Asheville: Find a Room at the Inns

Asheville: Find a Room at the Inns

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

20160128_171644If you’re still looking for lodging for the April 29 Annual Meeting in Asheville, NC, consider the city’s vibrant Bed and Breakfast community. Many B&Bs still have rooms available for the Asheville herb-centered weekend. And, many of those have herb/kitchen gardens.

Doing some advance work, Gary and I scouted three on the last weekend of January. Our stays were organized by the Asheville Bed & Breakfast Association which has a robust website detailing options and availability.

Following you’ll find our experiences. Another blog will talk more about the kitchen gardens at these inns.

Rooom 3Sweet Biscuit Inn, 77 Kenilworth Road, 828.250.0170  is a meticulously restored seven-bedroom, 1915 Colonial Revival about 1½ miles south of downtown. Decorated in the soft ocean shades of a spa, our room (#3) had a queen bed cushier than my expensive, new, pillow-top mattress. The attached bath had a modern-vintage sensibility including claw-foot tub.  Most notable, however was the hospitality. The room could have been a little rough and I’d still rave about the Inn because Claudia and Christian Hickl are uber-attentive to detail. The Hickls are German-born, but spent nine years running an Inn in Provence, France. When we walked through their heavy, red front door, delicate pink, raspberry macaroons (those trendy little puffs of almond air nestling jelly) called to me from the hall table.  Manners ignored, I snagged two. Christian pointed our nap-ready selves to amenities on the second-floor landing such as cold, bottled water, tea and a single-serving coffee maker. Then he helped roll our suitcases down the hall.

Hickl (1)The next morning was a highlight of our culinary experiences in Asheville and that’s no faint praise in this foodie mecca. Claudia celebrates morning with a three-course meal. We launched into breakfast with handcrafted granola lightly spiked with the Italian citrus-vanilla essence known as Fiori di Sicilia. The next layers were yogurt and cranberry fruit coulis.  Happily, I paced myself so I was still hungry for a presentation of homemade rosemary bread, topped with prosciutto and poached egg and a light Dijon mustard sauce.  Gary shared a bite of his still warm croissant spread with homemade orange marmalade. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat anymore, Christian held up a blackboard chalked with crepe menu. I’d eaten Nutella crepes in Paris and Cleveland, and this was my chance for Grand Marnier-sprinkled crepes Suzette. You bet I relished them. My regret is we only had spent one day with the Hickls. We’d definitely return.

Beaufort House Inn Asheville NC.jpgBeaufort House Inn, 61 North Liberty Street, 828.254.8334 personifies a historic, downtown home.  A visit to the 1894 Queen Anne Victorian gives you bragging rights to sleeping in Charlton Heston’s former home. It’s a convenient ½-mile walk from downtown, which will probably be important in summer as parking can be a challenge. Owner Christina Muth accommodated our midnight arrival. It had taken us eight hours to drive from northeast Ohio after an early work  day. That night I barely registered the patina of the restored oak paneling which framed the grand staircase. Despite my fatigue, however, I discerned the sweet, high-thread count cotton sheets in the Garden Room.  2012 Room photos 009Then, suddenly, it was morning. Appraising the room, I appreciated the fireplace and balcony. After a quick shower in the clawfoot tub, my caffeine fix was satisfied with locally roasted coffee in a sitting room. Roasted sweet potatoes with rosemary – which winters over in the Asheville climate – and scrambled eggs in a puff-pastry cup spoke to the eyes and appetite. Conversation with other guests was part of the charm in the light-filled breakfast room. I wish I could say more about the Muths, but we enjoyed their hospitality for roughly 10 hours, most of those asleep.

Hawk and Ivy 2The Hawk & Ivy, 133 North Fork Road, Barnardsville, 828.626.3486 is a retreat for those who want to get out of the city and spend some meditative time in the country. About 25 minutes from Asheville, it’s located on 24 acres of rolling land. A highlight here is the stretches of terraced and manicured kitchen gardens. But, that’s for another blog.

We drove in close to 9 p.m. Jareth, a feisty Corgi and his owner James Davis welcomed us. Within moments we climbed steps to the second floor of a cottage and paused to star gaze. Away from the city Orion was bright and I saw stars usually dimmed at home by sprawling suburban skyshine. ( Was that the Milky Way?) Our “room” was a basic studio apartment. A small kitchen, equipped with coffee and tea, was separate from a main room which was carved into living and bed room. No worries of disturbing other guests.

Hawk and IvyThe next morning Eve, a dedicated garden and floral designer, welcomed us with warm hugs. Her Southern hospitality included a tour of her historic 1910 home, where one guest room is available. The house is a mini-museum of family antiques reaching back to an 18th century grandfather clock.  Eve goes on to spin relevant family Civil War tales.

