot Grigio, and the Biltmore Estate Limited Release Tempranillo; a Biltmore wine glass; a Pack’s Tavern tumbler; a Pack’s Tavern tee-shirt; a pre-read copy of Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life, by Thomas Wolfe, a native of Asheville; and fond memories.