Welcome back to those returning. For newcomers, I am Morgan Bost, your host and local comic tasked with bringing you the chuckles each month in exchange for much needed external validation. Never one to work harder (or smarter for that matter), I’ve called up three of my funniest friends and fellow comedians — Becca Steinhoff, Nora Tramm and Peter Lundblad — to get their advice on everything from pet-friendly adventures to fine-ish dining around town.
Whether you are visiting Asheville for the first time or identify as a local (a term people can only truly use if they have documented evidence that their lineage dates back at least three generations), this month’s “Best Medicine” is here to offer up tips and ticks — I mean tricks — to help you maximize your summer fun.
Bost: Earlier this month, while squinting through the haze blown in from Canadian wildfires, I grew concerned for the safety of our part-time Florida snowbird population. In the event of another code orange air quality alert, which advises older and younger folks to stay inside, how can people still satisfy their thrill for the great outdoors? Where in Western North Carolina can folks quench their thirst for wet and wild adventure under the gentle breeze of an AC unit?
Peter Lundblad: Three words: stink bug rodeo. The number of insects invading our homes goes up in the summertime, and luckily for everyone, these bugs can infiltrate AC units as well. Since crochet is trendy, make little costumes for your “guests” and set up a circuslike arena for them to perform in. Most stink bugs will work for minimal pay and, unless you get a spider into the mix, they usually don’t think to unionize. If they do unionize — and if you’re a kind and merciful ringleader — cut a deal quickly, give them a good health plan, and they’ll simmer down.
Becca Steinhoff: Might I recommend a tour of your favorite Walmart? Nothing like a big-box store with a big-box fan to really rile up the locals and work up a good sweat. Perhaps a jog through the flat-screen aisle. If box stores aren’t your thing, you can always take your family to a trampoline park if you want to pelt foam at your children so they fall into the pit or watch them narrowly escape 100 other children running at full speed in rubber socks.
Nora Tramm: Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, an epic open-world Nintendo game, has been out for about a month. (I hope you appreciate me taking time off from playing it to answer these questions.) Who needs sweat, blisters and bug bites? In the comfort of your Airbnb’s spacious living room (if you’re a visitor to our area) or your combination bedroom/office/yoga studio/hotboxing den (if you’re a local), you can vicariously climb and hang glide all over the beautiful kingdom of Hyrule. (Safety note/area tip: unlike in Hyrule, you cannot ride the bears in Asheville.)
Bost: I will see your three words, Peter, and offer you my own: open-mic comedy. It is one of the only live performance experiences where you leave feeling superior to the artist. (I say this as an open-mic comic.) Such events are a fun and free way to show your family that your life decisions actually could be worse. While it may not be the same as scaling Mount Pisgah, watching underinsured comics work through their trauma in front of a live audience is sure to give you an adrenaline rush. Don’t enjoy comedy? No worries! You will find very little of it at open-mic night.
Last month, I asked parents about the worst place in Asheville for a human child to have a meltdown. This month, I’m asking about the fur babies. Where in WNC proves the biggest pain for your pet? Are there places Fido feels particularly “furrocious?” The vet? The dog park? Weekly chakra readings?
Lundblad: My pet rocks Todd and Velveeta have both been asked to leave the Asheville mall more than once. Apparently, humans can build a vast cavern system with snacks at the end, but any critter that is naturally drawn to caves is “unwelcome.” We should embrace the mall as a modern cave system. ATMs built into stalagmites; stalactites that double as selfie sticks. I, myself, would happily go to the mall more often if I could look at ancient, days-old cave paintings across a smoothie booth.
Steinhoff: My dog Pele is a shar-pei-lab mix who loves me so ferociously (with so much jowls and slobber) that the most dangerous place to bring her is somewhere another animal wants my attention. She gets very jealous. Carrier Park is her favorite place to learn over and over again, that I don’t need her to protect me. I just need her to be the softest and to accept the attention she gets for being very funny looking.
