Asheville – Hippies Hipsters and Haunted Houses (well not really I just wish)

Ok so the Biltmore Estate is not the Haunted House at Walt Disney World but from certain angles outside it looks like the most awesome haunted house ever! Inside is pretty cool too but they won’t let you take pictures – damn it.

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That photo is from their website.
My photos of the front of the house sucked.

These are the ones I took closer up. They aren’t too bad.

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Standing in the patio area in front of the house.

The drive up to the house (sorry did not take pictures I was enjoying the view and forgot) you drive past creeks and fields and through beautiful woods. The landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park in NYC designed the property for George Vanderbilt. Is seems like just natural woods but he actually designed it all. You drive through a beautiful gate then past the ticket and welcome center and along a 2 mile winding path, every step is the same route taken by Vanderbilt and their guests 120 years ago. They’ve done a beautiful job of keeping the property as it was when it was built and as it was intended.

You can do a self guided tour or take several behind the scenes tours. I recommend renting the audio equipment for the self guided tour. They give you so much info on everything you are looking at. I can’t describe the magnificence of this house. The family was pretty amazing too. They paid their employees NYC wages and paid all their medical expenses. When someone became ill they continued to pay them and held their job for them. They built a village where married employees lived. (the Biltmore Village is still there some of the original homes are restaurants and shops and the rest are now hotels and stores but you can still see where this little village was) There’s just so much info about this family and the estate.

Here are a couple of links

Wikipedia – Biltmore Estate
Biltmore Estate Website

Off the amazing library is a patio covered with a grape vine. From the family photos you can see they spent a lot of time here. The patio over looks a large side yard that at one time had a pool. From this yard you can see the amazing grounds and it leads down to
the formal garden and green house.

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That gravel area was where the pool was. It originally was like this then they added a pool for their daughter Cornelia. Later it was taken out again to restore it back to the original yard.

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The garden was mostly bare from photos it looks like spring is the time to go to see it in full bloom. The trees all had color still and they still had plenty of plantings just no flowers. Inside, the green house was filled with tropical plants.

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After touring the house we had Afternoon Tea at the Inn on Biltmore. It was a great way to include a little bit of the Vanderbilt tradition in our visit. I highly recommend arriving a little early and having a drink at the bar and sitting on the terrace to take in the view.
Again – no pictures, sorry.

But here’s a picture of the view from our table at tea, very similar to the view from the bar’s terrace.

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Afternoon Tea

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I looked at the hotels in the Biltmore area – the Grand Bohemian is beautiful, brand new building that looks ancient. The rates are really reasonable. The Inn on Biltmore Estate and the Village Hotel are crazy expensive. $400+ and it doesn’t include admission to the house. Both are so far away (4 miles I think) from the house that you would still have to drive there so I’m not really sure what the perks are. You can rent bikes, go for a horse ride, and do all of the other things on the estate without staying there. The Grand Bohemian is in the Biltmore Village, across the street from the entrance gate to the Biltmore.

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This is the Red Stag Grille in the lobby of the Grand Bohemian.

These photos are from Google

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There are several B&B’s, hotels, and lofts for rent on Airbnb and VRBO downtown. I don’t recommend the Grove Park Inn. It’s really really dated and not worth the price. It’s about a 15 min drive from downtown to the Biltmore. So stay where you’ll be the most. It’s very easy to drive around the city but hard to park downtown. Although there are parking garages.

The food and bars in Asheville are great. But after a few days it’s kind of hipster overload. When you are planning where you’ll eat I highly recommend mixing in something other then farm to table rustic or you’ll be so over it pretty quickly. Same thing for the craft cocktails. I think we’re about to implode with this stuff. The drinks are getting more and more complicated or really not complicated at all just described in an obnoxiously complicated way.
Can I just get a Makers and ginger please.

So here’s our dining experience.

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Biscuit Heads

2 locations – get there early or on a weekday or the line will be out the door. And totally worth it!

Cat head sized fresh made biscuits, a long list of gravies, the gravy of the day was bacon mushroom, a jam and butter bar, and tons of cool options. Top picture is a biscuit with greens, pimento cheese, mushroom bacon gravy, and bacon. The jams were homemade sweet potato butter, peach strudel butter, strawberry jam,
and citrus basil jam. Stupid good.

Tupelo Honey Café

Can’t go to Asheville without going here. And even with all the new places that have opened in the last 10 years it was still on the top of my list. We had breakfast and dinner there this time. And the service is unbelievably genuine southern hospitality.

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Breakfast – wheat toast with pimento cheese, fresh tomatoes, and pepper bacon and a sweet potato pancake bigger than the plate with pecan granola on top and sorghum syrup.

