Journal Adventures with Dig Local, Part One.
I would start this post off by saying something dumb, like: “Wow, what an interesting week it’s been”! But all my weeks go like this. I get to hang out in one of the trendiest, fastest growing cities in the country and meet with all these great business owners and learn about their businesses, while working here for Dig Local as the Account Manager. Oh, sorry. I should probably introduce you to this segment. It’s a real good one called Stephan’s Dig Local Journal, and it’s all about my super fun adventures I make throughout the week. No, this isn’t a segment where you get to argue about how I didn’t put Green Man or Wedge in my Top Ten Local Breweries, but rather a great way for you to keep up with new happenings and businesses you might not know existed in Asheville, as well as their backstory, sometimes. Us here at Dig Local are all about the little man, supporting small businesses through our app and website here, so my job is to level the playing field and getting their names out there so you can stop drinking that black sludge from Starbucks and get some quality local coffee all up in your face. Shopping, recreation, services, food, drink, we promote it all. So lets get going before I realize I’ve rambled way too much in the first paragraph.
Monday: Gardens of Health Chiropractic, Foggy Mountain Brewpub and Arancinis.
I used to be one of these people that dreaded Mondays, but recently my job has made it a lot easier to get going. It’s amazing how much better your weeks are when you enjoy your job, but nothing can prepare you from the Monday after one of your best friends bachelor party weekends in Nashville. Yeah, I could write a blog on that one…but I won’t. Thankfully I got start the week off in a nice relaxing environment, Gardens of Health Chiropractic. The soothing ambiance and light music in the background was certainly a help on my frazzled mind. We just added a Spa and Wellness category to the Dig Local app so I’ve just now began meeting with business owners in this type of work, and I love it! Actually the amazing, fantastic, and super nice owners, Landon and Abilgale talked me into coming back next week for an aligning, which I am pretty excited about. Last time I got screened for a chiropractic session (from the mall I might add), the guy said according to the readings on my back that technically I was dead. So I figured there was no point in fixing it at that time. I’ll make sure and include more on them next week when I hopefully get my back aligned and am walking around like the 6 Million Dollar Man. PS: I haven’t actually seen that movie so I hope that reference checks out.
You need to be prepared to hear a lot about Foggy Mountain Brewpub, because it’s my favorite spot/self proclaimed office here in Asheville. In fact, I’m sitting here surrounded by about 20 people drinking trying to get this blog written as we speak. You know what I love about Foggy? It doesn’t try to be something it’s not. They take the things that make a great local bar and concentrate their energy on that. They aren’t the football team that tries wildcat formations or fumblerooskis, or tries passing the ball on the one yard line instead of handing to Marshawn Lynch for an almost guaranteed touchdown, they get out there on their taps and run Oklahoma drills and practice their bar fundamentals. They hand the ball to Lynch and he runs it in for the touchdown and the Seahawks beat the dumb Patriots in the 2015 Super Bowl. In this analogy, the ball is a beer, the owners are a smarter Pete Carrol, I’m confused by the metaphor already, and go Panthers! They have live music most nights of the week from great local artists, no covers, 11 taps that are constantly rotating, with a good mix of flagship Asheville Beers and some harder to find small batch stuff as well. Combine that with a great space that is just far enough off the beaten path on church street, one block from Patton Avenue, that keeps the demographic down on the tourists and up on the locals. Not saying there are no tourists, but this location seems to bring out a more eclectic mix than other areas in downtown Asheville would. Oh yeah, and full (incredible) non-expensive menu with a kitchen that is open until 2 am, 7 nights a week. Combine that with the best staff in Asheville and you’ve got yourself a real, local, crowd-pleaser bar. Now that you know the premise I will try to be more specific with what I get when I go here but for now, since you are basically dying to try it I’ll leave you three words: wings, cuban, smokedtomatoalfredo. Yes, you can order that last one by saying it just like I typed it too.
After the bartender Rachel so graciously made me a fantastic detox water with lime, herbs, and lemon to wash away the Nashville weekend I was still experiencing in my head, I got on the road to meet up with my last Monday meeting with a new place in town, Arancini. Located in the heart of Haywood Road in West Asheville, Arancini is a wine bar with Italian food served in small plate portions. Daniel, the owner, defined it as small bites, I defined it as Fun sized. I’m hoping it catches on in the Italian fine dining community, because candy bars have had a monopoly on the term for long enough. The focus is on a relaxed environment where you can enjoy a nice wine paired with what I thought was fairly inexpensive Italian food. I haven’t got to try the food yet, though I’m sure that I will soon and will make sure I post it up on here. When I first saw the space I thought that this would be a nice place to bring a date before heading out to enjoy a show next door at ISIS, or check out the awesome bars on Haywood Road, some of my personal recommendations being Pour Taproom, Westville Pub, Urban Orchard Cider Company, Desoto Lounge, or The Burger Bar. While I was there during the day it was easy to tell that going at night when they have it dimly lit would be the best time to check out the bar. Daniel is an extremely nice guy and I would bet that he is the type of owner that spends a lot of time behind the bar, so make sure you get a word in with him on wine selections and what they have going on throughout the week. You can keep up with Arancini and their nightly events on our Dig Local app as well, which is even easier than begging for time with a business owner! I would know, because its kind of my job.
