I have a new job—well new in the last four months—and one of the many things I love about it is my new office’s proximity to downtown Asheville. I’m literally just outside the bit of interstate that runs around the center of our city, and I’m continually surprised that when I walk to a lunch spot, it only takes me 5 minutes. I can’t even go home for lunch in 5 minutes.
There’s just something about walking in an urban center in winter that feels so perfect: the alternating spots of sunlight and shade; the casual wafting of a shop’s particular smell or the smoke from a lone cigarette; the fade in and fade out of patio music as you walk past a popular eatery; people in their coats and boots and hats, looking so cozy and put together.
With our NY Resolutions for 2011 (which I will post soon), I’m trying to pack my lunch more and spend less money on eating out. But it’s the end of the month and I had a little cash, and today’s hour of being out and about downtown was worth way more than I paid.
When I left the office I was headed one place, but on the way I couldn’t help but change my mind and end up at a new favorite. The Cucina 24 Deli is a tiny sandwich shop right next door to the regular dinner-fare Cucina 24 on Wall Street. The deli has three seats at a window-bar and one little table for two, with some overflow seating in the back of the big restaurant. There are about seven highly-artisanal sandwiches on the menu, and the showcase in front boasts side options of pickled vegetables and chick pea salad, as well as meats and cheeses available by the pound. Half-gallon jars on the counter are filled with over-sized pumpkin oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. Last time I went there were even handmade Milano-style cookies.
The deli is so small that there are rarely more than three people in there at one time, including the fabulous gal behind the counter. She is the only one who works there all day, every day, so she knows every person who comes in. As she is assembling my sandwich, she asks my preference of bread and relish, each time giving a suggestion which I am eager to take. It’s one of those places—you get it like she makes it because she knows best.
After a grilled eggplant sandwich and some delicious soup, I trotted off to the ATM to make a deposit, and then headed back to the office. Sort of. I stopped at the Chocolate Fetish for a high tea truffle (the filling has black and green tea flavors) and then popped into the new Spice & Tea Exchange, where the walls were lined with shelves and shelves of jarred spices, teas, peppers, and house-made blends.
And as I was really walking back to the office (too bad lunch is only an hour), I thought of so many more places I could have stopped. When I gets warmer I’ll make the trek down to Pack Square Park to eat my sandwich (home-packed or deli) and then stop at the library to grab a book. Or I’ll go to my favorite boutique and grab a crêpe on my walk back. Check out the new tea shop I’m dying to try.
I studied in New York the summer before I moved to Asheville, and I’ve told people that being in the big city made me want to live here even more. It’s hard to explain, but a day like today is a lot of the reason why. I love my little city.
Photo from here.