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Dinner – country ham wontons with a Brussels sprout slaw and the veggie plate with greens, beans and mac and cheese.

Rhubarb

They took 3 restaurants and turned them into one very cool rustic farm to table place. We had an afternoon snack at the bar and breakfast. Would love to go back for dinner.

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A dark rum, homemade pear ginger beer and soda and one of the local craft beers on tap. Their house made charcuterie, pickles,
and local cheese board.

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Breakfast – fresh everything. I forgot to take a picture of my house made English muffin with bacon and a sunny side up egg. A friend got the cruffin. A croissant that is baked in a muffin tin with bacon, cheese, and thinly sliced potato and comes with a side of cream cheese and chives. Once again, stupid good. They also had
another option with rhubarb jam.

There are tons of options for brunch usually on Saturday and Sunday and every place has their own take on Bloody Mary’s

Posana

Right next to Rhubarb. This place was a welcome break from all the hipster rustic-ness of everything else in town. More refined – still had a nod to that whole vibe though.

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My pictures are dark and not doing it justice. Braised then pan seared pork shoulder with sweet potato puree and apple sautéed with greens. Smoked butternut squash with goat cheese, golden raisins, pecans, and crispy leeks with a kale currant and pear salad. So yummy.

Some other places that I don’t have pictures for but you could try

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

They are across the street from Rhubarb – they have a small shop where they sell chocolate bars and ice cream and next to it is the lounge where they sell desserts and drinking chocolate

Wicked Weed

A local brewing company that also has a great restaurant and full bar. Upstairs is the full restaurant and outside they have fire pits. Downstairs is a limited menu and just beer and wine but you can sit outside (they have heaters when it’s cold) The bar snacks were great. Didn’t try the sandwiches but they also looked great.
Definitely want to try them next time.

Social Lounge

Fun quiet bar with a cocktail called the Buttercup. As my friend says it’s so good she’s sure it has crack in it. I agree, I was hooked immediately. The upstairs outside patio was really nice.

Every block downtown has a bar or a brewery. There are tons of shops, restaurants, galleries, and antiques. In the Biltmore Village area you have the chain stores like J Crew and William Sonoma.

Their airport is tiny so it’s so easy to get in and out.
20 minutes from downtown too.

Click here for more info about Asheville.

Loaded Baked Potato Salad

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1 bag of mini gold potatoes

6 slices of thick cut bacon

2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup chopped chives or green onion

2 cups grape tomatoes

4 oz cream cheese; softened

2 cups non-fat plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup good Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 of a Vidalia onion; grated

Salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 475 and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil then spray it with cooking spray

Cut the potatoes into bit sized pieces and spread them out on the baking sheet. Lay the 6 pieces of bacon over the potatoes.

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Bake in the oven at 475 for about 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender and the bacon is almost cooked. Change the oven to broil and broil the bacon and potatoes until the bacon is crispy – about 8-10 minutes. Then remove the bacon and drain it and continue to broil the potatoes about another 5-10 minutes or until they are browned and crispy.

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Remove from the oven and let cool.

Mix the cream cheese, yogurt, mustard, vinegar, grated onion, salt and pepper in a bowl. Taste. If it needs more bite add a little more vinegar.

Cut the grape tomatoes into thirds and combine with the shredded cheese, and chives or green onion in a bowl.

Break the bacon into bite sized pieces and add to the cheese and tomato mixture. Add the potatoes and the dressing. Combine everything.

Chill until ready to serve. The dressing can really thicken up in the fridge so you might want to loosen it a little with a little more yogurt. Let it rest at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving too.

Nice little twist – instead of potatoes use tater tot crowns. Just cook them longer than the package suggests so they are really crispy then toss them with everything else. But mix this and use it. The tater tots will completely lose their crunch if you make it ahead of time and refrigerate it.

Yuletide Baskets

 2012 Xmas Baskets - Jars

The beautiful picture above and all those below were taken by my awesome daughter-in-law. Follow her blog at crotchetandcroptops.wordpress.com and on Etsy.

Buying presents for people for the holidays is really hard. I really really believe it’s the thought that counts. When someone takes time to pick out something you love. That they have listened to your ideas and what you like long enough to find something you like. Not something they like. That’s easy and really kind of pointless. If you want to buy something you like then buy it for yourself. Don’t pretend you were thinking of the other person when you bought it. Price isn’t the point either. A really cool $15 multi-colored skull bracelet or super gingery ginger-ale in cool bottles are way more me than diamond earrings. So I try really hard to think of the person I”m buying or making for. Sometimes its easy – a young couple setting up a house for the first time – they need lots of things. But when you’ve been around for 40 or 50 years you kind of have enough stuff. You know.

