Category Archives: FOOD

Hobart, MUST Come Back!

March 3-10, 2017
Lovely beginning of autumn days

Esther Shohet, Battery Point

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OK, Hobart, I fall in love with you upon arrival at the airport.  A seal sculpture rotates around on the luggage conveyer belt as we await our bags.   A naughty group of bronze  Tasmanian devils climb all over some luggage in the lobby.  This place is going to be fun.

We enjoy our first views of Hobart with green hillsides, blue water, nestled beneath Kunanyi, or Mount Wellington.  (In 2013 Tasmania adopted a dual-naming policy as found in other territories in Australia and New Zealand, as a step towards broader recognition of Tasmania’s first peoples.)  Our accommodation in Battery Point is Pretoria House Apartment Air B and B, with hostess Nickey McKibben.  Charming cottages and stately larger homes butt next to each other over the harbor, just above Salamanca.  It is very charming. Also, Battery Point is the birthplace of Errol Flynn (for my Dad).  Another plus is the washer and dryer and getting all of our clothes washed.

We walk and swoon and walk and then enjoy a great dinner at  Blue Eye.  The server describes the wine that comes from her friends winery up the road and knows all about the fish caught today.  Ah!

There is an amazing breakfast/brunch cafe a few doors down from where we are staying.  It is Jackman and McRoss.  I adore it, the croissants are the best ever and all the food looks wonderful.  The coffee is great, the service is nice, ambience is just wonderful.  This is a new “happy place”.

Then, we meet Hobart Walking Tours.  It turns out that it’s just us today and we met our personal guide, Lisa,  in front of Henry Jones Art Hotel, at 10AM start to Hobart History, People and Places Walking Tour.  We learn the the Henry Jones is the best places to stay during the Sydney to Hobart yacht race every summer,  just after Christmas.   We learned that they claim to have the cleanest air on earth, the fittest people on earth, that it’s the cheapest Australian capital city in which to live.  More interesting yet were the stories of the people of Tasmania.  The earliest inhabitants are thought to have arrived in Tasmania 400,000!! years before the English colonists.  These Aboriginals were thought to have been separated from mainland Australia’s groups about 10,000 years ago when the seas rose to separate them.  Like many native people, they were wiped out due to violent conflict with Europeans and infectious diseases to which they had no immunity.  Barry and I were reminded of the US history of atrocities against native Americans and also the inhumane treatment of African slaves.   However, I was surprised to hear from the tour guide that many people now living in Tasmania do have traces of Aboriginal DNA.

In 1803 Hobart became a penal colony and the stories of the nearly 75,000 poor souls  who were sent there until its closing in 1853 are enough to give anyone nightmares.  According to the tales that our guide told, children as young as 11 were sentenced to prison from England to Hobart.  She told us a story of many innocent women who were framed of using counterfeit currency were brought to Hobart because they needed women on the island.  Even though many of the women were married and had children in England, they were told they were “divorced by way of distance”.  The punishment for crimes committed by prisoners in Hobart were especially grusome.  Grisly stuff, this!    Now, surrounded by such beauty, in another time, this was hell on earth.  After the end of the prison, it becomes a pioneer town, full of rough and tumble types.

Barry and I pick up another tour with Lisa at 2PM for The Alcohol History of Hobart.  This one includes wine, whisky, vodka and cider tastings.  Again we meet in front to the Drunken Admiral and find out that the hotel and restaurant is named for Lord Nelson, hero of Trafalgar.  He was killed in battle and his men was placed his body in a cask of brandy, lashed it to the Victory’s mainsail,  placed under guard.  This is how the “Drunken Admiral” returned home.

Tasmania is foodie heaven and is know for “Paddock to Plate”.  They are also known for their seafood, wines, produce, dairy products and more.  It is difficult to find a poor restaurant review and easy to see that they are blessed with local, high quality food.  Food centric festivals and events abound.  The biggest is Tastes of Tasmania Festival http://www.thetasteoftasmania.com.au  at New Years that adds to the festivities shortly after the Sydney to Hobart yacht race.  Crowds in excess of 350,000 come for a week long celebration of Tassie food!

It is renowned for it’s wine, but Tasmanians and other Aussies drink most of it themselves.  They export very little.   We are able to sample several wines and see excellent displays at the Gasworks Cellar Door.

