Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Miss and A Hit

We had discovered the center (in our opinion) of old-time music in the small towns of western Virginia when we traveled The Crooked Road nearly six years ago.

We had checked the schedule of events for Galax, VA, and found that a Fourth of July Parade was going to be held at 4:00. We thought that was a bit late for a parade, but since there were two separate citations of the time, we thought that the parade was a prelude to the evening's fireworks.

We arrived in town a couple of hours early only to find traffic being routed around the center of town. We parked a couple of blocks away from Main Street with a crowd in sight. We found a viewing space...and watched the last few entries pass by.

Clearly, we had missed the parade, but it was also clear that a significant percentage of the town's 7,000 residents had watched the entire parade.
After the final entries had passed, we took a break for lunch.

Following the meal in downtown Galax, we returned to the scene of the parade. To our surprise, the street seemed deserted.


It seemed everyone but us knew the schedule. We left Galax.

The next day we headed to the Blue Ridge Parkway, crossing New River along the way.

The Blue Ridge Music Center is located at Milepost 213 of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax. The Center is a magnificent venue for the performance of old time mountain music of Virginia and North Carolina and is largely concerned with local artists who best show this history, and not with "stars".
It was a gorgeous evening and the two local bands performing that evening were ones that we had come to appreciate on earlier visits to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Kate had searched for a calendar events for the Galax area and found the appearance of these two bands. (Whitetop Mountain Band is another of our favorites.)
"Mountain Park Old Time Band was formed six years ago as a group of friends who happened to enjoy Old Time Music got together to have a good time. The band performs at the Carter Fold several times a year. They have been featured on All Things Considered on NPR for playing at the second longest radio show in the country on WPAQ.
"They have opened for the Bluegrass super group Blue Highway as well as opened for the Carolina Chocolate Drops. They have been the winners of Instrumental Group of the year at the Blue Ridge Uprising in 2013.

"Mountain Park Old Time Band is known for their dance music whether it be square dance, flat foot, clogging, two step, or Waltz. More than anything, they have a great time and it shows in their performance" (mountainparkoldtimeband.com/band_bio).
Several audience members joined in the flat footin' dancing, many of who brought their own 3' x 3' boards to dance on.
The second band that evening was The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters. About 25 years ago a group of musicians from the Galax, VA area formed a new band. The New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters took their name from the original Bogtrotters of the 1930's in part because band leader Dennis Hall lives on Ballards Branch.

We had learned that once the sun sets the temperature in the mountains drops significantly. So the evening ended with the non-dancers in the audience in jackets, the dancers easily keeping warm, and both bands playing a couple of selections, including "Cumberland Gap".
Old-time music performed by people who have lived with this music all their lives and enjoyed in this setting made for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

So What is a Deli?

The answer depends on where you happen to be. “The name Deli comes from the German word Delikatessen (German for Delicacies). Deli's came to New York as the population of German and Eastern European Jews fled religious and social oppression by immigrating to the United States, between 1900 and 1938. As New York City was the Point-Of-Entry for these immigrants, many stayed. After all they were unable to speak English, speaking German and Yiddish (a 14th century derivation of German) and so tended to stay within the community” (newyorkdeli.co.nz).

“The word was shortened from delicatessen in 1954. While we usually don’t associate delis or deli meat with fancy or gourmet food, the term delicatessen means ‘delicacies’ or ‘fine food.’ Though it is a German borrowing, ultimately delicatessen derives from the Latin adjective delicauts, which means ‘giving pleasure, delightful, pleasing,’ and also ‘overly-luxurious, spoiled’ and ‘fragile’ (dictionary.com).

