March 7..... Those of you who have come to the Hill House website in the past may notice a different look now. The look of the website is not as lush as previously, but it more than makes up for it with greatly increased functionality. On the old site, only the webmasters could make changes, to say nothing of add new pages. On this site, we can do it all. And it has some neat features, like its maps. Please share any feeback. email@example.com
Downtown Asheville is a popular place. Yes, many visitors come to Asheville to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway and visit the Biltmore Estate, but many also come to savor the restaurants, nightlife, arts, and shopping downtown. The website of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau, says that scads of B&Bs in Asheville, including Hill House, are downtown. But t'aint true. None are.
A lot of B&Bs like Hill House are close, but none are in the downtown zone, and beware of any B&B that tries to tell you it is in downtown. Many are in the Montford historic district northwest of downtown. Some others, including Hill House, are just north of downtown off of Merrimon Avenue. And then there are a handful between downtown and the Biltmore Estate to the south.
When guests ask, we tell them that Hill House is one mile from the center of downtown. A couple other may be a few hundred yards closer, but none of us are rubbing shoulders with the restaurants and shops that bring visitors to our city.
New Yorkers Rafael and Danielle take a late-morning breakfast at Hill House and give us a hello. Rafael is a photographer and Danielle a model. Work brings them down to Charlotte for a few months, and they say they hope to be able to get away to Asheville again.
We get calls or emails about every week from someone looking to have a luncheon, reception, private party, etc. at Hill House. Our immediate response is always the same -- book a couple of rooms and we'd love to have you.
One reason for this is regulatory and physical limitations. The state allows bed and breakfasts to cook only breakfast onsite. The city restricts bed and breakfasts to four non-guest events per year. And Hill House doesn't have a public restroom, because, well, we don't need one.
But more importantly, we're here for our inn guests, and while here, the inn belongs to our guests. If guests want to quietly sip tea all afternoon on the porch, kick a soccer ball around on the lawn, or hang out in their room undisturbed, we work hard to provide that ambience. Outsiders coming in for an event would destroy that.
But now again, if you'd like to book a couple of rooms in coordination with a catered function, then you'd be a guest with the same privileges and treatment......
A number of years ago, artists, began working in unused warehouses along the French Broad River down Chicken Hill from downtown. Asheville had a thriving inland port 100 years ago, but as in many other cities, the port closed and the large warehouses emptied.
More and more artists heard about the big, tall warehouse rooms and more and more opened studios. Today there are 165 artists working and exhibiting in 18 buildings in Asheville's River Arts District, and, at last count, seven restaurants for lunch or a snack while exploring the studios or dinner afterwards.
It's not the only place to see art in Asheville -- downtown also has plenty of galleries. But even though the district has gentrified a lot, it's still a place where you can talk to artists while they're taking a break from their work and can feel something of the isolation with which many working artists live.
Many B&B guests don't realize that they perhaps could have paid less for their room than they did. All that it would have taken is a little bit of friendly negotiation.
A B&B isn't a chain hotel whose prices are firm. Large hotels have the technological capability to change prices by the minute depending on vacancy levels per night. Small lodging establishments that dont use revenue management software are much cruder with price maximization strategies. We'll put discounts on rooms on nights that appear to be slow, but we don't always keep up.
The first thing you should do when trying to get a good rate is to review the website to see what specials are in place. When Hill House is keeping up with its vacancy rate, we post "upon request" specials for slow nights, and many guests, believe it or not, don't see them and don't ask.
If you do look however, and don't see any specials posted, start to book your reservation online and see how much vacancy there is. If it's Tuesday and you want a room for the weekend ahead, and you see only two (out of our ten rooms) vacancies, forget it. But, say, there are five vacancies. Make a call.
The two things to do to get a discount on the phone are to say how much you like Hill House and to be direct and upfront about wanting a discount. Something like this... "You're inn looks beautiful and I'd really love to stay there, but your rack rates are a little high for me. I see you still have 5 rooms available this weekend. Would you be able to give me a discount."
Innkeepers always want guests who want something more than a bargain. We really do want people who appreciate what we have to offer. Show enthusiasm for the inn and the room, and, trust me, you'll get a discount.
More New Yorkers (kind of) Alex and Sanette graduated from Duke last year and went to the Big Apple for jobs at a tech consulting firm and as a reporter for a major business newspaper. Sanette was down in Durham on Friday to receive a journalism award from Duke, and then they just had to come to Asheville. Nat, who prepared the croissant french toast for breakfast, says to notice the clean plates.