Our visit to Lark Distillery  in Hobart is very, VERY pleasant. As we sipped wee drams of delight.  The distiller whom we speak with gives us a great pitch on how the water is the best in the world and barley is phenomenal and their whiskey is better than any you would find anywhere, including Scotland.  We nearly bought a pricey bottle, but decided that we couldn’t take the risk of breaking it on our travels.

We are able to sample goods from Grand Ewe.    Their Sapphire Blue cheese that is out of this world and enjoy the whey vodka so much that we buy a couple of small bottles to lug home for sharing with Heather and Justin.  We also enjoy some Pinot paste, made from the marc of the pinot wine pressings.  This sweet fruit paste is nice paired with cheese.  We buy a couple of tubs of it as well.  Their farm sounds wonderful, they welcome visitors and we put this on our “Next time in Hobart” List!

The restaurants around the docks have gorgeous seafood plates and we had to stop for some ice cream because the line was so long, we knew that it would be good.  No regrets, it is Devine.

MOMA , The Museum of Old and New Art, is a “can’t be missed attraction” in Hobart.  However, we run out of time and miss it!  It is an eclectic mix of modern art and antiquities.  We had seen it on TV and we were looking forward to visiting it.  Visitors can drive there, pick up a minibus or even a catamaran from the waterfront to get there, fifteen minutes outside of Hobart.  Next time….next time….

We are a short walk to Salamanca from our apartment.  It is an area of former whaling ships’ warehouses that have been remodeled to become shops and restaurants.  We enjoy walking through the shops and pick up a few small pieces made of local Tasmanian timber, called Huon pine. I also get a small, colorful and whimsical print by Esther Shohet.  Her work is in a gallery that features the apartment where we are staying and the heavenly cafe which we enjoyed, Jackman and McRoss.  (https://www.esthershohet.com.au)  The print that we got is similar to this one> her work is so fun!

Tragically, we missed  Market Day at Salamanca.  It is on Saturday when we will have left and includes booths in the street in which artists and farmers sell their wares.

Next visit to Tasmania we WILL:

Our guide book says that Tasmania “encompasses the historic, the healthy and the hedonistic”.  I couldn’t agree more.  So, we have flirted with Tasmania, but must return.  What a magical place.

Tallinn, Estonia

Saturday, August 13, Tallin, Estonia – drizzly, cloudy day

imageimageWe didn’t book any tours today, since it was only a short walk from any of the places where the ship may have been docked into the town of Tallinn. No schedule (except to get back to the ship before it sails), no guide, just fun goofing around with my clown travel partners. We have the photos to prove it!

Tallin consists of a storybook cute old town, with a powerful technology industry (Skype was born here) that looms behind it. This ancient city has quit a history, which I knew little of. There was a settlement there in the 2nd millennium BC! As a prosperous trading post, important for the trade between Russian and Scandinavia, it was a desirable conquest and suffered a bloody history.


Time for a HISTORY LESSON taken from Tallinn24.info http://tallinn24.info/tallinn_history.html

“In 1154 Tallinn was marked on the world map of the Arab cartographer al-Idrisi.
As an important port for trade between Russia and Scandinavia, it became a target for the expansion of the Teutonic Knights and Kingdom of Denmark during the period of Northern Crusades in the beginning of the 13th century when Christianity was forcibly imposed on the local population. Danish rule of Tallinn and Northern Estonia started in 1219.

In 1285 the city became the northernmost member of the Hanseatic League – a mercantile and military alliance of German-dominated cities in Northern Europe. The Danes sold Tallinn along with their other land possessions in northern Estonia to the Teutonic Order in 1345. Medieval Tallinn enjoyed a strategic position at the crossroads of trade between Western and Northern Europe and Russia. The city, with a population of 8,000, was very well fortified with city walls and 66 defence towers.

With the start of the Protestant Reformation the German influence became even stronger. In 1561 Tallinn politically became a dominion of Sweden.
During the Great Northern War the Swedish troops based in Tallinn capitulated to Imperial Russia in 1710, but the local Baltic German rulers retained their cultural and economical autonomy within Tsarist Russia. The 19th century brought industrialization of the city and the port kept its importance. During the last decades of the century Russification pressure became stronger.”

