Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wearer of the Purple

I forgot to mention our most recent accolade:

Best Caterer of Western NC as voted by the Mountain Xpress Readers!

We all got to wear purple wigs, all of us winners, in the paper's phographs. I think we were among the first ones to don these lovely hairpieces because they were still in packages when the photographer arrived.

The other day, in the Asheville Holiday parade, I noticed that the float riders all wore purple wigs. yikes! Could these have been the same wigs that we, and everyone else in town, wore? I sure hope not. I'm especially happy that we were, I think, the first to put them on.

Anyway - happy Thanksgiving to you. I'll try to be a bit more prompt with my notes. Gosh, I get distracted and then I look and see it's been a MONTH or longer since I've written.



Sunday, October 11, 2009

October news from Laurey's

The days are getting colder. I’m sitting here writing with a sweater and a vest on. This is my first foray into the clothes that have been tucked underneath the shorts and t-shirts of summer. I kind of like it. My yard is frosty these days, the skies are clearer and the leaves are starting to turn. Zoom zoom.

There was a bear in my yard the other day. My pup starting going crazy, her hair standing up on her neck and her bark taking on a different tone. I followed her gaze and saw a HUGE bear, grazing on the fallen persimmons that fill up my lower yard at this time of year. Tye scooted out the door and down the hill before I could grab her and it was all I could do to convince her that she needed to stay away. Though normally pretty responsive to me, she did not come right back but howled with assertion at this intruder. The bear hardly noticed – thankfully. I got Tye locked in the house, grabbed my camera, and then went out on my own to try to record this visit. And it was only when I got within 15 feet that I thought, um, maybe THAT wasn’t such a smart idea either, and took myself inside with Tye. We stood on the porch and watched the bear eat until darkness took over and we couldn’t see it any longer.

I’m hopping up to New York later on today for a very short trek to the Culinary Institute of America. I’ve been invited to speak to the student body about being an entrepreneur, about being a woman in this field, and, I suspect, about my recent bike ride. I’ve never been there and am excited.

Last week I had two new experiences that were quite different and quite fun:
The first was that I stumbled into the Folk Art Center’s Heritage Day festivities (I was delivering lunch) just in time to join in on the fun. It was the World Gee-Haw Whimmy Diddle competition day. This is an Appalachian Folk Toy consisting of a notched stick that gets rubbed with a second stick, making a propeller on the end of the notched stick turn to the right (gee) or the left (haw.) I bought one, practiced for a short time, and won third place!!! (I am very proud of this award and am going to do my best to win first next year.)

And – I was asked to become an officiant so that I could conduct a wedding. I looked into it, did what it took, and performed my very first, but hopefully not my last, wedding. It was really fun, very sweet, and a little bit scary. I mean – this is for real! The bride and groom seemed very happy. (I was too.)

Oh – and we’ve been chosen Best Caterer in Asheville. I’m very proud of the crew here. We’re trying hard and it’s nice to get this award.

We have a lot going on here these days. Hope you come join in on some of our fun.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

September 19, 2009

Hum. Hum. Hum. That’s how things feel here right now. After two weeks of working without Emily and Adam, and also without Martha, one of our cooks who has been on vacation, I see a light, shining very brightly right around the corner.

Adam and Emily (and Henry) are coping, finally starting the treatment that their little boy is undergoing. See the next little story for more information.

We got a card from Martha and she, it seems, has had a good time in Maine and will be filled with stories and fresh energy when she gets back to work on Monday.

Noel, here in the office, has shifted into Emily’s seat, ably covering her work duties in Emily’s absence. Kris, who is our fill-in baker, has joined us in the office, helping fill Noel’s seat. Kris will be taking over for Jaime, our catering chief, once Jaime leaves in December to go traveling so she’s spending some time sitting over in Jaime’s seat too.

Brendan is catching on in the kitchen, making more and more evening food for you. Deb has become the almost-every-day early girl. I’ve been filling in, when needed, for Martha and am the Tuesday morning early girl now. It’s fun to keep my knife sharp and my cooking “chops” up. I have a closet full of cooking clothes that have been gathering dust. No longer!

I’ve been having fun teaching my current series of cooking classes. We’re going to have a new series in October and you can sign up for them by giving us a call (252-1500.) Each class is 35.00 and includes a glass of wine and generous tastes of everything I will demonstrate and make for you.

Here’s the schedule:
Wednesday, October 7: Blueberry Hill Favorites.
Wednesday, October 14: Appetizers
THURSDAY, October 22: Harvest foods
Wednesday, October 28: Soups.

In other news, responding to a request, I have become ordained! I will be conducting my very first wedding tomorrow morning. I’m not sure who’s more nervous, me or the bride and groom! Actually, I’m honored that they want me to perform this ceremony and have been crafting my thoughts and words for them for the past week. (I’ll tell you stories next week, of course.)

And our Farmer’s Dinners are taking off. My goal is to have sold-out dinners each month and we’re getting to that point. Whee! It is SO much fun to cook right here, putting wonderful food into our ovens, cooking it, serving it to these lovely farmers and guests. I do so many events under tents or on mountain tops that it is an amazing treat to have functioning ovens, running water, and a solid roof over our heads. I’m going to try to do these dinners every month all year long. It might be a bit challenging in January, but that’ll make it all the more interesting, won’t it?

