On my last evening in Greenville, SC, my best friend Eliza took me to a free candlelight yoga class. “How nice,” I thought, “we’ll do some sun salutations and some light spinal twists, all by the soft light of little twinkling flames.” Not exactly. In fact, I have never sweat so much in my entire life as I did in that 98-degree room. It didn’t help that Eliza is a yoga teacher and moves with the grace of a Hindu goddess. I teetered in tree pose and nearly collapsed on my 100th chaturanga, but I walked away feeling incredibly energized, full of happiness, and blissfully unaware of the soreness that would ignite the next morning.
Eliza and I spent every day of school together from ages 5 to 18, and yet when we got home each afternoon, the phone would ring and one of us would start doing accents on the message machine until the other one picked up. I remember silences of five minutes or longer when we laughed so hard no sound came out. We’ve watched each other grow up and helped each other through the good, the bad, the extremely awkward, and the painfully sad. We’ve talked each other through leaps of faith, like going to Costa Rica to get yoga certified and quitting a stable job to pursue a crazy love of food.
It’s cheesy, I know. But when you’ve been friends with someone for 20 years, you‘re allowed to look back and marvel a little. Sweating through that fiery yoga class next to her while “Burn” by Usher blasted from the stereo felt undeniably like a metaphor for our friendship: Warm, eternal, and uproariously funny.
I’d heard about White Duck Taco a thousand times on the phone. The Bangkok Shrimp, specifically, featured prominently whenever Liza recounted day-trips to Asheville. On Friday, the two of us drove up into the mountains, so different from the rolling Massachusetts hills I’m used to, their slopes alive with a haze of budding leaves. Asheville felt like it’s own little world, suspended in the windy green hills and dotted with irresistible cafes, boutiques, and art galleries where you could actually afford something. We made a beeline for the White Duck and ordered two Bangkoks each and some fresh watermelon sangria (who could resist?!) Sweet lord, those tacos were good: tiny, sesame-glazed crunchy shrimp surrounded by chili aioli, shredded lettuce, and a tangle of sweet pickles.
Sidewall Pizza is another spot I’d heard about for years as I sketched together a picture of Greenville in my head. Liza compared it to Baba Louie’s, which anyone from the Berkshires knows is high and nigh-unattainable praise. We went for dinner on Saturday night and sat at the bar to wait for our table. The people watching was impeccable—tattoos, man-buns, and Lululemon abounded. We ordered a pear, blue cheese, and candied walnut salad, a Margherita and the “Potato.” The crust could have stood on it’s own with an ever-so-chewy, almost brittle bite, but topped with thinly-sliced potatoes, bacon, caramelized onions, toasted walnuts, fresh sage, mozzarella, blue cheese, and fragrant olive oil, it was perfection.
Being the good little sisters that we are, Liza and I wanted to bake something for her sister’s birthday. After weighing the pros and cons of rolling out piecrust with a wine bottle, we settled on making a cake. A quick delve into Bon Appetit’s gluten-free archive brought us to a gorgeous-looking honey cake topped with cream cheese frosting and a spray of bright spring flowers. Everyone agreed it tasted like carrot cake without the carrots, which is fine by me as carrot cake usually includes raisins: my least favorite food on the planet. I don’t consider myself a great cake baker (pies are my wheelhouse), but I loved this! It had the warm, fragrant flavors of honey, ginger, and cinnamon, accented by a subtle tang of citrus. We used coconut oil instead of vegetable oil and substituted the somewhat demanding frosting recipe for Martha Stewart’s classic cream cheese frosting.
I’ve been on a mac & cheese odyssey this year, dabbling in everything from fussy béchamel sauces to clove-studded onions and dashes of Cayenne. But when Liza’s friend fractured two bones jet skiing, there was only one recipe we deemed comforting enough. My mom’s recipe comes from John Thorne’s Simple Cooking (which I am currently reading for pleasure—a refreshingly candid and unpretentious volume, simultaneously scrupulous and poetic). While my mom disapproved of such things as Tabasco sauce and condensed milk, Liza and I committed fully and the results were glorious.
My trip ended as all trips should: with savory crepes at Tandem Coffee, a bicycle-themed spot with bright yellow china, exposed brick, and an abundance of window seats.