Livin’ on local time.
I started writing this edition of my journal, which if you didn’t know by now is me recalling my adventures meeting with our awesome Asheville independent business owners while working for Dig Local, then I had to get up and do a few meetings, and before I knew it I realized I had been going nonstop for about eight days. Now it’s Tuesday of the week after, and I realize I need to just go ahead and jump right into it before I go into one of those wild work vortexes and it’s another week and I still haven’t gotten this blog finished. So since you all should know what this segment is about by now, we can dive right into it. Oddly enough it’s starting with a Saturday, but thankfully when work is involved on a Saturday, it’s normally for a good reason. Anytime I get to meet a new business it helps if it’s something I’m interested in, and it just so happens that fishing is my oldest hobby.
Saturday: Rivers Edge Outfitters
Oh yeah — I had a line in the water when I was barely old enough to stand. So even though I normally balk at the thought of working on Saturday, when it involves fishing, it suddenly becomes far more bearable. So my old college roommate/best friend of twenty two years took a trip down to Cherokee, NC with me to meet with the good ol’ boys running Rivers Edge Outfitters. The owner, Joey Walraven, and head manager/marketer/fly-fishing guru/native of Boone, Matt Beam, head up the shop, and it looks like they’ve made quite a name for themselves. Read any online review and you can see that they’ve got a great operation going on, and I could spend hours looking at those beautiful trout that they’ve guided people to catch in the incredible WNC waters. They guide on more than 3000 miles of trout and smallmouth bass streams and lakes in the Western North Carolina waters, and even have a brick and mortar as well as an online store for all your high maintenance fishing needs. Basically what I’m saying is, eventually your family is going to catch on to you, there is no point in keeping on saying things such as “Verizon cut my phone off when I caught that 24 inch rainbow,” or “My kid dropped my camera in the water right before I jumped in when my line snapped and caught that musky with my bare teeth,” because none of your family believes you anyway. It’s time to put an end to their continual eye rollings and book your trip to let the boys at Rivers Edge give you physical proof that you can indeed fish. This way you won’t be forced to take photoshop classes so that you can be included on those endless fishing conversations, with no worries of getting busted. Rivers Edge is, well, right on the river’s edge, so I naturally had to snap some pictures for the guys as well. I could have hung out there all day, but had to go see my old stomping grounds at Western Carolina University right down the road. I’m sure I’ll be back to get my line wet soon, maybe teach them how to fish (probably not). I’ll let some of these pictures do the talking.
Tuesday: Chorizo, Trade and Lore Coffee, and Mountain Juicery.
My weekly adventurous group of fellow account managers with local Asheville businesses and I took our weekly lunch meeting out to the good ol’ Grove Arcade this tuesday. Surrounded by 110% tourists, we proceeded to stuff our faces with some of the best latin fare in Asheville: Chorizo. For anyone that isn’t familiar with Chorizo, it is owned by one of Asheville’s true OG chefs: Hector Diaz. Sometimes I complain when I have to run my mouth for more than a few hours at a time and I have to actually come home and cook my own food, meanwhile this guy runs four restaurants: Chorizo, Modesto, Salsa’s, and Bomba’s, and seems to spend the majority of the time still in the kitchen. I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting his illusive self yet, which is kind of odd in my field, but from the stories I’ve heard he still spends a great majority of his time in the back of the house, always coming up with new dishes. I’ve only had Chorizo once, so our eclectic group decided today would be a great day to indulge in some Pan-Latin food. I decided to go with the coconut chicken, which was complete with chicken, rice, beans, greens, pineapple sauce, and guacamole. Solid lunch line up. While it was a delicious meal, I was kind of regretting not getting what I had the first time I tried Chorizo, which was the Coffee Pork Chile Relleno. Honestly, that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in Asheville, and the coconut chicken wasn’t really even comparable to it. That’s not a knock on the chicken at all, just an overwhelming testament to the coffee pork. I seriously would put it in the top 20 meals I’ve ever had in Asheville, so if you go, heed my advice.
