Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day Trip to Asheville, NC!

I've been a bit quiet over the weekend but for good reason! We had our first guests from Texas come to visit - my dad and brother. They both wanted to do stuff in this part of the country so I packed our schedule with things we've wanted to do, too, so it was our staycation + their vacation.

First up was a day trip to Asheville. I've only been once before (for work) but the others hadn't been at all. And of course it was FREEZING cold and rainy all day but that didn't stop us from having a great time.

We got to the Biltmore (aka, America's largest privately owned house) around 10:30 a.m. Even on a yucky winter morning, it's still gorgeous. The house is a stunning 178,926 square feet and sits on 8,000 acres. It was originally to be George Vanderbilt's "little mountain getaway" before he got carried away a little...

We toured the house, which was surprisingly busy for a cold dreary Friday morning (I think the spring/summer crowds are probably huge!!). Because we went during the low season, the audio tour was free and that turned out to be a definite plus.
Of course, no pictures are allowed inside but you can imagine it was impressive, to say the least. To see the house, it took us 1.5 hours or so - which meant a LOT of walking and stairs. I'm still recovering from a broken leg so I was pretty wiped out at the end.
When we finished the house, we headed for the nearby stable that now houses a few shops, bakery, ice cream shop, restaurant, etc. We wanted to eat someplace downtown for our meal but had worked up an appetite so we stopped in at the bakery and split sandwiches. They were tasty and "just enough" to stretch us until an early dinner.
Psst - there is no indoor seating at the bakery, just tables/chairs outside. Thanks to the 40 degree weather (and winds) that was the fastest I think we've ever eaten!  

After a few last pictures, we headed back to the car to drive through the property. Everything was pretty dead thanks to the winter but I can imagine it comes to life once spring comes!

Also on the property is Antler Hill Village, a small shopping and dining area that includes the Inn on Biltmore Estate. It was very quiet but we checked out a couple of things, including George Vanderbilt's 1913 Stevens-Duryea C-Sixthey have tucked away on the property.

Visiting the Biltmore isn't cheap but I know that much of the cost goes to help with the care and restoration of the property, which I think is important. I'd love to return when the weather is warmer and take advantage of some of the outdoor activities they have on property, plus see the gardens while in bloom.

When we finished, we went downtown to check things out. Downtown Asheville is a really cool place to spend an afternoon. Interesting shops, unique dining spots, and a hippy vibe that I LOVE. It was cold but not raining so we just ducked in and out of (heated!) stores and galleries.

After navigating a couple of the streets, we stopped for an early dinner at Early Girl Eatery. I chose it because it was 1) moderately priced 2) nationally featured 3) the menu looked amazing and a taste of the southern food I wanted our guests to experience.

Thankfully, it did not disappoint!

The interior decor is sorta like a hipsters dining room. It's simple, uncluttered, and featuring local art (all for sale) on the walls.

Breakfast is served all day and the offerings are plentiful. They also serve salads, sandwiches, and a handful of more dinner-like options. We were evidently all feeling breakfasty!

After much debate, I chose the Early Girl Benny: grit cakes topped with tomato, spinach, poached eggs, tomato gravy, and avocado.

It was so tasty it was ridiculous. I don't even like tomatoes and I wanted to drink gravy, from a glass, on it's own. Thankfully, Early Girl shares the recipe for it on their website!

Tomato Gravy
3 tablespoons olive Oil
4  cups tomatoes (chopped)
1  cup onion (finely diced)
2 1/2 tablespoons flour
1/4 tablespoon basil
1/4 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon sugar

In heavy bottom pot or saucepan saute the onions in olive oil until translucent. Stir in flour to form roux. Add tomatoes (stir in a little water or stock if needed to prevent sticking). Add basil, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Simmer on low for 30 minutes until tomatoes are broken down.

Jason chose the Black Bean and Cheddar Omelet, which is topped with sour cream and salsa and served with homefries. He was a happy camper (and there wasn't even an ounce of meat on his plate!).

My dad ordered (and loved) the special of the day - Spinach Potato Cakes. I couldn't figure out how exactly they made it but found a blurb on their website from the owner that says they run cooked potatoes through a ricer then add local cheese, eggs, fresh spinach, and lemon zest. Why didn't I think of that?

My brother went for a dish that both Jason and my dad lingered on - the Local Sausage and Sweet Potato Scramble: eggs scrambled with local sausage, shitake mushrooms, sweet potatoes, bacon, and green onion. Again, so tasty it was ridiculous.

The service was great, the food was quick, fresh, and delicious, and the menu was priced right. I also love that Early Girl strives to support the local farmers and is a true "farm to table" eatery.

If you're in Asheville, stop by for a meal!

We'll definitely be making more trips to that area of the state for short getaways. There is plenty to do and is such a fun place to visit. If you've been to Asheville, what things did you enjoy doing?


  1. Early Girl Benny. That already sounds delicious. Thanks for some nice photos.

    Nakuru Amboseli Day Trip

  2. I had the Early Girl Benny when I was there last August. I still crave it! So, so very good. That's actually what led me to your blog; I had searched fried grit cakes with tomato gravy, lol.

    1. I crave it, too! I've never found another restaurant with that tomato gravy :)


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