I have had the amazing fortune of spending January in Asheville, North Carolina this year. Have you ever been to Asheville? If so, you know how awesome it is to have the chance to spend a month here. If you're not familiar, well, let me tell you about your new favorite city.
Asheville is located in western North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains. It has about 87,000 residents, and about 86,999 of them are quirky (there's got to be one normal person in here somewhere). This is in keeping with Asheville's official status of "America's Quirkiest City".
I fit right in. Especially my inspired, unicorn-themed fashion.
Here's what brought me to Asheville in the first place: I did a three week immersion yoga program at the Asheville Yoga Center, a well respected yoga studio and teacher training center in North Carolina. I chose this program for a few reasons: I wanted to go somewhere cool to do a yoga training; I had heard that Asheville was cool; and, I got a scholarship to the program. A few months later, I was Asheville-bound. I studied up, and I was ready.
These were my classmates.
The program at AYC was incredibly tough both mentally and physically, but it was beyond 100 percent worth it. I was part of a 24 student program, and let me tell you, spending every single day with this group made for very quick and thorough bonding. I can tell you about the finer points of each person's practice, as well as what type of shampoo they wear and what injuries they have and how many heartbreaks they've suffered. It was that kind of bonding. Here's me (on the right) and my classmate Emily showing our pretzel love:
I miss my yoga center already. I have no idea if I want to teach, but now I offically CAN.
Back to Asheville itself.
One thing that I had suspected, but hadn't been completely prepared for, was the food scene in Asheville. Like, whoa. It is incredibly sophisticated for a small city, and as quirky and cool as its residents. Here are just a few of my favorite sweet treats I've found so far.
Made-to-order doughnuts at Hole Doughnuts
I'm a sucker for foods prepared right in front of me, and the open format of fryer right out in the open at Hole made my heart sing.
I thoroughly enjoyed their doughnuts, even if they are yeast (cake doughnuts 4-liiiiiiife). Hole had some pretty nifty flavor combos that they could gussy up your doughnut with, but we went traditional and got just plain glazed. Very, very good stuff.
Greenlife's bakery selections
I spent a LOT of time at Greenlife, a grocery store now owned by Whole Foods. I can tell you what I enjoyed, including their "mini brownies" (actually quite generous in size) which were fudgy and perfect;
and this lemon blueberry bar. Happy town.
The hugest eclairs ever at Well-Bred Bakery, Biltmore village
What can I say? I am impressed by largeness in sweets. And Well-Bred has some BIG sweets.
Website: Well-Bred Bakery
Chocolates, cookies, and hot chocolate from French Broad Chocolates
French Broad Chocolates is locally famous, and with good reason. They do chocolate very well. Their hot chocolate, which is not pictured, rivals my favorite at Kakawa in Santa Fe, and their truffles are really, really good.
I'm not vegan, but I thought the above chocolate display was adorable, and apropos for my yoga training.
And I truly enjoyed the shortbread dipped in dark chocolate and coated with delicious pistachio debris.
Website: French Broad Chocolates
Butter bars from Fresh Market
Fresh Market kind of reminds me of a cross between Whole Foods and Wegmans grocery stores. It's sort of fancy and has interesting displays, but the ingredient labels are longer than at Whole Foods.
But grocery store politics aside, what I cared most about were the butter bars. They looked uncannily similar to the butter bars I knew and loved at Flying Monkey Patisserie in Philadelphia, so I had to try one.
They weren't quite as good as Flying Monkey's, but they gave me enough flavor nostalgia to give me a big grin, so it was a sweet treat to enjoy indeed.
Website: The Fresh Market
Cannoli from Harris Teeter
At this point, I realize that you are totally judging me for frequenting grocery store bakeries. But what can I say, I love sweets of all sorts, from fancy French to Pop-Tarts. So I have to tell you. I got a chocolate covered cannoli (filled to order!) from grocery chain Harris Teeter (which, btw, I adorably mis-called "Harris Tweeter" for the first week I was here), and it was a highly delicious experience. I won't lie: I've been back for more. And I'll probably go again before I leave.
Website: Harris Teeter
White chocolate covered snickerdoodle sandwich, Whole Foods
The basic construction was this: two snickerdoodles, deliciously sandwiched with vanilla cream filling. But wait, there's more: the whole darned thing was half dipped in white chocolate. Come here, you delicous thing.
Website: Asheville Whole Foods
Banana split sugar
I don't know about you, but just the sight of this stuff made me smile. I didn't even know it existed, but after taking one smell of it, I knew my life would never be complete without it. This was a pricey but fun treasure I found at the Spice and Tea Exchange.
Website: Spice and Tea Exchange
Peanut butter pie, and more, from City Bakery
and their awesome flaky cinnamon pastries, as well as their savory croissants.
The butter bar at Biscuit Head.
Don't get me wrong, the biscuits were nothing to scoff at. But the true magic here was in the BUTTER BAR, which featured flavored butters of all sorts for your biscuits.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that you could sit in spots like this at Biscuit Head:
Website: Biscuit Head
Adorableness aplenty at Short Street Cakes
Short Street Cakes is my kind of bakery: small, sweet, and full of cake. It's in the hipster enclave of West Asheville, and we picked up some tasty flourless chocolate cake. It was along the same lines as my favorite recipe, so good stuff.
Website: Short Street Cakes
Marzipan thingies from Old Europe Pastries
That is not their technical name, but it's the name I will assign to their marzipan topped and infused cakes, with chocolate sides.
We also got shortbread and a brownie here, which my sweetie named among the best brownies in Asheville.
Website: Old Europe Pastries
Danish doughnuts at Geraldine's
Nope. That's not a cronut. It's a "Fritzster". The secret to the deliciousness is Danish dough here, which is fried and yields a hearty doughnut the likes of which I will not forget soon.
Cake by my classmates Virginia and Jonelle
This was one of my sweetest moments in Asheville. At our Yoga School graduation, two of my classmates, Virgina and Jonelle, made a cake for all of us. It was made with mix, but the effort and the sentiment made it one of the best cakes EVER.
Bonus: five savory finds
I'm not going to go into too much detail for these ones, but I want you to know that if you find yourself in Asheville, I have thoroughly enjoyed the savories at these spots!
- Luella's BBQ: I am not vegetarian, but I'm obsessed with their BBQ tempeh.
- King James Pub: Creative and innovative pub cuisine. Cozy, too!
- Green Sage Cafe: Healthy-ish fare with a casual atmosphere--a clever and tasty menu.
- Homegrown: Local and delicious. Everything here is well thought out. My fave? The "falentil"--falafel balls made with lentils.
- Doc Chey's Noodle House: I loved the atmosphere at this local favorite, and I loved the fat, flavorful noodles.
I'm on my last few days here, so I'm looking forward to trying a few other places, both sweet and savory, before I get on my rainbow unicorn and fly back to the next adventure.
I've enjoyed my time in Asheville, and I know I've become a better person because of it!