Okay – I need to go be delivery babe now. Then I’ll come back here, write some menus, do some planning and, later, go serve a big meal to a few hundred people. On it goes. Fortunately.

Thanks for your enthusiasm. It keeps me going. It really does.

I’ll be in touch soon.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sitting and watching

I've been trying to slow down these days. And I've also been trying to ramp things up. Mostly I've been trying, trying, to keep things running.

A long time ago I was given the gift of an astrology reading. The main message I got, and that stays with me still, was that my task this time around was to experience as much as possible and to stay calm while doing it. Easier said than done, to be sure.

This picture is the dish of water I have outside my front door. It's a water source for my bees. Who knew? Bees need a drinking fountain. So do my cat and dog. Frequently they all three drink, all at the same time. One of my favorite things to do is to come home and sit on my front step. I'm right next to this beautiful blue water dish and the bees come and go, drinking, flying in, flying out, drinking more. The cat and dog drink too, and then, generally, lie at my feet. I like being there. Very much. Every once in awhile I find a bee floundering in the water. Bees do not swim, so, if I'm there, I help out, ushering the little girl (almost all the bees out flying around are females) over to the edge where she climbs out, dries off, and carries on. Every once in a while the dog or the cat or, perhaps, a bee will knock over this little stack of pebbles. I put it back. Carry on.

Things have felt frantic to me lately and I have been searching for how to find equipoise, balance. Acupuncture is helping. Talking with friends is helping. Pilates, bike riding, dinner in front of stupid tv, and walking my dog all help too.

At work I fired a chef, rolled up my sleeves and got back in the kitchen, found a new chef, am training him, and am dealing, concurrently, with some other stresses. Business ownership is like this. One of my mentors said, "Getting bigger doesn't mean you get rid of the problems, you just get bigger ones." There are plenty of days when I don't want anything to do with any problems.

On those days I just go out onto my step, restack my little pebble stack, maybe rescue a bee, and, mostly sit still.

The Goldenrod is in full bloom now and the bees love it. Apparently Goldenrod makes stinky honey, but honey is honey at this point in the year. The bees are stocking up for the winter and it doesn't matter to me what kind of honey they make, as long as it helps them get through the upcoming cold months. One of my friends never opened her bee hives, never took out any honey, was happy when her bees swarmed and left. To her that was all a part of the natural order of things.

Perhaps that's what all this is, this tumult, stress, relaxation, calm, frenzy. The natural order. Is it possible to adjust and roll with it? Is it possible to remember that this is exactly what I am supposed to be? Continued immersion into the fray, continued practice at staying calm, attentive, alert.

Maybe it's enough just to sit and watch and restack some random pebbles and save a floundering bee every now and then. On many days it's enough for me.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It's tomato time!!

Yessiree! Tomatoes abound, fill our lives, fill our deli case, fill our hearts.

These are one day's haul from my tiny collection of plants at my house. I bought a handful of cherry tomato plants and stuck them in the ground around my garden guardian. She quickly was overtaken by the greenery and now is covered with bowls full of these bright beauties. For awhile I ate a bowl full with pasta or on a salad or simply right out of the bowl. But I have finally slowed down and have been hauling them in to work where I deposit them on an unsuspecting coworker's desk. Yesterday I took a BIG bowl full of them to Jubilee and tucked them into a nook on the altar. During the sharing of the peace we ate them.

This month is the offical month to celebrate the tomato in Asheville. Our local group, Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Projects does a promotion of a specific product each month. Now is tomato time. And someone, perhaps someone from ASAP came up with the very smart idea to have a Tomato Walk. A bunch of us Independent Restaurateurs will feature this beauty during a 2 hour Tomato Happy hour.

We'll have Foccacia slices with heirloom cherry tomatoes; Gazpacho; Heirloom Tomato salad; Pasta Salad with Cherry tomatoes; beer specials; and a whole lot more.
Stroll on by this Thursday (the 20th) between 5 and 7. Nice!

And if you can't make it during that time, fear not - we're well-stocked with tomatoes of all kinds. And will continue to do so.

In other news:
We've been enjoying being open later. Do feel free to come by in the evenings as we're now staying open until 8, Monday through Friday. You can have your dinner to go right here (which makes it dinner to stay) or you can browse our deli case for evening offerings that are the result of the mood of our cooks and the mood of the day and the mood of the weather.

And yes we have beer. And wine.

Oh - and finally, our Farmer's Dinners are gaining in popularity. Put September 17th on your calendar. We'll have three of our farmer friends join us for an evening of Dinner and Conversation. I cook. They talk. You eat. Sound fun? We think so. Reservations are required for these. 828-252-1500.

See you then if not sooner.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Zippy offerings

This is a snap of our deli case. If you haven't been to see us recently, well, this might tempt you to make haste to do so.

It's a fine time in our local fields. The farmers are calling us every day, bringing us their bounty, filling our refrigerators and shelves with the most wonderful produce. I'm back in the kitchen these days and there really is nothing I like better than to putter around, poking into all the boxes and seeing what we have. I'm big on bright colors and so I am particularly happy right now. Heirloom tomatoes are here. Sun Golds. On it goes.