Wall Street is a neat little street in Asheville. What it lacks in investment bankers and stockbrokers, it makes up for in cobblestone street and quirky little shops. I’ve always been surprised there wasn’t a good coffee shop on it, but I can no longer whine about the lack of Wall Street caffeine because now there is a superb spot for that magical elixir, and that spot is Trade and Lore Coffee. Run by the owners Sarah Winkler, Lindsey Pitman (pictured), and Brock KehoeI, they got started through their Indiegogo campaign, which helped raise the capital they needed to open their own coffee shop after the shop they worked in, Waking Life, was shut down after the owners did some very controversial things in the Asheville community. I met with Sarah a few months before they opened and she told me she had also shared the vision that Wall Street would be a perfect spot for a good coffee shop and so far, they are killing it. I mean like knocking it out of the park. This town has certainly made me a bit snobbish about my precious coffee, and I was not disappointed. Not in the price, the incredibly rich coffee, the surprisingly spacious atmosphere, nor the cheaper-than-usual price for a cup of drip, and just as importantly for someone in my profession: A GRACIOUS SUPPLY OF POWER OUTLETS. I mean, SERIOUSLY! THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR ELECTRICITY WITH ME! I love some of the other local coffee shops in town, I really do, but I’ve had to go Gladiator on some patrons just so that I can get a dang outlet. Then there’s all the blood to clean up, I spend my life in prison — it’s just barely worth it for coffee. I actually visited Trade and Lore twice this past week, the other time I was meeting with Valet Gourmet/Takeout Central, and we both had plenty of space to talk, and use outlets, and be merry. Props, Trade and Lore. Thanks for caffeinating Wall Street. You will be seeing a lot more of me, and most likely bringing a lot of other Asheville business owners in to discover you during our meetings.
So I had Trade and Lore to get me all hyped up for my workout that day at Hard Exercise Works, which if you don’t know, is an amazing workout regime that has been kicking my butt lately. If you realize that the bulk of your workout has become breathing heavy while waiting on your burrito to finish cooking in the microwave, I suggest going over to HEW and letting Arnaldo, the owner, get you all whipped into shape. After a while all the yelling at you to do burpees is somewhat endearing, especially when you realize there is no way that you would be doing this workout without the level of motivation their coaches offer. After a gratuitous amount of cardio circuits that day, I went to see my good pals over at Mountain Juicery for some much needed recovery drink. Owners Gary and Joey Steuber know what they are doing, and to beet it all (pun intended), they are natives to the Asheville area as well! I always enjoy getting to see fellow natives starting their own businesses and living their dream here in our hometown, because that’s been something that’s hard for a lot of us to do because of the high cost of living here. The smoothie/juice trend is huge on the West coast, so naturally we are just now starting to see it heavier out here on the slower side of the country. Normally if I’ve been doing more lifting, I like to go with the Mango Cashew Lime smoothie, which consists of mango, spinach, cashews, lime, banana, almond milk, and add a scoop of protein for the recovery. The workout I did that day consisted of mainly horrible, sweaty cardio, so I wanted something more cold and refreshing, so Gary lead me to the Daily Glow juice which is made up of pineapple, cucumber, lemon, and mint. It’s flavorful, but light enough to be superbly refreshing after doing a miserable cardio workout. Has anyone picked up yet that I hate doing cardio? Seeing as it’s right across from my gym, I will be there quite a bit, and I urge you to do the same. You might just get healthy and enjoy it at the same time if you aren’t careful!
Wednesday: Kathmandu Cafe, Romans Deli, Leah B Noel CPA
Cat-Man-Do. So that’s apparently how you say Kathmandu … Well I would have never guessed that. Thankfully, a few people in my small group the day before at Chorizo let me know this before I met with the good folks at Kathmandu Cafe on Wednesday. I got to meet with one of the owners, Tok, and talk about his business and smell the wonderful smell of Himalayan cuisine, where you can taste flavors from Nepal, India, and Tibet. It took me back to a time not so long ago when I enjoyed the lunch buffet with my sister at Kathmandu, which we were both very into. I’m sure by now you probably think I like everything, but I assure you, I only write about the places I’ve had good experiences. I’ve had very few disappointing experiences in the local Asheville dining scene, and I feel that is a testament to the standards that the Asheville culinary scene upholds. There are few words that get me excited like “buffet,” and I’ve made a few of them lose money in the day when they realize how much I am capable of stuffing into my stomach. While I cannot remember the details of what I had a few months ago, I will say that for the price around $10, it will be hard to find a more solid lunch buffet in Asheville. They serve goat or bison curry, navratan korma, vegetable tandoori and tikka sag, and a huge range of curries that will satisfy any curry fanatic. The environment is relaxed and very authentic as well. Go get some buffet in your life!
