Last month we trekked with some friends to the Asheville area for some much needed R&R.
"R&R" = cheese, y'all.
We rented a cute cottage in Swannanoa via Airbnb and planned a fun Saturday out on the Western North Carolina Cheese Trail. Our trip planner extraordinaire friend J nailed down a few to try out -- we didn't want to overdo the cheese (I know, hard to believe, but that could get ugly) and we also wanted to save a little time to check out downtown Asheville.
Our first stop: Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Fairview. Currently in expansion/renovation mode, the farm is the perfect spot to say hello to some horses, gape at the goats, and peruse a wide variety of area products in their store. I bought some local honey for our pet sitter, some Lusty Monk mustard, the farm's salami, and a brisket.
Next we took a short drive over to Looking Glass Creamery, also in Fairview. It's a small adorable cottage with an adjacent meadow of goats. Here we are with one lovely creature Vivian, who wanted a piece of our friend B. She gave him a bit of a love bite on the neck during this photo op.
Looking Glass spoiled us that day. A charming woman at the counter shared hefty samples of all of their cheeses, including a special Valentine's-themed soft cheese with a raspberry jam center. YUM. From the goat chevre to raw milk varieties, everyone had a favorite. We wound up purchasing hunks of the Pack Square (brie), and a few others I can't recall, like a lovely Monterey jack-style, along with a big loaf of bread and a bottle of wine.
Coupled with the salami and the mustard from our previous stop, we had the makings of a lovely picnic. We set up on the shop's front stoop with a small table and chairs, and relished it all in the sunshine. With a ridge line in the background, goats softly bleating nearby, and near perfect weather, it was exactly what we needed that weekend. I'm already anticipating a return trip. I think this guy is too.
There are 10 cheesemakers on the trail but after that visit, we thought it best to save the rest for another day. Our friends hadn't really explored downtown Asheville so Scott and I guided them from the Grove Park Inn for Bloody Marys on their "porch" (probably a much grander name for a pretty grand view), a stop at the Green Man Tap Room for more beverages, and a game of darts at our old stomping grounds Barley's. Dinner at Chestnut (I had the vegetarian farro risotto with cheese) capped off a wonderful day.
Though it's been 10 years since I moved from Asheville, it still feels a lot like home to me. There's such a relaxing "come as you are" vibe in those mountains and people are so welcoming. Downtown has changed quite a bit since then -- more restaurants; bigger and fancier hotels, and condos cropping up. They also completely reworked Pack Square, the streets on the east side of downtown, and added a Visitors Center. It looks a lot different than when I would haul my laptop from the Citizen-Times to the beautiful Art Deco "wedding cake" building of City Hall to log property records for the paper.
I love the memories that crop up during our visits back to western North Carolina, and of course making new ones with new friends.
|Burning off the cheese on a real trail in Montreat|