And, did you know we are now open later in the evenings during the week? Yup! You can now come, browse through our offerings, and make yourself comfortable in our airy cafe. We'll leave you alone to enjoy your dinner.

I'd say that's a pretty nice thing.

OH! Before I forget!! We're now having a monthly dinner with some of our local farmers. These are called, DRUM ROLL!!!, "Dinner with our Farmers." (Smart title, don't you think?) You come, dine with new friends and with some of our farmers, and get to hear, first hand, how and why they do what they do.

The August one is scheduled for the 13th. Call my Wednesday if you'd like to join in. 828-252-1500. (The September one will be on the 15th.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

A note from Laurey

It is the eve of August as I write. The tailgate market is in full swing across the street from here. Tables are loaded with beautiful purple eggplants, gorgeous thin green beans, brilliantly wild-colored tomatoes of all kinds (including Mr. Stripey!!) and a whole lot more. I love Wednesday afternoons here, as I can leave my office, stroll across the street, browse through the tents and tables and bins of this and that. I feel filled with the bounty these farmers bring every week.

A long time ago I was given a very special gift of two weeks in Provence. I got to pick where we went, and I got to pick what we did. My pick for the entire time was to follow the markets. In Provence there is a market almost every day. We drove to tomorrow’s market town in the afternoon, found a place to stay and scoped out the lay of the land. Then, first thing the next morning we were up and at the market in time to stroll and watch the vendors as they set up. We’d buy a pastry, some fruit, a caffe au lait, and we’d find a place to sit – on a stone wall, perhaps.

After coffee we’d stroll more, taste cheeses, buy things for an afternoon snack, find a place for a nap, and then we’d wander back to our car. We might then stay the night or we might drive to the next town on my list. I loved those markets, that produce, that bounty.

It was a wonderful trip, quite a gift, indeed.

I loved being in France. Don’t get me wrong. But it fills me with delight these days to do a local version of those days. I get up early on Saturdays, visit one or two markets. On Wednesdays I visit the one across the street. I find myself standing, musing, imagining, dreaming. The market swirls around me. And then someone might say my name and I pop out – here in Asheville, not in Nyons or Gordes or St. Remy.

The market scene here is pretty good around here. For a town of this size, there are a lot of options. Last week, for grins, I went to three brand new markets. Imagine!

I’ll be cooking at the market across the street from here on August 5th. I’ll be at the North Asheville one in September. And I’m committed to the dinners with the farmers, as you see (the August one is on the 13th, the September one is on the 17th.)

After work I go home and stroll through my tomatoes which are bountiful right now. I have not planted anything else edible but I cannot live without a handful of cherry tomatoes – as often as possible. These days there are plenty for me to have.

August is tomato month. Asheville is a market town. Life is full and good. Hooray!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jam Babes - a tale

July 17, 2009

Friday. Busy day for LCM (me). Whoosh. I’m trying to get a step ahead and so am writing my next week’s note today. Tomorrow I will be in a meeting for the entire day (I’m joining the board of the North Carolina Outward Bound School and will be away from the internet and will not be able to write tomorrow anyway.)

I thought you might like to know about yesterday’s jam production. As it was unfolding I thought that if I imagined WRITING about it, it might be a bit less frustrating than it was feeling as it was happening. Let’s see how it goes.

My mother made Blueberry Jam every year. We lived on Blueberry Hill, after all, so it was a logical thing to do. My sisters and I picked the berries, sold them to my mother, who insisted there be no stems or leaves. She made them into jam which she packed in little round jars. We stuck the label on the jars and stacked them on a table in our living room next to stacks of my mother’s cook books and the postcards that my sisters and I made. I also made potholders and sold them. In the fall I picked apples from our apple trees and sold them to guests who were completely capable of going and picking their own. Hmm – I guess it’s safe to say that I have been in the selling business for quite some time.

I make jam each year. It brings me, in a quiet way, close to my mother. I always think of her and then when I make my jam. I have found those same jars. I follow my memory of her jam as I make mine now. Hers was not very sweet. Mine isn’t either. Her label was a solid color with simple print. Mine too. Making jam is usually a meditation for me. A reverie. A time to reflect. That’s how it usually is. Yesterday was not quite a meditation.

I don’t have time to pick berries now but I found a good source and saved the morning yesterday to make my jam. I reserved the local commercial (BIG) kitchen. I cleared my schedule. All good. Annie is here visiting and stepped up to be an associate “Jam Babe.” We got to work really early, loaded up the car and headed out to the jam making place.

We arrived ahead of the facility coordinator and that was a bit frustrating. Standing in a parking lot wanting to get it. Wanting to get going. Not able to. Ugh.

After not TOO long, in the big scheme of things, we did get in. Unpacked. Got a review of how to operate the machinery, and got going.

The berries, much to my annoyance, had more stems than I would have liked (my mother, as I said, did not allow ANY stems in the berries we picked and I’m a stickler for this.) Annie and I spent quite a while de-stemming berries. Ugh.

“Okay, don’t let it ruin your day!” I heard in my mind. That is what Emily, here in the office, tells me. I kept telling that to myself.

