Confession time. I think I was around seven the last time I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast. Can you believe that? That all changed last week when the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association invited me up the mountain to tour some of their amazing B and B’s. My friend, fellow blogger, and Greenville Small Plate Crawl partner, Carolina Epicurean and I packed our bags and off we went.
First stop? The Hawk and Ivy Bed and Breakfast in Barnardsville, North Carolina. This holistic, country Bed and Breakfast is owned and run by James and Eve Davis. The farm house (c. 1910) turned inn and guest cottage are located on a 24 acre nature preserve, complete with expansive organic garden, pond and rustic barn used for special events. Some of you may know Eve from her leadership role in the early Slow Foods movement in Western North Carolina. She is a firm believer in all things organic and natural and used her wicked cooking skills to whip us up a lunch of Navy Bean and Kale (from the garden) soup with herbs, a fresh green salad with wild daisy foliage, chamomile and fresh sorrel, and a spicy cornbread made from organic cornmeal, spelt and whole amaranth. It’s an everything but the kitchen sink deal, and absolutely perfect. It made me think of my PaPa Plumblee and how he used to jam a giant slice of MaMa’s cornbread down in a bowl of buttermilk and eat it like cereal. James told us that sometimes he throws a bit of grits and toasted pecans in the batter as well. With the brisk day outside, it was a perfect day for soup and cornbread!
We were scheduled to spend the night at Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast, so I found my way to the 1905 English Tudor Style Bed and Breakfast Inn nestled in the residential Cumberland Avenue area to check in. Innkeeper Janna Martin greeted me at the door with a huge smile and showed me around the place.
The best part about touring the bed and breakfasts this time of year is that they are all decked out for Christmas. Every single place we visited was warm and welcoming anyway, but extra beautiful because of the giant trees and personal touches of holiday decor.
We stayed in The Cowley Room at Pinecrest Bed and Breakfast. It had two twin beds that were spread with the softest sheets you can imagine. I wiggled my foot back and forth that night until I melted into soft slumber. Heaven. I fondled most of the beds at the B and B’s and noticed that almost all of them were absolutely soft and lovely. Chocolates and fresh flowers were also waiting for us in the room at Pinecrest when we arrived. Just one of the many things that make this place special.
After check-in, I grabbed a fresh made brownie to nosh on and sit for a while to regroup. Best brownie I think I have ever eaten. The next day, in the kitchen, Janna’s daughter and co-innkeeper Shelly told me the secret is good quality chocolate and melting all your ingredients first. I stashed half the brownie in my bag to eat later. Wi-fi and television were available in the beautiful sun lit porch off of the dining area, along with a selection of coffee, wine and tea.
When we woke up in the morning, my travel buddy found her way to the sun porch while I got ready. We were fed a phenomenal breakfast of fresh strawberry parfait, orange juice, coffee, banana bread, orange french toast made with Chibata from City Bakery in downtown Asheville, oven roasted tomato and smoked mozzarella frittata, sausage patties from Hickory Nut Gap in Fairview, NC (best sausage of my life), and homemade syrup. No one was going hungry, that’s for sure! It was an incredible overnight Bed and Breakfast experience.
Crooked Oak Mountain Inn was the biggest surprise for me! When people talked about staying at a Bed and Breakfast in the past, I immediately thought about antiques and historic houses. This place was an amazing lodge type house on a mountainside in Asheville among several two hundred year old oak trees. The drive was so beautiful! You could see all of Asheville, nestled among the mountains. The inn sits just above Grove Park Inn. I wanted to stop and take pictures of the view, but I thought I might be lost so I gave up the pretty shots in favor of finding my way to the destination.
Owners Bear and Patti are fantastic. Bear handed us glasses of wine on arrival and Patti, being a talented chef had prepared some tasty vittles along with some cheese and fruit for us to nosh on while we mingled and went on the grand tour. This inn felt more like staying in a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee or at a ski village somewhere on top of a mountain. It felt very much like staying at a friends house in my neck of the woods. I fell in love with one of the rooms called The Chestnut and can’t wait to go back with my husband.
