The Asheville Allure

North Carolina’s charming city specializes in farm-to-table dining and imbibing, a tremendous art scene and a luxurious yet folksy ambiance

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The city of Asheville does well promoting its artful talents, and I discover that Asheville’s local farms support its culinary creatives. Looking Glass Creamery is owned by husband and wife Jennifer and Andy Perkins. In the cheese making room, Jennifer explains that there are more perks to the business other than the abundance of cheese. “I like the creative aspect of cheese making,” she says. “You can make a product that you really influence, and there’s a little bit of yourself in all of it.” The couple produces five types of cheeses regularly and a few extras for the market season. My favorite is a hard-aged cow’s milk cheese called Chocolate Lab, which is rubbed down with a blend of cocoa nibs and Black Stout from Lexington Avenue Brewery in Asheville.

Next I visit Hickory Nut Gap Farm to meet fourth-generation farmer Jamie Ager, who operates Hickory Nut Gap Meats with his wife, Amy. The farm is certified organic, and the animals are raised in their natural environment, grazing on clover, drinking fresh spring water and generally living the good life. The farm store sells local honey, fresh meats, homemade soaps, canned goods and locally made jewelry and postcards. During the fall months, visitors are invited to pick their own pumpkins and apples and take a stroll through the farm’s corn maze.

Not only does Asheville specialize in local eats, but it also does an excellent job with the local drinks, too. The city is home to more than 10 breweries, including Highland Brewing Company, the largest craft brewery in western North Carolina. Highland is a popular place to hang out, listen to live music, grab a bite from a local food truck and, of course, drink beer.

And brew isn’t the only booming beverage in Asheville. Located right next to Highland Brewing Company is Troy & Sons Distillers, creators of Original American Moonshine. Possibly the coolest part about Troy & Sons is that this superior white lightning is crafted by a woman. Troy Ball and her husband Charlie, the master distiller, set out to make moonshine the liquor of choice for beverages including mojitos, margaritas and martinis rather than using Russian vodka and Mexican tequila. Troy & Sons uses an 1840s North Carolina heirloom corn called Crooked Creek Corn™ to produce Platinum Moonshine as well as an Oak Reserve-aged moonshine whiskey.

Back at the Grand Bohemian, the hotel’s own master culinarian Chef Adam Hayes has prepared an exceptional farm-to-table dinner in the Black Forest Wine Room using meats, produce and cheeses from the farms I had visited throughout the day. Hayes leads the culinary team at Red Stag Grill and prides himself on creating exquisite dishes from Asheville’s abundant local fare.

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