Asheville Anniversary Trip

Better late than never, right? Benjamin and I had a short but peaceful weekend getaway to Asheville, NC for our anniversary in May, and we visited some really excellent small businesses while there. With Asheville so close to Greenville, it’s a great day trip destination, and these places are certainly worth visiting.

Corner Kitchen

Nestled right on the cobblestone sidewalks of the Biltmore Village, this home-turned-restaurant is a charming dinner destination. While the atmosphere is cozy and intimate, you’ll find the food to be unexpected and perfectly prepared.

ramen

Unexpected, indeed, to find this mind-blowing bowl of ramen in the cottage-like atmosphere of Corner Kitchen. The broth was rich and flavorful, and the pork belly was perfection itself.

For the thirsty, there is an impressive wine and beer menu, along with many signature cocktails. Corner Kitchen is casual enough for a laid-back lunch, but is certainly special enough for a fancier occasion.

souffle

For dessert: a fresh raspberry souffle with lemon and cream sauce. To DIE for.

 

Malaprop’s Bookstore

You can tell a lot about a town by the quality of its small bookstores, and Malaprop’s Bookstore represents Asheville with good taste and plenty of charm. Something I appreciate in a bookstore: good organization. Malaprop’s offers a wide variety of books, and they’re all labeled and organized. Such a pleasant shopping experience.

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Malaprop’s had an excellent collection of regional books and authors.

Curate

One of the most exciting experiences we had in Asheville was at Curate…and, we got so wrapped up in enjoying the food and atmosphere that we forgot to take photos altogether (face palm). As one of the hottest restaurants in Asheville at the moment, we were lucky to get a table—literally grabbed the last lunch reservation, and we were reserving a week in advance! There’s a reason Curate is so popular, though: the Spanish-style tapas cuisine is not only delicious, but unique and unexpected. We ordered a variety of dishes, from a tomato bruschetta (very simple, but so flavorful), preserved white asparagus with lemon vinaigrette, shrimp with sherry, and fried eggplant with rosemary and honey. It was unbelievably scrumptious, and I would return in a heartbeat (and take pictures, next time!)

French Broad Chocolates

The place I probably wanted to visit the most in Asheville was French Broad Chocolates, the ultimate Mecca for any chocolate lover. They offer hand-crafted chocolates (anything from truffles, chocolate bars, hot cocoa mixes, and more), baked goods, coffees, ice creams, and more. I tried their legendary liquid truffle while there (I can’t describe how decadent and delicious it was), then we returned for a box of truffles, which were an incredible experience.

truffles

Smoked salt, raspberry, strawberry & balsamic, earl grey…just some of the flavors we picked out for our box of truffles. French Broad Chocolates has a wide variety of flavors, including seasonal  themed collections.

There are dozens of other restaurants, bakeries, shops, and more that we could have explored, but we were so pleased with the taste of Asheville we experienced. It’s a beautiful vacation spot with lots of fun activities, not least of which is, of course, the spectacular Biltmore house. Give these spots a try, and let me know how you like them!

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Celebrating one excellent first year of marriage with Benjamin. What a great weekend!

Joe’s Place – Literary and Community Hub

As a long-time bookworm and former English major, bookstores have a special place in my heart.  As I’ve been scouting out exemplary bookstores in the upstate SC area, Joe’s Place Bookstore has marked itself as a must-visit, must-support, must-love location.

sunny window

There were lots of cozy rooms at Joe’s Place, but this sunny room with the window seats completely won me over.

Let’s not sugar-coat it: bookstores often struggle to stay in business.  In my hometown, two used bookstores I visited frequently both abruptly shut down due to patrons doing more browsing than actual buying.  However, I’ve noticed several small bookstores beginning to revamp their business by pairing book selling with using their space for social and educational opportunities.  Joe’s Place is a great example of this store/community center hybrid, and they’re hitting it out of the park.

outside

Benjamin bought a stir-fry cook book from Joe’s Place, and we enjoyed picking recipes while sipping cappuccinos on the porch.

You’ll find Joe’s Place’s new location in a beautifully transformed home on Williams Street.  I was absolutely smitten with this place not just because of the incredible variety of books, but because the owners at Joe’s Place have maintained a true homelike feeling in their new space.  In every room, there are comfy chairs and sofas or spacious tables where you can spread out your bookstore finds.

coffee station

All the snacks, coffee, and yummy teas you could want after you’ve selected a good book.

