Chatt Session Pt. 3: Ashes to Asheville

It had been four years since we visited Asheville in any meaningful way, and we figured that a one day stop was more than worth it. Of course, things have changed a fair amount since our last visit (Tupelo Honey Southern Kitchen & Bar is now like 7 minutes from our place in Columbus vs. 7 hours away in Asheville), but as it turned out, we were far more into the familiar than we were into exploring the new.

Trail of Tears, Pt. 2: We had driven through Cherokee before, so much of what we saw was quite familiar. However, we never explored in depth what made the town currently what it was until we made a visit to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian this day.

One thing that struck me when I visited National Museum or Syria in Damascus a decade or so ago was how few artifacts from the country there were inside. I soon realized afterward that most of the country’s history was either plundered by other countries (and helped fueled those country’s economies as tourism attractions) or demolished beyond restoration when colonial powers dabbled in all parts of the world for financial gain or political power.

This proved to be the case with this museum – there wasn’t much in terms of genuinely old artifacts, but the museum made the smart move to include modern day renditions of items created by Cherokee artists. In addition, it was refreshing to have the viewpoint of the people who definitely got the short end of the stick with their exchanges with the US government – the victor’s version of history is automatically a questionable one, no matter what the situation.

The way history played out proved particularly unkind to Cherokee unity as a whole. Some folks thought integration with the United States was the way forward, while others only saw an entity that never was nor would ever be forthright in honoring their treaties and similar. As their situation grew more dire, the enmity between those who thought trusting the US was the way to go, versus those who didn’t, grew to where years of violence added to the death toll, until a truce agreement was reached in 1846. The strain of the experience still remains today, as unrecognized branches of Cherokees try to obtain their slice of the pie from what the current day Cherokees have managed to build since the Trail of Tears days.

While delivering a more nuanced version of the past is the main goal of the museum, modern day life is also present in the exhibits, from those who have, despite this country’s treatment of their ancestors, honorably served this country, to artistic representations of Cherokee culture within the larger American diaspora.

Museum of the Cherokee Indian | Address: 589 Tsali Blvd, Cherokee, NC 28719 | Website: https://mci.org | IG: museumofthecherokeeindian

Still A Sour Experience: Last time we were in Asheville, my spouse and I were still debating the long term effect that the AB-InBev acquisition of highly praised independent craft brewer Wicked Weed might be: We didn’t visit during that visit, and the years that followed proved that the effects proved to be different (some good, and some bad) for each of the acquired breweries. However, from all we heard, Wicked Weed had more or less continued on its merry path, but with more funding and resources behind it; we figured we ought to see if that was the case.

Their Funkatorium, unsurprisingly, has rearranged its layout since we last visited – it wasn’t quite as quirky as before, and unlike our last visit, you could get your beers anywhere you sat. The place had a feel of a well-oiled machine, one that could handle the hordes of beer drinkers that have dropped by since our last visit, and in far greater numbers than we experienced on this rather chilly day for the Carolinas.

Their beer inventory has substantially increased too, allowing for a whole list of pre-selected beer flights that were very difficult to pick from. We figured with the time we had spent away, two separate flights would be the way to go. Suffice it to say, we were not disappointed as folks who love sour beers – there are people who like the flavor profile in general, which has led to a noticeable increase in the number of kettle sours available at craft breweries. Wicked Weed’s brews are sour, but they are still as complex and fruity as when we first became fans. For example I’ve never been a huge fans of blueberry beers, but I actually preferred their Mirtelo Morte (blueberry sour aged in neutral oak) over the Cerise Morte (a preferred flavor, cherry, though this was no slouch either.) It’s a similar feeling we get after visiting a place like Russian River in Santa Rosa or Barrelworks in Buellton – they just know what to do and do it well.

The food itself proved to be better than average as well – their take on a Muffaletta Sandwich and my Chorizo Torta proved to be very nice if not quite traditional takes on those two dishes.

Will we visit the Funkatorium next time we’re in Asheville? Who knows – there are plenty of breweries we live in the area which we have and have yet to visit. But it is reassuring to find Wicked Weed brews as wickedly a good sour as ever.

Wicked Weed (Funkatorium) | Address: 147 Coxe Ave., Asheville, NC 28801 | Website: https://www.wickedweedbrewing.com/location/funkatorium/ | IG: wickedweedfunkatorium

The Early Girl Gets the Word: It feels weird to think we’ll probably eat at Asheville’s Tupelo Honey Cafe in Columbus before we eat at the OG Asheville edition. We did consider it, but our travels back home led to us revisiting another previous excellent experience at the Early Girl Eatery.

On this trip, we visited their newer West Asheville location of this local institution, which has been cranking out food since 2001 and is larger than their Wall Street location in downtown. Unsurprisingly, the food formula hadn’t changed at all since we last visited – elevated farm-to-table sourcing with a local focus and a Southern flair.

Service proved efficient and our food – the excellent Charleston Chicken Biscuit and the healthyish Spinach & Mashed Potato Cakes (with a unique Southern tomato gravy) proved perfect fare for the return trip home.

Early Girl Eatery (West Asheville)| Address: 444 Haywood Rd. #101, Asheville, NC 28806 | Website: https://earlygirleatery.com | IG: earlygirleatery

Final Notes: Wasabi Asheville and their Sushi has proven popular with the locals, earning “Best Of” awards from the readers of several media outlets for several years running. No sushi on this visit, but our Chicken Katsu and Pan Fried Udon proved tasty with large portion sizes…The flagship Marriott AC hotel in downtown is relatively staid, especially when compared to our previous stay at Element by Westin in Chattanooga. Some of its amenities rank from strange (a squared-off commode that feels like you’re sitting on a lid-up toilet even when the lid is down) to novel (packed bags of ice like you might find in a convenience store.) But it’s nicely located, has an upstairs bar/restaurant of some quality (Capella on 9 – we unfortunately were a bit too tired to check it out) and has a decent view of downtown from your balcony. If you’re so inclined, pick up some cookies from the Mountain Mary’s Cookie Store and Test Kitchen on the street level below the hotel…Finally, while neither in Tennessee nor North Carolina, we started our trip with a bit of nostalgia for with our fourth visit to Windy Corner Market, located smack dab in horse country just outside Lexington, KY. Beside a good selection of locally-produced goodies, Po’ Boys highlight their cafe-style menu of sandwiches, burgers, and bakery goods, but on this visit we ventured off from the usual and had some success with their Fried Catfish Basket and their unique Topher Boy (Fried Tofu with BBQ Sauce, slaw, and various other veggies.)

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