My friend Darby asked me if I wanted to go to a vintage craft fair with her in a place called Fletcher, N.C. I said sure; I love vintage, crafts, and fairs.
I assumed it was a tiny town nearby.
Fletcher is a town on the other side of Asheville.
It’s a good four-hour drive from our homes. I was nervous because I’m a little impatient (full disclosure? extremely impatient!), which makes me a tad restless on a road trip.
Darby and I are good friends but had never spent that much time in a car together. I firmly believe that a road trip is an extremely effective yet brutal test of a relationship.
The drive to and fro went well; our friendship is intact.
The fair was lots of fun, with tons of really cute stuff. I actually stayed within my self-imposed budget and California girl Darby experienced her first fried hand pie (she loved it).
After we left the fair, we headed to downtown Asheville for some grub.
One of our mangers at the dealership, NathanielT recommended we eat at a place called Tupelo Honey.
Everything was wonderful.
I had a cocktail they call The Debutante (one of my nicknames from high school); a delicious refreshing blend of vodka and lavender lemonade.
Our appetizers were crispy Brussels sprouts and fried green tomatoes on a bed of cheese grits with a roasted red pepper sauce.
They were both wonderful, but those Brussels sprouts were a revelation. They were flashed fried, crispy, and light. Next time I go to the movies, I want a bucket of them. I’m going to work with The Kid and try to recreate them (I’ll fill you in on our results in a future column).
For my main course, I had a ginormous Cobb salad. The only disappointment of it was the replacement of blue cheese with grated cheddar that looked like it came from a bag from a big box grocery store — I ate around it.
And dessert was their honey pecan pie. It was decadent and delicious. It made me think of my mom’s pecan, and the pie I created which was inspired by hers.
If you’ve never had a chance to spend time in that funky little town nestled in the Blue Ridge, I highly recommend it. It’s a curious combination of hippie and art deco.
And it works.
Thanks for your time.
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Mom’s Pecan Pie with Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 cup butter (2 sticks), cubed and frozen
2 1/2 cups + 1/2 tablespoon cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons very cold vodka (Vodka is tasteless in the cooked crust. But feel free to add another kind to lend flavor to the finished product; bourbon for the pecan pie or apple for example, or amaretto for peach pie.)
5-8 tablespoons ice water
Put the butter, flour, and salt in the food processor, and pulse lightly just until the mixture resembles wet sand. Add vodka then water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing briefly after each spoonful. Keep adding liquid until the dough just begins to gather into larger clumps. Pour dough onto flat surface and lightly knead just until it comes together.
Divide dough in half and transfer into re-sealable plastic bags and pat into disks. Let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Or freeze for later.
Roll one disk to a 13-inch circle and place into 9-inch pan. DO NOT STRETCH the dough because it will draw up while cooking and no longer go up the sides of the pie pan and have an edge around the top.
Before baking, chill formed dough for 30-60 minutes.
Mom-Inspired Pecan Pie
Makes 1 9-inch pie
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooked until browned and nutty smelling, then cooled
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a mixing bowl, mix corn syrup, eggs, sugar, butter, bourbon and vanilla using a spoon. Sprinkle the pecans in the baked pie crust and then pour the filling over them. The nuts will float to the top.
Bake on center rack of oven, about 50-55 minutes. The filling should be slightly jiggly in the very center and the top should be nicely browned.
Remove the finished pie from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely, about 4 hours or overnight.
Serve at room temperature with vanilla whipped cream.
Vanilla Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar (the cornstarch in the powdered sugar will stabilize the finished product)
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of salt
Place all ingredients into a cold bowl and use a mixer with a whip attachment, an immersion blender, or a whisk and a strong arm until it reaches the stiff peak stage.
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