On 24 February 1918 the Independence Manifesto was proclaimed in Tallinn, followed by German occupation and a war of independence with Russia. On 2 February 1920 the Tartu Peace Treaty was signed with Soviet Russia, wherein Russia acknowledged the independence of the Estonian Republic. Tallinn became the capital of the independent Estonia. After World War II started Estonia was annexed by the USSR as a result of coup with help of the Red Army in 1940-41, and later invaded by Nazi Germany in 1941-44. After Nazi retreat in 1944, it was occupied by the USSR again. After the annexion into the Soviet Union, Tallinn became the capital of the Estonian SSR.

During the 1980 Summer Olympics a regatta was held at Pirita, north-east of central Tallinn. Many buildings, like the hotel “Olumpia”, the new Main Post Office building, and the Regatta Center, were built for the Olympics.

In August 1991 an independent democratic Estonian state was re-established and a period of quick development to a modern European capital ensued. Tallinn became de-facto capital of a independent country once again on August 20, 1991.”
We got an early start on our explorations, walking on cobblestones up windy medieval streets, passing Fat Margaret Tower, shops that featured marzipan figurines or precious models of the medieval buildings toward Old Town Square. We were little kids out for recess, just playing with the magic of the place. At one point, beer and food entered our day ?. Kathryn had a smokey brew that was almost up drinkable to me, Jon and Barry had lighter bears and I tried cider, all local. We got a funky taster plate in a very cool little tavern: I didn’t get a photo, but found one online of a dish of fried dark bread with garlic sauce. http://hallie84.blogspot.no/2012/03/eating-in-tallinn-estonia-part-4-lunch.html
We bought some things at part of the city wall where sweated and woolens are sold. J&K went off on their own as did we. After more exhausting (not really, tee-hee) wondering, Barry and I went to Maiasmokk http://www.kohvikmaiasmokk.ee/en/ . It’s an old world bakery with an enchanting ambience. We sampled a pastry that was just ok, but I really filled up on the charm.

We had a fun, relaxing day in Tallinn!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afternoon Pastries, So Civilized in Tallinn, Estonia

imageOn this drizzly day, we were enchanted to find a refuge from cobblestone lanes in the Maiasmokk Cafe.  Miasmokk translated into English is “Sweet Tooth”.  Could it get any more charming?  Well, yes it can.  This is the oldest operational cafe in Tallinn and entire Estonia.  It’s interior is stunningly preserved and hasn’t been changed since it began operation in this location in 1864.

Maiasmokk – take a look at google images, because we didn’t snap enough photos.  We were too busy enjoying lovely coffees and pastries.  Look at the cute waiter!

 

Copenhagen, so Gracious

August 4-5, 2016

The over night flight from JFK to Copenhagen  was really pretty comfortable. We each watched movies and slept until just an hour outside of Copenhagen. There is a very slick interactive map in each passengers entertainment screen. See?

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We were able to see lots of Copenhagen on a previous trip. Yup, I have a photo with the “Little Mermaid” and changing of the guard at the palace, Carlsberg Brewery. I think that we checked of most of the “have to sees” from the list. Therefore, since we are fortune enough to revisit this very civilized and clean city, we are looking for “What’s new?”

New is the first thing that hits us in the face when we arrive! New construction of very attractive and modern apartment buildings has us craning our necks on the way from the airport. We had planned to uber in to the city. However, the overseas Verizon plan that we got isn’t working AT ALL. What a frustration! We pick up a taxi to take us to the tourist area, Nyhavn or New Harbor. Arriving a few days before Jon and Kathryn join us, we are going to walk this city!

 

We are staying in a quiet, modern room in a great historic home, an air bnb just around the bustle of Nyhavn, or New Harbor. The iconic photo of Copenhagen that you often see of quaint houses and canal with old boats is Nyhavn.

imageIt’s a busy tourist area, but we aren’t stuck in it.  Best of all, our hostess is an instant buddy, so welcoming, so gracious. She baked cookies for us when we arrived and gave us chocolates and blueberry muffins the next day.  It is such a rich experience to live with a resident of the city, learning from her about this beautiful place.  She assures us that the Danish don’t think all Americans are idiots, only the Trump supporters.

