Friday, November 18, 2016

Heading to Hendersonville, NC

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons because I get to see beading buddies who I’ve
Red seed pods
missed for an entire year in one of my favorite places, western North Carolina. Our annual get-together was once again in Black Mountain, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and a few miles from Asheville (see Mountains of Art and Back to the Smokeys for a lot more information about this area of North Carolina). I landed at Asheville’s tiny airport and was met by Linnea, a Near-Normal Traveler in her own right. As soon as we’d hugged, talked excitedly, and dragged the bags into her car, we headed for our first adventure, Hendersonville. This cute little place is the county seat of Henderson County, North Carolina. Being just 22 miles south of Asheville, it’s an easy jaunt to check out the local arts and crafts. Traditionally known as ‘The City of Four Seasons’, it has a well-preserved Main Street and adjoining downtown areas.

This part of North Carolina was originally within the Cherokee Nation. Anglos began settling the area after the 1777 and 1785 treaties but the Revolutionary War ensued, so Henderson
Top L to R: Blue bears, McClintock Chime Clock,
Police bear
Bottom L to R: Woodman memorial, Tree sculpture
County wasn’t actually formed until 1838. And formation of the county wasn’t all that easy. It seems that there were two sets of residents (the Cherokee’s didn’t get a vote) who were adamant about where the county seat and its courthouse were to be located. One group, the River Party, wanted it at Horse Shoe, a site on a bend in the French Broad River. The other group, the Road Party, wanted it along a main road. The arguments grew so intense that the state legislature stepped in, ordering a popular-vote election to decide the question. The Road Party won and Hendersonville was begun. The architecture reflects late 19th and early 20th century taste with completion of the courthouse in 1905. Designed by Richard Sharp Smith, its dome is topped with one of the only three statues of ‘Lady Justice’ in the United States that is without a blindfold. I was taken, however, with all the bears along the main streets of town. This public art is being used to raise money for a bunch of non-profit organizations. While there were a couple of actual artists’ shops, it seems that Hendersonville has gone the route of many small, arty towns and moved toward upscale shops and eateries.

The next couple of days, before the actual beading retreat began, we re-explored Asheville
Downtown Asheville
and Black Mountain. I thought I’d been to the old part of Asheville, but I actually had not. While most of the area around the Grove Arcade has been turned back to what was E.W. Grove’s vision for a dynamic downtown, there is still lots of construction in the area. There are lots of places to visit as well as a substantial number of galleries and artists’ cooperatives. Linnea and I had fun walking in and out of the shops, visiting some of our favorite places, and finding some new treasures. We were on the hunt for fabric shops and yarn stores; we did discover a couple and had a good time meeting the people who own them. As is our tradition, we visited the Grovewood Gallery, Biltmore Village, and the Folk Art Center; they were as wonderful as usual.

The weather was warm and humid, but we took time to re-visit the merchants in Black Mountain. Thankfully our favorite yarn store, Black Mountain Yarn Shop, is still doing well; I
Top L to R: Asheville Cotton Company,
My Father's Pizza
Bottom L to R: Head to Toe, Owl at the SVM
think we were in three times and bought yarn on each occasion. The folks who own this shop have open hours allowing customers to spend time talking and knitting, as well as times for classes and for special presentations by well-known knitters. We also found the Asheville Cotton Company with more than a thousand bolts of fabric, but not a one used rabbits in the motif. However, one of our new discoveries was a place that has been in Black Mountain for years. The Swannanoa Valley Museum (SVM) is located in a historic fire house and this year was focused on representations of birds. The giant owl outside the door attracted our attention and we had to go inside. This is a small museum with a variety of levels of artwork, from children’s work to that of accomplished painters, sculptures, and photographers. Our other discovery was the Head to Toe shop. It houses an eclectic collection of wearable art, jewelry, cards and other items.

And then it was time to go up the mountain to the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly. This year
Top L to R: 'Pearly Stars' necklace, Pumpkin face
Bottom L to R: Pumpkin and spider,
Dreamcatcher earring
we learned needle felting (both wet and dry) with Maggie Baker. Our goal was to produce two bracelets and two pumpkins. Thankfully Maggie is a patient person and brought us the finished felt balls to turn into pumpkins and embellish while our creations dried in the sun. What takes a practiced artist only a couple of hours took us all day and I only really finished the pumpkin that Maggie had provided. The other pumpkin and the two bracelets are waiting on my work table for my attention. Our second instructor, Maureen Chin, had designed the Pearly Stars necklace and earring set. Maureen is also a patient teacher, even though some of her students don’t actually read the directions and wonder why their piece looks different from her examples. More than once she said to me, ‘Well that’s an interesting way to do it.’ ‘Interesting’, maybe, but a better word would have been ‘incorrect’; Maureen is very kind! I did get the necklace finished and it is gorgeous. The earrings are also on my work table and at the front of the line for finishing. Carol Wilcox Wells came out of retirement to teach us how to construct some very lovely Dreamcatcher earrings. We had a great time working on these and visiting with her about the finished pieces she produces for Alexander – Lehnert at the Grove Arcade. The earrings were in several colors and I still have two pair that are in line to be finished someday soon.

As always, it was a wonderful week and I can’t wait to see everyone again next year. This area of North Carolina has more than its fair share of good places to eat and this trip we tried to sample more of these providers. For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.

Where we stayed:
Three carrots
We’ve stayed at the Quality Inn and Suites, Biltmore East (1430 Tunnel Road, Asheville, 
NC 28805, (828) 298-5519) a couple of times. This year, while it was as clean and as convenient as usual, we were fairly uncomfortable until the sun when down. The humidity was so high the air conditioner could not really cool the room although we had it turned as high as possible.

The YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly (84 Blue Ridge Assembly Drive, Black Mountain, NC 28711, (828) 669-8422) is a great place for a retreat. The views are magnificent, the
Top L to R: Road at the YMCA, Bedroom
Bottom: One of the houses
surroundings are lovely, and the folks at the lodge are helpful. The building we stay in has lots of bedrooms upstairs with a bathroom between each. The ones downstairs either have shared or private bathrooms. There is an industrial kitchen, a large living room and a large dining room. The beds are relatively comfortable, as are the bathrooms. Some of the cleaning isn’t what it could be, but if you call down to the lodge, someone will come and take care of whatever issue you are having.

What we ate:
Four carrots
Corner Kitchen (3 Boston Way, Asheville, NC 28803, (828) 274-2439) is a very nice eatery 
Left top: Menu
Center T to B: Strawberries, Shrimp
Right T to B: Bread pudding, Key lime tart
in Biltmore Village. We usually get the entire beading group together for one meal there while we’re in Black Mountain. My only real complaint about this restaurant is that it is amazingly noisy. It’s nearly impossible to hear someone across the table from you. However, the food is local and very good. This trip I had strawberries and brie with toasted homemade bread and balsamic vinaigrette reduction sauce that was delicious. My dessert was Pudding Key Lime Tart; it was surprisingly good! Linnea had a shrimp and mixed vegetables bowl that she thought was excellent. Her dessert was White Chocolate Vanilla Bread pudding that was covered with caramel sauce; she said it had amazing flavor.

My Father’s Pizza (110 Cherry Street, Black Mountain, NC 28711, (828) 669-4944) is our favorite pizza place on the planet (or at least in the US). I’ve yet to find a white pizza with garlic that is nearly as good as what they prepare. We had pizza three times in four days – it’s that good.
Three and one-half carrots
Champa (437 N Main Street, Hendersonville, NC 28792, (828) 696-9800) is an Asian 
Top L to R: Menu, soup
Bottom L to R: Sushi, Pad Thai 
restaurant with a surprisingly broad menu. We arrived rather late for lunch, but we had good service and access to the lunch menu. We both had the Mizo soup that was had an almost nonexistent flavor, but was nicely heated. Linnea had the Pad Thai that she said was quite nice. I had the ‘Chef’s choice’ sushi that was an interesting selection – it was sashimi rather than sushi – and was of good quality.

Top: Pastries
Bottom: Stuffed avocado
City Bakery (88 Charlotte Street, Asheville, NC 28801, (828) 254-4289) was one of those places that we just dropped into because we were hungry. The sandwiches are huge, as are the salads. Linnea and I both had a stuffed avocado. We should have shared one. The food was good, but the folks were rather stand-offish.

East Village Grill (1177 Tunnel Road, Asheville, NC 28805, (828) 299-3743) is a local hangout for what appears to be families with high school kids. Burgers seem to be the
Top L to R: Menu, Stuffed jalapeños
mainstay of the restaurant, but there are some other interesting offerings. Linnea had a burger with baked apples rather than fries. She said that both were very good. I wasn’t particularly hungry so I ordered what I thought would be a small plate. The stuffed jalapeños were not killer hot and were full of cream cheese. Our waiter suggested that I try dipping the peppers in maple syrup; that was a great suggestion and a very nice counterpoint to the heat in the peppers.

Filo (1155 Tunnel Road, Asheville, NC 28805, (828) 298-9777) is a coffee shop type place
Top L to R: Restaurant, latte
Bottom L to R: Bagel sandwich,
Croissant sandwich
that requires you go to the cash register to order. The menu is on the chalkboard and is extensive. The young lady taking orders was quite happy to offer suggestions and explain items. Linnea and I both got bacon, egg, and cheese. She got hers on a bagel and I chose the croissant; we were both pleased.

One morning Linnea made the comment that she really loved biscuits and gravy. As it happened, the tourist flyer that had a listing of restaurants showed one that advertised just
Left: Linnea with menu
Right T to B: Pancakes, Biscuits and gravy
that. Off we went to Happy Jack’s (84 Mineral Springs Road, Asheville, NC 28805, (828) 774-5382). This converted pizza place is hidden from the road, but if you see the Office Depot, you’re in the right area. When we walked in, we knew this wasn’t a tourist stop, but a place hungry folks congregate. The servings are generous and the waitresses are friendly and efficient. Linnea had the biscuits and gravy that she pronounced very good. I had the pancakes that were much more than I could eat, but tasty.

We’d passed Pomodoros Greek and Italian Café (1070 Tunnel Road, Asheville, NC
Top L to R: Bread and oil, Flaming the cheese
Bottom L to R: Avogolemono, Saganaki
28805, (828) 299-3032) several times and decided to give it a try. Along with the menu, the waiter brought us bread with olive oil and spices; the bread was very good. We decided to share the Saganaki, a flaming cheese appetizer. Once the flames died down we fell on it as if we’d not eaten in a week; it was very good. We followed the cheese with bowls of chicken soup with lemon and rice called Avogolemono; we both thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801, (828) 254-9234) is an old Woolworth store that has been converted into an artists’ cooperative. While much of the
Top L to R: Menu, Float
Bottom L to R: Chicken salad, BLT
store has been changed, the soda fountain remains. There are tables, but we chose to sit at the counter. The menu is on a blackboard, but there is also a To Go menu from which you can order. There are sandwiches, salads, and all sorts of ice cream treats. The folks working behind the counter can also make floats, sundaes, shakes, malted milk, and old fashioned phosphates. I had a BLT with chips; there was lots of bacon on the sandwich. Linnea had the chicken salad sandwich that was overloaded with meat. She also had a chocolate float that looked great. We both enjoyed our meals and would go back to this funky, fun place again.

Flatiron building in Asheville

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