Just like Gin and Citrus

One of the things I love most about my city is that it has preserved an era…and completely by accident.  For such a modern, progressive, and hip city, Asheville still knows how to hold onto the good ol’ days.  Asheville is a wide-open time capsule full of hair feathers, drop-waisted dresses, Fitzgerald novels, and big band music.  It’s present even when no one’s dressed in theme and the blues horns hush for the night.  That “it” quality hangs around in the delightfully musty scents and subtly ornate ceilings of old 1920s buildings.  It’s Ashevillians’ everyday stomping grounds.

48 Biltmore Avenue is no exception.  In fact, the ceiling was the first thing I noticed upon walking into Chestnut, a restaurant and lounge here in Asheville.  There’s something so romantic about the raised cream-colored tiles, that I later learned to no surprise, are the 1924 originals.  I walked over to the bar and hopped up on the stool, going straight for the cocktail menu.  The “Saint Graham” suspiciously favors the “Gin Rickey,” Nick Gatsby’s famed favorite drink.  Gin and citrus. Just the sound of it makes me take a deeper breath.

One thing about Chestnut I must point out is that it is not themed.  That’s perhaps why it’s great.  It resurrects the lost generation organically.  No fear of finding cheesy posters of This Side of Paradise, or cocktails named something like, “Hemming My Way.”  It doesn’t exist, because there’s no need for a theme.  This place is real.  It’s relaxing; it’s smooth; it’s easy going; it’s new south delicious; it’s all Asheville.

After I devoured my fried green tomatoes, that were somehow the marriage of Grandma’s from the garden and a taste that can only be described as sassy, I chatted with manager, Ken Rethmeier.  Much like the restaurant itself, Ken is laid back, inviting, and delighted to have us.  He proudly filled us in on the ceilings, and original chestnut fixtures, and I could tell the history of the venue had become part of him as well.  When great leadership, awesome service, history, and yummy food meet, the synergy of it all just sizzles.  In this case it sizzles quietly, and refreshingly just like that first cocktail I laid eyes on.  Gin and citrus everywhere.

I was entranced by the atmosphere, clearly, so I decided to look behind the curtain.  I wanted to know what the quality was.  Where did this food come from?  When I found out it was all local, farm to table, and green, I was sold.  This truly is the Asheville poster restaurant.

I asked Rethmeier, “What’s one thing you want me to know that I don’t?  What do you want to tell me about this place?”

He replied with a grin, “it’s warm and inviting.  You can come taste local craft food and cocktails…and we’re the only place that still hand chops ice.”

Hand chopped ice.  I do believe I’ve made my case.

 

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Ceiling

 

Bar

Bar

 

Cocktails

Cocktails

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Railway of Dreams

The best way to tour a city is to know it, actually meet it, date it, and learn its history. Don’t we see new places for that very reason?  Don’t we travel to become part of something charming we’ve been bored for, and to find something steeped in a past we’ll weave a connection to?

I’ve had that priviledge, here in my own city.  A 3 mile ride over a once abandoned railroad track did it for me.  It wasn’t the ambiance of the French Broad trailing beside me, or the delightful park we stopped at to picnic and pose for family pictures at, though those places were among the highlights.  For me it was the story.  It was learning the track had sat there for nearly 60 years awaiting a promise.  The track had been useful once, told it would feed into bigger better tracks, and become a part of what Asheville was at the time; a city of railroads leading to industrial dreams, or just public transportation.  The Craggy Mountain Line was promised it would be part of the buzz that eventually had no room for it.  People forgot.

However, a man was born on August 10, 1964, that would save the railroad.  This man rode out of the womb on a steam engine with a dream as long as the track itself.  An avid trainlover, with a passion bordering insanity, his destiny would be to fulfil this railroad’s promise.  It would be a functioning part of Asheville one day.  Even better, it would be saved in the ninth hour, preserving the last of Asheville’s trolley , and usher in an era of old to the new generation.  It would bring joy to the smiling faces of children and train enthusiasts everywhere.  It would become more than hoped for, and would stand the test of time unlike the more prestigious rails that once thrived downtown.  It would carry those cars on its tired rails and reign once again.  It would become the little track that could.

My blessing?  I married into this dream, wedding the son of that man gifted to the lonely track.  I get to become a part of this history up close and personal, sharing my knowledge of it with the world.  This is as much a part of Asheville’s quaint history as anything I’ve seen.

A work in progress, the track will hopefully be open full time in the coming months.  Now, however, keep your eyes peeled for special holiday events, birthday party opportunities, and Saturday night rides.  Taste history, and become it’s family.  You’ll feel the dream when you first step foot on this line, the hallmark of perseverence.

 

http://www.craggymountainline.com

post by:  Lorna Hollifield

For more by Lorna visit http://www.lornahollifield.com and find her on twitter!

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