Tuesday, Local Provisions, StudioWed, Motorcycle Coffee Club.
Every Tuesday a few people that are in similar professional positions as I all meet at a different place downtown for lunch. Usually it’s somewhere low key, and we try to find nice, quiet places to meet so that we can get our work done without toddlers flinging food at us. Well this week, owner and chef Justin Burdett and his wife Brooke were gracious enough to host us at their new restaurant, Local Provisions. I’ve been pretty excited about trying the food here, though to be fair food in general gets my heart jumping more than most things in life. Justin used to be a chef at Zambras and Cucini 24 here in town so he already has a pretty impressive resume, so to get a nice private lunch (Provisions doesn’t open until 5 pm) was much appreciated. Anytime I get to work in a toddler free zone is much appreciated. I had the pork belly with lentils, which I was told was the greatest in Asheville. Hard to argue there! The meat basically melted in my mouth. The lentils made a nice edition and paired well with the meat, and whatever he seasoned it with made it hard to concentrate on actually being productive in my meeting. It was difficult to not be jealous of all my peers entrees and I won’t be forgiving them until I have eaten everything they had. Local Provisions is open for brunch on Sunday as well, and he made us a few brunch items, so I would highly recommend making your way down Biltmore Avenue to check them out. I’ve been here my whole life and I can easily say it was some of the best Asheville cuisine to grace my plate. Justin and Brooke are both fantastic people, so go tell them Stephan sent you in. Also, please make sure you say my name right or all these people are going to have no clue who you are talking about. Steff-UN.
Afterwards, I shot on over to StudioWed right off Charlotte street to meet with the owner, Nicole, and talk about all the all the things we do here at Dig Local, like it’s my job or something. The best way I know how to describe StudioWed is if you are a Bridezilla (I know this term!) and you want to leave your wedding in the real professionals hands, they take care of you from A to Z. They are the boss hog planners of weddings in Asheville. So you can go chill yourself out Bridezilla, they have you covered.
My next meeting takes the prestigious “Most Interesting Business Of The Week” award. It’s not every day you get to meet a hilarious, entrepreneur spirited Australian that makes coffee out of a motorcycle, but that’s exactly what I did. Max runs a coffee shop off of his motorcycle and it’s called Motorcycle Coffee Club. It looks like a fantastic rig, the only downside is there isn’t a dog in little motorcycle goggles riding sidecar, although I pushed heavily for that to become a thing. Max is a real entrepreneur. He’s traveled most of the way around the world after being disgruntled with his home country and the limited opportunities and ended up settling here in Asheville to run his fantastic idea of combining coffee and motorcycles. He is currently in transition from the Asheville outlet mall to a downtown location, so give him a follow on his Facebook to keep up with where he parks the bike. I had his coffee, I don’t recall him telling me what style it was but it seemed to be a medium roast Ethiopian blend. I would say it is a solid cup and well worth visiting. As time goes on, you all are going to learn that I have slowly and unintentionally became as much of a coffee snob as I am a beer snob as well. Does that mean a top 10 coffee’s in Asheville list is coming?? I mean, I think it’s inevitable, I say while being served my third cup of Foggy Mountain Brewpub coffee, who by the way, use Dynamite Roasting beans, and is by no means a bad cup of coffee to not be made in a coffee shop! I’m feeling real nice and alive right now at 5 o’clock on a Friday!
Wednesday, No Taste Like Home, The Guitar Trader, El Kimchi Food Truck.
Uh wait, did I already give Motorcycle Coffee Club the Most Interesting award? Well he probably should cut the impalpable trophy it in half because the other half definitely needs to go to No Taste Like Home. Ever heard of a business that takes you out in your own property or other forested areas, forages food from what’s already growing, and then takes and cooks it into a meal for you? I kind of doubt it. They were featured in the Top Twelve Experiences in Asheville for 2012 and have also made it on the Travel Channel. They teach you how to not eat the mushrooms that end you up in the hospital (or an alternate dimension with the Beatles), what foods could be growing right around your place, and even cook them up for you! You can even take the foods you found to one of their partner restaurants for a free appetizer as well! People, if that isn’t Asheville, I don’t know what is anymore. Rebekah, the marketing girl, was extremely nice and let me in on all the new things they are going to be doing and it’s so exciting to see how much they have grown. Alan, the owner, is a very down to earth guy and extremely knowledgeable in his trade. In short, the guy is basically a foraging ninja and I want to be just like him. Maybe if I get tired of writing and working in marketing I will just head off in the woods and find me some fancy forest meals. You have no excuse not to book them on a tour, I think I might do the same myself soon. If you are looking to explore our great outdoors, what better way to do it than to get some food out of it too?