We finally went through all the berries and loaded up the big steam cooker and got the jam cooking. We got the jars unpacked and set up in the washing area. We got the lids ready. We got ourselves ready. We got everything in place. We calibrated the jar filler – with water. All good!

But when I went to get the first (the FIRST!) batch of hot jam, it splooshed out all over me and burned the HECK out of my arm! UGH!!!

“Don’t let it ruin your day!”
I got some ice. Arranged an portable ice bath for my arm.
Filled the jar filler.
Kept going.

Calibrating a jar filler with water is one thing but calibrating it with jam is a whole other situation. You fill this gigantic funnel. You turn the machine on. You see how full the jar is. Finding it not quite right, you adjust two screws. You turn the machine on again. You fill another jar. You see how your adjustment worked. You might need to turn those two screws again. You generally have to do this four or five times before you get it. All with boiling hot jam.

And then there is the matter of coordinating the actions of two people, hot jam, a filling machine, hot lids. A burned arm. Sigh. Annie was great, jumping in like a pro (she IS a cook too, so she fit right in and we were able to work smoothly.)

Once we got started we developed a rhythm. Scoop the hot berries out of the gigantic steam kettle. Fill the gigantic funnel. Get hot jars. Get hot lids. Fill the jars. Put the lids on. Repeat.

Four hours later we had made 288 jars of jam. I was, by then, pretty much covered in blueberry spatter. My face was a blue freckled mess. My shoes were blue. My shirt was spattered with blue. I was sticky. Hot. Annie fared better but she had a lot of blue splots too.

My mother hired off duty Airforce employees to make 25,000 jars of jam each summer. She took herself away from Blueberry Hill and spent the week on Cape Cod. Annie and I made 288 jars of jam. In four hours. And then I came back to work and got ready for our Farmer’s dinner (which was a lot of fun by the way.) My arm still stings but is getting better (try putting honey on a burn – it does a wonderful job.)

And now I’m off to help with Outward Bound. Jam will be available here pretty soon. As soon as I get time to print some labels. Watch for it in our shop area. It’s REALLY good. And if you ask nicely, I’ll show you my arm.

Friday, July 3, 2009


We're now open until 8, Monday through Friday (unless we have a private party here.)

Downtown on a summer night is so nice. There are gallery strolls to enjoy, street performers, warm skies, not to mention interesting people to watch. The Orange Peel is right down the street from us. The Fine Arts Theater is just one block away on the other side. Come a bit early and stop in with us to have a simple supper.

We've got lots of thoughts for our future and will introduce them over time. Music nights. Game nights. Dance nights. House concerts. Book club gatherings. Drop by to see what we have up our sleeve these days.

And - here's this week's note from my weekly newsletter. Enjoy!

July 4, 2009

These marker dates really point out the flying by that time is doing these days. It really, honestly, seems like just a month ago – at the most – when I was talking about fireworks and swimming and summer frolic on the Fourth. And look at this – an entire year has gone by. Again.


I’m headed to Washington, DC at the beginning of the week. I’m going there to speak at the 12th Annual Ovarian Cancer National Alliance’s conference. I’m the closing speaker, finishing out the conference on the 8th. Then I’ll drive back on the 9th, just in time for the lobster feast on the 10th.

Zoom zoom.

I’ve entered the next stage of the bike ride experience. After musing and wallowing and contemplating, I am finally at a point where I can see things a little bit more clearly and am beginning to be able to have some perspective on the whole ride experience. I’ll be addressing cancer survivors at the Washington event. In September I’ll be speaking at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, addressing young chefs, talking about the ride, spreading the word. I also just got to be the guest DJ on “Local Color”, Laura Blackley’s show on WNCW-FM, talking about the ride, sharing my favorite music, spreading the word. And I will be in Michigan in December, speaking to some business colleagues about the ride. These engagements begin to help me believe that my ride can have a lasting impact. And that makes me feel good.

In the meantime, my nephew is about to turn 3 on the 4th. My friend’s eldest child is about to turn 8, also on the 4th. I have been a part of these two lives since they started. And a close friend of mine turns 61 on the 9th. She has been a part of my life since the beginning of my time here in Asheville. Cooking for her was the beginning of my food life here. I cooked that meal 21 years ago.

Zoom zoom. Zoom.

Do enjoy your weekend. I’ll be sure to drive carefully and will look forward to telling you all about it when I get back.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thoughts of the day

June 13, 2009

Hello to you all. It is no longer morning. I’ve been writing, meeting, planning, conversing, thinking, and, well, NOT finishing this note. Sorry.

The week was a good one. Filled with inspiration, both quietly small and quietly large. I met with two different folks to talk about writing. I appeared on the radio to talk, very candidly, about ovarian cancer. I heard Anna Quindlen, a gigantic presence in the world of writing, speak about her life. And I finished the video of my ride.

I’ve been really pondering the whole experience of this ride, as you know. The first question most people ask is, “Now What?” I’ve stuttered something in response, not very clearly at first, but now, increasingly, with a bit more conviction.

First I’ve been trying to just get home. This has been harder than I could have ever imagined. I did the ride. I came home. And all I could do was miss that whole experience. But I AM home and I WANT to be home and I don’t want to be living a life that is all about missing something that is not here. And finally I feel like I AM home.

