Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Travelin' Oenophile: Keeping It Weird in Asheville, N.C. (Part One)

Hubby and I took off the day after Christmas to Asheville, North Carolina, for a romantic, post-holiday few days in what has become one of our favorite places to visit. We took the opportunity on the way up to taste wine at Tiger Mountain Vineyards (click here for tasting notes and winery review) and were happy to arrive to a glorious sunset on Saturday evening that reflected off the snow still on the ground.

After checking in to the 1900 Inn on Montford, we joined innkeepers Ron and Lynn Carlson as well as the other guests for social hour (from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. nightly), during which Ron poured glasses of Biltmore Chardonnay for anyone who cared to partake. As you know, I'm picky about Chards, but I like that one. The Carlsons are definitely extraverts, as B&B owners tend to be, and they're interested in their guests as people. There's also inn cat Allie, who counts us among her fans. We enjoyed the conversation and then headed to S&W Steak & Wine for dinner. That's when things got weird.

I'll start with the qualification that the food was very good. Apparently the seventeen inches of snow the previous weekend and the holiday messed up supply deliveries a bit, so they were out of a few items including the sauteed mushrooms that we wanted for with our steak, and, most tragically, the flourless chocolate cake for dessert. I got the Beef Filet Mignon, and Hubby had the New York Strip, and both of us found the steaks to be nicely seasoned. We split an order of salty soy-flavored green beans and creamy macaroni & cheese for sides.

In spite of our waiter's assertion that he had twenty years of experience, the service seemed a little off. On the positive side, he recommended a good wine, and he advised us to get a single serving of the sides to share. On the negative, he didn't put the sides in at the same time as the steak, so they came out a little after, which was fine, but he never refilled our wine glasses. He even picked up the bottle to see how much was left in it at one point, but even though my glass was empty and Hubby's mostly so, he didn't refill them. We wondered if it was one of those strange regulations that pop up every so often here in the Southeast, but apparently not.

S&W is in an old Art-Deco cafeteria, and the building lends itself to strangeness. Apparently there are a lot of architecture buffs in Asheville because throughout the evening, small groups would walk in off the street and look through the windows of the inner entrance at the building. It makes for a fishbowl-like dining experience, and Hubby wondered at one point whether we should start waving at them. There's a comedy club in the basement, so it provided occasional noise, but not nearly as much as the drunk guy at the upstairs bar (open to the restaurant space) who started yelling at the bartender for allegedly stiffing him twenty dollars. Yeah, noise carries in an open building with a balcony bar. Finally, there was the guy who sounded like Tony Soprano who stood up at his table, told one of his dining companions (his daughter?) to "Shut the f--- up!" and stormed out. His wife went outside and convinced him to come back in, but the whole family spent the rest of the evening in such stony silence that their server seemed afraid to approach the table.

What did we drink while watching the drama unfold? We like to drink local wine when we travel, so we shared a bottle of 2007 Rockhouse Meritage (Tryon, NC), a blend of 25% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Cabernet Franc. The nose is of dark fruit and clove, and the wine itself has mouth-watering savoriness with good acidity that plays well with meat. Unfortunately, the Rockhouse winery was not open when we drove back; otherwise we would totally have stopped by.

Oh, yes, there was much inspiration for future Friday flashes. More adventures to come...


Thom said...

You came to Asheville??? Ouy, you call, you don't write.

Thom said...

That's don't call! Not enough coffee