Thursday, July 31, 2014

Carolinas Rock Southern Barbecue

You know you are in the land of 'cue when USA Today's 10 Best Southern Barbecue spots include four in the Carolinas. Yep....three of the top 10 are in North Carolina (natch!) and one is in South Carolina. Here's the rundown:

Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q - Monroe, NC
Customers come from all over the South to pay their respects to the Alabama barbecue legend Big Bob Gibson, whose descendants now operate a handful of locations. The assortment of dry-rubbed meats come with sauce on the side, the better to showcase why the restaurant has won more than 10 World BBQ Championship titles

Lexington Barbecue - Lexington, NC
Founded by Wayne Monk in 1962, some locals refer to one of North Carolina's most decorated barbecue spots as "The Monk." The staff continues Monk's technique of cooking only pork shoulders for roughly 10 hours over oak or hickory coals. For a true local experience, be sure to order the state's most famous drink, the cherry soda Cheerwine and a chopped BBQ sandwich.

Skylight Inn - Ayden, NC
Founded by Pete Jones in 1947, this decorated BBQ shack is now run by Jones's grandson, Sam. The menu consists of two items: pulled pork sandwiches topped with coleslaw and a dish of pulled pork with cornbread and coleslaw. The pork comes from whole pigs that are split in half, then slow-roasted over oak fires in open-air pits. Jones can usually be seen hand-chopping the meat daily, with crowds lining up out the door.

Scott's Bar-B-Que - Hemingway, SC
The ever-smiling Rodney Scott has earned his place on the present-day Mt. Rushmore of barbecue. Scott cuts down the hickory, oak, and pecan trees used to power the concrete pits he uses to produce some of the nation's most decorated whole-hog 'cue. Scott keeps busy mopping his meat with his special secret vinegar-pepper sauce. Few patrons seems to mind his eatery's lack of amenities.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hotel Domestique a Perfect Travelers Rest

We're always on the lookout for unique hotels in the Carolinas. And we found a gem in the mountain town of Travelers Rest. First of all, what could be better than a hotel in a town called Travelers Rest. It just conjures up the perfect image of a restful stay after a day of travel. And that's exactly what Hotel Domestique, just 20 miles north of Greenville, South Carolina, offers up.

Opened in 2013, Hotel Domestique is owned by cycling legend George Hincapie. Known for his participation in a record 17 Tour de France bike races, Hincapie has created a cycling Mecca on his 30-acre, 13-room French chateau-like hotel. As well as a place of rest and rejuvenation in the heart of the Upcountry. Each of the rooms are named for an area found along the Tour de France route and feature spacious accommodations, sleek and understated decor, a large bathroom with double vanities and a shower large enough for two, iPad concierge service, gas fireplaces in some rooms, stunning views of nearby vineyards and mountains, and a complimentary pantry filled with an espresso machine, cold drinks, wine and snacks.

Fountain garden at Hotel Domestique
The public spaces are equally restorative including a cozy library complete with fireplace, a stunning lobby, a lovely fountain garden, a tranquil pool, a cafe for coffees and lunch, and sensational Restaurant 17 overlooking it all for French continental breakfasts and a full dinner menu by renowned Chef Adam Cooke. There's even a small gift shop off the lobby that carries riding jerseys and other biking gear, as well as copies of Hincapie's candid autobiography, The Loyal Lieutenant

Hotel Domestique (which translates to the French word for servant and is used throughout the cycling community as a road racer who works for the benefit of his team and leader) is an ideal destination for cycling enthusiasts because of the miles of rolling hills and climbs throughout the mountainous area. Mountain biking is also a draw at nearby state parks such as Dupont, Caesars Head and Table Rock. The staff can give you loads of suggestions of idyllic rides, as well as offer up BMC rental road bikes, ride-programmed GPS, varied biking packages, and several 'Ride with George' outings and events. 

But if biking isn't your thing, there's still plenty to do at Hotel Domestique. From golfing at nearby courses to hiking to excursions to Asheville and downtown Greenville or simply lingering by the pool, there's something for everyone regardless of your definition of travelers rest.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

World Beer Festival Headed Back to Durham, North Carolina

The World Beer Festival, sponsored by All About Beer Magazine, is headed back to Durham for the 19th year and is setting up at the newly renovated Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown on October 11, 2014. This beer Mecca is definitely a cut above the rest with more than a dozen new breweries pouring some of the country's best beers. This years' event will also feature educational programs and a new Taste of Belgium beer garden.