It helps to be listening to so many people who say that a book would be a nice next step. I’ve been talking to and writing to people and a picture is beginning to emerge. An idea of how to take what I did and turn it into something else.

It helped, even though it was very hard, to talk openly on the radio. We are filled with subjects that people do not talk about. I, truthfully, would rather not be the one who steps out. Because stepping out means taking a big chance. Stepping out on a thin limb. That might break. And then where would I be? But in the days after the broadcast I heard from a number of listeners who thanked me and told me I’d done well. Which made me feel that the stepping out on that thin limb was a good thing.

It helped to hear Anna Quindlen. She’s one of my writing heroes. Her clear, honest, straightforward writing has always caught my attention. I got to meet her, briefly, and share, briefly, my ride story, especially that I did the ride to raise awareness for ovarian cancer. Her mother died of it and that made me feel a special closeness with her, even if she had no idea who I was. Thinking about that connection and about the poignancy of it all completely overcame me as I listened to her. And that powerful emotional response pushes me ahead, pushes me to continue trying to figure out my own “What’s next?”

It helps, finally, to have this video done. I am excited about being the closing speaker at a national conference. It’s a big subject, this ovarian cancer one. I spoke for two minutes at a dinner for these folks in February. Now I get a half hour, give or take. I’ll finish my time with this video. It’s upbeat but it conveys the “don’t give up” feeling that was the big message for me on this ride. I’ve watched it a whole lot and I still like it and that is a fine thing. John Warner is the fellow who took my wishes and turned them into this finished piece. After the showing in Washington I’ll make it possible for you to see it too.

One more thing about being home. I loved the dinner with the farmers the other night. I love being part of the connection with them. I am deeply honored to have anything to do with making this sort of a difference. And no matter what, no matter how tough things are, these folks are caring for our Earth in a big way. And we get to be a part of that thin, Golden Thread of keeping things going.

Which is the most important thing of all.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Thoughts of the day

June 6, 2009

Good morning. What a gorgeous day it is here. Light, crisp-ish, all-around pleasant and great. It rained yesterday, conveniently waiting until the dark set in, and all today is moist and rich.

I visited the markets first thing today to check in and see what was around. I love the markets. When I first went to France I planned my trip to coincide with each town’s market day. When I talked about it, many people knew exactly why I had done that. There is a draw to a market. I’m usually there way before the regular customers which enables me to visit with the farmers and to browse around as they set things up.

We’re in the midst of a busy day here and that’s a nice thing too. Lots of chirping and smiling in the kitchen, in the shop. Makes me chirp and smile too. We had a group here in our Garden Room last night, a college reunion. They had been accustomed to going to a country club when they’d met in other cities. This intimate atmosphere suited them perfectly and the “post party report” had nice comments. “Loved the food! Loved the space! Perfect party!” Nice to see.

The café has some breakfasters right now too. Again, nice for me. This is such a lovely space. I just went out and opened up the windows and the sun is pouring in, a bit of a breeze is poking through, and all is good.

My bees are buzzing along at home. This is a good year for honey, I think. So far, so good. All the beekeepers in the area are happy to have a good, strong “honey flow.” This means that things are blooming, mostly tulip poplar around my house. The bees are busy, building honeycomb, making honey, storing up for later. Last year we had a big drought. So far this year things look good. And, if all goes this well, I’ll have my honey for you by the end of the season. Isn’t that sweet?

Putting the markets and the farms and the farmers together with you is one of my main interests. I like being the connector in these things. I think we’ll do three of these dinners this summer, since there are so many farmers, so many that we work with, so many who I want you to meet. This one coming up on Thursday will be the first (we still have room – call us at 252-1500). Please save July 16 for us. And then we’ll pick a date in August too. What a great thing, meeting new people, sharing dinner made with local food, and supporting our local farm economy. It is essential, don’t you think?

I think there is a certain amount of breath-holding in the world these days. But breathing is what keeps us all alive. Back in 2001 we had one of our Delicious Expeditions to Tuscany scheduled for September 23. After the horror of the 11th, our guests were concerned and some wanted to stay home. But I felt determined go, to stick with the plan, to do what, at the time, seemed the most patriotic thing possible, which was getting on a plane and flying. Everyone went and everyone had a fine time and the folks in Italy were so gracious and loving and grateful, not to mention sad for what had happened.
Getting out, sharing conversation, sharing meals, sharing life and breath and love is really what it is all about, I think. I know I feel better when I do. And I don’t think I’m the only one. So thanks for getting yourself out too. Thanks for including me and us. And thanks for bringing that breathing, loving spirit to us. In it comes, out it goes. Life. Love.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

On being home after a "big deal" ride

May 23, 2009


A quiet morning here in Asheville. Well, sort of. We had a big night last night with parties. Today we’re preparing some picnics and some lunches and some more parties, not to mention filling our deli case with local deliciousness. Some early risers are here having breakfast. Some lunch wanderers are beginning to find their way in. It looks like it might rain a bit later which will be fine. The gardens at home are filled with new seeds, new plants, new promise. Rain is a good thing.