If you don't know much about bed and breakfasts, you probably don't know much about what to expect at breakfast. So here you go....
At almost all B&Bs, choice is limited because of small, residential-style kitchens. None of us are order-from-the-menu restaurants. At larger inns, you may get a choice of entrees, but at Hill House, and most others, there's a single daily entree.
Some B&Bs serve two or three courses, and while some guests enjoy a leisurely meal, others want in and out. So Hill House only serves a single course, often a baked eggs recipe, other days perhaps our croissant french toast or baked apple pancake. We go light on meat, and use it as a side or for flavoring.
Like most other B&Bs in Asheville, our breakfast is at 9:00, and coffee and a morning pastry are ready around 7:15. Hill House seating is family-style at large tables, except for two small tables for those who are shy or just want their privacy. Meals are plated in the kitchen and carried to guests at the table, as in a restaurant.
If you're vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or have other dietary restrictions, please let us know in advance, and we will accomodate you. And if there's something in particular you like, also let us know, and we'll do our best.
Our Egg and Asparagus Tart is an elegant and tasty breakfast with a different take on a fried egg and that's surprisingly quick and easy to prepare. Nat picked it to make for his Mom on his first trip home to Minnesota since working at Hill House. The recipe below serves 8.
- One 8.5 oz sheet puff pastry
- 4 oz. goat cheese
- 4 oz. cream cheese
- 2 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 8 spears asparagus, blanched and cut in ½ inch slices
- 8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced into bite-sized pieces
- 16 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
Thaw the puff pastry sheet according to package. With a rolling pin and flour, roll the pastry sheet out so it is large enough to cover a standard-size cookie sheet. Wet your fingers with water and fold the edges over by ½-inch and push up on the sides to form a crust. Bake on a lightly greased sheet pan at 375 for 12 minutes.
Mix cheeses, chives and garlic in a small bowl until soft enough to spread.
Because the sheet puffs up while baking, press the portion inside the crust down with a fork or spoon. Spread the cheese mixture to cover pastry, and then sprinkle with the tomatoes, bacon and asparagus. Make indentations in the dough for the eggs, and then carefully crack them directly onto the tart. Bake at 375 until whites have set but yolks are still runny (approximately 15-20 additional minutes).
Allow to cool for a couple minutes, cut into 8 rectangles and serve.
There isn't any.
Because of the large number of bed and breakfasts, small inns, and other alternatives to chain hotels and motels, many gay travelers expect there to be gay guesthouses in Asheville and the surrounding mountains, as there are in places like Fort Lauderdale, Provincetown, and Key West. But that's not the case.
Asheville and the smaller vacation towns in the Blue Ridge, like Brevard or Black Mountain, all certainly are gay-friendly. But none are gay destinations. Some of the inns, like Hill House, may be gay-owned, but -- also like Hill House -- may not have gay staff. Or alternatively, a husband and wife who own the inn may have an openly gay innkeeper.
Asheville's more of a place that throws everyone into the same mix and looks for the best. At Hill House, we recall a 50ish, lawyerly-looking husband and wife who were seated at breakfast next to two men who had driven their choppers down from Pittsburgh. When we first looked, each were leaning in their chairs as far away as possible from the other couple. At the end of breakfast, all wanted refills on their coffee.
Cara and Burt spent three nights with us this month, the last time they anticipate having this kind of freedom for a few years, because, well, it has something to do with Cara and 7 months. Burt is a sports marketer for his alma mater in the NC Triangle. Anthony there in the background wasn't going to let the chance to be on the Hill House blog get by him.
One of the places in Asheville that's most overlooked by visitors is the magical little village of Montreat, just north up the hill from Black Mountain and about 30 minutes from downtown Asheville.
It's not a village in the traditional sense. It's a 100-year-old-plus Presbyterian college and big-time retreat/conference center. Perched on the side of a mountain with a small creek running through its center and a lake off to one side, Montreat's 50-or-so buildings make a setting that time almost has forgotten.
Twenty-one hiking trails run through the property's 4000 acres. In the summer months, there are paddle boats, canoes, and tennis. The inn and conference center's dining room is open to the general public and there's a general store for refreshments and souvenirs.