To Asheville, NC and Home Again

Although I’m exhausted from the long hours in the car, I’m not quite ready to deal with the loads of laundry that await. Plus, I must keep my promise with April to try blogging each day this month. I figured I’d share some food notes from the trip while they’re somehow fresh in my memory.

For spring break, we decided to take a road trip from Chicago to Asheville, NC to see the Biltmore Estate. At first, it was touch and go. The Princess was getting over some kind of viral respiratory infection, and we weren’t sure if a roadtrip was going to a be a good idea. Fortunately, she was so thrilled at the prospect of staying at different hotels, she seemed to recover miraculously. Or maybe the long hours of sitting still/sleeping/doing nothing did the trick in helping her immune system get back on track. In fact, she’s fully recovered as we speak.

Indianapolis, IN
We stopped in Indianapolis to meet up with my husband’s friends. Each time we go see Mike and Susan, we go to Bando Korean Restaurant so they can get their Korean food fix. A little intimidated by the menu, they are afraid to go on their own even though they love Korean food. They only go when my husband is there. I don’t blame them. I prefer going to Korean restaurants when I’m with him, too—food and service always seem to be better.

What I liked about Bando—cooking the kalbi (Korean BBQ ribs) over a wood-charcoal grill instead of a gas grill, which isn’t as common in many of the Chicago-area Korean restaurants. The panchan (side-dishes) were abundant, which is always a plus. They had my favorites as part of the panchan spread—ggae-rhan-jeem (egg souffle) and pah-jun (Korean green onion pancakes)—and most importantly, Korean-style fried potatoes, which easily won over the boys, Tom and Will, who never had Korean food before and were a little nervous about trying it out. (Ultimately, they both loved the potatoes panchan and kalbi; no post-meal trip to the Hardees at the opposite end of the strip mall was required.) The Princess was most content with her mung bean sprouts panchan and thrilled to have udon (typically served at Japanese restaurants) as well as her kalbi.

Overall, Bando in Indianapolis is better than all the Korean restaurants in Boston and a lot of places in Chicago. I also have to give our server double-props for giving us extra ggae-than-jeem on the house.

Asheville, NC
On the Biltmore Estate at Cedric’s Tavern, I had one of the most delicious fish and chips in my life—light and crispy casing atop delicate flaky morsels of fresh fish; must go there again to try other food items. We stayed at the Inn on the Biltmore Estates and had breakfast for each of the two mornings we were there as part of the meal plan. I loved the fact that they accommodated the Princess’s dairy allergy by whipping up some dairy-free hash browns just for her. My favorite breakfast items at the Inn at the Biltmore—waffles so light and yet crispy, gourmet sausages, and fresh pineapples that rival the pineapples we’d had in Hawaii for our honeymoon. Hoping to stay there another time to try a formal dinner.

Although I didn’t have a chance to do the wine tasting at the Antler Village on the Estate, I did enjoy a glass of riesling made there at the vineyard and tasted HB’s cabernet which wasn’t too bad. I loved the hot wassail punch and the variety of fruit cordials and dips they had available for sampling at the gift shops. (I ended up buying an overpriced wassail mix to compensate for my brazen display of gluttony at the sampling stations.)

Biltmore Mansion

Biltmore Mansion in Asheville, NC

Downtown Asheville—Made a huge mistake in choosing Heiwa Shokudo Japanese Restaurant for one of our dinners. Maybe I was expecting too much from the “authentic Japanese chef” that I read about in an online review. The interior was dingy and gloomy, and the bathroom was downright scary. Although my maki pieces were appropriately bite-sized, the prices also happened to take a major bite from the wallet. HB ordered a sushi combo, which was “nothing remarkable.” (He was just happy not to have diarrhea that evening after the subpar dining experience there.) My daughter’s usual favorite dish, hamachi shioyaki, was so dry, it was as though they defrosted a freezer-burned piece of fish in the microwave and then broiled it beyond rigor mortis. The side of sauteed beansprouts was swimming in soy sauce—I doubt the chef even tried a piece because he would have known it was too salty to be served. The only good thing I could say about the restaurant was that they had vegan options. For dessert, the Princess was able to have some vanilla soy ice cream, which she had been craving since we’d been on the road.

We should have gone to Wasabi, Ichiban, or Green Tea Japanese Restaurant per other people’s suggestions. Next time, we know better.

Lexington, KY
We stayed in Lexington on our trip home from Asheville. For dinner, we tried a Korean restaurant called Arirang Garden. HB was annoyed with the fact they didn’t provide horseradish and extra vinegar on the side for his naeng-myun (Korean cold noodle soup). I was happy to have my soon-dooboo chigae (spicy soft tofu stew with seafood). The Princess had her comfort food, moorl-bop (rice in water), and kalbi, plus her favorite bean sprouts, so she was happy. However, I don’t think we’ll be going back there again, especially in light of HB’s naeng-myun disappointment.

Next time we’re in Lexington, I hope to try School, a Japanese and French Bistro which I read about at the hotel. Apparently the chefs had worked under one of the Iron Chefs, which I thought was neat, and you can pick your sushi off the conveyor belt (kaiten sushi).

Greencastle, IN
Also on our way home, we stopped over DePauw University, HB’s alma mater. HB took us to one of his favorite haunts, Marvin’s, for some garlic cheese burgers (GCBs) and wet burritos. (The Princess had a simple hamburger and fries.) At the risk of offending HB and his friends, I have to say that I was not overly impressed. The burrito reminded me of a jumbo-sized version of Taco Bell’s soft taco, but greasier. I’ve had many great burritos in my lifetime, and this certainly wasn’t among them. The GCB was ok—I thought the garlicky butter bun was a bit on the salty-side, which killed the cheeseburger portion for me.

I’m thinking that it must be nostalgia that made the food so tasty for HB. Each bite must bring back memories of those late nights of studying and partying and flirting with the cute classmate who was working there part-time.

I was hoping to be given a reprieve from my cooking duties for at least another meal, but alas, no. Fortunately, the only cooking I had to do was put a pizza in the oven for HB, make some neoguri ramen for myself (I was craving ramen and egg like no tomorrow), and whip up some dairy-free mashed potatoes for the Princess (her ultimate comfort food). So we’re all happily full and ready for bed.

Although we had some pretty good (and bad) food on this trip, I have to say, there’s no place like home.


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