I realized today that I have now been done with the bike ride for one whole month. Amazing. When I was on it, it felt like it would never end. In a good way. I loved the long days of nothing but riding. Now, home, I am putting my life back together, remembering things that are good here, imagining how to put that experience into this one. It’s a tricky thing, going away and doing something big and then coming home and trying to get re-centered.

One fun thing is to get up early and go to the markets. Ours are loaded with promise. Loaded with parts. Loaded with things made with love, grown with love. I’ve been wandering around talking to my friends who farm, inviting them to come here to share their thoughts on why they do what they do. I mean, farming is not the very most lucrative way to have a life. So what keeps them going? What fills them? I find this the most interesting thing – learning a bit more about these folks. We’ll have someone who is a biodynamic farmer. Someone who is a part-time farmer and part-time carpenter. Others will come too. I’m excited. June 11th. Come join us, won’t you?

I like having things to look forward to. I think this was a big mistake I made with this ride. I forgot that it would end and that I would have to find new things to do, new projects, new inspirations. Imagine forgetting that? Ah well. So now, filled with the promise in my garden beds and the bustling markets and even in my bee hives, I am letting it soak in and am rediscovering the inspiration. Our dinner is all about that.

I guess it has been okay to have been fairly open about all of this. A part of me scolds myself and says, “Oh get OVER it. You did a bike ride. Big deal. It’s done. You’re home. Enough already.” But I’ve also heard from enough people to know that this roughness is something that happens to others too and so perhaps by being open to this time I will learn more AND you might too. Or maybe it is just a good thing to know that you are not the only one experiencing a hard time. When I was recovering from my second round of cancer, twenty-one years ago next week, it was enormously helpful to me and to others to talk about what I was going through. Emotionally going through.

So there you have it. If you want to read more you can always visit the ride blog. I’m writing a bit more there. And as I move along through this time, I’m trying to be pretty open about it all. I do know it is nice to see a big blue pot filled with flowers. That I really know for sure.

I’ll be in touch next week.
Until then, come see me for some food made with love. Some “joy on a plate.”

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Hi there,

May 9th. Saturday. Beautiful spring day. Kitchen’s a bustle. Life is good.

This is my last week as a 54 year old. It has been a spectacular year, all things considered. A year ago I was about to take myself on a one week bike ride on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, my first trip to that spot. I was not sure I could do the ride in any degree of comfort. I was coming off a heartbreak and needed some healing and some distance. The ride seemed like a good thing to do.

It was.

A week after I came home I got a note from the ride organizers mentioning a ride across the United States for this spring. I said, out loud, “I’d like to do that.” And Emily, my office manager, said, out loud. "I think you should.” So it began.

Here now, a year later, I have done it. Ridden my bicycle across the country. At the moment I have a tweaked back which makes it especially hard to believe that I did this ride. But I have a bunch of pictures to look at and a bunch of people to write to and a bunch of newspaper clippings and I KNOW it happened. Somehow it happened.

I think it is important to keep a vision, to keep a dream, to state things out loud. To write things down and look at them and know, somehow know, that things will, can, do happen. Unimaginable things. Really. I know this. You can trust me. I do.

And it also is understandable to be home and to be wondering how to put that into this. I saw a guide yesterday who talked about relaxing and letting go and not trying to push anything into anyplace. Just let go, trust. Keep trusting. Keep imagining, though that is not necessary, really.

And a couple of things have happened that make me sit up and take notice. The café is busy. The staff is making really good food. The people who come here are coming, coming, coming in. Yesterday someone said, “Whenever I have something important, really important to do, I come to Laurey’s first. I eat, filling my body and my soul. And then I go do that thing. It is the way I start to do everything that is really important to me.”

And this morning someone picked up a bite of her quiche and said to me, “This is Joy on a plate.”

So those are good things. This is a fine place. I am incredibly lucky to have this as the place to come home to. I’m a part of something bigger than me here. And that is a very good thing. Going away. Coming home. Putting the two together. Creating a vision. Living it. It’s head spinning. And I’m happy to be home.

Oh – I turn 55 this week. Double Nickel. Another auspicious number. Another opportunity. Whoo whee! Whoa. Hold on. Here we go.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The lastest on the bike adventure

February 21, 2009

Gee whiz.

My bike has gone. Packing has started. It’s time for lists and final preparations and checking and cross checking. I leave on a day or two more than one week – March 3rd.


I started pulling out all my bike clothes the other day, making piles on the window seat in my bedroom. My cat and dog spend time up on that window seat during the day, so when I came home, I found all my tidy stacks scattered all over the floor. SOME people are not happy with this activity.

There is a lot to think about with this ride. Getting in shape, for one. And I have overdone it and have had to actually pull back. But all the people who have been helping me train think I’ll be fine so I’m trying to settle into believing them.

Getting the final bits of equipment has been fun and methodical. I bought new Kevlar tires the other day. Hopefully they will be impervious to cactus spikes and broken glass. I have a new tube of sunscreen, and extra pair of bike shorts, new socks, new rain pants, new stuff. I feel like a kid on the first day of school, eager to try all those things I’ve been carrying around in my new pencil box. I do have a new pencil box, but it will not be going on the trip. My new handlebar bag WILL be going and in it will be my camera and all my little good luck charms.