Having lived on the East Coast for so many years, I consider a deli to be a market where you find cases of meats (pastrami, corned beef, brisket, tongue and more) ready to be sliced. A market where you find fresh salads and pickles—especially my favorite half sours. A market with loaves of seeded rye and bins of bagels. And, if you are lucky, your favorite deli also has an attached restaurant where you can sample all of these delicacies without doing any work.
But we have learned that our concept of a deli is not found everywhere we travel. In fact, most “delis” are restaurants only and don’t include a specialty market. So I was not surprised to learn that the Dark City Deli in Black Mountain, NC, was a restaurant only. Well, that isn’t quite accurate. It is also a bar, a music venue, and a pool hall.
The “deli’s” web site says: “Take a step back in time while enjoying family-friendly dining. Enjoy our full service bar that serves up twelve craft beers from the tap and just about any other libation you can dream up. How about a game of billiards, darts, or foosball in the Parlor? Our historic location is in the heart of Black Mountain…. Our atmosphere is served from a hundred year-old brick building accented with handmade native hardwood furnishings that make dining and relaxing at the Deli a unique experience” (darkcitydeli.com).
But, while not being my idea of a “real” deli, the sandwich menu was intriguing enough to make this out lunch stop while in Black Mountain (about three miles east of Asheville). Does one order The Bruiser (“This big boy will put a hurtin’ on you!”) with off-the-bone ham, smoked gouda, roasted turkey, bacon, aged cheddar? Does one order the MOO! (“Say it like ya mean it!) with medium-rare roast beef on a ciabatta with white aged provolone and horseradish aioli? Or does one order The Gobbler (“Not your traditional turkey sandwich.”) with warm turkey and stuffing with cranberry chutney and herb aioli on an english muffin.?

"No" to the above. We ordered sandwiches with the deli staples of corned beef and pastrami. For Chuck it was New Yorker with thinly sliced warmed pastrami, aged Swiss, and spicy mustard on rye with a side of coated fries.
And since the menu says that you can order any sandwich grilled, Chuck had it grilled. The pastrami on this sandwich was first rate with the coriander perfume that makes for great pastrami.
And this is one of the few meats where some measure of fat is necessary—especially when it is warmed as was this and some of the fat melts and moistens and flavors the meat.

Mine was the corned beef selection—the Mein Kraut which is the deli’s version of a Reuben sandwich. The corned beef was good, but did not compare with Chuck’s pastrami. But the sauerkraut had just the right degree of sour—not too much and not too little.
My side was one of the day’s specials—the kale salad that was composed of large chiffonade pieces of kale in an oil dressing that had an undertone of heat from red pepper flake. The salad was also dusted with a small amount of parmesan cheese.
Kale seems to be another food fad and should you doubt it, consider this: “Anyone who doubts the ability of a stalky, bitter brassica to capture the public consciousness, consider this: last year, 262 babies in the United States were named Kale.

“The cruciferous vegetable has become an unavoidable presence on restaurant menus. It has been converted into crisps, popcorn, smoothies and cocktails. You can buy kale hand cream, kale face scrub—even iPhone cases bearing the words ‘Keep Calm and Love Kale’” (Alice-Azania Jarvis at independent.co.uk). And do you remember, way back in the early days of this blog, Chuck, his cousin Mike, Mike’s wife Joannie, and me “massaging the kale” in Mike and Joannie’s kitchen in Billings, MT? (This can be found at thewandererschuckandkate.blogspot.com/2010/07/massaging-kale.html)

Perhaps it was our hunger for “deli” or a close facsimile thereof, but we left agreeing that Dark City Deli earned a 4.5 Addie rating.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Welcomes Galore

About three miles from our campground is the town of Black Mountain, NC, and on the western edge of the town is the historic Monte Vista Hotel.

"The completion of a railroad connection in the late-nineteenth century brought tourists to the Black Mountain area, including Mount Mitchell and the surrounding mountains. In 1919, Lucien and Rosalie Phillips opened the Monte Vista Hotel in a former school building. In 1937, during the height of the Depression the Phillips borrowed $70,000 to construct the modern brick building that is the Monte Vista today.

The street lamp and canopied entrance of the Colonial Revival style hotel appeared quite inviting to us travelers.
Entering the lobby presented a picture of a time when several functions--registering for a room, relaxing by a fire, and enjoying a meal--occurred in a small space.
"By the mid 1900s, tourism patterns began to change, but the Monte Vista maintained its comfortable homelike atmosphere and remained a favorite spot for family get-togethers, weddings, and the ever-popular Sunday Brunch.
"Lucian and Rosalie’s son Bill Phillips, along with his wife Marilyn, continued to run the hotel through the 1980s. Rosalie Phillips, granddaughter of the original owner, continued the comfortable, homelike atmosphere until 2009. In 2010 Barney Fitzpatrick and Sue Conlon purchased the hotel and undertook a renovation that was completed the following year" (themontevistahotel.net/#!about/c15v1).

