Asheville, North Carolina is a blue town in a deeply red state. It’s a college town so there’s that intellectual element which often breeds liberalism. And it’s also home to one of America’s truly great, old-fashioned hotels, the Omni Grove Park Inn. I stayed at the Grove Park Inn when I was a boy and it is a memory of elegance and grace. And in its present incarnation, it’s just as grand and gorgeous as my memory held it to be.
I also was a guest at the AC Hotel in Asheville, which is as sleek and modern as the Grove Park Inn is classic and ornate. My room was very comfortable, and was furnished with an eye toward minimalism. There was a big, smart TV which had many channels, which was very impressive. Where the Grove Park Inn is grand and lavish in its presentation, the AC is tech-forward and minimalist. Like the Omni Grove Park Inn, AC Hotel has a strong culinary program, ample space to take in live music, and expansive mountain views.
Asheville is a great food town, with hundreds of farm-to-table restaurants. I took a tour of the local farm to table suppliers for the city’s many fine restaurants and the practice of eating local in the locality where it is produced is widely practiced. I went on an Asheville-farm-to-table tour led by Ann D. Stauss, and it was a spectacular experience for anyone interested in seeing how the food we eat is cultivated.
The first restaurant where I ate was Posana, the first Certified Green restaurant in North Carolina. This was an exceptional dinner. My dining partner was Peter Pollay, the owner and executive chef of the restaurant. He is deeply committed to buying from sustainable, farm to table suppliers. He also cooks largely organically with food supplied by nearly 65 local purveyors and farmers.
There were subtle layers of flavor in some beans which I had not known until I ate at Posana, and the combination of local organic vegetables and Peter’s skills as a chef is a formidable one. If you get to Asheville, head straight to this fine restaurant.
The next day I had lunch at Cúrate, a Spanish tapas spot just down the street from Posana, run by James Beard Award-nominated chef Katie Button and her husband. The building that houses Cúrate was built in 1927 and served as Asheville’s bus station for many years before being thoughtfully renovated in 2011. I had a selection of tapas; the standout being some Spanish sardines, which were wonderful. I have never truly tasted such outstanding sardines! For lovers of spirits, Cúrate has a new vermouth bar, (a vermuteria), another surprise in this remarkable city.
That night, I was invited to the rooftop restaurant Capella on 9, at the AC Hotel. It has the most spectacular views. I got there in time for sunset, which was glorious. The menu was created in consultation with Pollay and Jordan Arace of Mandara Hospitality Group (which owns Posana). Their partnership allows the Capella on 9 menu to stay true to their commitment to source locally and responsibly, resulting in eclectic but balanced dishes.
Through the tapas-style menu, handcrafted cocktails, and an affinity for live music, they encourage guests to slow down, let the time pass, and savor the moment, the food, and the scenery. It’s quite wonderful.
My final night in Asheville, I checked into the Omni Grove Park Inn and had dinner at Vue 1913, the year that the hotel was built. It’s a chic restaurant, an American twist on a European-style bistro. It has stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and, once again, it is a farm-to-table restaurant. Vue 1913 has received The Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence.
I will always remember Asheville as a great city to visit, for it truly is, with a nice tempo of life, gracious people, and outstanding food.