In years' past, the event has gotten a bit too large and congested. So the festival planners are cutting attendance by 35% and restructuring the layout to better accommodate true beer aficionados with more space, less lines, and better opportunity to sample beers. But, due to the decrease in tickets, an early sellout is anticipated. So you better hurry.

General admission to the World Beer Festival-Durham is $55 which includes a tasting glass and unlimited 2oz. pours from over 200 beers, access into the Art of Beer Experience, the Belgian beer garden, and festival seminars. VIP admission tickets are $70 and have added access to a private, air-conditioned hospitality area, private bathrooms, and a bonus selection of rare beers not available to the general public.There are two sessions on October 11, 12-4pm and 6-10pm.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Euphoric Food, Wine and Music in Greenville, South Carolina

Euphoria's Sunday Supper at Wyche Pavilion 

The fall wine & food festival season is ramping up and we get a little euphoric this time of year. And it doesn't get much better than Euphoria in hot Greenville, South Carolina. Running September 18-21, Euphoria is jam-packed with all you can eat, sip and listen to in this four-day celebration.

Kicking off the weekend on Thursday is a choice between the Songwriter's Recipe, featuring an intimate "behind the music" event with legendary songwriters Tom Nichols, rivers Rutherford and Bob DiPiero as they talk about the music making process and sing some of their favorites and Swine and Dine, a soil-to-city whole-hog roast with craft beers, craft spirits, tasty wines, and plenty of music to wash it all down with.

Friday features food, wine and music VIP Experiences for VIP ticket holders and then Euphoria kicks into high gear with the Taste of the South under the stars in downtown Greenville. Groove along the soothing currents of the Reedy River with live music and dine on Southern dishes created by some of the Upstate's finest chefs and restaurants. There will be plenty of amazing wines and beers to pair with the evening's festivities.

Saturday brings together a full-day of wine, beer and food with the Tasting Showcase along Main Street. Here you will have a chance to sip, sample, taste and learn with acclaimed chefs, local culinary stars, master sommeliers and talented musicians at the grand wine tasting, craft beer garden, gourmet food and spirits sampling, wine seminars and cooking demonstrations. When the sun goes down, choose from either the Traffic Jam, a full-on food truck rodeo, or one of several guest chef wine dinners at some of Greenville's finest restaurants. Finish out the evening with the infamous Lambs + Clams after-party and enjoy tasty late night bites of Border Springs Farm Lamb and Rappahannock Oysters.

Recover from Saturday's festitivies at the Sunday Jazz Brunch when chefs from nearly 20 local restaurants put their best foot forward at a full-on New Orleans-style brunch. And you can put your best foot forward with big band music from the South Carolina Jazz Orchestra and the cool trumpet sounds of Mark Rapp and the requisite Sunday morning Bloody Mary's and bubbly.

The weekend winds down Sunday night with a spectacular farm-to-table experience at Sunday Supper. Guests will have an opportunity to bread bread with the elite line-up of the weekend's local and guest chefs, artisan cocktails, and soothing dinner music under the stars at the Wyche Pavilion. We can't think of a better way to close out this amazing taste of Euphoria!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bluegrass Great Pens Theme Song for Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival

Rhonda Vincent performing at the Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival where she will be singing Bluegrass Island in 2014. 

The Outer Banks Bluegrass Festival has something to brag about this year. Bluegrass queen, Rhonda Vincent, has written a theme song for the 3rd annual event and it serves as a tribute to the entities that have helped garner national recognition for the OBX Bluegrass Festival, including the Island venue and the spectacular fireworks show.

A bluegrass singer-songwriter, and performer at the festival, Vincent said she envisioned the sights, sounds and feelings the setting brings to bluegrass music and takes the listener on a musical journey through the event. She'll be performing the tribute, entitled Bluegrass Island, live during the festival, scheduled for September 25-28 on Roanoke Island, North Carolina. Other performers during the four-day event include bluegrass standouts, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, The Lonesome River Bank, The Steep Canyon Rangers, Balsam Range, Russelll Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Blue Highway, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Dailey & Vincent, and more. In addition to the live performances, there are jam sessions held in the parking lot and host hotel, The Elizabethan Inn, dancing, band competitions and lots of other activities.

