MBFW: A British Bach Bash

My Best Friend’s Wedding” – The 1997 hit featuring a young Julia Roberts pining for Cameron D’s man just moments before their wedding.

My best friend’s wedding (MBFW): the upcoming 2016 production wedding featuring my boon companion Claire and her fiancé, Theo, a strapping young Brit who’s taken a shining to my favorite Brooklyn babe.

Where we last left off, these lovebirds were celebrating their future wedding with tarts and Pimm’s Cups at a Rustic Engagement Party. It was a classy affair.

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The Bachelorette Party…. decidedly less so.

Ok, I kid, I kid. If you know Claire, you’ll know that she strictly forbade any of the typical debauchery of a Bachelorette Bash. No sexy police officers or firemen went Magic Mike on us. There were no phallic tiaras or necklaces. The only sign of the corruption of Claire was this artfully done wall courtesy of this garland kit from Paper Source. Maybe there were some questionably appropriate straws, but don’t worry, they didn’t leave the confines of our quaint Asheville Airbnb.

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From all along the East coast (ok, let’s be honest, Jersey, NYC, and rogues from Philly and Richmond), 8 of Claire’s nearest and dearest (and one gorgeous puppy) gathered in Beer City, USA. We made sure that, immediately after arriving, we enjoyed a few of the city’s signature cocktails (spoiler alert: it’s BEER!)

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Don’t worry, she shared.

And after visiting Burial Beer Co. (where we appreciated their INCREDIBLE Bolo Coconut Brown and their gorgeous Tom Selleck painting), we figured “Hey, let’s keep this party going.”

Luckily, Twin Leaf was merely a stone’s throw away (seriously, I could probably throw a stone from the one and hit the other. I LOVE ASHEVILLE SO MUCH!) We enjoyed some spirited competition….

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Laser-like focus

And some competitive spirits (ok, you got me, it was beer again).

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Flights at Twin Leaf: A MUST!

We also hit up Wicked Weed’s Funkatorium. Unfortunately for y’all, my camera could not capture the glory of this house of sours, this barrel-aged paradise…. Or maybe I was too busy sipping the nectar of these brewing gods to whip it out. Either way: it was amazing.

Thoroughly versed in the fermented brews of the town, we scampered (Uber’d*) home for some homemade tacos and gal time.

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Fueling up while cooking

I’m gonna shoot you straight: after a day of travel and brewery hopping, I’ll be the first to admit: I was asleep before 10pm.

No shame in my well-rested game. 

Plus, we had a big day ahead of us. Trombatore Trail and the Blue Ridges beckoned, and we could only heed the call. So, we suited up.

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Holly channeling her inner Damian a la Mean Girls

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SHE DOESN’T EVEN GO HERE

As a non-hiker (I walk to the bus stop like, every day. Sometimes I walk to get a hot dog when I’m on the beach. That’s nature, right?) This 5-mile round trip hike… was tough.

But I’ll do almost anything for a good photo op, right?

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Sorry, Ashleigh. Blame the crummy log/tripod

There was a light at the end of the tunnel, though. And that light…. was more tacos.

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Bangkok Shrimp and Crispy Fish

White Duck Taco Shop: MUST visit on any Asheville jaunt.

We bopped for a bit, napped, showered, and dolled up. Because we had rezzis at Rhubarb.

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Angel or bride-to-be? 

Our resident videographer, Marianne, nabbed a shot of the blushing bachelorette before we ate our faces off.

There was goat cheese burrata, there were lobster corn dogs and rabbit rillette, and there were, of course, drinks.

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As for where the night went from there…. well, we’ve all gotta maintain some mystery around these female bonding traditions. Right?

See you at the wedding, ladies. Thanks for the memories. And the tacos.

 

 

Domenica: Indulgent Eats in New Orleans

I’ve been to NOLA now a total of four times. Thrice on trips to fraternity formals, and this last time for a conference. Whenever I go, though, I make sure that food and drink are priorities (then again, I could probably say this about anywhere I go. It’s who I am.)  From beignets and hand grenades to alligator sausage and turtle soup, from crawfish to oysters and, always, back to Abita… It’s a hell of a town to eat, drink, and be merry.

My first beignet! 2008

My first beignet! Cafe du Monde, circa 2008

This last trip, though, I had an opportunity to get super classy with one of my meals. Academic conferences are a great time to schmooze and network, and everyone knows that’s best over delectable dishes shared with colleagues. So here’s a tip: If you’re going for class, head into the Roosevelt Hotel and go straight to Domenica (bonus points if it’s from 2-5pm for half-price happy hour) and don’t skimp on trying as much as you can. For instance, we started with vegetables.

Fried Tuscan Kale with pine nuts, tomatoes, and Parmigiano Reggiano

Fried Tuscan Kale with pine nuts, tomatoes, and Parmigiano Reggiano

If all kale tasted like this, the french fry business would go bankrupt.

Wood fired eggplant filled with olive oil braised vegetables & tahini

Wood fired eggplant filled with olive oil braised vegetables & tahini

My fault for focusing on the fork over the eggplant. My hunger was getting the best of me… But that housemade tahini just WOULD NOT QUIT. It was like a rich, creamy, blend of all that is right with the world. Who needs the bread when the eggplant tastes that good?

I’ll tell you who. Me.

The true star of this veggie show was the cauliflower, though.

Fried whole head of cauliflower? Sure.

Whole head of cauliflower? Sure.

Simply listed on the menu as Roasted Cauliflower with sea salt & whipped feta… this was just so much more. We learned the head of cauliflower undertook some sort of brining process before roasting. A coworker referred to this dish as “The type that ends friendships”. I get it. Slap some of that whipped feta on there, and I don’t really know who I wouldn’t slap to get that last bite…

And then, after all that, we figured: let’s keep going.

Pizza party

Pizza party

This pizza, while picturesque, was probably the part of the meal I was least inspired by. Roasted carrots with goat cheese, red onion, Brussels Sprouts, beets, and hazelnut, it kind of tasted like a salad on top of a crust. Would’ve preferred the ingredients off of the crust, but who am I to tell John Besh how to top a pizza? Luckily, we weren’t done yet…

Lasagna bolognese with pasta verde, bechamel, mozzarella, pork ragu

Lasagna bolognese with pasta verde, bechamel, mozzarella, pork ragu

That casserole dish, right there? That is a SINGLE SERVING OF LASAGNA! Major props to the individual that eats this all on their own. The pasta verde was PERFECTLY al dente, and, unlike so very many lasagnas, it didn’t sloppily give up after one cut into the cheesy mass. But I couldn’t eat too much, as I had my eyes (and fork) glued to another dish.

Come to mama.

Come to mama.

Black squid ink tagliolini with blue crab & herbs. If I could put all the fish and wave emojis into this post, I would, but you’re just going to have to believe me when I say that I’ve never known what “tasting the sea” would be like. Until Monday afternoon, when I lived it. If mermaids made pasta, they would make this for Christmas under the sea. Triton would request it for his birthday. And Ariel would convince Sebastian to dabble in cannibalism for the crab bits flecked throughout. If you’re only going to get one dish…. get two. This, and the cauliflower. Invite a friend. Don’t leave a speck behind. Lick your lips, and then come back to this post to relive it all.

New Orleans, yet again, you delivered on the food front. I’m counting down the days until I can come back… In the meantime, this photo collection will have to do.