Road Trip USA: Asheville, North Carolina

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After a sleepless night in West Virginia, we headed south to New River Gorge, and then onto Asheville, North Carolina for our second night. The drive to Asheville was a long 6 and a half hours, but it felt even longer due to only getting an hour’s worth of rest the night before. We arrived into the small city around 4pm, parked in the nearest public parking garage, and walked desperately in search for a quick bite to eat. As you can imagine our fatigue was intolerable and our car snacks of pita chips and almonds were no longer keeping us energized. We ducked into a nearby Irish pub and grabbed some chips and salsa to hold us over while we analyzed our situation. We had originally planned to experience Asheville and then head into the Smoky Mountains for the night, however, neither one of us could even fathom that idea by this point in the trip. Since the public parking garage we parked in just happened to be underneath an Aloft hotel, we thought it best we reserve a room for the night and get some much-needed sleep. We booked the hotel while sitting in the pub through our Starwood application on our phones, paid our check, and walked a block back to the hotel to check in.

To be honest, I was so tired at this point that I wasn’t sure I was going to experience anything in Asheville. After hauling our stuff up to the room, Paul ventured back downstairs to get something he forgot and I just fell onto the bed and didn’t move until he came back. The only thing that persuaded me to get out of the bed was that I hadn’t had a proper meal all day and I was hungry. The way I work, hunger usually overrides exhaustion.

My Asheville food find is the amazing Spanish tapas style restaurant Cúrate. I stumbled upon Cúrate while doing some research on where to eat in Asheville. I looked no further when I read that the chef interned at El Bulli and that another founder of the restaurant was the Chef de Rang (front of the house service manager) of El Bulli. El Bulli was a restaurant near Catalonia run by famed chef Ferran Adrià. Ferran Adrià is highly regarded as the best chef in the world, and his Michelin 3-star establishment was considered the best restaurant in the world. Unfortunately, El Bulli is now closed and we will never get the opportunity to dine there. However, after eating at Cúrate in Asheville, I’m convinced I found an authentic taste of Spain right here in America. Who knew there was a tiny slice of Spain in North Carolina?

Years ago Paul and I and our mothers ventured through the streets of Madrid in search of the most authentic and tasty Spanish delicacies we could find. We indulged in an assortment of tapas and often find ourselves craving the delicious flavors of Spain that are now a distant but fond memory. While we have future plans to one day eat our way through Barcelona, we didn’t think we’d taste authentic Spain again for quite a few years. Luckily, Cúrate came to our rescue and fulfilled all of our Spanish hunger pangs.

So what should you order if you visit Curate? Um, just about everything.

I’m not sure how I would have navigated the menu of this culinary paradise if I hadn’t ever been to Spain, however you can’t go wrong by just choosing something at random. One of the things I was super excited about was the tomato spread on bread. I used to eat this every morning at our hotel in Madrid. In fact, I would wake up early each morning in anticipation of this deliciously simple spread. Much to my delight, Cúrate’s tomato spread tasted just like the one I used to fawn all over in the downstairs lobby of our Spanish hotel!

Our dinner at Cúrate consisted of a pitcher of the best sangria I’ve ever had accompanied by a series of tapas style dishes including gazpacho, jamon Iberico, meatballs, potatoes, and, of course, my tomato spread on fresh-baked bread. The restaurant was bustling, but we still landed two of the best seats in the house by sitting at the bar and getting a front row view of all the dishes being prepared by the cooks. You can’t possibly have the same experience if you sit at a table. This is one of those places where sitting at the bar is a must.

A “why we travel” side-note: Cúrate was just a few blocks from our hotel and we were caught in a torrential downpour while trying to get there. While seeking shelter momentarily under the entrance to a local music store, the owner kindly stepped out and handed me a plastic bag for my hair. I laugh when I picture what I must have looked like running down the streets of Asheville with a plastic grocery bag on my head, but it kept my hair dry and lifted my spirits after an exhausting journey from West Virginia. While traveling, kindness comes in the most unexpected places and sometimes in the smallest forms.

Sadly, there wasn’t much left of us after dinner and we immediately retired to our room at the Aloft. Thankfully, we were granted a peaceful night’s rest.

So, if you can’t get to Spain (and you should try), go to Asheville, North Carolina. It’s a great place to walk around and you’ll eat very well. Go to Cúrate, sit at the bar and take it all in.

You’ll love it, I promise.

Next post: The Great Smoky Mountains

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