Taking care of things here at work has been good. There is a fabulous team in place here. Emily and Adam and Jaime and Chris lead the office, shop, catering, and kitchen teams. And those teams all have great folks, cooks, servers, sweet people. Nothing will be different here at all – all the same people will be doing all the same things. Don’t stop coming! Don’t stop planning parties, lunches, breakfasts. We need you and this gang is ready to take care of you. (and if you ask, they’ll point to the map and tell you where I am and what’s going on.)

I’ve been learning how to do remote hookups with my little portable computer. I’ll be updating my blog (http://www.laureybikes.blogspot.com) on a regular basis and will also continue to send in my once-a-week notes to you right here. I now have a Facebook page too, (I am SO with it!) so if you want to be Facebook friends, feel free.

But I haven’t really had the “mom’s going to be gone for two months” conversation with the little furry friends. Emma, who works here, is going to take care of them and my house. She’ll take them for walks, well, not the cat, and they’ll be fine. I’m the one who gets chocked up thinking about my days without them. We have quite a little pattern these days and I will miss them very much.

I’ve been cleaning up my gardens and I know that when I get back the Iris will be up and the dogwoods will be in bloom and my yard will be lovely. That’s exciting. And my friend Gail is going to come and do some gardening work – making a nice compost pile, digging around in the dirt. It’ll be nice to come home to her and that.

My bees, I’m afraid, might not have made it. There is SO much to learn. Time will tell. I’ll know how things went once I get home. I might need to start all over again with new bees. We’ll see.

My sister is gong to help keep up with my bill paying and will start my car a couple of times. And by the end of this week I’ll be caught up with my desk, having balanced my accounts, arranged for my taxes, filled my prescriptions, changed all the batteries, done the final laundry and vacuuming. There is a lot to do to go away for two months.

I’m very excited. Excited about what I’ll see, who I’ll meet, what will happen. Thank you for sharing this adventure with me. And thank to everyone who helps make Laurey’s what it is. I could NOT do it without them.

I’ll send one more note from here next week.

Until then – cheers,

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Finally - Sunday Breakfast

Laurey’s is delighted to announce that we are now serving Sunday Breakfast.

We’re open from 9 until 2 on Sundays*

Made to order breakfasts:
French Toast
Omelets – you pick the ingredients
Local Eggs (any style)
Stone ground Grits and Gravy
Laurey’s own Blueberry Jam too
Scones, Biscuits
Breakfast Burritos

All made right here.

Casual, gourmet comfort food.

67 Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801


•we also serve breakfast every other day, but the Sunday thing is new!

See you soon!

(and the gang)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A note from January 31, 2009

January 31, 2009

Hi hi hi!

Today is a great day. The chill is leaving. Yesterday’s freeze is melting away. Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the high 50s. NICE! This morning I could see light behind the trees as soon as my alarm went off. I love the light. I love the return to longer days. I love the promise of spring.

Tomorrow I am driving to Washington, DC to speak at a big fundraising dinner. A big group of women chefs is gathering to make their specialties for an audience of some couple of hundred guests. This event is a fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance – the primary beneficiary of my upcoming cross country bike ride. I’ve been invited to speak (for 2 minutes!!). I’m taking my bike and I’m excited.

Two minutes isn’t a long time, but still, I’m thrilled to do this initial speaking engagement. Pretty soon I’ll be riding across the country, meeting people all along the way. This message, the message about paying attention to your body, is a good one. Early detection can be a life saver. It was for me.

Next Thursday, the 5th, we are going to host a very important event. Lance Armstrong is starting a series of conversations – all over the world – about cancer. He is in Australia right now, kicking off this initiative, getting people to talk about the affect cancer has had on their lives. In September there is going to be a big summit in Ottawa where the results of these global conversations will be collected. Lance and this movement will hopefully make a worldwide difference in this terrible disease. The conversation here on the 5th will be the very first one of these in the entire Untied States. If you’d like to come share your thoughts and concerns (on the 5th from 5 – 7pm), register via e-mail with Mary Hill, the event organizer (maryh@c2cc.ca).

In other news – well, things seem to be cranking up. Though I’m trying to stay focused on every day’s tasks, I find myself drifting off to bike ride, bike ride, bike ride things. The other day someone asked, “So, are you going to be MORE tired or more ENERGIZED at the end of the ride?” who knows? I certainly don’t. I CAN say that I find myself quivering with excitement. I CAN say that my body is whipping through soreness and feelings of invincibility and the sense that this is absolutely impossible – sometimes in the span of a few minutes. I look around my house, my car, my office, my town, and wonder how it’s all going to be. Wonder wonder wonder.

So there I go again. And I still have a desk of assignments: menus to write, an article to do, my checkbook to balance, advertising to plan, on it goes. Then it will be time to go home, walk the dog, and try to settle down enough for sleep. Tomorrow it will be one day closer. And tomorrow we’ll start serving breakfast and then it’ll be time to go watch the Superbowl with my sweet friends and then it’ll be time to go to Washington and then it’ll be time for…

I’ll be in touch next week.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What a week!

