From the Deep Freeze: Ode to the Onion
It’s hot as blue blazes just about everywhere it seems, and the Mister and I (especially I!) are big believers in the adage of “if you can’t take the heat, then stay out of the kitchen.” So, since we are childless for a few days, we decided to get out of town for the evening. When we left at six-thirty, the temperature was 95 degrees; 33 steep and winding miles later, the thermometer was reading a cool 70. Ahhhhh. Flowers outside a Saluda antiques shop. I loved the yellows of the pot and the chair, perfect for the deep greens and pinks of the geraniums and vinca.The Mister considers mountain cabins on the market. Someday, maybe.I loved these arched windows. Most of the town’s buildings are designated historic sites.
We were eager to re-visit a restaurant we had enjoyed a few weeks ago, with friends and two of our children, for an early Father’s Day dinner. It’s called The Purple Onion, located in Saluda, North Carolina. Specializing in organic, locally sourced, and sustainably harvested produce, seafood, and beef, The Purple Onion offers a casual atmosphere with lots of outdoor tables. Near the covered patio area is a natural mountain spring, surrounded by fern and cress and other native plants.Everything served is fresh and made-to-order on site. Choices offered the night we were there included: corn husk roasted mountain trout, duck breast with balsamic fig and red grape chutney, and an Appalachian green plate special, featuring heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, okra, greens, and beets. Blackberry cobbler for dessert.
Saluda itself is a sweet little place that started as a railroad town. Originally known as Pace’s Gap, the community was primarily a stopover for traders and herders.
As railroads began crossing the country, Captain Charles Pearson, chief engineer of the railway, was sent to determine the best way to traverse the Carolina mountains. After assessing the topography, with its sheer cliffs and multiple underground streams, Pearson made the decision to have the tracks built across Saluda Mountain rather than through the gap. The cost to the railroad and to the community was high. Many lost their lives building the line that became known—and is still known—as the steepest mainline standard gauge grade in North America.
The Carolina Special painted by Howard Fogg. The Special ran from Charleston, SC, to Cincinnati, OH, crossing the 5.3 /100 Saluda grade.
The first passenger train to climb Saluda arrived on July 4, 1879. Soon, some eight passenger trains a day steamed into the tiny depot, occasionally bringing such notable writers and artists as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Dix, who found Saluda a restful haven.
Today the glitterati are long gone; a few art galleries and antiques shops cater to the day trippers. The summer residents enjoy cool mountain hikes and Appalachian sunsets. And, I suspect, frequent dinners at The Purple Onion.
Do you have a favorite quick get-away?