Cool stops in Hot Springs and Asheville, NC

My Farm Fresh farmers’ market tour is traveling geographically with the harvest, starting in the Coast and Piedmont in the spring, moving to the Triad. Finally I’ve reached the mountains, just in time to cool off from the heat of summer.

Honda gets royal treatment at Biltmore

Here’s the report from recent stops in Hot Springs and Asheville.

My tour started with a book signing outside of the Carriage House gift shop at the Biltmore Estate, where the highlight was taking back roads to enter the estate and parking just behind the “house.” That’s what I call VIP treatment.

Meanwhile, parking at Restaurant Solace at the Haywood Park Hotel in downtown Asheville wasn’t VIP, but the complimentary lunch was, and was so yummy too. Chef owner Bryan Kimmett has really spruced up the place and focuses on local ingredients, to the point that he’s opened a tiny market in the lobby. Great idea! The cafe is upstairs and fancy-schmancy dining is downstairs. Favorite dish? Warm crab and foraged mushrooms cheesecake (kinda like a soft quiche). Delish.

That evening I headed north to Hot Springs, one of the coolest (and tiniest) towns in the state and one of a handful that the Appalachian Trail runs right through. I was invited by the Friends of the Hot Springs Library, a group of fascinating folks, including Dave Penrose and Mary Dixon, who with her husband runs Broadwing Farm Cabins. The gang even treated me to a nice cold tall one after my scintillating presentation.

Asheville City Market woos kids with its DIY bicycle-blended smoothies.

I spent Saturday morning at one of my favorite farmers’ markets, the downtown Asheville City Market, operated by my friends at the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. Loved the kids’ corner, where volunteers were inviting young visitors to mix smoothies using a bicycle-operated blender. My very favorite baker was there, too, Farm and Sparrow (if only they shipped….), a fantastic bluegrass band was performing near my table, and I chatted with the most interesting folks. Fun morning!

Venezia Dream owner Starr Cash (left) chats with visitors to her alpaca farm.

My last stops were at the Family Farm Tour, another ASAP program, where I hung out one day at Venezia Dream Farm (alpacas!) and the next at Imladris Farm (berries! bunnies!). At Imladris, one of my customers was none other than Mark Rosenstein, former longtime chef at Market Place and the man who brought locally sourced dining to Asheville. Yes, the father of Foodtopia! Thanks, Mark, for all you’ve done and still do. Thanks, too, to your friend who gifted you my book!

Is there ever a slow time at French Broad Chocolate?

A final word on Asheville dining. I didn’t have much time to explore, but I did find nirvana at Table — lima bean soup with fennel and lavender. Seriously, ridiculously amazing. Must return for seconds. I was hoping to have a chocolate nightcap at French Broad Chocolate Lounge, but there was a line out the door at 10 p.m. just as there had been at 8 p.m. Wow. So I had a brew instead, at hot spot Green Man Brewery. They were out of the double IPA (waaaaaah), but the single was sweet.

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