January 24, 2009

What a week! Boy, after feeling like I was holding my breath, things seemed to blast open on Tuesday. And I held my breath again, waiting for it to be Tuesday and then waiting for it to be daylight and then waiting for it to be morning and then waiting for it to be noon.

Around 11:00 we turned on the radio at work and, at 11:50 we lined up chairs in the café and sat, rapt, as our new President took the oath of office. It was a magical, magical moment. And, in that moment, I felt like I started to let some air in, out, in, out.

The afternoon was quiet and I had no idea if all the people who were supposed to come to our party would come. It was cold and I wouldn’t have blamed anyone for staying home. But right at 6:00 people started to drift in and by 6:25 the café was packed, people carrying their chili and beer to tables, pushing the chairs around, rearranging things, making themselves at home. At one table, a cluster of friends leaned in, sharing the highlights of the days’ celebration. Up in front, people who had not known each other shared tables, shared stories, shared friendship. Someone had given us some balloons and they made the place look very fun.

When everyone left I, still quivering from the energy, started to let in all the voices of all the people who have been saying that they’d like to come to our place at night. It suddenly began to make sense. This place is a nice place and so I just felt like, well, why not? So we’re going to work it out and pretty soon we’ll be open for you. (And this very weekend we’re going to start with Sunday breakfast. Fun, eh?)

So on Wednesday I was still feeling spirited and began to feel like I was emerging from a major slump and emerging felt really good. The balloons were still full of helium and the place looked festive still and I was so happy about our new President. (I was not thrilled that the balloons set off my shop’s motion detectors, making me go in to work in the middle of a nice dinner I had cooked at my house for my sister, but she’s good company so it didn’t matter that much.) And I got an e-mail from our new President and hooked into the new White House website. Amazing.

On Thursday I was part of a fancy dinner for a couple hundred guests, a fundraiser for the scholarship program of our Independent Restaurant Association. I had a BLAST! All of us chefs helped plate each other’s courses and it was a very, very fun night. Big time teamwork. Great food. Big fun. We all want to do more so stay tuned.

And by Friday I was still in a good mood. The balloons were still full (who has ever heard of balloons staying inflated for that long?) And at night I made a birthday dinner for a friend who had gone to the Inauguration and a bunch of friends and I sat around making her tell story after story. “And THEN what happened?’ “And then!?”

Today is Saturday and it’s taken me until night to finish my newsletter because there was a computer glitch. So I left work, took the pup for a walk, and just took a deep breath. No reason to sweat this small annoyance. And when I left work the balloons were still full of helium. And I still felt good.

I’ll be in touch next week.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

in the kitchen with the red Trek

Thoughts of the morning

January 10, 2009

Still haven’t gotten used to this 2009 thing. Yesterday at the bank I wrote and crossed out 2008 a bunch of times before I finally was able to write it correctly. I’m not one who slides into the new with ease.

Tomorrow is the day we will have our staff Christmas party. What? Yup! Historically we’ve always been too full of work and the season and such to be able to carve out time to celebrate on our own. And then we go away, close our doors and go back to our home places, wherever they are, and do the celebrate with family thing. Many of us travel and so the second weekend of January is frequently when we get back together and have time to catch our breath.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Well, actually, I have a lot to do to get ready, but that’s a good thing, because these are things that need to happen. I need to vacuum. I need to pick up the yard (um, not sure that is going to happen by tomorrow), and, oh yes, I need to make my present. See, we do one of those gift exchange games except that each person, if inspired, makes something. And most people make their present right before the party. The cool thing is how inventive people get.

We all make things to eat too. We have, on occasion, brought food in from elsewhere. And we have, a time or two, gone out. But the most fun always seems to be when we each bring a taste of something that we made. Tomorrow I’m making little hamburgers, “Sliders.” We’re making them for a party in a couple of weeks, see, and the idea seemed so good that I’ve decided that will be my contribution. So yes, I have to go to the grocery store too. Sheesh! Lots to do.

In the meantime, I’m still working on getting this body of mine into shape for my bike ride. Three thousand miles is a heck of a lot of miles. (I’ll say!) Last week I rode 20 miles on Sunday. Remember how beautiful it was here? Well, the 20 miles scooted by in a zip. And, as I was pedaling, I thought about these days, these days that are coming right up, of riding all day long for that many days. 20 miles takes a bit more than an hour. At the end of my 20 mile jaunt I went home, sat in the hot tub, lazed around, puttered. I might have gone to bed early. I went to spin class on Monday and Wednesday. I worked out on Tuesday and Friday. But each of those things lasted only a couple of hours. I’m kind of sore from these days of training. But more than that I’m feeling kind of stunned about this whole adventure. In less than two months I’ll be doing nothing but riding fro two whole months. Ohmygod. It’s so hard to believe that I’m going to do this thing.

Okay – enough of that.

I have things to do right here, right now. Brides are beginning to drift in and I have menus to write, proposals to do. I have planning for the three parties I told you about earlier in the newsletter. There are signs to make for our tables. A delivery, later on today. No time to get caught in obsessing about mileage.

I’d better go. If I keep this up I’ll scare myself too badly and there simply is no room for that.

I’ll be in touch next week. See you then if not before.