ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH :: Biltmore Estate, Asheville NC

by David Daugherty on June 20, 2011

…and celebrating 25 years

Ed.: Sometimes work gets in the way of work. We seem to be jumping around chronologically with this column. In following Dave’s initial travels, we started ‘way back when’ and follow his trail chronologically. We’ve interrupted this tale with our YBN road trip this Spring. Since that series, we returned with a piece on Tortilla Flats and the Superstition Saloon, on the Apache Trail. Now, as Dave found a bit of time to finish it up, we present his last installment from our Spring Fling.

I am very lucky and fortunate because in March 25 years ago, I married my best friend Judy and although every marriage has its trying times, the last 25 years have been exceptional! I think she cares about me—ok, I know she cares about me—because for the last four years, every vacation we have taken has involved breweries, bars or beer. A “beercation,” if you will.

Most of the wives I know may not find these very romantic places to visit, but on the contrary, most of those places were perfect. For example, along with the brewery tours and tastings, there was the window shopping and browsing through local shops in places like Tempe AZ, Fort Collins and

Biltmore Estate Asheville, NC

Estes Park CO. There’s been strolling along the beach at sunrise in Myrtle Beach and Daytona Beach, watching the sunsets over the Rocky Mountains and the desert vistas of Arizona and having a beer on the banks of the Mississippi River. To me, it doesn’t get much better than that. So on this trip (being as lengthy as it was), I promised to take Judy somewhere she wanted to go for our anniversary. Knowing we would be in Asheville, NC, she chose the Biltmore Estates. I thought this was just going to be a day of walking through the nation’s largest “home” but, boy, was I wrong! I did absolutely zero research on this, as it was something she wanted to do and I wanted this to be all about her enjoying the day. It wasn’t until I took a look at the map of this beautiful 8,000 acre estate did I realize there was so much more than just a huge house.

I urge everyone to explore the web site, http://www.biltmore.com to see for yourself what the Biltmore Estate has to offer. The house is amazing! Built in 1895, you’ll find your mind wandering back to those days and asking yourself how anything this magnificent was built without today’s modern technology? The house “features 4 acres of floor space, 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The basement alone would house a swimming pool, gymnasium and changing rooms, bowling alley, servants’ quarters, kitchens, and more.” The dining room has three-story ceilings as well as a fully stocked library housing first edition books and periodicals. There is so much history here I really can’t get into all of it now but I would like to make a few notes:

Richard Morris Hunt

The architect who designed the home, Richard Morris Hunt, was also responsible for designing the base for the Statue of Liberty. The landscape architect was Frederick Law Olmsted, who was known for designing Central Park and was featured in the book “The Devil in the White City” as the architectural landscape designer for the World’s Fair in

Frederick Law Olmsted

Chicago in 1893. The Vanderbilt family, who initially made their fortune in the shipping business, commissioned the architects and built the Biltmore house. The house has been passed down from generation to generation, and is continuously being restored to its original look by the current generation—nothing short of a lifelong project.

Antler Hill Winery

After a few hours of touring the home, we visited Antler Hill Village and Winery, located a little bit north of the estate on the grounds of the Biltmore. Offering shopping, the winery, and fine dining, the first thing we did was visit the winery tasting room. We sampled some very nice wines, which meant we had to buy some to take home to friends and, of course, for us as well. With all the walking and sampling, we worked up an appetite, so we continued on for a nice brisk walk on this beautiful sunny day to Cedric’s Tavern.

Cedric's Tavern

Located in the village, Cedric’s Tavern “Named for George Vanderbilt’s beloved St. Bernard, Cedric; this warm, relaxing tavern overlooks the village green at Antler Hill Village. The décor, ambience, and menu pay tribute to the neighborhood pubs of Britain and Ireland… On tap are Biltmore’s own Cedric’s Pale Ale and Cedric’s Brown Ale.” An explanation of their brewing process is in the menu: ”The Biltmore Brewing Company began production to coincide with the opening of Cedric’s Tavern in March 2010. Current brewing operations are conducted at a local facility off-property. The first two styles, Cedric’s Pale Ale and Cedric’s Brown Ale, are styled after traditional English ales and tie into the heritage of the estate and the atmosphere of Cedric’s Tavern.” Enticing? Yes, we were ready for dinner. I ordered Cedric’s Pale Ale for an appetizer and the Irish Whiskey Beef Stew for my main course. Brewed by Highland Brewing (until they can brew their beer on-premises), the Pale Ale hit the spot following all that walking and window shopping in the afternoon sun. Golden in color and fruity to the nose, this is one very easy drinking pale ale. When the stew came, I ordered the Brown Ale but, first, I have to tell you about this Whiskey Beef Stew – one of the best Irish stews I have had.

Whiskey Beef Stew w. Cedric's Brown Ale

A hearty stew, made from slow-roasted beef mixed with Yukon Gold potatoes, root vegetables, carrots and onions, in a beef jus emphasized with a splash of Irish whiskey and topped with thin onion rings. One of the things I liked about this stew was that the juices thickened, fusing itself to the ingredients like thick gravy. Cedric’s Brown Ale did lend a nice nutty flavor to the stew with a wonderful caramel finish. Malty to the nose, I really liked this ale. With dinner finished and both of us very satisfied, our waiter surprised us with a special dessert made just for us: strawberry ice cream encased in a hard chocolate shell with Happy Anniversary written in script on the plate with chocolate syrup.

It was a nice end to a beautiful day. Usually, the weather is not so great on our anniversary, as March in Ohio can be brutal. But in Asheville on that day, the weather could not have been more perfect. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I know Judy had a great time. This will be one anniversary we will not soon forget.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

judy June 16, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Who would have thought our beer travels would have led us to this special place, it was really something and so impressed by the care the Vanderbilt family takes to preserve it for all of us to enjoy. Thank you my husband for 25 great years, this place will be hard to beat but I know you will try. xoxo

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