First up is a stop at the Biltmore Estate, America’s largest home. It’s typically quiet during winter months and serves as a great time to wander the hallways of the 250-room, 8,000-acre Vanderbilt estate. Be sure to spring for the audio tour which gives an updated interpretation of Biltmore’s grand rooms, architecture, collection of art and antiques, as well as true stories about the Vanderbilt family, their guests and servants.
At French Broad Chocolates, master chocolate makers Dan and Jael Rattigan roast cacao beans onsite to make their gourmet chocolates.
After owning a café and dessert shop in Costa Rica, the Rattigan’s moved back to the states and began making chocolates out of their home kitchen in Asheville, selling their chocolates online and at local farmers markets. The demand quickly outgrew the space, and in 2008 French Broad Chocolate Lounge was opened where they sell their hand-craft artisanal chocolates and pastries along with cold and hot chocolate drinks, coffee and tea.
In 2012, the Rattigan’s opened the French Broad Chocolate Factory and Tasting Room. Here, they directly import beans from quality cacao farms (including their own farm that they still own in Costa Rica) and turn them into chocolate bars. From roasting to wrapping, they handle every step in the chocolate making process.
Tours of the Chocolate Factory are conducted each Saturday at 2 p.m. and last about an hour and a half. The tour walks visitors through the entire process from cacao harvest and fermentation to the chocolate bar. Free chocolate tastings are also available Monday through Saturday, noon – 6 p.m.
Asheville has more craft breweries (75 at last count) than any other city in the country, earning the town the moniker, “Beer City USA.” Local brews by Green Man Brewery, one of North Carolina’s which means oldest breweries, can be sampled at their pet-friendly, brewery and tasting room on Buxton Ave. Other popular breweries include the Wicked Weed Brewing Company with a huge outdoor patio with fire pits and the Thirsty Monk which has several locations around town.
Beer tours are also available. The Amazing Pub Cycle allows patrons to drink and pedal as they cruise from brewery to brewery, while Asheville Brews Cruise offers a more kicked-back pace with a designated driver.
Several spas in the area have romance packages featuring couples massages and other spa treatments that run well past Valentine’s Day. The Poseidon Spa at the Grand Bohemian Hotel features an aromatherapy massage and a milk masque with strawberry enzymes and free champagne while the Spa at the Inn at Biltmore has a winter warmer massage with spiced cocoa body butter along with warming pedicures.
Great meals are also part of a great romantic weekend. At the Omni Grove Park Inn, the one-hundred-year-old historic resort hotel overlooks the city and offers amazing views of downtown Asheville and the surrounding mountains. Grab a seat at Vue 1913 by the large windows to watch the sunset. The restaurant was recently rebranded as an American Brasserie to take advantage of its extensive French wine cellar and offers “classic French dishes with a twist,” says Paul Parsons, manager and sommelier. The menus change seasonally, but expect items like steak frites, baked brie and house-made tagliatelle.
For another option, Posana Café is an upscale casual restaurant located in downtown Asheville and serves contemporary American cuisine. Peter Pollay, Executive Chef and co-owner of Posana’s is an honors graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and has worked with some of the “greats” in the restaurant industry including Wolfgang Puck, David Burke, Waldy Malouf, and Larry Levy.
Posana’s is unique as every item on the menu is gluten-free. Pollay made the decision to go gluten-free after his wife was diagnosed with Celiac disease, “Make sure she always had a safe place to eat,” he said. Pollay sources local ingredients for his menu. Iced-tea is flash-brewed at the table and the restaurant usually sells out of the made-in-house sticky buns, scones and muffins daily.
Night life options include a visit to the Nightbell speakeasy which features classic cocktails such as a sazerac or an old fashioned. Or, head over to the Orange Peel Social Aid and Pleasure Club to listen to some live music from both local and national bands.
For more information on planning a romantic rendezvous in Asheville, visit ExploreAsheville.com.
The Grand Bohemian
Located directly across from the Biltmore Estate and within Biltmore Village, this four-star inn offers a convenient walking location to restaurants and shopping. Part of the Kessler Autograph collection of hotels, the property has a hunting lodge décor and old world feel while offering upscale amenities. The hotel offers several winter packages.
Inn on Biltmore Estate
The four-star Inn located directly on the Biltmore Estate also offers upscale amenities. Currently, the Inn has special winter pricing with savings of up to fifty percent and rooms starting at $149 per night.
The Omni Grove Park Inn
Recently undergoing a $25 million restoration, rooms range from modern to classic with Roycroft Arts and Crafts décor. A Breakfast for Two package runs through Mar. 31 includes breakfast and accommodations for two beginning at $189.