As we wrapped up downtown during our trip to Asheville and the Bele Chere festival, the last little bit of shopping that Marie and I did was walking around the food trucks parked along Pack Square for the Taste of Asheville “food court.” There’s a more traditional, carny-style food court right in the middle of things, around that little park on Patton across from Tupelo Honey Cafe, which reminds me that Marie did stop into that beloved little restaurant to buy herself one of those wonderful rosemary lemonades that they serve there. So anyway, you’ve got all the funnel cakes and the Dippin’ Dots at that one food court, and then a few blocks away at Pack Square, you’ve got nearly a dozen Asheville restaurants serving some of their menu from trucks. You’ve also got the incredibly funny sight of desperate, overheated teens crouched underneath one of the unusual, circular sculptures in the center of the park, hiding in the shadows with bottles of water.
I wouldn’t have noticed the teens had I not needed to tie my shoe. Marie continued making the rounds and saw an Ultimate Ice Cream Company truck and a line fourteen deep. She looked over the menu while I cracked wise with some shirtless young hippie. “They have goat cheese and bing cherry flavor,” Marie exclaimed. “I wish that line wasn’t so long, because I don’t want to stand around in this heat to try some of that.”
Well, I couldn’t make the line go away, but it did occur to me that most of the other food trucks whose names I recognized had companion brick-and-mortar stores somewhere in town, and that perhaps I could find it. Actually, it later transpired that we had already passed one of them. There’s a little Ultimate stand in the alleyway that leads to Creperie Bouchon, but that’s not the one that we ended up visiting.
Our hotel was located on Tunnel Road, across from the city’s first Cook Out store. The original plan had been for us to stop by for dessert after we had supper at Fiddlin Pig, but as mentioned in the previous chapter, we learned that good barbecue place had closed. I liked Cook Out a pretty good bit when we stopped by in November, but my daughter – whatever she was expecting – didn’t like the little order of chicken strips and decided she doesn’t like the place. I figure, judging a restaurant by its chicken strips is kind of like judging it by its napkins. They all come off the same truck, so why complain? She seems to have forgotten that she claimed to have really enjoyed the orange push-up milkshake, because all she had to say, when we drove past Cook Out as we pulled into the hotel, was “No.”
So we checked in, crashed and took naps. I woke first, as I do, and wandered down to the lobby to use their computer. I checked Urbanspoon and learned that Ultimate Ice Cream has a store just a few miles further down Tunnel, in an area of town that we had not seen yet. Then I resolved to keep our new dessert location a secret. This always amuses me, because Marie absolutely loves surprises and the girlchild cannot stand them. “We’re not going to Cook Out for dessert,” I said. “Good,” the child replied, “but where are we going instead?” All that I had to say was “It’s a secret” and she started pulling out her hair in tufts. “Argh! Tell me! Tell me now!”
Everybody was very happy when we found the place. Well, everybody except me. I’d overindulged at dinner and had no room for dessert! The store is in a small office strip mall behind Pomodoros, a popular Greek and Italian place that I would like to visit, and crowds arrive like crashing waves throughout the evening from all over the area. Whether guests have had supper at some place nice and local or at a big chain, everybody in town knows to make their way to Utimate for a scoop or a sundae for dessert.
The two staffers on duty that night were incredibly helpful and seemed to be having a ball and loving their jobs. They let Marie and our daughter try several samples of the forty-odd flavors available and they loved them all. I enjoyed the nibbles that I took, although I felt the key lime was just overpowering. I’m certain that I couldn’t eat a whole scoop of that. Marie settled on the goat cheese and bing cherry that first caught her eye, and my daughter had mint with flaked chocolate. They both absolutely loved them.
The vanilla sample was also wonderful, and I also liked the mystic chai. As with Atlanta’s Morelli’s and Moo Cow down on Saint Simons Island, it’s a place with a fun, vibrant, independent, community-loving spirit and a desire to serve up some silly, unexpected flavors. For the Harry Potter fans, they’ve got butter beer and “Every-Flavor” jelly bean.
They get their blueberries and blackberries from the local Imladris Farms, and they even offer a – get this – hibiscus tamarind strawberry lime sorbet. Somehow, probably because I never look at the sorbet section of menus, I missed that. And here we are, not really able to get back to Asheville until 2012, and when we do make it back, we probably won’t get to try more than one or two new restaurants because all the ones that we love are calling our hearts, and any potential “new” dessert place is going to be sidelined by a return here!
Other blog posts about Ultimate: