6/29/12

Let Asheville Sweep You Off Your Feet: Asheville NC Part 2. Thrill, Infatuation & Romance. In Other Words, Zip Lining, Jonas Gerard & The Biltmore Estate

This might be the longest blog post title ever on Mango & Tomato!
If you missed my previous post, make sure to read Let Asheville Sweep You Off Your Feet: Asheville NC Part 1. First Date. And just so that you are not confused, a little reminder: I came up with an idea for how to summarize my Asheville trip: I'll write about it as a progression of a romantic relationship. The first date; the thrill, infatuation and romance; and finally the deep love and companionship.


I left you last with a write up of a perfect first date: champagne and appetizers followed by a fun dinner of tapas and sangria ending on a sweet note with espuma de chocolate: chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet and hazelnut praline.
Maybe there was even a kiss involved!

As the relationship takes off, you welcome new experiences, adventures, and romantic settings.

Not being an outdoorsy or sporty girl, when I heard that I'll have a chance to ZIP LINE, I almost fainted. My mom asked if I really had to do it. Of course not, but I decided to push my sense of adventure and go beyond my boundaries and comfort zone.

Luckily, everyone at the Navitat Canopy was knowledgeable, friendly and enthusiastic and tried to put me at ease as much as possible.


The views were breath taking. Green trees, blue sky, a light breeze...and then there were all those ropes, knots, cables, bridges, etc. I kept on reminding myself to BREATH.


We started with a few trial zip lines before moving on to longer ones. And guess what? I did just fine! The whole experience went by almost too quickly even though it lasted about three hours. And now I can say that I zip lined just like the Real Housewives of OC, but with no drama ;) {Unfortunately I could not take my big camera with me for the fear of loosing it, so all the pictures from zip lining experience were taken with my little point and shoot.}

Other than zip lining, we also crossed a few bridges (see below), learned how to repel, and were educated on the types of trees, flowers, and mushrooms surrounding us.

  

Another activity that I think would be fun to do with someone you are dating is visiting museums or, even better, artists' studios. On my first trip to Asheville, I took a tour of the River Art District and fell in love with the work of Jonas Gerard. Imagine my excitmenet when I learned that I'll get to meet him in person and sit through one of his demonstrations!! I could not believe my luck.

Jonas Gerard's art is bright, colorful, strong and makes me think of the Cuban music he listens to while he paints. It shows his passion for life, beauty and intuition.

The painting on the left is the one I've been dreaming about for the last year, but alast it's a bit too pricey for me ;)

From Jonas:
The essence of abstract art is:
To unfold the spirit of self-exploration by painting freely without restraint or criticism.
To develop a deeper trust in one's intuition and instinct as they happen.
To realize that letting go of set goals opens up a whole world of infinite possibilities.



And then right before Jonas started his demonstration, he decided to paint on ME!!!! {Notice the arrow that points to my cleavage.}

My expression on the photo above is priceless! :)


I'll be honest with you, I was hoping Jonas would just gift me the painting above, which took him less than ten minutes to complete, but no such thing. Instead, I bought one of his smaller prints and can't wait to frame it and find a place for it in my condo.

My last idea for a thrilling and romantic date in Asheville is the visit to the Biltmore. I did not get a chance to visit this mansion on my first visit and loved the architectural private tour we got to take.

"George Vanderbilt created Biltmore as an escape from everyday life. A visit to the 8,000-acre estate in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina provides limitless fun.
Explore Biltmore House & Gardens and the Antler Hill Village—featuring the Winery, The Biltmore Legacy, Village Green, and Farm.
Play in our backyard with an array of outdoor activities, indulge in one-of-a-kind shopping, and savor our restaurants' exceptional fare. Visit Biltmore in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, NC and let our gracious hospitality inspire you."
Although we weren't allowed to take photographs inside, the outside of the estate provided countless opportunities.
  

Supposedly this brings you luck ;)

These are the views of the Biltmore from far away: how romantic is that?


Stay tuned for the last installation of this series that I'll share next week! For now, have a great weekend and try to stay cool: it's going to be 100 degrees in DC. Oy.
Disclaimer: the trip was paid for by the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau including my flights, stay at The Grove Park Inn and all the eating out and sightseeing adventures. I was under no obligation to write about any of it.

6/27/12

Let Asheville Sweep You Off Your Feet: Asheville NC Part 1. First Date.

When I don't travel, I get restless. I need something exciting and fun and new to look forward to.
That's just how I am.

Last October I booked a flight and room at a fancy Hotel Indigo and headed to Asheville, North Carolina. I knew little about the city, but was able to build an itinerary of eating out, checking out the local art scene and just walking around. I loved the quaint downtown, the friendly people, incredibly fresh food and the art of Jonas Gerard. I knew I'd want to be back.

Then earlier this month I received an email from Del of the Explore Asheville inviting me to join three other bloggers on a fun weekend trip to Asheville. I could not believe my luck, and happily said yes. Now for the disclaimer: the trip was completely paid for by the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau including my flights, stay at The Grove Park Inn and all the eating out and sightseeing adventures. I was under no obligation to write about any of it, but how could I not? I had an amazing weekend of very little sleep but experiences that stretched my sense of adventure, let me revisit a few of my favorite places in Asheville, have Jonas Gerard paint my body (!!!), and meet people who are passionate about what they do and want to share it with their community.

I took over 600 photos, but don't want to overwhelm you with them all. As I was trying to fall asleep a few nights ago, I came up with an idea for how to summarize my trip: I'll write about it as a progression of a romantic relationship. The first date, the thrill, infatuation and romance, and finally the deep love and companionship.

Ready? Let's go!

It's important to set the right tone/mood on the first date. You want to be relaxed, yet slightly nervous and full of anticipation. Coffee dates are boring, so why not meet up for a drink and some snacks?
Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar is the perfect place for that. You can walk around and browse stacks of books, discuss your favorite authors and genres, pet a friendly dog next to a couple sipping champagne and then sit on incredibly comfortable couches and order some bubbly!



This place has over 60,000 books and 80 wines: rest assured you will not be bored or thirsty!

I don't know about you, but I need snacks when there is alcohol involved. If you are having a good time with your date and his/her hands are clean, order a few dishes to share!

The cheese plate featured at least four varieties of cheese, marinated olives and jam. It was served with a bowl of various crackers and I swooned over the pretty board with metal accents. We also ordered a smoked trout dip: I had to stop myself from licking the bowl.


If after sharing the cheese board and finishing up the champagne you are still interested in spending some time with your date, head over to Curate! I had brunch at Curate on my first visit to Asheville, and was looking forward to checking out their dinner menu.


While you get comfortable and start scanning the menu, make sure to look around and notice how calm everyone is in the open kitchen. No one is yelling, running around or panicking. Also, check out the beautiful light fixtures, a big planter on the wall and the exposed ceiling. It's definitely the type of place where romance can bloom.

You can order charcuterie & cheese, something from the fryer, soups & salads, sautes, and finish off with desserts and coffee. The menu, as well as the knowledgeable servers, will guide you.

We sampled at least fifteen dishes, but I will highlight my favorites.


Alcachofas fritas: Jerusalem artichoke chips with sherry reduction and savory yogurt dip.


White sangria


pan con tomate: toasted bread with fresh tomato & olive oil and manchego cheese. We were warned not to fill up on this, but how could I not?

tabla de embutidos: traditional Spanish charcuterie with lomo and cabecero iberico de bellota, fuet and chorizo palacios

brandada de bacalao: traditional cod & potato puree served hot with crisp bread



Of course we also had dessert! My favorite was espuma de chocolate: chocolate mousse, raspberry sorbet and hazelnut praline.

It was a sweet way to end the night.

If this was a date, I'd say it was a major success! Stay tuned for part two of my Asheville experience: thrill, infatuation and romance.

6/25/12

Where to have Brunch in Seattle: The Fat Hen


Earlier this month I had to take an impromptu trip to Seattle. It was a sad occasion, but I managed to have a little bit of fun nonetheless. One such fun occurrence was meeting Anna and Lera for brunch at The Fat Hen.

The Fat Hen is a perfect example of the type of place you want in your neighborhood: kind service, solid food with an inventive spin, and beautiful decor. On a Sunday we visited this little restaurant, we saw couples having brunch, young parents with their kids in a stroller and a three-generational family sharing a communal table with us.

We ate, sipped on our drinks and enjoyed the Seattle sunshine.

{all photos taken with my smart phone}


To start, I ordered a grapefruit mimosa, while Anna and Lera chose rhubarb fizz (it had sparkling wine, rhubarb liquor and a crystallized piece of rhubarb). Being a copy cat, I ordered that drink as my second beverage.

  



The menu had everything from eggs and potatoes to pork loin and veal cutlets. I had a hard time deciding what to order.


Luckily, all of us ♥ olives, so we ordered a bowl of the bright green fatty olives marinated with some orange zest as we made our main course decisions.


In the end, Lera got a pork brasato: pork shoulder with red peppers, vinegar and garlic served with roasted potatoes. I loved how symmetrical and arranged the plate looked. The pork was incredibly juicy and tender.


Anna ordered the classic Benedict and added some spinach to the dish. You can read what she thought of it on her blog ;)


I chose quattro formaggi baked eggs: two eggs baked in a combination of bechamel, mozzarella, gorgonzola, emmenthal and fontina cheese. I'm slightly salivating as I type this. The dish came with crusty bread and being a lover of carbs, I ordered a side of potatoes.

 

What can I say? I would have happily swam in the cheesy baked goodness!

We had no room for dessert. Immediately that is. We bought a few pastries from a bakery across the street and had those hours later.

Do you have a favorite neighborhood brunch place? What do you usually order?

6/22/12

A Visit to Columbia Pike Farmers Market in Arlington, VA. What's in Season?

This past Sunday I checked out the new-to-me Columbia Pike Farmers Market with Mary and her super cute daughter Josie. Since I'm actually in Asheville, NC for the weekend (holler!), I just took photos of the pretty flowers and produce and helped Mary carry her purchases ;) I'm a great mommy helper.

The market had a good amount of produce, some hand made soap and even a live band. I liked that it wasn't crowded. The prices seemed pretty reasonable compared to Dupont Farmers Market.

Below are some of my favorite photos! Enjoy!


Squash blossoms


Yellow and green beans


Beautiful okra (again, two different colors) and tomatoes


Cherries


Peaches {I tried one, but did not think it was fully ripe}


Spring onions


Fresh garlic: it smelled unbelievably amazing {I never said I was a food writer}



Guess what this is:


Did you think dill? Nope, fennel!


These mini carrots and beets were adorable! They'd be perfect eaten raw with dips or pickled.



More tomatoes, okra and peppers


Purple and yellow cauliflower, which sadly tastes exactly the same as the regular one.


Have you been to a farmers market lately? What did you buy? What produce are you most looking forward to buying in the summer?


{If you want to follow my adventures in Asheville, follow me on Twitter and look for #ExploreAVL!}