Eating in Asheville

23 October 2012

John and I have a tradition (three years strong!) of heading out to the North Carolina mountains one weekend every fall. We usually stay in the Asheville area, though last year we tried Boone with dubious results (totally not Boone’s fault, though!). Besides the gorgeous leaves and beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, one of our favorite reasons for venturing west is the food. Asheville has a plethora of delicious eating options, and I wanted to highlight the four we sampled on this trip!

First up was the White Duck Taco Shop, which we heard about through our friends Meredith and Michael. White Duck offers up some of the most delicious (if not the most delicious) queso dip I’ve ever sampled, and their salsa isn’t too shabby, either. Of course, the tacos themselves are the stars, and they don’t disappoint. Get ready for creative and unexpected combinations like lamb gyro, buffalo chicken, BBQ carnitas, thai peanut chicken, lump crab, and mole duck. John and I tried six tacos between us, and a surprisingly small amount of food went uneaten. Happily, there’s Cheerwine on the menu with which to wash everything down!

Saturday night we had dinner at Chai Pani, which bills itself as serving “Indian street food.” Since neither John nor I have visited India, I can’t vouch for the authenticity of Chai Pani’s street food claim, but I can attest that everything we tried was delicious! We split samosas, then I ordered the Sloppy Jai (a twist on the Sloppy Joe!), and John ordered the Thali, or daily special, which was Butter Chicken when we visited. I wish we had been able to sample more of the menu, because it all looked so interesting! Think shrimp and grits Indian style, tamarind short ribs, and raspberry lassi cheesecake.

Samosas from Chai Pani’s Facebook page

We saved just enough room for a post-dinner treat from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The line snaked out the door and up the sidewalk when we visited around 10pm, and though we waited for about thirty minutes, I’d say it was worth it. They even had an acoustic jazz trio playing inside, so that helped the wait go by more quickly! I ended up ordering the theros olive oil chocolate cake with strawberry sauce, which was good, but in retrospect, I wish I had ordered one of their signature hot chocolates (which come in flavors like lavender and honey, cayenne and cinnamon, and masala chai!). John ordered a tea and the mint chocolate chunk brownie, and found both to be satisfying.

Our last stop of the weekend was at an old favorite of ours, Early Girl Eatery. John uncovered this gem while researching our first Asheville trip years ago (I think he spotted it in the NY Times travel section), and we’ve returned every visit since. Odds are good that John will order the BBQ pork sandwich with ginger coleslaw and the cucumber and onion salad, and I will order the cheeseburger with basil mayo and fries. (I know what you’re thinking — cheeseburger?! — but this one is AMAZING!) Everything is extraordinarily local and seasonal, and you really can taste the difference.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no visit to Asheville is complete without a visit to Early Girl… at least not for us! Two tips for your next trip: 1) Stick around even if they give you a long wait time at the hostess station. We were quoted 30-35 minutes, but ended up being seated in 4 due to no shows! 2) If there’s any sort of cobbler on the menu, order it.

I’ll be back with more soon on our hikes (waterfalls!) and antiquing adventures!

Pumpkin chocolate chip muffins

19 October 2012

Happy Friday, friends! John and I are going on a very autumnal adventure this weekend, so I wanted to leave you with my favorite fall recipe. It is a very, very simple one (and I’ve actually shared it before, but it’s worth repeating!). Here’s my rendition of the easiest ever pumpkin chocolate chip muffins:

1) Take a Betty Crocker muffin mix and dump it in a bowl.
2) Add 4 tablespoons pumpkin puree (like Libby’s), a 1/2 cup water with 4 tablespoons removed, and a few healthy shakes of cinnamon. Stir together.
3) Bake for 16 minutes in a 400 degree oven.


P.S. Wedding china in action!

Gilded pumpkins!

18 October 2012

I did it! We braved the corn maze last Friday, and picked up a few small pumpkins at the same time. I started the transformation by applying a base coat with some spraypaint I already had in the house. It wasn’t the perfect color (a silvery gold, not the rich metallic I was going for), but it worked to tone down the orange!

I let them dry overnight, then painted on a rough coat of liquid gilding I picked up at Michael’s (with a 50% off coupon, it was about $3.50). The gilding was extremely forgiving — it kind of melded into a smooth coat all on its own, and only one coat was needed. The only bad thing about it was that it needed to be cleaned up with turpentine, which, if you haven’t used that stuff in a while, let me remind you — it stinks HORRIBLY. So much so, that I’d recommend one of the following two courses of action to myself if I were to repeat this project:

1) Buy the correct color of gold spray paint and forgo the gilding all together.
2) Use a paintbrush that you don’t mind throwing away at the end of the project.

In the end, though, the outcome was so cute for so little effort and expense! Highly recommended.

Crafting our ceremony: readings

16 October 2012

I didn’t much mention our ceremony in pre-wedding posts (though of course, I shared our chapel with you here… also mentioned tidbits here and here), mostly because we wanted as much as possible to unfold as a surprise for our guests. Behind the scenes, however, our ceremony was the topic of choice in the months leading up to the big day. The ceremony was by far the most important part of the day to John and me; we wanted it to tell a story about our relationship (where we’ve come from), our present (what we value), and our future (our hopes and dreams). Arching over everything, we tried to make decisions that would celebrate the faith we have in our Lord.

We felt one of the best ways to do that was through our readings, and we’re so pleased with the ones we decided on! One was extremely easy to pick, one was fairly easy, and the last one was quite hard. I’d love to tell you about them!

The first one, the one that was easy, was an excerpt from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. MC is one of both my and John’s favorite books, and this passage in particular has always been meaningful to us. Here it is:

When I first read this passage, soon after John and I started dating, I pretty much hated it. I thought it was unromantic, and untrue. Seven years on, I find it both terribly romantic, and very true. I would love to hear your thoughts! This reading was given by Alyssa, whom we met in college and consider the first dear friend that we made together.

Our second reading I said was fairly easy to pick. We knew we wanted a reading from the Bible, and though we considered several, including Philippians 2:1-5, Philippians 4:4-8, Romans 12:9-18, and Proverbs 3:1-12, we eventually decided on Colossians 3:12-17, RSV:

I love this reading so much, and really look to it as a guide for how I should be treating John. The patience part, I am still working on :) Some of you might remember that we also used a verse from this reading (different translation) on our invitations, so including it in our ceremony was a nice way to bring things full circle. We asked our dear friend Jackie, with whom we attended both high school AND college, to give this reading. We like to think she was extra qualified, since she had just graduated with her Master of Divinity!

For our final reading, we wanted something more “literary,” since we both have always loved reading and I was an English major with a concentration in poetry. However, it was hard to agree on a reading that we both loved AND found meaningful. We considered a few poems (I love Neruda), tossed around the idea of an excerpt from a letter between John and Abigail Adams, and almost went with this one, except that John didn’t think we should choose something that he had never heard of before our wedding:

In the end, I’m glad he insisted, because the reading we ended up with couldn’t have been more perfect. We found it by going back through a box of old letters we sent to each other over the years. In one, I had included this excerpt from The Little Prince:

Once we chose this reading, we knew exactly who we would have read it at our ceremony: my high school English teacher and long time mentor, Amanda. She did a beautiful job!

Next week, we’ll talk ceremony music selections!

Tell me: Which readings did you choose for your ceremony? I LOVE hearing what people picked, so please share!