Throughout the town's history, the Monte Vista has played a central role in the town's life--a welcome to tourists and a meeting place for the locals.
The lobby featured several works by area artists. I'm not sure if this cabinet was for sale or not, but it was curiously interesting.
We drove the short distance into town and found this old truck near our parking spot.
The welcome we experienced at the Monte Vista continued as we continued our walk
and our rest as we visited some of the towns shops.

We ended this short walk around town in front of a restaurant.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Just Walking Around...And Then

One last visit to downtown Asheville concentrated on an unguided walk.

We began along Church Street and at the corner of Patton Avenue is "...the Drhumor Building, a splendid example of Asheville architecture in the Romanesque Revival style. Built in 1895, this boldly detailed building is the oldest standing commercial building downtown. It features an elaborate exterior limestone frieze carved by English sculptor Frederick Miles.
Some of the allegorical stone images are believed to represent local residents of the era. Named for an Irish Island, Drhumor is pronounced "Drummer", but locals often fondly refer to it as the "Doctor Humor" building.

"A little farther along Patton Ave is the S&W Cafeteria, widely acclaimed as downtown's most flamboyant Art Deco presentation of Asheville architecture in the Art Deco style.
"Designed as a cafeteria by Douglas D. Ellington in 1929, it was constructed at the height of Asheville's historic building boom.
"The ornate fa├žade of this two-story structure is festive and cheerful, displaying a profusion of exuberant stylistic details that include colorful repeating geometric designs of cream, green, blue, black and gilt glazed terra-cotta tiles, all of which come together in a harmonious whole."
Today, there was a small group of musicians in Pritchard Park. We later learned that the time to be at the park is Friday night.
"Stop by the Asheville Drum Circle on every Friday night. Anyone can participate by drumming, dancing or watching." (Dozens of drummers show up over the course of the four-hour gathering.)

"One of the most famous and popular of the remaining Asheville architecture buildings is the Flatiron Building. It was designed by Albert C. Wirth and constructed in 1925-26. An elegant Beaux Arts styled eight-story office building faced with limestone, the term "Flatiron" refers to its triangular wedge shape that was created to fit the irregular lot. Indeed, its eastern side is just barely wide enough to accommodate an entry door.

"Photographers love to capture images of this unique building along with the sculpture of a traditional flat iron (designed by a local Asheville artist, Reed Todd) that stands just across Wall Street.
"Street musicians often perform in front of the sculpture, adding a festive air to this entrance of Wall St, which is one of the city's prettiest and most popular thoroughfares for shopping and dining."

"SkyBar may be accessed through the historic downtown Asheville’s Flatiron Building main entrance" (asheville-mountain-magic.com/asheville-architecture).
From the eighth floor of this landmark building, SkyBar offers views of the Western horizon and the smokey Blue Mountains.
We headed along Wall Street populated by shops, shoppers, street musicians,
and, around a corner, chess players.
Our walk to us to a wonderful destination. Past Carmel's Restaurant and the crowded tables,
past a number of shops and outdoor dining locations
to True Confections for a made from scratch heavenly treat of blueberry ice cream scrunched ever so carefully between two homemade lemon cookies. Ooooh My.
I asked if I could buy stock in their company--it was that good, but unfortunately....

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Surprise

The name--the Grand Bohemian Hotel--caught our attention; the description: "the authentic Old World, rustic ambiance of this Tudor inspired...boutique hotel" warranted a visit.

The stacked stone entryway spoke to the days when lighting was limited to candle power.
"As you enter the lobby, you will be overwhelmed with the antique and art collection. Sit in antique Chinese chairs, hand-carved in 1888.
"The interior of the Grand Bohemian Asheville is central European in its essence, borrowing from Austrian country styles" (southerntravelnews.com/NewsRelease.aspx?NewsId=832).
The open fireplace hinted at a time when a hunting lodge's fireplace provided not only warmth but also a place for cooking food.
The columns in the lobby are originally from a palace in India.


Even though the hotel seemed to hint at historical events that had taken place inside its walls or meetings that had taken place in the dark corners of what is now the Hotel's Red Stag Restaurant, there were no references to such events or meetings as I read about the Hotel.
The missing history of the hotel that resembles a turn-of-the-century, grand European hunting lodge is because it was built...

in 2009.