Breakfast started around 9 a.m. with a homemade basil-blackberry sorbet topping sweet grapefruit with a side of warm tomato biscuits and orange marmalade. The second course was spinach omelet composed with local eggs.

After breakfast, hugs were had and we turned right to begin our journey north.


Local and sustainable food is the mantra at these B&Bs. * When making reservations, be sure to alert them to dietary restrictions and identify needs for handicap accommodations. 

Herbs Influence 2016 Flavor Profiles

Introduction by Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America and Research by McCormick & Company

Sambal_Sauce_4_600I love lists. So I was fascinated by McCormick & Company’s 2016 Flavor Forecast. A quick review shows a trend continuing global flavors and heavy with chili peppers, January’s herb of the month for HSA.

“Since its inception in 2000, Flavor Forecast has been tracking the growing interest in heat and identifying upcoming spicy flavors including chipotle, peri-peri and harissa,” says Kevan Vetter, McCormick executive chef. “Our latest report shows the next wave of this trend is complemented by tang. Look for Southeast Asian sambal sauce powered by chilies, rice vinegar and garlic to take kitchens by storm.”

The company identified the following trends and is launching new products to satisfy consumers’ emerging tastes.

While I’m more likely to grow than buy my herbs, I find the list fascinating. And, as it will influence new recipes, my herb garden may reflect some of the company’s observations.

  1. Heat + Tang – Spicy finds a welcome contrast with tangy accents to elevate the eating experience.
    • Peruvian chilies like rocoto, ají amarillo and ají panca paired with lime
    • Sambal sauce made with chilies, rice vinegar and garlic
  2. Tropical Asian – The vibrant cuisine and distinctive flavors of Malaysia and the Philippines draw attention from adventurous palates seeking bold new tastes.
    • Pinoy BBQ, a popular Filipino street food, is flavored with soy sauce, lemon, garlic, sugar, pepper and banana ketchup
    • Rendang Curry, a Malaysian spice paste, delivers mild heat made from chilies, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, tamarind, coriander and turmeric
  3. Blends with Benefits – Flavorful herbs and spices add everyday versatility to McCormick chili chiagood-for-you ingredients.
    • Matcha’s slightly bitter notes are balanced by ginger and citrus
    • Chia seed becomes zesty when paired with citrus, chile and garlic
    • Turmeric blended with cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg offers sweet possibilities
    • Flaxseed enhances savory dishes when combined with Mediterranean herbs
  4. Alternative “Pulse” Proteins – Packed with protein and nutrients, pulses are elevated when paired with delicious ingredients.
    • Pigeon peas, called Toor Dal when split, are traditionally paired with cumin and coconut
    • Cranberry beans, also called borlotti, are perfectly enhanced with sage and Albariño wine
    • Black beluga lentils are uniquely accented with peach and mustard
  5. Ancestral Flavors – Modern dishes reconnect with native ingredients to celebrate food that tastes real, pure and satisfying.
    • Ancient herbs like thyme, peppermint, parsley, lavender and rosemary are rediscovered
    • Amaranth, an ancient grain of the Aztecs, brings a nutty, earthy flavor
    • Mezcal is a smoky Mexican liquor made from the agave plant
  6. Culinary-Infused Sips – Three classic culinary techniques provide new tastes and inspiration in the creation of the latest libations.
    • Pickling combines tart with spice for zesty results
    • Roasting adds richness with a distinctive browned flavor
    • Brûléed ingredients provide depth with a caramelized sugar note


What is Sustainable Seed & Why We Care

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America



Theo Bill, V.P., Sustainable Seed Co


Waiting for my big toe to heal from joint replacement, I spent a little (maybe, a lot) of time armchair gardening. That’s how I stumbled on the Sustainable Seed Company.


The family-owned company offers more than 1,875 varieties of organic and heirloom seeds, including 10 types of basil.I’m ordering the complete basil collection, but only a few of the 300 varieties of tomatoes.

I chose Sustainable Seed Company after quizzing Theo Bill, Vice President, about the meaning of “organic” seeds. It sounds responsible, but what does it really mean? In his words …

What is “organic” seed?
“Organic seed” technically means untreated or organic seeds that were planted, grown and harvested in an organically approved system.  That means no GMOs, no overt pesticide or herbicide usage, and adherence to other National Organic Program rules.  The “Spirit” of organic seed though is much broader – it covers the health of the soil, pollinators, water conservation, runoff issues, and more.

How is organic seed different?USDA organic

Organic seed is grown in an organic method, so it becomes accustomed to organic growing
conditions. Conventional seed, for example, is often grown using a great deal of herbicides and pesticides.  Organic plants don’t use the same kinds of chemicals and have to be hand-weeded or out-compete the weeds to thrive.  They receive more natural fertilizer (often manures or natural minerals instead of anhydrous ammonia or other conventional fertilizer).

