Category Archives: Asheville

Asheville Day Trip: Wicked Weed, French Broad Chocolate Shop & Urban Orchard

Asheville makes for a great day trip, if you’re hungry, thirsty and willing to make the drive. Our first stop was Wicked Weed, where strangers and locals meet to drink great beer. And that’s exactly what we did. We sat downstairs in the tasting room, at a community table, and met a local gentleman who suggested some of his favorite items on the menu.

When I go to a brewery, I usually don’t expect anything more than average pub food. So, when I saw the food options, I was surprised by the creative combinations on the menu. Just check out these sandwiches on their menu:

Sandwich Menu

Sandwich Menu

I ordered the fried chicken sandwich. The crispy fried chicken was complemented by the sour, fermented cabbage (kimchi) and the sweetness from the miso mayonnaise. It was different than any sandwich I’ve ever had and it was quite satisfying.

Fried chicken + kimchi + miso mayonnaise

Fried chicken + kimchi + miso mayonnaise

Classic beef burger + lettuce + tomato + onion + pickle

Classic beef burger + lettuce + tomato + onion + pickle

My friend ordered the classic burger. If I were him, I definitely would have gone for the bison burger with haystack shallots and blue cheese coleslaw. However, he enjoyed his classic burger, although he said it could have been juicier.

If you are an IPA fan, you must also try Wicked Weed’s “Freak of Nature Double IPA.” The Freak of Nature is 8% abv and has too many ibu’s to put a number to it. They have quite the beer selection, ranging from local IPAs and pale ales to Belgian and wood-aged beers. I sampled the muscadine beer, because I have only ever had Muscadine wine, and I was intrigued. I am not a fan of muscadine wine, but the beer was pretty good. They also had “apple pie saison” and perhaps the most interesting was “sweet potato and grits saison.”

Selection of pale ales

Selection of pale ales

After getting some food and beer, it was time to visit the highly regarded French Broad Chocolate Shop. This is where you want to go to indulge. Try one of their brownies, whether you eat it there or take it for later. I took mine for later (ate it that night) and ordered Mexican hot chocolate. I could not let this delicious sounding concoction pass me by: “contemporary Mexican-style hot chocolate with house chocolate, almonds, sugar, cinnamon, and milk.” It smelled delicious and after letting it cool enough to drink – or so I thought, until I burned by tongue – I was disappointed because it didn’t taste as good as it smelled. While the chocolatey taste was phenomenal,  the chili powder was overpowering. I was hoping to taste more of the other flavors, like the cinnamon and almond. Nevertheless, still visit this lovely shop if you’re in Asheville. Just make sure you will like what you order!

French Broad Chocolate Shop

French Broad Chocolate Shop

While at Wicked Weed, the gentleman told us of a cidery down the street. Urban Orchard is a new establishment in Asheville, serving a selection of ciders and beers. We both ordered the flight, which included a seasonal cranberry cider and an apple-ginger cider. The ginger cider was my favorite and tasted the most like actual cider. I also enjoyed the unfiltered apple cider. However, the other ciders seemed to be missing the crisp, refreshing taste that I am used to in ciders, rather leaving me with the taste of flavored champagne. Urban Orchard is a good spot to meet friends, kick back and have a beer. But if you’re going for cider, don’t waste your time on the flight. Go for the ginger cider. With that said, I like the idea of the company, which sources apples from Hendersonville, NC, and crafts the ciders in-house.


Urban Orchard Cider Company

Urban Orchard Cider Company

Noble Cider was also recommend and I sampled their cider at Wedge Brewing Company. We didn’t stay at Wedge long because it was getting late, but I will be going back because of the friendly laid-back vibe and the big outdoor courtyard that hosts food trucks and corn hole games.

Thank you for all of your suggestions on our Facebook page. I will be making a trip back to Asheville soon to try some more of your recommendations. If you haven’t already liked our Facebook page, you can find it here:

Have a great week!


RECIPE: Grilled N.C. Tomato & Roasted Onion Gazpacho, Avocado Sorbet

I was searching for some recipes for North Carolina tomatoes and came across the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services website which has some pretty cool recipes from local North Carolina restaurants. The following recipe is from their tomato page as a marketing tool. It was from the kitchen at the now defunct Fiore’s Ristorante Toscana which closed in February after a dispute between the restaurant owner (son) and property owner (father). The son, chef Anthony Cerrato, has since opened Strada in Asheville.

Here is the recipe:

Grilled North Carolina Tomato & Roasted Onion Gazpacho, Avocado Sorbet

  • 4 Yellow NC tomatoes
  • 4 Red NC tomatoes
  • 1 seedless cucumber
  • 2 medium red onions
  • ¼ t kosher salt
  • 1/8 t fresh black pepper
  • ¼ t celery salt
  • 1 ½ T Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce

Peel and cut onion into ¼ inch rings. Lightly coat with olive oil and roast in a 350-degree oven until very tender. Remove from oven and allow to completely cool.

Cut all of the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices.  On a low flame, grill the yellow tomatoes, approximately 45 seconds on each side. Immediately remove and place into a bowl and allow to cool.

