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 This Charming Mattress-and-breakfast in Asheville Is Bringing in High Cooks for a 'Communal Desk' Eating Expertise
October 7, 2022

This Charming Mattress-and-breakfast in Asheville Is Bringing in High Cooks for a 'Communal Desk' Eating Expertise

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I've at all times believed that meals tastes finest when shared with mates — that’s, till a latest journey to a bed-and-breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina, persuaded me that it tastes even higher with strangers. 

My former conviction crumbled across the cozy communal desk at Applewood Manor, the place over the course of some days in mid-December, I shared a collection of outstanding meals with a gaggle of individuals I'd by no means met — an expertise I'd sorely missed over the previous two years of limiting most social interactions to my pandemic pod. It didn't harm that the meals was cooked by a Michelin-starred chef, both. 

The magic of Applewood Manor — a brick-red New England-style Colonial Revival gem from 1912 — is in its concentrate on intimate, immersive experiences, which vary from biking to enterprise management to visitor chef occasions. "We couldn't be extra excited to deliver these world-renowned cooks to Asheville and create a singular alternative for locals and vacationers alike to work together with them in an intimate, inviting setting," says Stephen Collins, who owns and operates the property alongside his spouse, Robin. 

The living room at Applewood Manor The lounge at Applewood Manor Credit score: Courtesy of Applewood Manor

Chef Mads Refslund, a pioneer of New Nordic delicacies and cofounder of Copenhagen's legendary restaurant Noma, was the star of the inaugural chef weekend, which was designed to get these of us staying on the six-bedroom bed-and-breakfast concerned in each step of the farm-to-table course of alongside him. Our days have been spent buying collectively on the native farmers market, foraging for mushrooms and taste-testing carpenter ants (which, delightfully, tasted like citrusy blueberries). 

In between actions, there was ample time to chill out and benefit from the laid-back luxurious of the property, which is only a brief stroll from downtown Asheville. The afternoon I arrived, after a tour of the house and grounds (together with a separate on-site cottage), I used to be led to the Macintosh suite to settle in. Every room is called after an apple selection, and subtly themed round paintings from Stephen and Robin's private assortment: Some rooms skew extra pastoral, whereas others function maps of wine areas in France, the place the couple have one other "secret" property in Roussillon. 

Associated: These Are the 15 Most Costly Michelin-starred Eating places within the World

My room had all the trimmings of a boutique resort: an en-suite lavatory with a Jacuzzi tub, a retro Smeg mini fridge, a writing desk, and a espresso machine. However the dreamiest element of all was the king-size Duxiana 6006 mattress, buried beneath an avalanche of pillows, which I'd return for in a heartbeat, visitor chef occasion or not. 

Many of the rooms have non-public balconies as effectively; from mine, I admired the unfamiliar topography of the Blue Ridge Mountains — one more charming stranger that I used to be delighted to fulfill. Downstairs, the others have been getting began on dinner within the kitchen.

A bedroom inside Applewood Manor A bed room inside Applewood Manor Credit score: Courtesy of Applewood Manor

I joined them and obtained a kick out of quipping, "Sure, chef," as Refslund and his sous chef, Kane Sorrells, gave us directions on the best way to assist put together dinner. They confirmed us the best way to shuck an oyster, the best way to get the surplus moisture out of freshly churned butter, and the best way to flip an ant into one thing scrumptious. Everybody had one thing to do with their arms. We chatted and joked and drank wine as we labored; poking your head in, you'd by no means guess we'd all solely simply met.

We stood sprinkling herbs and chilis on half grapefruit globes as chef Refslund confirmed us the best way to bandage the citrus in cheesecloth to infuse the flavors; later, we squeezed them out over a tower of oysters and the tart, briny brightness surprised me speechless. 

All the meals was an uncompromisingly glorious celebration of native flavors, from do-it-yourself butter topped with freshly foraged truffles and chives and paired with Robin's well-known cinnamon raisin bread to beef tartare tucked underneath watercress and carpenter ant sauce, do-it-yourself ricotta served heat and speckled with black pepper, oysters wrapped in cabbage, slow-roasted duck over an open wooden hearth, and extra.  

However maybe nearly equally satisfying was the possibility to witness chef Refslund's artistry up shut, a singular expertise made potential by his friendship with Stephen and Robin. Maneuvering via the kitchen, he appeared calm and picked up, laughing after I requested how he managed to maintain his cool with so many shifting elements. "It's simply a cocktail party with mates," he shrugged, smiling.  

The dinning room at Applewood Manor The dinning room at Applewood Manor Credit score: Courtesy of Applewood Manor

That just about sums up the essence of Applewood — simply a cocktail party with mates, albeit one the place you've seemingly by no means met anybody earlier than and there's a Michelin-starred chef within the kitchen. Whether or not you arrive at Applewood alone, with a buddy, or as a pair, it's unimaginable to go away as a stranger; Stephen and Robin welcome everybody like household. They've cultivated an area that's intimate and heat — actually, there are fuel log fireplaces in almost each room — and that feels concurrently like a getaway and a homecoming. 

Their objective is easy: "Provide one thing greater than a bed-and-breakfast every day," says Stephen. "Robin and I’ve at all times had a ardour for journey and all of the fantastic experiences related to visiting new locations and assembly new folks," he provides. The couple was impressed by a few of their favourite locations to remain all over the world, together with Soho Home, Tennessee's Blackberry Farm, and Le Phébus & Spa in France's Provence area. 

The latter, run by Michelin-starred chef Xavier Mathieu, is only some miles down the highway from the Collins' Provence property; they've been longtime mates of his and followers of the restaurant for greater than 20 years. It's solely pure that chef Mathieu is up subsequent on the Applewood roster in mid-February for one more intimate weekend of meals and wine tastings and cooking workshops. (Tickets can be found right here.) Proof of vaccination is required, along with the bed-and-breakfast's heightened COVID-19 hygiene protocols.

Touring through the pandemic has posed its personal specific set of challenges, however I felt at house at Applewood, the place I used to be capable of chill out understanding that correct sanitation measures have been in place. That peace of thoughts allowed me to indulge the mysterious friendship-inducing alchemy conjured by the Collins' specific model of Southern hospitality, which elevated the charming house right into a vacation spot that felt notably enticing on this present COVID period. Frankly, all of it got here right down to the communal desk.

The prospect to sit down round with a gaggle of strangers and wax poetic about meals and wine and kind new friendships whereas delighting in a meal that we'd spent a lot of the day serving to put collectively was intoxicating. In all equity, which will have additionally had one thing to do with the superb and seemingly limitless wine pairings, curated with a concentrate on producers from Burgundy and Bordeaux by Stephen and his buddy, Todd Mathis, Applewood's sommelier and founding father of DNS Wines. 

The pair joked that they'd spent the morning foraging for alcohol whereas we'd been out on an tour at Cloud 9 Farm with No Style Like House, the place we discovered the best way to dig for microgreens and peel mushrooms off timber. Our information, Alan Muskat, joked that a few of what we picked up was "edible, however forgettable." The identical can't be stated for the multicourse tasting menus that cooks Refslund and Sorrells laid out for us over the weekend. These will follow me for fairly a while. Nevertheless it was sitting round Applewood's communal desk, laughing and consuming lengthy after the final course had been cleared away, that actually fed me. 

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