Downstairs, you’ll find a little cafe with pastries and local chocolate treats, plus excellent coffee drinks using locally-roasted Due South coffee beans.  Directly across from the coffee station is Joe’s Place’s beautiful wine bar, with rows of gleaming bottles and plenty of vintage charm.  Whether you have a glass of wine or a steaming cup of java, the outside covered porch is a serene place to sip, chat, and enjoy flipping through a book.

wine bar

Joe’s Place’s wine bar; just look at that beautiful architecture, plus those poofy armchairs–perfect for leisurely sipping.

Joe’s Place also hosts a variety of weekly events, anything from topical crash-courses, introductory classes on wine, book club meetings, and trivia nights.  They’ve formulated an excellent business model that blends merchandise, food and beverage, and resources for the community.  Their comfortable environment and spacious rooms offer the ideal place for coffee dates and study spots, and they’re filled to the brim with excellent books–a true delight to discover.  Follow them on Instagram, and definitely go visit…and when you do, browse AND buy!

All In – Amazing Coffee and House-made Pastries

For every small town, there’s the local gathering place.  For some towns, this may be a favorite diner or pub, but in Clemson, South Carolina, it’s All In Coffee Shop.  All In opened in April 2012, and as a high school junior I fell in love with the place and have been going ever since.  So many things set All In apart as a coffee shop that it’s hard to know what to describe first: the house-made pastries?  The outstanding coffee?  The homelike atmosphere?  All these things are what make All In a local favorite, but to understand what makes All In work, you’ve got to know the beautiful vision behind it.

Vernon

My awesome sister tagged along to snap pictures while I chatted with Vernon, the kind-hearted owner behind All In Coffee Shop.

Vernon Bacher, along with his wife Maria, started All In with the desire to serve the community, first and foremost.  Vernon is a residential contractor by trade, though he and his family have traveled around the world doing missions work for years.  After a while, though, Vernon began to feel a frustrating conflict between his desire to minister and the language barrier he often encountered during mission trips.  Around this time, he began to realize that his long-time hometown, Clemson, supported a large international population, all of whom spoke English.  This was the spark that got All In started; the Bachers began to feel the need to create a warm, inviting gathering place where both locals and homesick internationals could gather, connect, and enjoy each other.

Mural

A friend of the Bacher’s has been working on this mural over the past few years, Michelangelo-style.  It’s truly a stunning feature when you walk in.

When I asked Vernon what he believes sets All In apart, he just smiled and pointed to the ceiling, which is beautifully covered in a stunning mural that includes landmarks from all over the world.  As you explore All In, you’ll notice other little nods to international culture, such as international bills tucked under glass tables and a massive map on the wall with hundreds of pins stuck into it where international students have marked home.

Caramel bars

I’ve spent many years drooling over All In’s pastry case.

“We’re here to represent something bigger than we are. We want to be a light here in Clemson–that’s been my prayer.  We want to run a business, but more importantly, we want to provide a sense of belonging.” -Vernon Bacher

The atmosphere at All In feels more like a home than a cramped coffee shop, and the food and drinks are spectacular.  Vernon believes strongly in the difference that fresh coffee beans make, remarking that ground coffee begins to taste stale after just seven days.  Because of that, All In only ever uses the freshest coffee in their drinks, and the difference is noticeable.  And not only are their drinks delectable, but they’re also beautiful.

coffee and lemon bar

A Chocolate-Covered Strawberry mocha (one of my favorite All In drinks!) and a scrumptious lemon bar.  All In’s “coffee art” is just delightful.

All In is as much an outstanding bakery as it is a coffee shop.  All of the pastries and desserts at All In are made on-site, usually by Maria Bacher, the genius behind All In’s incredible baked goods.  From dessert bars to cheesecakes, fresh scones and muffins, layer cakes and cookies, All In provides copious options for the sweet tooth.  Having spent years sampling All In’s sweets, I can testify: all of their desserts are out of this world delicious, though Vernon says that the cinnamon rolls are a constant favorite.

If you’re in the Clemson area, you’ve got to stop by All In coffee shop.  Try one of their signature drinks, like the White Tiger (white chocolate and chai), or stop by on a Tuesday afternoon for Bubble Tea Tuesday.  While you’re at it, order one of Maria’s mouth-watering sweets and find a cozy armchair by the fire to read a book or catch up with a friend.  While you’re there, I guarantee you’ll notice something besides the outstanding food and coffee–you’ll discover a place where people from all over the world can gather and find a sense of home.

Go Find ‘Em!

106 Earle Street

Clemson, SC 29631

http://allincoffeeshop.com/