Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Friendly Loot

I had a blast this past birthday weekend. The farm-to-table buffet brunch at the Grove Park Inn did not disappoint. In fact, if you live in Asheville, I highly encourage you to take advantage of this affordable, delicious endeavor the Grove Park is sponsoring. It's only $19.99, and you get to eat as much as you'd like. The presence of local foods on display was truly laudable. Go soon, though, as they're only offering the feast through July 31st.

Not only was the meal itself exquisite, but my mom, thoughtful woman that she is, had called ahead to inform the restaurant that it was my birthday. As Saturdays are their farm-to-table day, they informed her they'd be making me a cake with locally procured ingredients. She knew that would be just my thing, and boy, was it ever. A chef in a toque arrived from the kitchen at the conclusion of our meal to festoon me with a from-scratch cake, baked with local carrots, locally-made jam, local eggs, and even local butter. I was floored. I've got half of it left in my fridge and have gingerly nibbling away at it ever since.

Sunday, after putting in some time at the Cake Shop, I rushed home and helped Glenn get the food going for our build-your-own taco buffet extravaganza. At the risk of saturating my palette, I'd argue that every day should be build-your-own taco buffet day. In customary fashion, Glenn whipped up a multi-dish repast fit for royalty. Here's what we gorged on:
-Watermelon agua fresca
-Guacamole with blue corn chips
-Local catfish stewed in a tomatillo sauce (with a hint of chipotle)
-Lime-cumin marinated local grass-fed flank steak
-Lavender-bluberry red cabbage slaw
-Lemonony-herbed jicama slaw with lemon balm, mint, marjoram, and cilantro
-Eggplant braised in tomatillo sauce with toasted cumin seeds
-Roasted local 8-ball zucchini
-Salsa made from local mixed heirloom tomatoes
-Refried beans
-Fried plantain rounds, cooked in coconut oil and sprinkled with sea salt
-Shredded Jack cheese
-Hard blue corn taco shells
-Soft corn tortillas

Afterwards, there was cake. I had a vision of exactly what sort of cake I wanted, so I whipped it up myself. Dubbed "The Lime In the Coconut" by friends that night, the cake itself consisted of three layers of coconut cake (I used Johnnie Gabriel's recipe), one layer of coconut cream, and one layer of fresh lime curd. I swaddled the whole thing in freshly whipped heavy cream and doused it all over in toasted coconut. I'm putting in my vote that every day should also be "The Lime In the Coconut" Cake Day.

Then there were some gifts. Enormously thoughtful, loving gifts. In addition to the gifts of $$ from family (always a welcome gift, oui?) and cake from mom, there was:
-Originally designed and printed gift vouchers for babysitting and housework sessions from Meg and Alisa, along with the most slammin' cap for Nugget, fashioned from upcycled wool sweaters!
-Earrings from one of my favorite local designers, Sarah English, adorable canning fabric, and a subscription to Jamie Oliver's magazine (which I love, love, love!) from Nicole.
-Engaging reading from Rachel (who, sigh, is moving her loveliness far, far away, to another coast; best of times to you, sweet Rachey, in California!).
-Locust honey, extracted from the thriving hives of my sweet buddy Jenny.
-An awesome book on gardening with kids, from Mary Ellen (who has started an experiential school here in Asheville well worth looking into).
-A truly lovely, and very large, hand-thrown ceramic pot from my sweet Glenn, for planting some beautiful something in to adorn our patio.

Thank you everyone! You're such great people and I'm so very, very fortunate to have all of you in my life (as well as those of you who weren't able to make it out that night).


Gini said...

That sounds like the most perfect birthday weekend EVER. You are a lucky woman!

ALFIE said...

what awesome treats! look like you have some awesomely creative and thoughtful family & friends :)

Amber said...

Ashley, It sounds like you had a wonderful birthday! I love the craftiness, resourcefulness and a certain braveness of people that give hand-made gifts! Gifts mean so much more when they give of their time and talent as well! What is the magazine with the dolphins on it? Is it written in English and do you know where I may possibly be able to get my hands on a copy? Thanks so much, I really enjoy your blog!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ashley. Deborah Potter at The Grove Park Inn here. I just wanted to say thank you for your very kind words concerning the farm to table brunch at Blue Ridge Dining Room. We have extended the $19.99 price through Dec. 31st now --- tell all your friends and come back to visit with us soon!
Thanks again.

ashley english said...

amber-the magazine, entitled "cabinet: a quarterly journal of art and culture", is definitely in english. you can read more about it here: http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/information/index.php

ashley english said...

deborah-that's GREAT! i will definitely be going again, for certain, especially when family comes to visit over the holidays. thank you so very much for taking the time to write and let me know.

The Prudent Homemaker said...

That sounds SO delicious!