Monthly Archives: June 2012

Yum, Yum, the Asheville Food Tour


Asheville is quite a culinary town. It’s even referred to as a “Foodtopian Society.” There are so many restaurants to choose from. No matter what your taste buds crave, you’ll find something to please your palate.

One of the best ways to sample all the fantastic food Asheville has to offer is to take the Asheville Food Tour. As their slogan says, “Asheville Food Tours introduces you to the city bite by bite.”

It’s a two and a half hour walking tour of downtown, stopping at 7 to 10 different restaurants and/or specialty food shops to savor their flavors. We went to a total of 8 places, each of which gets a separate mini paw rating from Teddy.

Our guide’s name was Chris. He and his wife created Asheville Food Tours. And what’s great about it is that you get to sample more than just a few bites of food. You get to try items right off the restaurants’ menus or dishes specially prepared for the tour. By the time the tour is done, you’re full! And you get a discount card to use when you visit any of the stops at a later date.

Here are the 8 stops we made:

The Chocolate Fetish (3 mini paws)
Here we tried three different samples of chocolate: truffle, caramel and plain dark chocolate. And we got to see behind the scenes of their chocolate making process. It’s a nice place with lots of exotic chocolate options, but I still love the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. The owners, Bill and Sue Foley, are very nice people and they led the tour through their shop.

The Green Sage Café (3 mini paws)
This is one of Asheville’s “Green” restaurants. They recycle all paper products and compost all leftovers. And they pride themselves in being a restaurant that buys locally from local suppliers. We had zucchini soup and a vegetable hummus wrap.

Strada (3 mini paws)
This is one of the newer stops on the tour. Strada is an Italian bistro. We were served goat cheese pizza and a fig stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in prosciutto, along with red wine.

Olive & Kickin’ (2 mini paws)
This was a most unusual stop. This shop sells different types of olive oil and balsamic vinegars. And to taste the different olive oils, we did shots of them. Yep, shots of olive oil. Pretty odd. No dipping bread in the oil, just drink it up.

Mr. Frog’s Soul Food and Creole Kitchen (3 mini paws)
This was another fairly new restaurant. The chef talked at length about his history and why he started the restaurant. We had cucumber water, ribs, an oyster, and a Cheerwine truffle.

Chorizo (3 mini paws)
I’m not big on Latin food, but the pork quesadilla and fruit drink were very good. After the trip, I made the fruit drink (orange juice, pineapple juice, cranberry juice and club soda) at home, adding in some pineapple/coconut rum.

Karen Donatelli Cafe (3 mini paws)
By the time we got to this bakery, we were already pretty full of food. We sampled a pecan caramel square. Karen Donatelli mostly creates cakes, but she has some very creative desserts available as well. Wish we weren’t so stuffed!

The Spice & Tea Exchange (3 mini paws)
The final stop was the Spice & Tea Exchange. They feature a huge variety of spices, teas and flavored sugars. I bought an orange creamsicle tea sample to try along with maple syrup sugar and raspberry sugar.

Overall, the tour was great fun. Great experience, great food, great town. I’d do it again since Chris doesn’t necessarily go to the same stops each time.

Some things to keep in mind about the tour. They are held rain or shine. Wear comfortable shoes. There are no substitutions for dietary restrictions. Tours are limited to 12 people, so book early. Tours are held March through November, Tuesdays through Fridays at 2pm. The tour costs $39 per person.

There is a second tour offered that takes you through Biltmore Village, a quaint collection of shops and restaurants just outside the historic Biltmore estate. We plan to try that one next time.

Dates of Visit:  May 4, 2012

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Bagpipes and Belly Dancing


If you like world music, take a stroll around EPCOT’s World Showcase and get a taste of tunes from Canada to Mexico, Japan to Morocco.

In my opinion, the musical entertainment at the Walt Disney World theme parks is always first rate. I’ve rarely seen a show that’s not at least very good. And no matter what your taste in music, you can find something worth seeing, and hearing, at EPCOT.