So I made baskets.

I picked themes I thought each person would like but kept it reasonable. I can sometimes go crazy with details than stress myself out. Well maybe more than sometimes.

So I made a plan.

Wrote down my list of basket recipients then started to list items I thought they would like. I started with making sure each basket had a bread, a cookie, a jam, etc. then tried to use similar ingredients in different ways to keep the cost under control. I made the freezeable items a week ahead the jams a few days ahead and the fresh items then night before (keep those to a minimum you will always have a crap load of stuff to do at the last-minute so don’t over load yourself)

Once the list is done and the grocery list is done. Start saving old jam jars, pesto jars, cool spaghetti sauce jars, really any kind of container you use. If it’s cool remove the label, use goo gone to remove the sticky mess under the label. Run it through the dishwasher to sterilize it then you’re good to go. But keep in mind you have to refrigerate what you make, you can’t re-seal reused jars.

Then assemble baskets, ribbon, swatches of fabric, and tags. You can make your own tags from cool Xmas cards. Buy them after the holidays on sale then cut the front off the card and cut it to form a tag. Add ribbon. Go to a craft store like Micheals and get rolls of real ribbon not the plasticy kind you curl on packages. Real ribbon makes a huge difference and they have every pattern and color you can imagine. Micheals also has cool packaging containers. Little paper cups to hold truffles or cellophane to wrap the whole basket in.

Now make your stuff. Jar it, wrap it, put a ribbon on it. Hand it over with a big smile.

So back to the point… Yuletide Baskets. Here’s what I made.

2012 Xmas Baskets - Italian

 Italian Basket

Clockwise starting at the star

Apricot and Rosemary Tapenade

2 cups apricots

1 large bunch rosemary

salt and pepper

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

Olive oil

Put the apricots, rosemary, and garlic in a food processor and process until very small pieces. Add the vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Add enough olive oil to bind it all. Fill 2 jars, cover, and refrigerate.

Marinated mozzarella with peppers and pink pepper berries

3-4 medium fresh mozzarella balls

1 bay leaf

1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves

1 red bird’s-eye chili pepper; sliced in half

zest from 1 lemon

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 clove of garlic, peeled and halved

1 teaspoon pink pepper berries

Extra virgin olive oil

Combine all in a large jar. Keep refrigerated.

Italian quick bread with prosciutto, parmesan, and Italian herbs

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs; lightly beaten

1 – 8oz carton plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup milk

2 tablespoons Italian herb mix

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella

4 very thinly sliced pieces of prosciutto

Preheat the oven to 350; grease a loaf pan. Combine the flour, sugar, black pepper, baking powder, baking soda, and Italian herbs in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, yogurt, oil, and milk; add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the parmesan, mozzarella, and prosciutto. Add to the pan, drizzle the top with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden.

I don’t make bread – I don’t have the patience to wait for the yeast to rise then knead it and all that. I love this bread because you just mix it and bake it and can change the ingredients to any kind of theme. 

Bellini jam with peaches and Prosecco

1 cup sugar

1 cup finely chopped, peeled ripe peaches

1/4 cup Prosecco

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/8 of a 6oz package of liquid fruit pectin

Combine sugar, peaches, Prosecco, and lemon juice in a medium pan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Quickly stir in the pectin and return to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, skim off foam. Add to jar and refrigerate.

Cranberry and Pistachio Biscotti

Recipe from FoodNetwork.com – I didn’t dip them in the white chocolate.

(the spices are from Spice and Tea Exchange)

2012 Xmas Baskets - Southwestern

Southwestern Basket

Clockwise from the star on the right

Southwestern quick bread with cheddar and jalapeno

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs; lightly beaten

1 – 8oz carton plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 jalapeno finely chopped and seeds removed

Preheat the oven to 350; grease a loaf pan. Combine the flour, sugar, black pepper, salt, baking powder, and baking soda, in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, yogurt, oil, and milk; add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the cheddar and jalapeno. Add to the pan, drizzle the top with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden.

Candies jalapeno with blackberries

8 jalapeno; most seeds removed (more seeds more spicy) and chopped

2 cups sugar

1 green apple; shredded

juice and zest of 1 lime

1 cup blackberries

Combine the jalapeno, sugar, apple, and lime juice in a medium pan and simmer on medium until the jalapeno start to break down. Add the blackberries and cook until a thin jam consistency. Fill and jar and refrigerate. This is great on cream cheese with crackers or with chicken or on sandwiches.