She has kept lots of the charm of the old building in her flat and we have a view of a darling courtyard shared by several buildings. Urban indeed, but it is very quaint and quiet. Barry and I chuckle to see a bathroom similar to one we used in a hotel in the Netherlands several years ago. The shower is just a corner of the tiled room. There is also a potty and sink in there too. When you finish your shower, you squeegee the water to the drain under the sink. This is definitely not ADA approved, this granny could slip and kill herself on this wet tiled floor!


Close by is the new area called Papirøen, in English, Paper Island. New, since we were here a few years ago. It is an island just over a cool new bridge from Nyhavn that has a warehouse full of street food stalls: Turkish, Thai, pizza, Scandinavian foods.  Our Sacramento neighbors told us about this place, but they really didn’t need to.  We found a constant flow of people walking there. It was PACKED!  Talk about good vibrations, Joie d’vivre does a conga line throughout the place. Friends and families gathered around picnic tables,  sitting in beach chairs by the water, everyone seems to be enjoying beautiful food and drink during a magical Danish summer evening. (Hygge? – more on that later)

Last summer, “the dark summer of Leaky”, was the time we had planned to be in Copenhagen. Just before coming, Barry’s doctor found that one of his heart values was leaky, Barry needed heart surgery  and we had to cancel our trip. At that time, I had booked a Copenhagen Food Tour that clearly didn’t provide refunds if canceled. I emailed them with our sad tale and they immediately responded with a very gracious email and a full refund for the tour.

This tour was on our “must do list” on this trip, and I have to say it was very  very worthwhile.  SO….Fitbit in place and shoes laced, we head off to the food market to meet our tour.

The food hall where we meet is great, modeled after one that we had the chance to see near the Plaza Mayor in Madrid a few years ago. It’s got two main glass rectangular buildings: fruit, veggies, flowers and another that is meat, fish and cheeses. There were so many nibbles all day long, that I am obliged to write only about the highlights.

Firstly, we enjoyed several foods from the small Danish island of Bornholm. Our guide said that it is only a few hours by ferry from Sweden but a day’s journey from Denmark. (I think that this is going on a future itinerary!) The island has an unusual weather pattern in that the summers are warm for Northern Europe and it has rocks that hold the heat on the island. (?) Consequently, they are known for dairy farming, agriculture as well as tourism and art. It also has a very large medieval fort and lots of ancient history. There is a shop dedicated to the foods of this small island. In another stall we sample local spirits, feminine and masculine varieties of apple wine (fortified with aquavit). The masculine has higher alcohol content. After considering this, it’s probably a great idea, we do have different tolerances for alcohol, it’s biology.

We tried some rhubarb juice that is made as part of a successful city social project for the long term unemployed. They make rhubarb juice drinks, and keep bees in several areas of the city. This gives some work to the people who need it. Also important is that it reminds all of us, not to be too preachy, that bees are central to all agriculture and that urban farming can be very successful.

We walk for miles and miles, thank goddess. During this four hour tour there are many stops for bites. We enjoy some lovely open faced sandwiches, which are called Smørrebrød. They are as delicious as they are beautiful. There are organic sausages, local beer that crafted to emulate west coast IPAs!, and traditional hard candies. Happy, happy….

Our guide was knowledgeable not only about the city’s history, but also regarding the current events within the city, and certainly the food. We covered about five miles during five hours and saw lots of  Copenhagen.  Really, this was Valhalla, so many  fascinating and unique things to see, so many tales to keep us entertained!

After the tour, we headed to Tivoli a Gardens, because it’s just one of the places one must check off the list when sight seeing Copenhagen.  Tivoli Gardens is an amusement park built in 1843. We heard that it was an inspiration for Disneyland, though much smaller, we were able to see nearly all of it in a hour. The gardens are very lovely and there is a quaintness to the attractions for children that make it very dear. There is a robust collection of restaurants and bars throughout the park, very few shops, no movie merchandizing.  It is large enough to entertain for the better part of the day, yet not so large that it zaps your spirit. How very civilized.

 

These two foodies walked over nine miles today, take that Fitbit buddies??

Tomorrow we are taking the train to the Viking town, Roskilde.