There are several living room areas for people to relax in comfy chairs or couches around a fire. The best part is at nightfall, everyone gathers around a fire out back, glasses in hand, and blankets in their lap, like old friends. It was really funny to hear people make connections of “I lived here or there” and “oh, I did too, and do you know so and so.” Truly a cool experience. (And I am convinced based on that evening, that New Jersey is actually a tiny town and not, in fact, the state people say it is!) I was sad that we didn’t get to experience Bear’s massive breakfast. The regulars were raving about his giant pecan waffles.
The next Bed and Breakfast we visited was the Reynolds Mansion Bed and Breakfast, the number one rated bed and breakfast in Asheville and a historic North Carolina landmark. Innkeeper, Billy Sanders welcomed us at the door. He and partner, Michael Griffith, purchased the house when it was due to be torn down. Sanders took the overgrown property and restored the house to it’s original grandeur. This was not the first restoration of the house since it was originally built in 1847. It was once added onto in the 1900’s and underwent a restoration in the 70’s, but Sanders oversaw every single detail of the recent radical renovation. You can tell he loves the house deeply and daily handles the gardening, cooking and caring for guests personally.
I loved the absolutely perfectly set dining room table. Reynold’s Mansion can seat around 30 guests. The Department 56 houses displayed around the house caught my eye, as did the many paintings of Vivien Leigh from Gone With the Wind, a personal favorite of Sanders. My mother would have ooohed and aaahhhed herself silly. Every single inch of this beautiful historic home has been loved and tended to. I can see why it is an Asheville favorite.
Back to Cumberland Avenue’s Montford district and to the Carolina Bed and Breakfast. The house was built in 1901 by Richard Sharp Smith, the supervising architect of the Biltmore! At this B and B guests are welcomed by innkeepers Susan and James and are entertained like true house guests, as they gather nightly in front of the fire in the front parlor for hors d’oeuvres and a glass of Biltmore Estate Wine before venturing out into the city for their dinner reservations. On this particular evening, innkeeper and hostess, Susan had prepared a beautiful spread including Blue Cheese stuffed dates wrapped in bacon with a balsamic reduction glaze, cheese wafers, a shrimp “ceviche”, marinated olives, and cucumber with smoked salmon, creme fresh and capers.
I had a fit over the shrimp ceviche dish and she was so kind to share the recipe with us! I’m fixing it for New Years so I’ll share that with you in another post. She was also nice enough to give me a tour of the house. James and Susan have lived all over the world and the house is decorated with some of their international finds – a painting above the stairs, a nicknack on the shelf… The rooms are spacious and so warm and inviting. I was most interested to see the kitchen and this one didn’t disappoint. It was HUGE. Susan whips up the home baked cookies here that are offered round the clock outside the kitchen and also a gourmet breakfast served every morning in the large dining room. When the weather is nice, you can also eat on the front porch. I can only imagine how delightful it would be to sit on the front porch here, sipping on a cup of coffee, reading the paper and watching the world come alive in the morning.
I didn’t spend much time at The Lion and the Rose, also in the Montfort district. I was headed home to see the fam, but Laura was scheduled to spend the night, so we got the quick tour, checked into her room and chilled for a bit before dinner at Chestnut that evening. I can attest that the bed was incredibly comfy! I crashed out after our busy day. This inn is one of the longest operating inns in Asheville. They have a beautiful porch, expansive gardens, welcoming sitting areas, snacks and beverages for hungry travelers and even a large collection of DVD’s and extra essentials like toothpaste and such, in case you are prone to forget necessities when traveling.
I hope the next time you are planning a trip to Asheville, you’ll consider staying in one of the Bed and Breakfasts in the area. The Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association represents 17 inns across Asheville. All of them are unique and absolutely beautiful. If nothing else, stop in for a tour. The innkeepers are happy to show you around by appointment. Thanks to all who fed us, gave us a place to rest our weary little bodies, and gave us the grand tour on our little trip to Asheville.