ASHEVILLE, N.C. – I had no direction in mind when I walked into the chocolate bar. French Broad Chocolate Bar’s offerings are extensive, centering around, obviously, chocolate.
I ordered a cinnamon and cayenne hot chocolate and a mint brownie. Apparently, I didn’t coordinate my selections.
The brownie was deliciously rich and the hot chocolate had a nice spicy kick to it. Personally, I don’t often think of chocolate and cayenne complementing one another, but they made for a nice pairing. I see how locals could make this one of their favorite indulgences – if not for the lengthy menu, then for the coffee and chocolate tastings they offer.
After our fill of chocolate, we took to foot to burn of a few calories and headed over to Mast General Store.
With its hardwood floors and wide selection of merchandise, the store turned back the clock to a different time and a different place. Its origins date back to 1883, but the Asheville location opened 10 years ago, and seems to offer nearly one of everything, from camping gear to pet accessories to local bluegrass music. But, it was the knife-spoon-fork combination utensil that caught my attention. I know this will come in handy.
For dinner, we headed to Bistro 1896, located on Asheville’s historic Pack Square. The restaurant has the look and feel of a quaint eatery, but it’ll actually hold up to 160 people. Given that it’s currently offseason, the restaurant was quiet, but the service was exceptional. I’ll admit that I took a peek at the menu online in advance, and I had my heart set on their shrimp and grits.
At first, I regretted ordering a zinfandel, but it opened up nicely, and once my main course arrived, it turned out to be the perfect match (yes, I order a red wine with shrimp and grits).
The shrimp and grits were stuffed with ham, red peppers and spinach, and it was easy to forget this was shrimp and grits – not that that makes for a bad prospect at all. The meal was both hearty and warming – the perfect dish for a cold night. Looking back, I don’t think there’s anything else I would have rather ordered.
That’s all for day one.