MEXICO: Mariachi Cobre, a 12-piece Mexican Mariachi band, performs at the Mexico Pavilion. Originally formed in 1971, the group has been performing at EPCOT since it opened in 1982. With 3 guitars, 2 trumpets and 7 violins, they bring to life sounds of Mexican folk music.

GERMANY: Oktoberfest Musikanten performs traditional Bavarian music inside the Biergarten restaurant and outside in the courtyard of the Germany Pavilion. This 6-member group, decked out in German lederhosen and playing accordions, tubas and guitars, frolic to the oom-pah sounds of Germany.

UNITED STATES: The United States Pavilion features both the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps as well as the Voices of Liberty, inside the rotunda of the American Adventure building. The Fife & Drum Corps is a colonial-era band that plays the spirited patriotic music of early America. The Voices of Liberty is an 8-member a capella group that sings classic American songs like “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Ol’ Man River,” and “Amazing Grace.”

JAPAN: Matsuriza performs on the huge Japanese Taiko drums at the Japan Pavilion. This percussion troupe was formed in 1998 and they play traditional works as well as their own compositions. You know when a Matsuriza performance is going on. You can hear it and feel it all the way across the World Showcase Lagoon.

MOROCCO: Mo’Rockin’ is a 6-person group that plays music from the Middle East, Africa, Spain and America. With traditional and modern instruments, they create original high-energy sounds that keep your feet tapping. And if you feel a bit adventurous, join the belly dancer and wiggle your hips to the beat.

UNITED KINGDOM: The newest addition to the EPCOT World Showcase musical groups is the British Revolution. They replaced the British Invasion who performed the music of the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits and the like. The British Revolution performs hits from bands like Led Zepplin, The Clash, The Rolling Stones and the Police.

CANADA: I save the best for last. Off Kilter is a kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing Celtic rock band. I just love these guys. I have several of their albums. If you never thought a bagpipe could be part of a rock group, think again. These guys put on a kick ass show. They’ve been performing at the Canada Pavilion since 1997.

Next time you’re at EPCOT, why not take in a show or two? You may be surprised at what you hear. And maybe you’ll develop a taste for some new music.

Dates of Visit:  All the time!

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Take in a Show at the Flat Rock Playhouse


I have visited the Asheville, North Carolina area about twelve times in the last twelve years and each time I’ve wanted to take in a play at the Flat Rock Playhouse in Hendersonville, about 30 miles south of Asheville. But every time I had a trip planned, there wasn’t anything playing at the theatre that I was interested in. This time I planned a trip around a performance I really wanted to see. But before I talk about that, let me tell you about the Flat Rock Playhouse itself.

There are actually two theatres. The original Flat Rock Playhouse is south of Hendersonville and was “born” in 1952 when Robroy Farquhar and his Vagabond Players made it their home. It’s next door to another historic site in Hendersonville, the poet Carl Sandberg’s home. The architecture is reminiscent of its summer stock beginnings back in the 1940s. Today the facility has been completely updated with state-of-the art lighting and sound and seats 506 patrons.

2012 marks their 60th season. From dramas to comedies to musicals, the Flat Rock Playhouse has done it all. Their 2012 season included Nunsense, Guys and Dolls and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There’s even a series of shows for young audiences.

The newest theatre is in historic downtown Hendersonville and opened in 2011. It’s a very intimate setting, only about 250 seats set up in a horseshoe around the stage. If you can get a front row seat, that’s the best way to see a play there. But if you don’t, all seats have a good view. We were lucky enough to get front row, center seats and they were terrific. This downtown venue is where I saw the play, Say Goodnight, Gracie.

Say Goodnight, Gracie was written by Rupert Holmes. I had a massive crush on him in the 1980s when he was well-known as a singer/songwriter and had the hit single “Escape,” otherwise known as “The Pina Colada Song.” I even wrote him two fan letters, both of which he answered…but I digress.

Say Goodnight, Gracie is a wonderful production. It’s a one-man show about the life of comedian George Burns and his relationship with his partner and wife Gracie Allen. George Burns was portrayed perfectly by Joel Rooks. He’s been playing this role for a long time, starting on Broadway in 2002.