I was just telling my roommate the other day, we need more delis! A good deli is my jam! Since I’m downtown during the day time more often than afternoon and night, lunch spots are always a focus of mine, and usually I just want a big ol’ fresh sammich. Roman’s Deli is the number one restaurant on Trip Advisor in Asheville. I always see the little Roman’s delivery scooters zipping around everywhere in Asheville, so they do a lot of catering and delivering. Roman has been in business for several years now with his wife, Amanda, and he certainly knows how to cater to Asheville. After the meeting I was bragging about my extensive research into the Cuban Sandwich Scene of Asheville (not a real thing, but pretending it is anyway), and he then laughed maniacally and had his minions force feed me what is, I have to say, the best Cuban in Asheville. I have several other places very dear to my heart that make incredible cubans, but I can’t help it. That leads me into the my weekly segment of…………….
Stephan’s Local Meal of the Week!
Winner: Cuban Sandwich at Roman’s Deli.
The stack of Hickory Nut Gap meat, the bread, the cheese, that sandwich dressing that it comes with, it was all so perfect. After marinating the sandwich in the tears of my happiness, I proceeded to make it disappear in the most glorious fashion and become instantly depressed that my experience was already over. Even the orange slices on the side seemed to pair perfectly with the sandwich, and I think I see Romans Deli catering in my near future. If you can’t tell, you really, really should give Roman’s a try if you haven’t had the pleasure of doing so yet.
I wanted to do a quick shout for my amazing CPA team over at Leah B Noel, and specifically Alistair for helping me and my right brain deal with my business taxes over the past few months. They are incredibly patient, helpful, and knowledgable, and for any of you working for yourself, or just needing a CPA in general, I would strongly recommend them. Tell them Stephan sent you in, and support some local CPA rockstars. Sure, they aren’t a flashy cuban sandwich or a perfectly made coffee that lights you up, but these are the people that make sure our Asheville entrepreneurs can follow their dreams and keep their ducks in a row. Thanks for all you do for small business here in Asheville Leah B. Noel team! Y’all are doing a killer job, keep it up with the things that I will inevitably never understand.
Thursday: Westville Pub
It was hard making Roman’s cuban the sandwich of the week, because the blackened chicken sandwich at Westville Pub was a very, very close second. I personally love Westville Pub, they were in West Asheville long before it was cool to be in West Asheville. The owner, Drew, is a real straight shooting, no nonsense guy who comes off a little brash at first, but is a genuinely nice guy once you’ve met him and you can tell he is very family oriented and takes care of his staff and his awesome little bar on Haywood road. In my never ending quest to take on more writing than I have time to do, I have practiced some self control and decided not to do a Best Ranch Dressing of the Week section, but just know that Westville Pub would win 11 out of 10 times. I don’t pretend to understand cooking, and if you’ve read my blog a few times you can probably tell that I don’t do a lot of cooking for myself because of a few isolated house fire incidents, but whatever or wherever they get that ranch, it’s unbelievable. It’s not a runny kind of ranch, no sir, it’s that perfect, creamy, potent goodness that has the ability to turn even cardboard into a meal that’s fit for any proud Southerner. I love ranch dressing because as a kid, it’s a great, tricky way to get you to eat vegetables. Then you realize you are 27 years old and you are still using vegetables as an excuse to eat more ranch dressing. Anyyyyyway. The blackened chicken sandwich is one of my favorite lunches in Asheville, and make sure you get the side salad with ranch so that you can make a Ranch Blog that I woefully have no time to create. They also have a lot of really good daily and nightly shenanigans that you can of course follow on Dig Local, here.
Friday: Push Skateshop, Asheville Music Hall/One Stop/MOJO Kitchen and Lounge
In another life, I was definitely a skater. When I was 11-13, for some reason most of my friends were either country boys as myself, or skater kids. I don’t know why, but I seemed to fit into their group even though I was probably the only one that didn’t actually skate. I attribute my vast knowledge of this sport to my obsession with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 on PS2, which probably had the best soundtrack of any video game, ever. The beauty of Spotify premium is I’ve already found someone on Spotify who has graciously built the playlist for me. THANK YOU, YOU BEAUTIFUL SOUL. Living on the side of a mountain and not seeing pavement until I was almost a man didn’t help my imaginary skating career, so I live vicariously through that old soundtrack and our local skate-shop: Push Skateshop. Since I think I’ve met close to a 1000 local business owners, it’s quite easy for me to tell when a business owner is in it for the money, or is genuinely doing what they love. Rob is most certainly the latter, and that to me is the foundation for making all these local businesses in Asheville so special and unique. Nestled right in the middle of downtown near the corner of Patton and Lexington, you can be a tourist or a skater kid and you’re not going to be able to resist popping into Push and inevitably realizing that there is something for most people in there, whether you are wanting to cop some new trucks, spit some tales to the workers on your tricktionary, or maybe just look at the shoes like I do and pretend you didn’t just use an internet site to look up skater terminology, you’ll have a good time in Push. I grabbed a pair of Nike’s there that I had never seen anywhere else that ended up being my “work” shoes for the majority of 2015. The shoe selection is excellent, you can find some shoes there that you won’t see anywhere else in Asheville, the board and clothes selection is pretty great as well, and lastly, the entire back room is a dedicated art gallery for local photographers and artists. Sometimes in between meetings I like to step away from my usual self-proclaimed office at Foggy Mountain Brewpub half a block away and go check out what they have on display.