Tramm: Like other bold Asheville nonconformists, I’ve been trying to train my cat, Riley, to be an adventure cat. He loves his little harness, and he’s always excited to go outside. Where he eats grass. And eats more grass. And hisses at you if you try to get him to stop eating grass. I used to fantasize about taking him out for an afternoon on the lawn at Zillicoah Beer Co. Now when I look upon that verdant expanse, all I can see is an acre’s worth of grass for this a-hole to consume and subsequently hork up on my carpet. Riley, babe, you blew it. You’re gonna have to stay inside and watch me play Tears of the Kingdom instead.
Bost: Having been mentioned in the last column, my cats Leopold and Gertrude have again demanded an appearance. (Amazing how quickly fame goes to the head.) Gert has unfortunately inherited my social anxiety, thus making every public place her worst nightmare. If more than three people are at the apartment, she excuses herself to the bedroom, unable to handle the pressure of being so cute around so many. Leo, on the other hand, loves people. He’s much more doglike than cat. The vet once labeled him a “frat boy” due to his rambunctious behavior. Given this, I imagine the worst place to take him would be the South Slope, where throngs of fraternity brothers and bachelor parties roam the streets puking and yelling and causing the utmost mayhem, much like Leo at breakfast time.
The Xpress has cooked up a new monthly column, “Fresh Dish,” by reporter Andy Hall, which debuted this month. It spotlights local chefs and dishes. The inaugural column featured my favorite local chef, Katie Button. Not to be outdone, “Best Medicine” will also be providing insider tips on local cuisine. Unable to secure a celebrity chef, I’ve asked this month’s guest columnists to call up their favorite line cooks for tips and tricks for dining around WNC. Everything from where to cure that nasty hangover using only leftover change from Fiesta Laundry to the best local ingredients to pair with vape juice and energy drinks. Consider the gauntlet thrown, Andy.
Lundblad: I recently learned three little tips for the perfect breakfast burrito. No.1: Only eat vegetables for three days prior to the planned consumption. (Cabbage and cauliflower are the best choices, as they are barely food to begin with.) No. 2: Call a loquacious cousin or friend and stay up all night with them drinking Yoo-hoo and arguing about fluoride in the water. No.3: Buy a burrito. Under these conditions, any breakfast burrito can taste like Christmas in a tube.
Steinhoff: I’ve been in Asheville for so long that the best food I would recommend is from places that don’t exist anymore. I would go to Doc Chey’s every day if I could. Now it’s a dumpling house. I want a burrito from Lucky Otter, but it’s location now houses a ramen place. I would go to Blue Dream Curry House, but I won’t even go look to see what it’s turned into now. I realize this is the opposite of helpful, but I feel Asheville people can lament with me here. Fortunately, you can still go get raw vegan at Laughing Seed Cafe if you’re feeling nostalgic.
Tramm: In the debut “Fresh Dish” feature, I see Katie Button recommends ramps and xuixo. That sounds delicious, but tell me this, Katie Button: Will scarfing down a plate of allium-smothered Spanish pastry pull you back from the brink of death after being trampled by an angry lion-centaur? Because the meat skewers that you can cook in Tears of the Kingdom will. Looks like the real world is zero for three in this matchup.
Bost: Given my proclivity for heartache, I’ve chosen to abstain from further interaction with line cooks. However, having recently found myself unemployed, I can certainly tell you the best place to grab a bite on a budget. First off, did you know that you can go to Papa John’s and order just the garlic butter? It’s true! I’ve lived it. Might I suggest stocking up at multiple locations to not draw suspicion?
Once your pockets are brimming with butter sauce, linger outside of PIE.ZAA, my favorite place for a slice. Inevitably, naive tourists on foot will severely underestimate the vast enormity of a full pie and have nowhere to place their leftovers. Heroic, you walk by and offer to take it off their hands, sustainability being of utmost importance. Now you have the best pizza paired with the best sauce for a fraction of the cost! (I didn’t intend for that last line to rhyme, but pizza poetry flows through me.)