 

 

So, we spent the day in BROOKLYN

imageAugust 3,  2016

Just didn’t know much about Brooklyn, so we thought on this trip, we’d learn a little more about it.  We actually started  in small coffee shop in Greenwich Village. It was just a few doors down from a place that Taylor Swift is renting for $40,000 a month. I guess she was in town but we did not see her.    It’s a beautiful area, but still hard to understand how these charming, but somewhat modest homes the cost millions and millions of dollars. Just the cost of living in the big city, I guess?  We learned that the area around Washington Square Park is quite ritzy, that on the Upper East Side Katz Deli’s sign says Katz Deli and That’s All because that’s how what the owner told the sign maker to put on his sign (get it?). The area in Williamsburg has a large Hasidic Jewish population. Our guide is Jewish and has relatives who have 10+ kids from arranged marriages.  Other parts of Williamsburg are becoming quite hipster. There is an area of NYC that I’d never heard of, DUMBO, that’s district under metro bridge overpass.  The  bridges in NYC are BMW:   Brooklyn, Metro,  Washinton.

Next time  I’m in NYC I want to see High Line Park and the Whitney museum

 

We drove toward Brooklyn with a small tour group and learned more about the movement of immigrants into New York, specifically into Brooklyn.  These immigrants changed the USA, each group brought their customs, religions,  their foods. They struggled with prejudices against them, tried to make a living in a new country. I have to admire them for the struggle that it had to have been.  I know that being of 100% European descent, DNA verified, all of my people came over the pond.

It makes me think of all the immigrants in the USA arriving during my lifetime, the frustration that I have had sometimes faced when trying to address immigrant children’s educational needs, or just becoming accustomed to the foreign languages in my own city. It is sometimes unsettling to deal with the changes immigrants are making today.  However, my “better self” feels that our county, which I do love so dearly, has always welcomed the world in and must continue to do so.

Sooo, we enjoyed the gifts they brought to our country’s potluck :  Cubano sandwiches, French chocolates, Polish pierogi, Jewish kinish, Italian cannoli- what a grand day! Thankfully lots of walking!

Lynchburg ‘un Other Southern Stuff


January 17-18, 2016

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Lynchburg,Tennessee is even more rural than I’d thought it would be.  We drove down miles of residential country roads to arrive there.  With a population of 300 and something, it’s smaller than I thought too, even with the entire Jack Daniel’s Distillery as the major employer in the area.  We arrived for the last tour of the day and enjoyed hearing about the history of the company and the methodology of production.  There is a tasting tour, but as the tour guide said, they give you just enough to piss you off.  It’s not enough to enjoy it.  SOOO, we had to purchase a bottle.  Interestingly, Lynchburg is in a dry county, there is no alcohol for sale there in restaurants or stores.  HOWEVER, if you purchase a bottle (and this was on a Sunday too!) in the Jack Daniel’s gift shop, it is a commemorative bottle and exempt from the restriction.  Tricky, huh?  I wonder how much a politician was paid off for that little bit of extra consideration.

We rented a very cute guest house just down the street from the distillery and the town square.  As I mentioned, we arrived on a Sunday, took the tour and then went out looking for some dinner.  None of the little restaurants in town were opened, except for a Subway and a Chinese place and it was too cold to walk around anyway.  Using google maps, I found a place that had pretty good reviews, showed that it was opened and was only 22 minutes away.  Though it was ghastly dark and cold outside, we were adventurous (and hungry) enough to find this gem.  However, once we got onto the one lane road, winding around a small mountain, with a river below us and no place to turn around, I was losing enthusiasm.  I didn’t have time to get into full panic mode because we arrived at the place to find that it was closed for the season (thanks google maps).  We went back to our cottage to snack on crackers, fruit and nuts that we still had from Nashville.

We were able to try local cuisine the next day.  For breakfast we went to the Iron Skillet.  There were a table full of caricatures of “good ole boys” at one table.  They were friendly, but seemed to smirk at us walking in as much as we grinned at surprize at them.  The menu included biscuits, gravy, and country ham along with standard fare.  I just had some eggs, but Barry tried the salty county ham.  All in all,  It was cheap and tasty and entertaining.  IMG_3634

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We shopped a little in the little, little town, then said adieu to our traveling partners, the Flemings.  Barry and I spent some kicking back and reading Gardens and Guns and Southern Living magazines in the cottage, then we walked down to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House Restaurant.    

