Asheville, too little, too late. I could have spared myself the agony of returning to Hartford and the inevitable persistence of adult responsibilities, numerous rejections from law firms, and my parents, and just stayed there forever, working as a potter or a community organizer or something with a vague title and a paycheck. But here I am, and here is Asheville. It was the only place I stayed for two days on my leg of the trip, as I’d heard it was delightful. It met my expectations and exceeded them promptly with an almost overwhelming array of beautiful food, art, and people. On my first morning there, I ambled around the center of town and settled on a mid-morning breakfast of a s’mores whoopie pie with a homemade caramel centered in between for energy, just like a Clif bar. Sticky on stocky on salty chocolate toasted things is sugar crack and I dare anyone to find a better combination.
I stuck around the art and main district of the center for a while, first walking away with a few wooden pieces for the wall, then relenting and going back for a Basquiat-esque monstrosity in size only, painted by the artist himself, sold and resold, inky and deep and just barely fitting in the back of my car. Success and art!
Monday was half-off cupcake day at the art gallery. When the world hands you cake and deep discounts, there are no further questions to ask.
Purchasing art makes me hungry, so I ducked into The Gourmet Chip company for freshly fried spuds with lavender vanilla sea salt, bacon, and dark chocolate, also known as the Corsican. Floral elements go well with pork, and though the potato vehicle wasn’t as crispy as I’d have preferred, the flavors wooed me into taking a small sack home for later.Another walk around town yielded more treats- beautiful street art, the quiet dance of light on wine glasses waiting to be filled, and flirtatious pastries and steak in the windows of butchers on oak-lined streets.Finally, upon a whim and a tip from my expert anonymous tipster, Kevin, I horked a vanilla bean, prosecco, rose, and blueberry trifle from the French Broad and picked up a package of the fine Columbian they had roasted in the back.
Question: did I share this Coke with Jess? The answer lay at the bottom of the bottle.A watermelon mint juice in the morning balanced out the debauchery of the previous evening, evidence below.
Asheville, I discovered, has a remarkable gin and tonic and an even more remarkable fast food chain local to the South, called Cook-Out, where one can acquire a burger the likes of which is fatty, savory, and crisped with a whole slab of grilled onion, a choice of two sides including a corn dog and hush puppies, and a shake for $5. Mine had an entire slice of pie smooshed into it, and now you know why I walked everywhere. I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about Cook-Out and their corn dog milkshake 3AM five buck love affairs. It was so good that I screeched over to one at the top of the state for a Cheerwine float before going into Virginia. I stayed as long as I could before I hit the mountains.
You will notice there are no photos of food from Virginia. The three places I was aching to go to looked so good and after going to all three, I was so disappointed at either the quality, location, price, or general awfulness of the joint as well as Richmond itself that I decided to drive to New York and arrive at 5AM. Patience is not my strongest suit. However, this was a view from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which I drove the entirety of through North Carolina.
The aforementioned cheer.
I was in New York for a job conference, so I barely had time for food while I was interviewing and handing out resume packets, but the Bedfellow brought my favorite treat, Momofuku’s cereal milk milkshake. I returned the favor with ice cream the next day, from Serendipity 3. More on this sweet beast later.
And all of a sudden, three days later I was home in my apartment, pumping out my first assignment for classes and trying to get my sea legs back from the drive, the adventure, and the inevitable settling in of my organs and driving route into streets I’ve driven many times before. Transitions are hard and gritty and unnatural, like runaway truck ramps on the side of the road, and I’m time zones and a job away from another incredible summer.
I’ll figure it out, and maybe I’ll even fumble my way to another new, beautiful place in the process.