Coconut and lime macaroons

14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

14 oz bag of coconut; shredded

2 extra-large egg whites; at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of salt

zest from 1 lime

15 dried cranberries (soak in warm water to reconstitute)

Heat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. Combine the condensed milk, coconut, vanilla, and zest. Whip the eggs and salt until medium peaks form; fold into the milk mixture. Drop teaspoon sized cookies onto the baking sheet and top each with a cranberry. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

(the chocolate is dark chocolate with chili – the spices are from Spice and Tea Exchange)

2012 Xmas Baskets - Southern 2

Southern Basket

clockwise from star

Brown sugar chocolate chip cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks softened unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 bag Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375 and line a cookie sheet with a silpat or grease. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a stand mixer combine the butter, brown sugar, and sugar. Blend until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add the flour mixture. Using a spoon stir in the chocolate chips. Drop onto the cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool 1 minute then transfer to rack to cool completely.

I learned how to bake from my grandmother Pat “memaw”. She made the nestle toll house cookies from the recipe on the bag. Over the years I’ve messed with it until it came out just the way I like it. The brown sugar gives it a richer flavor. The butter also adds more flavor than the original Crisco. Sometimes I add instant espresso powder (or turkish ground espresso) or cinnamon.

Southern quick bread with cheddar, bacon, and caramelized onion

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons cracked black pepper

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs; lightly beaten

1 – 8oz carton plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 slices of crisp cooked bacon; chopped

1/2 cup of caramelized onions (chopped then cooked over low heat until golden)

Preheat the oven to 350; grease a loaf pan. Combine the flour, sugar, black pepper, baking powder, and baking soda, in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Combine the eggs, yogurt, oil, and milk; add to the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Stir in the cheddar, bacon, and onion. Add to the pan, drizzle the top with melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes until lightly golden.

Dill and pink pepper berry pickled cucumber, carrots, and peppers

2 cups apple cider vinegar

3 teaspoons pickling salt

8 garlic cloves; peeled

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 teaspoons dill seed

2 teaspoons pink pepper berries

2 teaspoon black peppercorns

4 pickle sized cucumbers (I like the english minis); sliced in quarters

8 baby carrots with the tops on; sliced in half lengthwise

8 mini bell peppers in various colors; sliced in half lengthwise

Combine the vinegar, 2 cups water, pickling salt in a pot and boil. Divide the garlic, red pepper flakes, dill seed, pink pepper berries, and black peppercorns among 4 jars. Divide the cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers among the jars. Allow the brine to cool slightly then pour over each jar until almost full. Cover and refrigerate.

Tomato and onion jam

5 plum tomatoes; diced

1/4 cup Vidalia onion; finely chopped

2 cloves garlic; minced

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup roasted red peppers; drained and chopped

Combine all the ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until the liquid is reduced to a syrup. Allow to cool completely then fill 4 jars and refrigerate.

Pimento cheese with bacon and onion

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese

1 – 8 oz block of cream cheese

1/2 onion; grated

4 slices of crisp bacon; chopped

1 teaspoon hot sauce

salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl until well blended. If it’s too thick add a little non-fat greek yogurt to thin. Put in 2 jars and refrigerate.

(the spices are from Spice and Tea Exchange – the jar with the tag is local honey)

 2012 Xmas Baskets - honey and scones

English Basket

We have afternoon tea every holiday at The Grand Floridian’s Gardenview Tea Room in Walt Disney World. My grandmother, “Rana” had tea in the afternoons it was simple heated sweet tea in a mug and captain wafers with sliced cheddar cheese. Nothing fancy but so awesome. I really miss her. My mom and I really love tea so this was part of a bigger basket. Most of it was purchased. Teas, candies, lemon curd, etc. Here’s what I made…

Cranberry orange scones

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter; cold and cut into small pieces

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla

zest of 1 orange

1 cup fresh cranberries; chopped

heavy cream and sugar

Heat oven to 400 and line the cookie sheet with a silpat. Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into the flour. Add the cranberries and orange zest. Add the vanilla and buttermilk. Mix with your hands until blended. Pat onto a floured surface and shape into a long rectangular log. Cut into triangles and place on the cookie sheet. Brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 scones.

Sugar plums 

2012 Xmas Baskets - sugar plums

1 1/4 cups almonds; toasted

1 1/2 cups dried plums (prunes)

1 1/2 cups dried apricots

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground anise

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Coarse sanding sugar

Combine the almonds, plums, apricots, honey, orange zest, cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg in a food processor and process until a sticky ball forms. Make walnut sizes balls and roll in the coarse sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Makes 20 balls.

These are so cool. Everyone’s heard of sugar plums but have you ever made them or even eaten them? Love the idea of such a traditional sweet for Yule.

Here are the spices from Spice and Tea Exchange… 

2012 Xmas Baskets - Seasonings