I’ve always loved George Burns, from his early TV show to his film appearances. Joel Rooks embodied George Burns so well it was like he had been reincarnated. He had Burns’ mannerisms and voice down pat. The story was both funny and sad, but always entertaining and included the audio recorded voice of actress Didi Conn, (Frenchie in the movie Grease) who played the voice of Gracie Allen. She, too, was perfectly cast.

Now that I’ve been to the downtown Flat Rock Playhouse, I definitely want to go back. It doesn’t matter what’s playing. I think I’d like to see just about any performance that the state theatre of North Carolina has to offer.

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

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Well Bred Bakery & Cafe


Back in 2006, while on a trip to North Carolina, we explored the little hamlet of Weaverville, just north of Asheville. There we discovered Well Bred Bakery & Café. Now we make this café a scheduled stop on all our Asheville vacations.

I’m always drawn to homemade treats. Well Bred is abundant with “handcrafted edibles.” But the one that drew me in the most was the mountain éclair. Your normal chocolate éclair is about five or six inches long and filled with a bit of cream. This is not your normal éclair. This one is about six inches in diameter and filled with an ocean of cream. Super yummy. We get one, or two, every time we visit Asheville.

I tend to always pick one thing at a restaurant and go on and on about it, ignoring the other wonderful delectable delights. In this case, it’s the éclair. But Well Bred has so much more.

Sweets include: baklava, tiramisu, crème brulee, carrot cake, sour cream lemon and cranberry pound cake, chocolate raspberry bars, cinnamon streusel cake, key lime tarts, chocolate fudge cake, various cookies and now a mini version of the mountain éclair.

For entrees, they serve a fantastic chicken salad, fruit salad, gourmet croissant sandwiches, quiche, hot paninis, sesame noodles and homemade soups.

They offer a variety of organic coffees from Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Jamaica and Columbia, along with their collection of signature artisan breads including challah, wheat, demi baguettes, Italian batard, olive oil and rosemary, and sourdough.

This place is usually crowded during lunch with locals or visitors, but it is definitely worth waiting for a table. They’re open every day and stay open late on Fridays and Saturdays, until 9pm, so you can stop by and pick up a mountain éclair to take home. It’ll feed a family of four!

Dates of Visit:  May 2006 to present

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Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

I just got back from a trip to North Carolina and I’ve got about 18 more posts to write about that. But, I figured I’d mix it up a bit and include a few posts about some places I’ve been other than North Carolina. We’ll be back there next week.


Let’s venture down to the Southernmost tip of Florida to Key West and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

This colonial southern mansion style house was originally built in 1851 by Asa Tift, a marine architect and salvage wrecker, using his profits from salvaging sunken ships — of which there were many off the coast of Key West at the time. Hemingway and second wife, Pauline, received the house as a wedding gift from Pauline’s Uncle Gus in 1931.


It was the first house on the island with indoor plumbing and an upstairs bathroom with running water. The swimming pool on the property was the first pool on the island. It is said that Pauline, as a gift to her husband, had the pool built while he was off reporting on the Spanish Civil War. She supposedly spent $20,000 to have the pool constructed. Upon his return, Hemingway was not pleased with how much money she spent and is said to have yelled, “You might as well have my last cent.” This penny is embedded in concrete near the pool.

It is reported that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author spent the happiest years of his life in Key West. They were certainly very prolific years. Hemingway wrote many of his famous works in Key West including For Whom the Bell Tolls, Death in the Afternoon, To Have and Have Not, and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Not only did the famous Ernest Hemingway live here, but so did his famous six-toed cat, Snowball. It is said that Hemingway was given the white cat by a ship’s captain and some of the 40 to 50 cats that still live on the property are descendents of Snowball. Hemingway named these polydactyl, or extra toed cats, after celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Mark Twain, and Charlie Chaplin. This tradition continues today.



The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is open from 9am to 5pm, 365 days a year. The admission fee includes a 30 minute guided tour or you can just wander around the grounds.

Dates of Visit:  July 2003

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