I wish I knew where to start to describe the incredible long weekend I just spent in one of my most favorite places with one of my most favorite people. See, Helen (from the delicious blog Tartelette) and I met on our last journey to Asheville, NC - along with several other bloggers you'll probably recognize. We ate and drank everything that wasn't nailed down. Somewhere in between all the gluttony, I totally fell in love with Asheville. As a bonus, Helen and I became blog buddies and work peers and now friends. When she was asked back to Asheville to be a judge at the National Gingerbread House Competition at Grove Park Inn, she asked me to come along. You wouldn't say no either, right?
As it was after my first visit to Asheville, I have a hard time putting all of its beauty and awesomeness into a post. As we did on our first visit, we stayed at Grove Park Inn. Let me gush for a second: it's a beautiful place. Steeped in history, it manages to be cozy and grand at the same time. There is an air of luxury while managing to be warm and accessible. Everyone I've met from Grove Park Inn has been so friendly, helpful, and accommodating.
Honestly, you really could just stay at the hotel and never leave. The views are breathtaking from the Sunset Terrace (where these first photos were taken). The Spa is one of the most remarkable I've ever seen - I fell asleep sitting in the WAITING AREA before my massage...that's how relaxing it is! Every restaurant there is fabulous in it's own way. You can have a 5 star dining experience at Horizons (which we did with the other judges on Monday night) or a scenic lunch at Sunset Terrace, which was where I ate the above lobster cobb salad like I was a pack of wild dogs.
That having been said, you're going to miss out on a lot if you don't venture out into the city. We've seen (and eaten!) a lot of Asheville in between our two visits. On this last go-round, we started out our weekend with a lovely dinner at Bistro 1896, which is on Pack Square. The short ribs there were to die for. Afterward, it was on to our favorite little spot in town, French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Dan, one of the owners along with his wife Jael, was there....and so was EVERYONE ELSE IN ASHEVILLE. This place was packed - and for good reason. Their truffles and desserts are some of the best I've ever tasted. We also got to sample their maple bacon ice cream, which was a great riff on a classic butter pecan or maple walnut flavor. The next day, we met our friend Dodie (who works for the Asheville CVB) for brunch at Corner Kitchen. Joe Scully, the chef there, has cooked for us on our last trip and we wanted to visit his restaurant. I had a KILLER bloody mary and house-made corned beef hash topped with perfect poached eggs.
Every evening, it was nice to come back to the hotel and unwind with a glass of wine in front of the huge stone fireplace in the Great Hall. We also spent a good bit of time wandering the halls of the hotel ogling & taking photos of the display of holiday trees. You can tell how much effort is put into creating a warm, festive environment in advance of the competition. The trees really are stunning - each of them with their own theme and loaded with gorgeous decorations. Perfect ways to end perfect days in Asheville.
For more photos from the trip to Asheville, see this Flickr set. I'm saving the photos and details from the competition for another post because it's really like nothing you've ever seen and I want to give it all the credit it's due. Stay tuned!