I always look forward to meetings where I get to play with whats being sold, so a trip over to meet with Stephen, the owner of The Guitar Trader, was a nice way to end my Thursday workday. The Guitar Trader is a great little guitar shop on Haywood Road in West Asheville, where yes, you can trade guitars as well as buy them. Stephen has become a staple in the community by always being involved with local events and charities, which makes him stand apart from a lot of the other guitar stores. Plus, he works with Andrew Scotchie, a good friend of mine who is lead singer and founder of Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats, and their full time job is legitimately rocking your face off with Neo Blues/Funk Rock. Ironically, he actually showed up while I was meeting with Stephen (he won’t admit he was stalking me) and we got a few pictures while we were all there. I think he was just trying to make me feel embarrassed at how much better at guitar he is than me. Make sure you go give Stephen a visit and trade him that guitar you said you were going to learn to play 20 years ago and is currently being used as a musical hat rack.
Hungry from all the jealous feelings I get when someone is better than me at guitar, I stormed half a block away to The Brew Pump to grab some El Kimchi food off of their food truck. For those of you who don’t know, they are Mexican and Korean fusion cuisine. I’ve made it this far without anyone knowing that I haven’t been to one of the most famous food trucks in Asheville, so I figured it was time to finally try it out. Mother of Korea and Mexico. It was amazing! What the heck is wrong with me for never trying it? I really wish I could remember what I had but when I looked back to reference their online menu I found it is all pictures. Soooo…according to that it would seem I had a Page 12 for dinner. I would really enjoy it if they took their online presence up a notch so that I could look at the menu ahead of time.
Thursday. High Five Coffee and The Crow and Quill.
Thankfully Thursday was a little more chill, so I was able to meet with some my good friend and head of marketing for Urban Orchard Cider Company, Jeff Anderson, and talk business while meeting at our usual spot: High Five Coffee on Rankin Street. The newer of the two locations, I freaking love High Five. Easily the best staffed coffee shop in Asheville, they always serve a consistently great product with the best staff around. I did find our my favorite barista is leaving and that made me sad, but life and coffee go on. They seem to do a better job brewing the Counter Culture beans than most places do in town as well, and the owner Jay is usually bustling around and is very active in the local community. Always get the light roast here. The beans are always fresh enough to where there is no need to go dark, and the portabello mushroom sandwich I had for breakfast was quite good.
Later on that night I ventured out to The Crow and Quill to investigate the claims of 260 different types of whiskey, because that is a mystery worth solving. What an interesting place this is! Somehow this was my first visit to the Quill but it won’t be the last. The first thing you notice about The Crow and Quill is how you didn’t notice it, and you’re left looking like a goober standing on the street looking for this alleged bar. Mainly because the only indicator that there is a bar, or even life inside through the extremely dimmed doors is the small inscribing above the door with “The Crow and Quill” written fairly small, and is extremely easy to miss. In fact, I parked directly in front of the door and still had to google where it was to figure it out. Once inside, you are in an environment unlike any other I’ve seen in Asheville. It’s clearly a craft cocktail lounge, so if you are on a beer tour of Asheville you might be in the wrong saloon. That’s what the decor would remind you of, a Victorian age saloon. In the middle of the room its hard to miss the stuffed Crow in a large, old birdcage, the dead hanging flowers above an old piano that I really, really wished a pirate would have been playing. That pirate would have made a great addition to the room and my experience. However, the pirate was the only thing missing from the decor. There was no shortage of people doing tarot card readings, which I didn’t partake in because I already knew my future was the house gin and tonic that was advertised on their cocktail menu. I am one of those people that judge places the first time by standard combinations, and they got the gin and tonic right. Refreshing and classic, but enough variations to make it unique to the bar. This bar wins the award for “Most Likely To Be Visited By Edgan Allen Poe’s Ghost” award. It looks like the entire place was designed with him in mind, and I’m sure if he’s able to, then he will make his way there. If he can’t make it, I really, really hope they get a piano playing pirate.
In a pre-emptive post, our food charity Program, Food Connection, has a benefit concert tomorrow night at the Grey Eagle. We take surplus food from restaurants and make sure it gets to those in need here in WNC instead of going to waste. Dig Local and all of us believe in taking care of our community, so if you do as well this is a great way to support it and have some fun too. There is going to be a big raffle and great music too, you can check out the show and buy tickets here. I hope to see you there tomorrow!
Friday has been my catch up day. I’ve been sitting here at Foggy Mountain Brewpub writing this the past couple hours and doing the less fun part of my job, which is trying to get business owners on the phone so that I can meet with them next week and have more super fun, exciting, local businesses to tell you about. It’s looking like next week will be pretty nice and relevant, so give me a follow if you want to keep up with everything that’s going on. Remember, team work makes the dream work, and the more shares we get on here the better the information is. If you know any business owners that would like to be a part of the blog and Dig Local, make sure you give me a shout. I’ll even give you my email address so you can tell me yourself: Stephan@diglocal.com.
Until next time AVLIiens,