Finely julienne and dice the cucumber.    Small chop the roasted onion.

Combine all of the ingredients together. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Avocado Sorbet

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • pinch of salt

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and pulse until smooth. Remove and “turn” in an ice cream maker until set. Keep covered in the freezer.

To serve: Place 6 ounces of gazpacho into each bowl. Top each with one quenelle of sorbet. Garnish with chive stems.

Urban Burrito and The Hop Ice Cream: A Giant Jerk (Burrito) Should Always Be Followed By Two Scoops

The following is an excerpt from the Asheville Food and Entertainment Blog

A Post By Blondesided

Photo Credit: The Hop Ice Cream Cafe

There are some nights a girl just wants to snuggle up with some take out and some ice cream.  Tonight was one of those nights. As the Twitterphile  that I have become lately (thank you Gary with G Social Media for my new addiction), I had been reading tweets all day about the Hop’s new ice cream – Cranberry Gorgonzola. It sounded like one of those flavors just crazy enough to work.

And speaking of work, I had been in the office for about 11 hours with only a tiny frozen dinner to fill me up and so my tummy was really growling for some attention. So… I headed down Merrimon Avenue in search of the obligatory dinner that I could follow with the ice cream of which I had spent the day dreaming.

A girlfriend of mine had recently started working at Urban Burrito directly above The Hop, so that seemed a logical choice for food. I could say hi to a friend, grab a burrito for the road and quench my burning ice cream desire all in one stop of the car – perfect!

I ran into The Hop first. The guy with the scoop was patient with me as always as I tried several of their new flavors. You see, Jeb thinks he is a wizard at mixing beers…well ice cream is my thing! I believe my most impressive Hop mix to date was a scoop of Lusty Monk mustard ice cream and a scoop of pumpkin. It was delish if  I do say so myself. After trying several, I decided that the perfect mix for the Cranberry Gorgonzola was going to be Salted Caramel.

I ran upstairs to the Urban Burrito and ordered a Jerk Chicken burrito at my friends suggestions. All of the staff was friendly. From Brian who helped me choose a spinach wrap to Mark who cashed me out. I was in and out quickly and ready to head home to a quiet night in.

I walked in the house, popped open a Highland Oatmeal Porter, kicked my shoes off  and sat down to my giant burrito. The chicken was seasoned perfectly and the pineapple salsa was definitely my favorite part. I even had some leftover for my housemate.

And then….ahhhh…the ice cream.  At last. The salted caramel had ended up on the bottom and the Gorgonzola on the top. After that first bite, I am quite sure I heard a chorus of angels begin to sing and bright rays of light shown through my window and landed right in my cup. Yes. It was an almost religious experience. It tasted almost like cheesecake but with a bit more tang. And the salted caramel  was similar to a graham cracker crust. Simply divine.

So if you have an adventurous palate for ice cream, I highly recommend that you get into The Hop before they run out of this batch. And if you prefer the more traditional, well I am pretty sure they don’t even know how to make ice cream that doesn’t completely rock.

Follow @hopicecream

REVIEW: Silver Dollar Restaurant – Asheville

The following is an excerpt from the Asheville Food and Entertainment Blog

A Post by Blondesided

History on the wall at Silver Dollar

Stepping into the Silver Dollar restaurant is like stepping back in time about 40 years.  Avocado green formica tables with harvest gold bench seats line the wood paneled walls which are covered with articles and old photos depicting Asheville history.

Jeb and I were greeted at the door by a petite Greek woman standing near the old cigarette machine who directed us to the more comfortable booths with a warm smile. The smells of bacon and sausage cooking on the griddle made my mouth water. I felt instantly at home.

Menus and waters were promptly placed on our table and our drink orders were taken. I drank fresh, hot coffee from a cup which never got below half full and Jeb drank iced tea that was so sweet it’d make your teeth hurt.

That’s a lot of food!

After placing our orders, we were entertained by our waitress with stories about the restaurant, the neighborhood and Asheville history. “Do you remember that blizzard of ’93?” she recounted, “Yep, I’m 4’11” and that snow came half way up my backside.” She also told us stories of the filming of the chase scenes in the 1958 movie Thunder Road and how the restaurant had once been on the other side of the street before the bridge was built.

By the time our food came, it could have been mediocre and I still knew I would be back. With friendly service and attention like this, it would be difficult not to love the little place. The food, however, did not disappoint. Jeb’s pork chop and scrambled eggs with cheese were seasoned and cooked perfectly. My western omelet was fluffy and stuffed with fillings. It was the potatoes though that had both of our eyes rolling back in our heads. They were salty and delicious and the best thing on the plate.

We, of course, also ordered a side of biscuits and gravy. Though it didn’t have sausage in it, as I am still looking for, the biscuits were light and buttery and the gravy was definitely something worthy of a return visit.

The Silver Dollar was a quaint diner whose friendly staff created a cozy spot where you can get delicious home cooking at a cheap price and served with a warm smile and side of Asheville history.