After meeting with Rob he invited me to come out later that night to an Art Opening event with an awesome locally based artist: Fian Arroyo. Formally from the Miami area, Fian has been making art his living for twenty years now, doing art for many Fortune-500 companies including advertising, editorial, toys and games, and skateboard companies. Just to give an idea of how small our town really is when you take away the tourists, it turns out him and my brother in law’s dad are really great friends. Take a look at his work here. Our local beer connoisseurs Hi-Wire were also there slinging some great beer, because what’s a great Asheville event without beer? The other artist feature, Joshua Marc Levy, had some really crazy awesome pieces on display as well, I can’t begin to describe it so take a look for yourself on his website, here. I just think it’s great that Push is taking you for the full experience, the gallery really rounds off the entire place. Score one for another business that from the ground up has a vision, and implements it very, very well. Go give Rob and the Push crew your business, you might just become a skater yourself.
After heading up the gallery I skipped about 14.5 feet next door to Asheville Music Hall/One Stop to check out what was happening that night. AMH/One Stop is one of those great local venues where you can see one band upstairs, then head downstairs and check out a completely different band, likely being even a completely different genre of music. I’ve really enjoyed hearing some great funk rock upstairs, then when I can’t dance anymore, stumble downstairs for some good ol’ bluegrass or folk music. For someone who listens to about 45 seconds of every song on Spotify until I remember another song I want to hear more, this is perfect. The massive space means you can bring a whole group of your friends in as well and have a grand time without being packed in like sardines, which is how a lot of venues in Asheville feel. Brad, the owner, and Micah, the GM, along with all the other cool kids at AMH/One Stop are great guys and gals with a fun, dedicated local crowd, so go a few times and you are treated like family. If you ever want to turn it up on a Tuesday, there is only one place to be in Asheville, and that’s Funk Jam Tuesday at AMH. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had here before dancing through the soles of my shoes and seeing a great group of our local funk rock artists get together and party down on the stage. You can walk 3 blocks in every direction and not a single other thing be going on, because everyone is at Funk Jam. Keep up with what they have going on here. Also, MOJO Kitchen and Lounge, which is connected to One Stop, has some crazy good food. Chef A.J. Gregson and co-owner Autumn are always winning some downtown awards, most recently being “Best Specialty Wings” at the recent Asheville Wing Wars. I personally recommend the chicken and waffles, any taco on the menu, and the kale caesar salad is pretty impressive as well. They have a really tasty looking beer pairing dinner with Foothills Brewery that looks like everything I’ve dreamed about, apparently tickets are going pretty fast so if you want a real Asheville food/beer experience, this is about as authentic as it gets and you need to get your taste buds on down to Mojo.
(Also, it’s not officially been announced yet, but shhh…we are having a beer pong tournament for our Food Connection charity program very soon at AMH. More details to come soon, but you heard it here first).
Sorry about this past blog taking a couple weeks to write up, I’ve been slammed with work, moving, weddings, and trying to fit some sleep in here and there. I’ve got some awesome blog posts lined up, including a wild food foraging tour with Stu Helm: Food Fan, a top dive bars collaboration blog with a local comedic writer friend of mine, and probably a recreation themed blog for our outdoors guys coming up, since summer is fast approaching. In other words, the weekly journal may turn into more a time to time journal. After all, I am just a man with ten typing fingers and a limited supply of coffee, and the innate ability to sit down from time to time. However, the more you like the blog and share it the more I can do this instead of sleep, so I urge you to tell you friends, family, and cousins that are still on dial up out in Madison county to start downloading the blog overnight so they can read it in a couple days, because there’s something in here for everyone! Get out and enjoy our awesome town y’all.