October 20, 2010
We are living in the lap of luxury in the Biltmore Inn. No Vanderbilt guest felt more pampered than we (okay, maybe the ones who brought their personal maids and valets to pack and unpack for them and press their clothes, which, come to think of it, was just about everybody in their social network). Still, after our absolutely perfect breakfast, when Dick had the best bacon of his life, and I had the best over easy eggs I can remember (sprinkled with capers), we dropped by the garden to take a couple pictures, and three hours later found ourselves still inside the Biltmore Estate Gates, held hostage by its beauty. The pictures tell the tale.
Then we headed to Ashville, and by the time we got there it was about time for lunch. The lady at the visitor center mentioned that our hero, President Barack Obama, ate at 12 Bones Smokehouse when he was here, and we actually recalled passing it on our circuitous (translation “lost”) way into town—the aroma was absolutely heavenly—so that was our first stop. Once again, our President led us well—to an awesome lunch eaten on a picnic table under a big metal awning in the parking lot. And, although we didn’t photograph them, after lunch we enjoyed the full length mirrors in our respective rest rooms that were artfully contrived to provide a very complimentary reflection, backing up the claim on the sign next to the mirror—“See, eating good barbecue makes you skinny.”
The 12 Bones Smokehouse is in the River Arts District, a run-down area of abandoned warehouses and manufacturing plants where starving artists are struggling to establish successful businesses from their low rent studios. This is Dick’s favorite artwork in the District.
We walked the Urban Trail through town, following a map that led us to bronze plaques and artful sculptures and memorials marking important people (such as Elizabeth Blackwell, first woman doctor in the United States, who started her medical training here), places (the childhood home of Thomas Wolfe, the city’s first skyscraper, and the site of its first public market), and events in the history of Ashville. Along the way we stopped in a few shops, including an antique store that had a covered dish that matched the Austrian china I have from my father’s parents. I have never seen it in another antique store and snatched it up as a wonderful find, as soon as Dick assured me he could find a spot for it in our tightly packed little Jaguar.
Beyond the many artisans, great shopping and beautiful architecture (including a Kresge’s five and dime that was adorned with a stunning hand-painted tile exterior befitting an institution of far higher price points, and an art deco city hall that knocked our socks off), we were flat out impressed with the number of restaurants in Ashville. Does anyone here cook? You cannot walk more than a block in any direction anywhere in this town without running into a restaurant or two or three.
But, we were back to the Biltmore for dinner, and a grand dinner it was. In the interest of getting to bed at a decent hour and not boring you with too much food talk, I will almost omit the commentary, other than telling you that our exteremely tender and tasty Angus Beef Filets were from the cattle we have watched grazing contentedly on the Estate fields near our Inn, and this sampler included a Triple Chocolate Torte, Grand Marnier Bavarian Lace Tuile Cup, and Goat Cheese & Berry Cheesecake.