Silver Dollar Cafe on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: The Admiral – Asheville

The following is an excerpt from the Asheville Food and Entertainment Blog

A Post by Blondesided

It was our first night dining out with the official LushLifeToday crew and we were excited to get started.  It was rainy and dreary and so we decided on our favorite, cozy dive – The Admiral in West Asheville. By the time I showed up, Jeb was already sipping on his favorite Admiral drink, The Old Timey, which is a variation on an old fashioned but made with maple syrup. Hank was saddled up at the bar with his PBR already neatly wrapped in his “brought from home” coozie.

I love walking into The Admiral. Imagine if Waffle House turned the lights down really low, played good music and decorated with my grandmother’s garage sale leftovers. But something about that tiny, kitschy dining room with low ceilings just makes me feel so right at home.

I took my spot at the bar between the boys and ordered myself an Old Timey as well.  Nothing like a little whiskey on a cold, wet day – especially when it comes with muddled fruit and maple syrup! That drink is quickly becoming one of my favorites as well as Jeb’s. (A little plaid clad birdie even told me he may be working on a version of it himself up at Jack of the Wood.)

The Admiral's Cheese Plate

Hank and Jeb had ordered a cheese plate while waiting on me.  They were waiting on me to order because as Hank says, “Chivalry ain’t dead yet!”  The cheeses arrived shortly after I did and the choices were perfect. A local smoked goat cheese and a Pecorino Toscano sheep’s cheese. The plate was also garnished with toast points, apples and Marcona almonds. The goat cheese had just a lightly smoked flavor and was the favorite of all of us.

Seared Diver Scallops

We then ordered a couple of the small plates.  The seared diver scallops were fresh and cooked perfectly.  But the unexpected highlight of this dish was the bed of cannellini bean salad on which they were served.  The great fresh flavors in the bean salad complimented the sweet, delicate scallops.

Our other small plate was the beef tartare.  It was served with buttermilk blue cheese and toast points.  The beef was perfectly seasoned and to my delight, the poached egg yolk was on the side (way off to the side). The presentation was beautiful and according to Hank, the tangy blue cheese paired with the savory chilled beef “really set it off.”

Beef Tartare

After so much food, we split one of the larger plates between the three of us.  It was an enormous, frenched pork chop from the local Hickory Nut Gap Farm.  It was cooked medium and was perfectly tender, but it was the bacon cream sauce and the farro verde that worked as the perfect stage mother by pushing that chop to become the star of the evening!

And in case you are wondering what farro verde is (because we certainly were), a quick Google search and it is basically a form of grain in the wheat family.  It resembles barley.  But it’s unique texture soaked up the bacon cream to pair perfectly with that pork.

Though dessert was tempting, I think we all knew a bite or two more of food would have put us in food comas…or at least ruined the whiskey buzz, so we decided to pass.

The friendly bartenders and the divey environment contrast so much to the upscale food that it takes the intimidation factor out of fine dining.  I mean, it is such a rare occasion that you can wash down high end cheeses with an ice cold PBR and not worry about which fork you should be using. So go. Do it now. Get dressed up or don’t.  Drink nice wine or cheap beer. Order big or go small.  But no matter what you decide. Eat at The Admiral.  And tell them we sent you!

We recommend going early.  The bar opens at 4 and the kitchen starts serving at 5.  But if you want to go much later, you had better have a reservation.

Click here for The Admiral’s menu…


Admiral on Urbanspoon

REVIEW: Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria – Asheville

Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria in Asheville is a renovated 1920’s two floor appliance store in downtown Asheville on Biltmore Ave. It has been open for about 18 years serving Ashevillians (not sure if that is the correct term but, if not, it should be) homemade pizza, calzones, lasagna and sandwiches plus a lot of good beer. The first floor is the main dining room with a bar with 24 taps and a stage for live music where they have Americana bands play about three to four times per week. The second floor has another bar with 19 taps and four regulation billiards tables and five regulation dart lanes.

I went up to Asheville a few weeks ago for a job interview and to attend an event at Highland Brewing Co. with Charlie Papazian, the founder/president of the American Homebrewer’s Association and author of The Complete Joy of Home Brewing. He is also the same guy who ran the poll on for BeerCity USA where Asheville was named BeerCity USA 2010. Everyone in the beer industry was buzzing around Asheville because it was Papazian’s first trip to Asheville.

I decided to go to Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria for lunch because I had read on Twitter (from @BruisinAles which is an awesome craft beer store in downtown Asheville) that Barley’s had held an event called Caskaggeddon featuring special casks of beer from North Carolina breweries which Charlie Papazian attended and I specifically wanted to get a pint of Fullsteam’s Red Beans and Rice beer because it just sounded crazy good & I had parked right across the street in paid public parking and didn’t feel like losing the $1.50 that I had put on my parking spot.

Here are the different beers from the Caskaggeddon they had the night before that I found on

Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria has one of the better beer selections that I have seen in a while just adding to the reason why Asheville deserves the BeerCity USA title as well as being big supporters of the North Carolina craft brew industry. Sadly, they only had the Fullsteam Red Beans & Rice leftover from the night before so I couldn’t try any of other delicious sounding beers from the other North Carolina breweries. has ranked Barley’s as the fortieth best beer restaurant in the nation.

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