 

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Miss Mary Bobo opened this historic home to guests, beginning in 1908.  It is known for its traditional Southern cuisine, hosted family style with a hostess at each table.  They only seat you if you’ve made reservations by phone and on a cold Monday afternoon, the place was filled!  I thought it was charming.  The food was all I had hoped.  Barry and I agreed to sample, not eat.  Still taking just taking small portions from the plates that were passed and then just nibbling at those, we were full by the end of the meal.  

Miss Mary Bobo's Guest House
Miss Mary Bobo’s Guest House

The menu of the day consisted of:  sweet tea, country fried chicken, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, hot stuff relish (peppers and tomatoes), spiked applesauce (with Jack Daniel’s),  fresh green beans with ham, macaroni and cheese (listed as a vegetable in a few other restaurants that went to in Tennessee, teehee!), yeast rolls, wonderful fried okra …. and for dessert….heavenly fudge pie, oh my!  Yikes, it was all delicious and served in such lovely surroundings, and a local lady told us the history of the house, the family, its lodgers and its connection to Jack Daniel. I didn’t want to, but I had to buy their cookbook!

 Part of the fun of this trip was the Southern food, so forboden to our usual mostly healthy diet, but you have to sin sometimes…fairly often, right?

Eating Asheville

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Artists’ Galleries inside old Woolworth’s building, they even kept a lunch counter.

Eating Asheville is a very appropriately named food tour in a city that has a wealth of innovative and  arrived restaurants. Barry and I had a wonderful afternoon walking downtown Asheville with a food guide in a group of about 17 other foodies enjoying a sampling of Asheville restaurants, hearing from local chefs and learning some of the local history. In all, we made eight stops,the highlights for us were:

  1. Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar – Well, yes, the name says it all. This is a really large, almost elegant place in an historic building that is a bookstore with tons of comfy seating amid thousands of books and they serve wine, small plates, desserts. Just the best.
  2. Rhubarb – southern food with innovative approaches, really fun place.
  3. Cucina24 – modern take on italian food – very unique mix of local and classic Italian.

What a fun, though fattening,  way to enjoy a city! “Where Werid is Normal”

Asheville via Atlanta

 

Crab fritter, Atlanta
Crab fritter, Atlanta

Arriving to Atlanta we forgot what a behemoth airport it is! After navigating out of the airport to rental car counter (where we were talked into more car and features than we probably need), we finally got to hotel 8 minutes after 11pm. The restaurant closed at 11pm, so we were back in the car to try and find something to eat. The parking lot was filled on a Thursday night at 11:30pm at Malone’s Steak and Seafood. The food must be good, right? Oh yeah, the Cajun chicken gumbo with andouille sausage with a jailhouse breakout stout was just amazing. A bite of a crab fritter and I know I am back in the South enjoying guilty pleasures.

We hit the road toward Asheville, North Carolina. Passing Waffle Houses, stands selling boiled peanuts, BBQ places with name such as “Fat Buddies BBQ” and “Piggies”, we drove up to higher elevations where the dense forests have been bared by autumn to just the bones of trunks and branches. The silver sky and misty mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway make me imagine years past in this beautiful place. Native Indian, Scottish, Irish names identify roads, ridges and streams. Tell me the stories of the people who made this place their home.

Clayton is a little town where we stopped for a break. It was very charming and we strolled through home decor and antique shops and a wonderful primitive art gallery.

At last in Asheville, we yelped to find Wedge Brewing Company, a popular brewery in the exciting river art district. What a fun, funky and friendly place.Wedge Brewing Asheville, NC The guy  next to me at the patio bar told me , with such the cute southern accent, that Asheville has changed lots since Barry and I visited there about eight years ago.  The Asheville cliche is a guy with a Subaru wagon, a dog and who works at home. He said if you come to Asheville you need to bring your own job, a trust fund or you will be serving beer. The up and coming vibe that Barry and I sensed a few years ago isn’t really here, Asheville is now an established tourist destination with more trendy restaurants and art than we saw before. My beer buddy told me that lots of boomers (Hey. That’d be me!) see how lovely a place Asheville  is, how nice a home they can get, and they purchase homes here,  pushing out the locals.  It does seem less southern funky and is more sophisticated, but more crowded. Ah, word has gotten out, Asheville is an awesomely gorgeous place and I hope the artsy types who made it so cool can afford to stay here.