Consider this fair warning because what I’m about to say will start a music loop in your head that will play for at least the next hour: won’t you take me to, Funkytown? That’s what chef Michel Baudouin affectionately calls his home of Asheville, North Carolina – Funkytown (thank you Lipps Inc for that 1980s chart topper). And after you see this episode, you, too will want someone to take you to Funkytown where art, ingenuity, and the entrepreneurial spirit are thriving!
The cool factor of this bustling mountain locale started as soon as we arrived and realized our hosts at the 1900 Inn on Montford have a bike barn for your peace of mind – and in case you were wondering, yes, Asheville is very bike friendly. Actually, more than that, Asheville isn’t just bike friendly, it’s just downright friendly, end of statement. The sense of community and support I encountered at every stop of my 29.3-mile bike trek were incredibly inspiring as I heard the stories of families, couples, and risk-taking entrepreneurs that made every bite and mile, unforgettable.
Speaking of risk-taking…did I mention Asheville is in the mountains? The Blue Ridge Mountains to be exact, and during my visit, I was joined by the owner of our Inn on a ride up and back down a section of this majestic range. At one point in the episode, as we are on our way up, I had to pull off, stop and catch my breath. The inclines of the Blue Ridge are not for the faint of heart, but its vistas are absolutely worth every ounce of effort. My best advice if you’re wanting to experience this ascent for yourself is to get a good night’s sleep, fuel yourself before you go, hydrate, and don’t be afraid to stop! It’s ok to ride 10 miles, pull off in a safe spot, stop, stretch and hop back on. Trust me, this is one ride you want to enjoy to the fullest! Of course just when I thought the way up was the tricky part, then we made our way back down. At one point I glanced down at my speedometer and it was registering 37 miles per hour! If I hit just one pebble the wrong way, well…I had to get those thoughts out of my head and replace them with the knowledge that “this is the reward” for the climb - exhilaration in its purest form. And it really is.
But the Blue Ridge wasn’t my only “first” while in Asheville. Mr. Funkytown himself, Michel Baudouin, chef and owner of the French-inspired RendezVous restaurant, taught me a very clever trick! Known for serving traditional French comfort food favorites from his childhood, Chef Michel served me mussels (among many other amazing dishes you’ll see when you watch).
As I plucked the meat from my first mussel, he enlightened me – I could now use the empty, hinged shell, as tongs to retrieve the tasty delicacy from the rest of my dish! Brilliant! And, as Chef Michel quipped, “now when you go to France, you won’t look like a tourist!”
I also ate carrots in ice cream for the first time! And it was delicious! At Sunshine Sammies, owners Susie Pearson and Luke Croop serve a carrot cake ice cream sandwich that’s as divine as it is unexpected – much like the success this duo has experienced over the years.
What started with a homemade solar-powered ice cream cart grew into vintage fixer-upper trucks and today occupies a storefront where thousands of ice cream sandwiches are made and served each week.
Then there was my eye-opening (and biscuit splitting) experience at Sunny Point Café. Owner and chef, April Harper, started this popular spot 19 years ago with her mom, and take it from me, this place is the real deal. They not only source local, fresh ingredients they also have a garden in the back with a full-time gardener on staff! As April put it, “Imagine if everyone else did this – the global impact it would have!”
And she’s just as serious about sustainability as she is about how I split my biscuit - - here’s a tip - - butter goes on the sugary top leaving the bottom for a savory gravy – and as the saying goes, you, too will “sop it up with a biscuit.” Side note, the crew and I were there on a regular, workday, Monday morning and it was packed – that’s when you know, it’s gotta’ be good!
Admittedly, one of the funniest moments came at Hole Doughnuts – surprisingly enough, it was funny because I almost cried! This spot not only serves up sustainable, inventive doughnuts – they come with a heaping side of nostalgia that literally took my breath away. You’ll have to watch the episode to find out why, but I will say, if you’re hesitant to try herbs on a doughnut – don’t be! Try it! It’s phenomenal!
As is the story behind co-owners, Ryan Martin and Hallee Hirsh, who left a fast-paced life in California to find sweet success in the mountains of Asheville with a menu that features four daily doughnut varieties. Yep, just four.
Take it from me, riding Asheville is a beautiful journey through Funkytown and a celebration of the get-up-and-go spirit where anything is possible (even biking up the Blue Ridge)!