A Breath of Fresh Air
On the TownCommunity

A Breath of Fresh Air

Re-emerging after the lift of COVID-19 shelter-in-place and escaping to beautiful Asheville, N.C.

Mela, an Indian restaurant in downtown Asheville, uses only hormone-free meats and seafood, with local and organic ingredients whenever possible.
Mela, an Indian restaurant in downtown Asheville, uses only hormone-free meats and seafood, with local and organic ingredients whenever possible.

It was a long two months of sheltering in place. After the cancellations of all our beloved festivals, concerts and events, we were left with few options to write about and enjoy. We wondered if we should tell you about our FaceTime happy hours and Netflix binges, but what’s exciting about that? Although, since we are on the topic, if you haven’t checked out “Workin’ Moms” and “Dead to Me” on Netflix, you’re missing out.

We were invited to review Upstream Way Luxury Vacation Homes in Asheville, N.C., and have had to keep pushing the date due to the COVID-19 shutdown. At last some leeway was given, and we felt that it was time to venture out to the great outdoors of North Carolina, while maintaining social distancing of course.

Three hours away from Atlanta we pulled up to three ultra-modern vacation homes, each with rooftop views, porches and easy access to downtown Asheville and the nearby mountains. All three properties are perched above the French Broad River, across from the Biltmore Estate. The properties overlook a chain of parks all linked together by the Greenway bike path leading into downtown Asheville.

Upstream Way Luxury Vacation Homes are designed to house large parties for family and friend getaways, corporate retreats, wedding events and other special occasion escapes.

You can also get into town by launching a kayak or inner tube from a new boat ramp, situated directly across from the properties. And to top it off, the owner provides tubes and kayaks for your pleasure!

The properties are purposely designed to house large parties for family and friend getaways, corporate retreats, bachelor(ette) and wedding parties and other special occasion escapes. We were lucky enough to stay in their Penthouse property, which included five bathrooms, six bedrooms, a dining room, kitchen, living room, and playroom boasting a bar, pingpong table, and a gas fireplace, leading to the private rooftop hot tub.

No expense was spared! The house was immaculate, comfortable and attractively designed and decorated. The kitchen features upscale stainless steel appliances with beautiful cabinetry, which house all the kitchenware you need. Each bathroom includes granite sinks and counters. The wooden floors gleam, the artwork, furniture and rugs are colorful, vibrant and unique and the beds are all large and comfortable. There are four floors in the Penthouse. To make move in and out convenient, the architect was clever enough to include an electric dumbwaiter to lift and lower your luggage and groceries. Need something or have a question? No problem! The owner and builder, Jay, is just moments away and is reachable and responsive by phone call or text.

We unpacked our bags, had cocktails on the deck and then headed downtown in search of a restaurant that was offering takeout. We found a cute Indian restaurant, Mela, in the heart of downtown Asheville on Lexington Avenue. Mela offers only hormone-free, all-natural chicken, lamb and wild Atlantic salmon, and uses local and organic ingredients whenever possible. Their yogurt, chutneys, sauces and pickles are all made from scratch in-house.

Mela’s bread dough is handmade and prepared in a genuine tandoor oven.

Mela’s bread dough is handmade and prepared in a genuine tandoor oven, which cooks the food in ceramic walls to intensify the heat. They are very conscious about their cooking and have something for everyone – vegans, vegetarians and those who cannot eat gluten. With a reputation like that, it was tough to decide what to order, so we chose an array of food.

While we waited for our dinner, we walked around downtown, window-shopped, danced through the streets and admired the outdoor art. We made it back to Mela, where our food was hot and ready to go, and then headed back to our party pad to enjoy the feast.

We started with the Vegetable Samosa, handmade pastry triangles stuffed with mildly spiced potatoes and green peas and served with tamarind and mint chutney; the Saag Paneer, made with homemade cheese cubes with spinach and ground spices; and the Samosa Chat, a deconstructed samosa topped with masala chickpeas, mint and red pepper chutneys, garnished with onions and cilantro.

For our next course, we had the Madras fresh vegetables cooked in a mild coconut and curry leaf gravy; Chicken Tikka Masala, marinated boneless chicken breast pieces simmered in a thick, spicy sauce made with onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and spice; Chicken Korma which was boneless chicken cut in to cubes and cooked in a rich almond and cashew sauce and topped with nuts and raisins; and the decadent and spicy Chicken Vindaloo, a classic dish from Goa made with shrimp simmered in a very spicy and tangy curry sauce. All Mela’s entrees are served with basmati rice and papadum, a thin, crispy flat bread. Svādistṭa! (Delicious, in Hindu.)

To accompany all of these delicious dishes, we had Naan, a light bread baked in the tandoor oven; Garlic Naan, a multilayered bread flavored with garlic and cilantro and the Chutney Platter, a mint-cilantro sauce, tamarind and tomato chutney.

DuPont State Recreational Forest led us on a four-mile hike to the beautiful Bridal Veil Falls.

After dinner we drank an array of cocktails, sang karaoke, played Cards Against Humanity and hung out in the hot tub gazing at the stars. The next morning, after a homemade breakfast, we hopped back in the car and headed to DuPont State Recreational Forest for a four-mile hike roundtrip to Bridal Veil Falls. We needed some exercise after all the eating and drinking the night before! DuPont Forest is located halfway between Brevard and Hendersonville, N.C. and was a film location for “The Hunger Games.” The forest is free to visitors. Bridal Veil Falls is a beautiful 120-foot waterfall with a lovely flat area at the bottom, perfect for photos and picnics.

Even though restaurants in Asheville and most of the tourist attractions were closed, we still had great fun with great friends in the great outdoors!

For more information about Mela, visit www.melaasheville.com and for Upstream Way, www.upstreamway.com/.

To have us review your event or restaurant, contact us at 404-883-2130 or Jen@atljewishtimes.com / michal@atljewishtimes.com.

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