BoomGrass fireworks show at the Outer Banks Bluegrass
Festival will include the new song by Rhonda Vincent,
Bluegrass Island, at the 2014 event.  
Photo Credit:  Coastland Times Newspaper, Manteo, NC
And then there is the piece de resistance with BoomGrass, a spectacular fireworks show held during the festival from barges anchored behind the stage over the water and choreographed to bluegrass music. It is said that it is the largest fireworks show in the state of North Carolina.

A four day pass is $110 and a daily pass is $40. VIP and Weekend Backstage Passes are also available. All tickets can be purchased at Come celebrate the music of America at the OBX Bluegrass Festival and be one of the first people to see Rhonda Vincent perform her ode to the festival, Bluegrass Island.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Asheville, North Carolina's Chefs Challenge Running through August

Cheers to the Asheville Scene Chefs Challenge at Pack's Tavern, Asheville, North Carolina

The Asheville Scene Chefs Challenge has begun and things will continue to heat up until the final battle during the Asheville Wine & Food Festival August 21-23. Area chefs are pitted against one another in an Iron Chef-style competition that will culminate with the crowning of the Asheville Wine & Food Festival 2014 Best Chef at the Grand Tasting on Saturday, August 23. And the coolest part is that you get to help decide who will make it to the final battle. Each chef will prepare three courses and they will be voted on by the dining audience each night, as well as a panel of professional chefs, food writers, and culinary experts. The competition kicked off July 1 and will continue every Tuesday evening through August 12 at Pack's Tavern Century Room in downtown Asheville. You can check out the brackets and purchase tickets here.

And that's just the appetizer! The Asheville Wine & Food Festival is loaded with other tasty culinary events to enjoy before the Best Chef is crowned. On Thursday, enjoy all things spirits at Elixir, a night devoted to cocktails and mixology. Enjoy meeting the distillers, cheering on local bartenders in a mixology competition, sample the latest and greatest concoctions, and dance the night away with live entertainment and hors d'ourves. The location of Elixir is secret (a throwback to prohibition) and you'll find out 48 hours before the event. Make it even more special by purchasing the Elixir and Lazoom bus combo and be taken on a fun and quirky round-trip to the secret location, along with a side-splitting guided tour of some of Asheville's favorite neighborhoods and landmarks after the event.

If chocolate, cakes, tarts and pastries are more your thing, then you might prefer Sweet on August 22 for an evening of delectable and delights. Hosted at the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville, the evening will feature local bakers, chocolatiers and patissiers sampling their sweets and confections. There will also be wines, sparkling champagnes, beers and spirits to wash it all down with. And the vendors will stay open late so you can browse amongst the crafts, jewelry and furnishings of Grove Arcade shops.

The weekend will culminate on Saturday with the Grand Tasting at the U.S. Cellular Center. Featuring wine distributors and winemakers, area brewers, regional distillers, restaurateurs and chefs, farmers and artisan food producers, the afternoon will be filled with tasty sampling, cooking demonstrations, winemaking competitions and the Asheville Scene Chefs Challenge finale.

Check out the Asheville Wine & Food Festival website for more information and tickets and plan to get your foodie on in July and August in Asheville!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Celebrate Bastille Day with the Carolinas only French Master Chef

Who better to host a premier Bastille Day celebration than the only French Master Chef in the Carolinas, Chef Nico Romo of Fish restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. Born in Lyon, France, Chef Romo is a classically trained chef and is the youngest ever to be awarded the coveted title Master Chef of France. He's part of an elite assembly of only 52 recipients nationwide who are regarded as the most highly skilled in techniques and traditions of the French culinary art.

And Chef Romo will put all his skills on display at the sixth-annual Bastille day event at Fish restaurant on Monday, July 14. There are two dining options for the evening, depending on how you'd like to celebrate:

Vive la Revolution, Vive la Celebration!
French fare, French-inspired cocktails and champagne specials, live music, pentanque, costume and cake eating contests, pommes frites guillotine and much more. The festivities will run from 4:30-10pm in the Fish Bar & Second Floor of the restaurant.

Dine like Royalty, Party with the People
Savor a four-course menu of traditional French dishes with an optional wine paring served in the dining room in two acts amid the evening's entertainment program. The Princes dinner will be from 6:30-9pm with an intermission and costs $40 for the dinner and $50 with the French wine pairings.

Entertainment for all will include a Storm the Bastille march from Marion Square and a performance of the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, can-can peformances and a French costume contest, a cake eating contest and a French national anthem finale. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made by calling 843-722-3474.

