Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Eight-Year Anniversary Trip to NC

Two weeks ago, at 32 weeks pregnant, I knew time was running out for hubby and I to escape on our own for a bit, before the baby's arrival. Just turning two (literally, the day before we left!), we had never left Noah overnight, but he was ready. So, we decided to take a 2-day trip to nearby Asheville, NC to check out the Biltmore Estate and other local attractions.

On our way there, we took the scenic route, to check out some other beautiful locations. We stumbled upon this refreshing waterfall at one point, and took the obligatory "selfie" in front of it. ;)

We experienced some gorgeous views on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Later that afternoon, we arrived in Asheville, and checked into our hotel, the Renaissance. Yay for being a Marriott rewards member! It was a gorgeous hotel with a nice, comfortable room. We got ready for dinner, and at the concierge's suggestion, decided to check out Chestnut, downtown. With the hotel in a wonderful location, we were able to walk there for dinner. I am so sad that I didn't take any pictures that evening. The restaurant atmosphere was perfect for a quiet dinner with my hubby, and the food was incredible!! I started with a bowl of their lobster bisque. It wasn't as thick and creamy as most that I have had, but the huge chunks of lobster were delicious. For my main course, I chose to order a medium plate and salad. The risotto cakes on lobster ragout and the heirloom tomato salad were perfect. The mix of creamy risotto and gooey fontina cheese with the crispy crust was wonderful. More lobster chunks with the dish completed the plate. For the salad, the arugula paired perfectly with the fresh mozzarella and sweet tomatoes. The parmesan crisps and candied pancetta were a tasty addition as well. Sadly, I was too stuffed for dessert, but left very happy with my selections for the evening. Josh chose the tomato pesto grilled swordfish for his entrée. Served over fennel and olive cous cous, with green beans amandine and a tomato salad, he enjoyed his dinner as well.

The next morning, on the day of our eight-year wedding anniversary, we enjoyed the breakfast buffet at our hotel before heading off to Biltmore for the day. The made-to-order omelets were just what we needed to fuel us up and were a great, quick meal. The Biltmore Estate was a short drive from our hotel, and we joined the hundreds of others checking out the remarkable house. Perhaps a bit more house than I would care to clean (haha!), it was gorgeous, with amazing attention to detail in every room. It's crazy to think about how much something of that size would cost to build nowadays! Unfortunately, I didn't think about the fact that the house would not be air-conditioned. :/ Combine that with being packed in like sardines with all of the other tourists, and I was one H-O-T mama! After fueling up and cooling down with a tasty brownie sundae at their Ice Cream Parlor for "lunch," we made our way to the gardens next. Wow. It was quite the amazing display of every flower and plant you can imagine. Unfortunately, due to temps in the 90s and the fact that my preggo body couldn't handle the heat or sheer amount of walking, we didn't walk around as much as we would have liked to in the gardens. There was probably a reason we noticed only one other woman there that day that was visibly pregnant, though not as far along as me. No one else was crazy enough to attempt it!

We proceeded from the Estate and gardens to Antler Hill Village to learn more about the history of the Vanderbilt family and take a tour of the winery. I'm sure this part would have been much more fun if I wasn't preggo, but at least we bought a few bottles of their wine that I can enjoy in a couple of months!! After a loooong day, we headed back to our hotel to get ready for dinner. We weren't really sure what we wanted to eat, so we headed out by foot to check out the downtown selection once again. We stumbled upon Strada Italiano, and decided that it sounded good. Josh and I rarely order the same thing at a restaurant, but after he chose his entrée, I decided it sounded too good to pass up. I wanted something different, that I couldn't normally get at the usual boring family restaurants we frequent here at home, so I also ordered the Tuscan Duck - seasoned local duck breast, Tuscan figs (duo of basil whipped goat cheese stuffed figs wrapped in prosciutto, arugula and Chianti reduction), risotto del giorno, and broccolini with a Chianti reduction. It was fantastic! The duck was cooked perfectly and had great flavor. I am a sucker for risotto, obviously, so I was happy to indulge in that again that night! This time we saved room for dessert. I was so glad I did because their flourless espresso and chocolate ganache cake, topped with cream, was mouthwatering! Josh enjoyed their Tiramisu, which he raved about as well.

One final childless night at the hotel and it was time to head back home. First, we checked out the Over Easy Café for an incredible breakfast. I chose the Lavender French Toast, to try something new. Oh. my. goodness. It was a party in my mouth! They use a local bakery's challah bread, topped with house-made granola, vanilla lavender yogurt and powdered sugar. It was served with a side of fresh fruit (peaches, blueberries and bananas) and real maple syrup. I could seriously eat it everyday. Probably not a great idea for my waistline, but it was definitely worth every calorie that morning! :) Josh chose the Corlitos Omelet. Stuffed with bacon, mixed mushrooms, roasted garlic, spinach and white cheddar cheese, it was quite the treat. Served with a side of roasted potatoes and a biscuit, he was set for awhile! I'm sad now that I didn't also try one of their delicious-sounding smoothies or fresh-squeezed juices, as I am sure that I would not have been disappointed. This is definitely a place we'll return to if we are in Asheville again!

We made our way back home to the boys, who had spent a fun couple of days with their Grandpa and Grandma Frank. Thanks, mom and dad, for staying with the boys! It was a fun getaway to celebrate our anniversary and get a little time for just us, since we hadn't been on a "date" (aka, night out without the boys in tow) in nearly a year! Now, it's time to wait for this baby boy's arrival and hope that we'll get a chance to celebrate our 10-year anniversary somewhere tropical in a couple of years! ;)

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