Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Part 2 of the Asheville, NC: Top-secret Surprise Holiday Trip

21 December 2012

Despite what the Mayans thought would happen that day, Eric and I decided to make the most of it. We bundled ourselves against the fiercely blowing cold winds and ventured out into downtown Asheville to follow the self-guided 1.7 mile art and history tour known as the Asheville Urban Trail.  What a wonderful way to learn the city!  Stops included, but were certainly not limited to, an O. Henry homage of brass hair combs, braid and watch fob imbedded in the sidewalk (William Sidney Porter, better known by nome de plume O. Henry and even better known for his wonderful short story The Gift of the Magi, lived in and is buried in Asheville), numerous Thomas Wolfe mentions (a life-sized cut-out image of Wolfe marking his neighborhood, a pair of big brass shoes in front of his childhood home which served as a model for the boardinghouse in his 1929 novel, Look Homeward, Angel and a tombstone complete with carving implements that marked the spot where Wolfe’s father’s tombstone shop once stood), and architect Douglas Ellington’s gorgeous Art Deco S & W Cafeteria building (opened in 1929 by two World War I mess sergeants, closed in 1974, currently being restored and converted into lofts and retail space).

O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.  Asheville, NC.

Thomas Wolfe's neighborhood marker.  Asheville, NC.

S & W Cafeteria building.  Asheville, NC.

But, some of my favorite art came in the form of the wall dogs and graffiti that decorate the town.  

Merce Cunningham & John Cage wall dog.  Asheville, NC.
Paper flowers on a tag.  Asheville, NC.

Ishmael tag.  Asheville, NC.

That evening, Eric had reservations for us at Curatè Tapas Bar, a Spanish cuisine restaurant owned and operated by James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee Katie Button.  The menu is full of the most amazing delicacies, all of which are flagged with food allergy alerts where applicable.   The atmosphere was relatively quiet (we were early, old folks that we are), and the vibe was relaxed.  Just as Eric and I were questioning our server about certain items on the menu, the electricity blinked…twice.  We joked about the day not being over yet and how the Mayans may have indeed known exactly what they were talking about and oh, let’s order quickly so that if the world ends, it will end for us with bellies full of delicious tapas…

And so that is what we did.  We ordered Marcona almonds for an appetizer, the Tabla de Jamon (a sampling plate of three different delicately sliced hams from Spanish pigs, each fed differently, and each tasted subtly differently), Esparragos Verdes (green asparagus with the to-die-for red-pepper based Romesco sauce), and Gambas al ajillo (sautèed shrimp and garlic).  We followed everything up with dessert, Espuma de Chocolate (described by The Carolina Epicurian as “a plate smeared with hazelnut praline anchoring deeply flavored chocolate mousse, candied nuts and raspberry sorbet”)  for me, Helado de Romero (Rosemary ice cream) for Eric.  Everything was gluten free except the bread, which was served on a separate plate for Eric (who was quick to inform our server of my food allergy).  Nothing disappointed.

Later that evening, we experienced a blackout at the hotel.  For all our joking about the end of the world being nigh earlier in the day, it was very unsettling to look out of our hotel window and see blackness.  No streetlights, no restaurant lights, no super market lights.  Only the lights of cars, bravely motoring along in the dark.  

Marcona almonds, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Tabla de Jamon, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Gambas al ajillo, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Espuma de Chocolate, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.

Helado de Romero, Curatè Tapas Bar.  Asheville, NC.                                                                                                                              



Eric Wright said...

I'm going to remember that meal FOREVER. I had hyped it a bunch and it lived up to it. So good.
Thanks for documenting it all so well.

lauri said...

Oh my, the food is crazy. I want a taste of it all.