Vive la France!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Charleston, South Carolina Receives Top Accolades from Travel & Leisure

Aerial view of the peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina

For the second consecutive year, Charleston, South Carolina is the No. 1 City in the U.S. and Canada according to Travel + Leisure's 2014 World's Best Awards. And if that weren't enough, Charleston was also ranked No. 2 City in the WORLD in the annual reader's poll.

Each year, Travel + Leisure readers vote on their favorite hotels, cities, islands, spas, cruise lines, airlines, tour outfitters, and car rental agencies. The results are featured in the annual August issue of the magazine, as well as online. And those weren't the only top honors that were bestowed upon Charleston this year. The city also claimed four of the top five Top Small City Hotels in the Continental U.S. (fewer than 100 rooms):
1. Planters Inn
2. French Quarter Inn
4. Wentworth Mansion
5. Market Pavilion Hotel. 

Other accolades included:
Top Hotels Overall (worldwide):
26. Planters Inn
54. French Quarter Inn
85. Wentworth Mansion

Top Islands iun the Continenetal U.S. and Canada:
5. Kiawah Island

Top Resorts in the Continental U.S.:
29. The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Check out the complete results of the 2014 World's Best Awards at or in the August issue of the magazine, on newsstands July 18.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Butterflies Land in Southeastern North Carolina

Exotic butterflies abound at the Butterfly Bungalow at The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, North Carolina

A new exhibit landed at The North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher this spring with the arrival of the new Butterfly Bungalow. Located in what was an empty, grassy area adjacent to the main parking lot, the 1,800 square foot greenhouse-like Butterfly Bungalow and gardens took flight this past spring in Kure Beach, south of Wilmington, North Carolina.

With hundreds of exotic butterflies from around the world, visitors have a chance to see them flitting about freely, dancing around tropical plants, and occasionally, landing on their heads, arms and noses. The Butterfly Bungalow and Gardens starts at a pupa house where visitors view the chrysalis stage of the insects' life cycle, when they transform from caterpillar to butterfly. A path then winds through an ocean-friendly native-butterfly garden on to the entrance to the Bungalow. Species once inside vary but some of the more unique butterflies to spot include the vibrant blue morphos, native to Latin America and the emerald swallowtails or red lacewings, both found in Asia.

The Butterfly Bungalow is a temporary exhibit through October 2014. It has a separate admission of $3 from the regular Aquarium admission. But that's a small price to pay for the sheer delight kids (and kids at heart) will have dancing around with these beautiful creatures.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sweet Happenings at Sugar Mountain, North Carolina

Take a chair lift to Sugar Mountain's 5,300' summit all summer long

Think the mountains of North Carolina are simply for skiing? Then think again. The folks at Sugar Mountain have put together a sweet schedule of events for summer and fall that will more than tide you over until ski season.

4th of July Celebration - July 4
Soak in nature's beauty and get lost in American patriotism as you watch the area's 4th of July fireworks while you relax in a lift chair on your way to Sugar Mountain's 5,300 foot summit. Purchase your all your cold weather gear during the 4th of July Winter Sale when everything in the shop is on sale all weekend.

BBQ Boot Camp - July 18-19
The North Carolina Barbecue Society will host BBQ Boot Camp with certified BBQ judge classes and their will be destination events attended by barbecue and food enthusiasts from all over the world.

SugarBrew - August 2
Sample an array of craft, import and domestic beers, wines & spirits at this year's 3rd Annual SugarBew Festival. Take a ski-lift ride to the 5,300 peak, listen to live music and dine on a selection of American summer specialties.

Oktoberfest - October 11-12
A weekend jam packed with eclectic range of beer and brat activities, the 24th Annual Oktoberfest features Bavarian music by the Harbourtown Fest band, Bavarian bratwurst and lots of other German and American food & beverages, a children's fun center, hay rides, a craft fair, lift rides, winter sports shop sales, and much more.

Hiking & Biking - May 1-October 19
From dawn until dusk, enjoy hiking & biking on the Sugar Mountain trail system that winds its way throughout the Village of Sugar Mountain for free. Trail maps are available at the base of Sugar Mountain. Check out what you could be doing (and increase your heart rate) by watching the summit to base in five minutes video.

Golf & Tennis - all summer long
If golf and tennis are all you need to keep you happy this summer, the Village of Sugar Mountain operates six fast dry clay tennis courts and an 18-hole executive golf course.

See you on the slopes this summer (and fall) at Sugar Mountain!