I don’t live there anymore; Asheville. Like a lot of people from Western North Carolina, I grew up in one of its dusty corners…in a suburb decorated with swimming holes, pick-up trucks, and men with mouths full of Appalachian marbles. It was Friday night football games, Saturday night moonshine, and Sunday morning worship. But it was all in earshot of the drum circle that all of our grandparents were afraid of, its heartbeat pulsing from the middle of town into the night air that smelled like cold river water in the winter, onion grass in the spring, honeysuckle in the summer, and burning leaves in the fall. I’m from a place that could feel like the epicenter of restraint and progress at once, a place where people who smell like Patchouli still drink sweet tea, a place where New Age musicians play a banjo…a place that is always its opposite inside of itself. It was a place I couldn’t wait to leave, I guess because all teengagers want to leave wherever they’re from, blaming it for anything that could possibly be wrong about them. But today I look back, and realize it’s a lot of who I am. I’m not sorry I left. I was meant to live by the ocean, but I appreciate it now, so much, the place I am from–because I’m comfortable in my skin, something I couldn’t always say was true. Asheville built my bones, and this is my ode to it and it’s people. So here is a list of things old and new to consider if you pass through my homeland…just my shout out to the little place on the Earth that made me. Today I salute the tastes of where I’m from…stay tuned for more in this five part series!
Taste it. Asheville is a place flowing of brews, spirits, and near magical elixirs that whisper mountain tales on the palate. Somet hings taste like the rich dirt itself, the wildflowers, and the mist on the hillsides. It’s true. It’s in the brews and recipes.
Everyone knows about Wicked Weed, because, I mean…its Wicked Weed. Its big and cool and knows its beer. You should definitely go, and open your mind to a good sour if they have one on tap. I think they do the best sours on the freaking planet. But if you want to venture off the beaten path a little, my favorite little micro brewery is Oyster House in West Asheville. I like their stouts, and they pair well with any oyster dish on the menu. Its a cozy little joint in one of Asheville’s quirky corners..and just down the road from Dolly Parton (you’ll undertand in my next article). You won’t be sad you go. https://oysterhousebeers.com/
However, try not to forget that Asheville is more than beer. On some random evening, particularly if its raining, my favorite little bar, The Crow and Quill should not be forsaken. It’s dimly lit, full of dead flowers, and smells like Edgar Allen Poe’s aftershave. It has enough character to draw you in, but doesn’t insist upon itself to the point of inauthenticity. I always feel like its possible on any given stormy evening there I could brush elbows with the ghosts of The Fitzgeralds or Hemmingway…I’m still holding on to hope. If you go there, drink whiskey or gin. Anything else would be a crime. If I found out you’ve done otherwise, I might put you into one of my novels as a ridiculous villain of some sort. You’ve been warned. https://www.thecrowandquill.com/
Now for the hangover cure. Jun. A lot of people don’t know what Jun is, or they think they know and call it kombucha. It’s actually an ancient Eastern world tonic made from fermented Green tea, and honey. It has trace amounts of alcohol and caffeine so minute a child can partake…but the elements mix into magic. It’s a delicious slightly sweet, slightly tart elixir that just sprinkles small bits of energy and life into your belly…I don’t know what it is exactly, but it makes me feel more home than just about anything. It tastes like bees buzzing around in the summertime…however that is possible. It feel like drinking something secret and magic and healing. To get the good stuff you have to hit up Shanti Elixirs. You’ll know when you taste it. And tell Shanti I sent you. (Follow @shantielixirs on Instagram and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shantielixirs/
The food is as important as the drinks, and the sky really is the limit. Asheville can be Grandma’s fried squash from the garden, gravy bars, New South fusions, or Ethinic artistry from any imaginable corner of the world. My suggestion…just try all of it. I’m not naming many specifics here because there is too much…go with your gut…wander down side streets. Follow your nose…you’ll stumble upon mixes and matches that make no sense until of course, the pure ecstasy. I will suggest breakfast at Sunny Point Cafe, lunch at The Greenhouse (with a cider flight), and dinner at Zambra (I prefer it to Curate…but no hate to either!) That’s all I’ll say—you do the rest. But so help me God if I find out you went to like Chili’s or something while you were in town…
I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice…find a man with long hair and a comforting smile, and ask him where to get moonshine…the real stuff. He’ll hesitate at first, not wanting to rat out his buddy. You then just start chatting, be nice, find a common ground…he’ll come out with it. You go pick it up from an old gentlemen in overalls. If it is not an old gentlement in overalls, you run away. It will be in a mason jar and referred to as White Lightnin’. You will also be offered the special batch Apple Pie…you will purchase this as well. Then you will take it back to your Air BnB or friend’s house (never a hotel), and drink it with care, on a front or back porch with someone you love. You will sip slowly, and talk about all the things people don’t talk about. And this night…this will be your favorite.~
Stay tuned for more sesnses of Asheville from Yours Truly!
by Lorna Hollifield (Asheville native, fiction author, and columnist)