Unfortunately, more intensive manual labor and higher input costs, result in higher production costs. That means organic seed often costs more.  However, you are buying a higher quality seed which is more weed-resistant and less reliant on herbicides and pesticides.

Why is organic seed better?
That depends on how you want to grow your plants, and what kind of inputs (including weeding) you’ll be using.

What are the most popular herb seeds sold by Sustainable Seed Co.?Sustainable seed rosemary
Lavender would be our most popular followed by basil and rosemary.

What herb grows best from seed? What herb is the toughest to start from seed?
The easiest would be cilantro. The most difficult is probably rosemary.

What tips would you give for growing herbs from seed?
For Mediterranean herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme, lavender, etc.) add clean sand to the soil mix for better drainage.

Thank you, Mr. Bill.

From Sustainable Seed Co. — Discovering “new” heirloom seeds is one of our passions, and we would love to hear from anyone who is growing heirloom seeds that have been passed down for generations. We hope to preserve this part of history and believe that, with the continuing encroachment from large producers of hybrid and GMO seeds, companies like ours, along with our customers, may be a crucial link to saving the future of food.


Stayin’ Alive: Rosemary Weathers Ohio Winter

By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

wintered rosemary leggy

Rosemary gets leggy in winter. From Blogmaster Paris Wolfe

Last spring, Mitch Allen cheated.

The Cleveland-area publisher bought a 20-inch tall rosemary bush. Its established size confirmed a multi-year head start in a nursery. And created a highlight in his herb collection.

If you’re from Northeast Ohio, you know it’s nearly impossible to start small and build big with this Mediterranean native. Like many a gardener, rosemary has an aversion to cold, dark, snowy winters. Did I say “dark?”

And so, ambitious herb gardeners are forced to cheat. A little. Like Mitch, they bring the woody perennial inside for winter.

“It’s still alive, but about half the stalks are turning grey,” he says of his specimen. “The other half looks pretty good.”

Mitch has plenty of company.

“Overwintering rosemary is one of our most asked questions, especially here in Cleveland,” says Karen Kennedy, HSA education coordinator.

She advises growers to provide a sunny location and keep the soil moist but not wet.

The biggest challenge is lack of sun. That can lead to leggy growth. I recommend pruning that when the plant is transitioned outside in the spring.  Of course, you can continue to cook with the herb even if it is leggy.  

Another challenge in cold climates can be forced-air heating. Plants dry out quickly in warm environs with low humidity, particularly plants that are pot-bound from the growing season. The solution: Water judiciously and mist often.

The final significant challenge is insects. To prevent them inspect often and rinse foliage under running water periodically to dislodge eggs and populations of spider mites and white flies.  Mealybugs are best removed with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol. 

During the winter, Mitch plans to keep his plant alive and buy his culinary rosemary at the market.

Armchair Gardening Season Begins

armchair_gardening_dreamstime_m_48583763 (1)By Paris Wolfe, Blogmaster, The Herb Society of America

Saturday morning over fried eggs and rye toast at Mary’s Diner, my boyfriend texted me a link to Rodale Organic Life’s “Grow Healthy Plants from Seedlings Every Time.” Yes, he texted me the link though we were in the same booth. (Sheesh. The manners we learn from our kids.)

Fueled by a faux-Fiestaware mug of black coffee and his tall diet Coke, we talked about using a seedling tray and heat mat($15 on to jumpstart Spring. We were greedy about what we might ripen in early July. He wants Rutgers’ tomatoes. Heirloom tomatoes. And more tomatoes. I want to try slow-bolting cilantro and myriad chile peppers.

The sooner we sow, the sooner we reap. Right?

Thirty-two minutes later, I’m in the corner of his milk-chocolate-brown leather sectional with my feet tucked under me. His laptop is balanced on a muted-yellow, square pillow atop my legs. I’m keyboarding my Northeast Ohio address into seed catalog subscription forms. I realize the catalog industry uses mega-tons of paper, but I’m too old to go exclusively digital. I want to dog ear pages and circle “wants” in saturated Sharpie colors. I want to carry the catalog to my pillow and reread until sleep fuses my eyelids. And so, I justify my decision.

By the way, Herb Society of America members should keep in mind that they get a 10% discount from Richters Herb & Vegetable Catalogue and 15% from The Grower’s Exchange. And, many mail order growers offer early-bird discounts through January. Check out web sites for your favorite company.

While I’m waiting for colorful, slick paper catalogs to be mixed with my bills and sale flyers, I’ll settle for shopping online. I already want 10 types of basil, among them Thai, cinnamon, lemon, and lime. I’m uncertain what I’ll use them for, but I visualize various pestos and noodle dishes from around the globe.

Armchair gardening season is here. And, I’m ready.