Tuesday, April 15, 2014

BBQ Capital Cook-off in the North Carolina Mecca

Any North Carolinian will tell you that Lexington is the Mecca of Carolina 'cue. And that's never truer than during the annual BBQ Capital Cook-off. Now in it's fourth year, the BBQ Capital Cook-off will serve up the aroma and taste of freshly grilled barbecue throughout the streets of downtown Lexington April 25-26.

This years event will include 72 barbecue teams from across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic (including the defending champs, Two Old Men and a Grill) competing in four categories--pork, chicken, ribs, and brisket. And with more than $15,000 in prizes, the real winner will be the folks who attend this free festival. Not only will there be tons of barbecue to taste, but attendees also get a chance to talk 'cue with some of the nation's best cooks, purchase sauces and rubs, and listen to two days of live music. There will also be plenty of wine from nearby vineyards in the Yadkin Valley, as well as a beer garden serving North Carolina craft brews.

And if that's still not enough 'cue for you, you can plan to visit all 19 barbecue restaurants in the Lexington area, where the renowned heritage of slow-cooking pork shoulders over hickory is alive and well.

Make plans to attend the BBQ Capital Cook-off and long live North Carolina 'cue!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Five Star Dining and Craft Cider in the Triangle of North Carolina

Cider is hot. And we're not talking about hot apple cider. We're talking artisanal craft-brewed cider that is one of the hottest beverages out there. And everyone is abuzz about apples at Herons, the signature Forbes Five Star, AAA Five Diamond restaurant at The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, North Carolina as they host a dinner on April 17 with Foggy Ridge Cider and Orchadist Diane Flynt. Featuring the signature progressive American style of cuisine of Herons Executive Chef Scott Crawford and the perfectly balanced craft blends of Foggy Ridge, the dinner is sure to be a great celebration of spring.

Foggy Ridge Cider is the brainchild of cidermaker Diane Flynt who is dedicated to quality fruit, impeccable grafting and pruning methods, as well as stingent picking and blending skills. All of these attributes combine to produce a cider with good acidity and lower alcohol content that make her blends a perfect complement to food. Don't believe us? Check out the menu:

Dinner Menu

Border Springs Lamb Carpaccio
Rappahannock River Oysters, Basil-Mustard
“Sweet Stayman” Cocktail: A lightly sweet blend of the Virginia Stayman apple with heirloom varieties such as Gribes Golden and Cox’s Orange Pippin

First Course
Carolina Mountain Trout
Blue Crab, Fish Skin Crackling, Fennel Broth
“Serious Cider:” Crisp and light, a mix of traditional English cider apples with Tremlett’s Bitter and Dabinett and tart American favorites like Ashmead’s Kernel and Roxbury Russet

Second Course
Smoked Veal Sweet Breads
Hickory Barbecue, Charred Ramps, Fava Beans
“First Fruit:” A blend of early season American heirloom apples that create a rich and fruity cider with a lively acidity

Main Course
Heritage Farms Pork
Tenderloin, Rillettes, Trotter, Chicharrones
“Handmade:” Made from Newtown Pippin apples, it offers beautiful soft tannins and a delicate apple flavor with light notes of pear

Earl Grey Tea Cake
Roasted Apricots, Linzer, Warm Honey Caramel

“Pippin Gold:” A unique blend of 100% Newtown Pippin hard cider and apple brandy from Laird and Company, the country’s oldest distiller

The evening begins with a reception at 6:30 followed by dinner. Tickets are $85 per person, exlcluding tax and gratuity. Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling 919-447-4000.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

South Carolina Culinary Tour Operator Hosts Dinner Series

Celebrating the local bounty of the season with Charleston Culinary Tours
Culinary tours are all the rage and Charleston Culinary Tours doesn't disappoint. Combining the best of Charleston's history, architecture, food, and cocktails, Charleston Culinary Tours offers five different tours including Downtown, Upper King Street, Chef's Kitchen, Chef's Showcase at the Farmer's Market, and Mixology and all of them showcase the best of the Lowcountry.

And to extend their offerings, Charleston Culinary Tours has put together a Fresh at the Farm Dinner Series featuring Executive Chef Stephen Thompson of Prohibition, a new American gastro pub that's bringing the swing back to Upper King. The dinners will be truly farm-to-table with a table set for 40 guests at a Charleston-area farm and will feature a cocktail hour with hors d'oeuvres and a family style dinner. Three dinners have been scheduled for May, August and November, each celebrating the local bounty of the season.

The first dinner of the series will be held May 4th at Walters Farm in Saint George. Owner/Farmer Steven Walter and Chef Thompson are childhood friends and seriously promote the concept of knowing the source of your ingredients. Chef Thompson even (jokingly) refers to Steven as "his personal farmer." Steven personally grows and harvests everything on his farm and makes the 45-minute trek to delivery it personally to his old friend, often to find the vegetables served later that same day.

Celebrate spring at the Fresh at the Farm Dinner Series with Charleston Culinary Tours.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival is Tops in the Southeast

The Blue Ridge Wine and Food Festival in Blowing Rock, North Carolina features wine tastings and pairings, classes, seminars, wine dinners, and the Grand Tasting (Photo by Lonnie Webster Photography)

The Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival, considered one of the top ten festivals in the Southeast by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, is celebrating their 9th helping April 10-13 with an expanded array of events and venues and showcasing the early springtime ambiance of the charming town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina.

In addition to a full slate of established classes, popular wine pairings, and tasty tastings and dinner, this year's festival adds additional downtown tent locations and two tasting sessions, an opening night TASTE! event showcasing local restaurants, a Friday night concert by Jonny Kaplan under the Grand Tasting Tent, and the inaugural Corckscrew 5K.

The weekend kicks off on Thursday with a full line-up of classes, seminars, wine pairings, and even a wine tasting and painting class. Thursday evening brings wine dinners, fundraisers and the newest addition to the weekend, TASTE!, featuring signature dishes presented by area restaurants, along with samplings of wine and beer, and live music.

Friday is filled with more classes and seminars, wine tastings, cooking classes, and more. The options for Friday night include five different wine dinners featuring celebrated area restaurants and local, national and international wineries, concerts, and a Mountain Jam & Moonshine Tasting.

Saturday starts out mellow with pancake breakfasts and coffee cuppings, or high-energy with the Corkscrew 5k. Then make your way to the tents on Main Street for one of several Grand Tastings or Grand Reserve Tastings. But be sure to save some room for the evening events including wine flights and live music, whiskey tastings, concerts, and even a Musical Murder Mystery.

Sunday, the weekend comes to a close with the popular Jazz & Bubbles Brunch.

Full details can be found at the Blue Ridge Wine & Food Festival website, along with tickets and lodging packages.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley Opens for the Season

Chef John Fleer selecting some vegetable and herbs from Lonesome Valley's community garden
to be served at Canyon Kitchen, Cashiers, North Carolina

Celebrating his sixth season at Canyon Kitchen, Chef John Fleer is welcoming guests for the season at Canyon Kitchen in the rustically elegant Jennings Barn at the foot of Cow Rock Canyon at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, North Carolina.

Serving weekends through mid-May and then resuming its regular seasonal operation of Wednesday through Sunday beginning the week of May 12, Canyon Kitchen offers an exceptional dining experience in the Blue Ridge Mountains with a style of cuisine and hospitality that is most often seen in the bigger dining Meccas. From the spectacular country setting surrounded by forests and meadows, to the detailed craftsmanship of the Barn's traditional post and beam architecture, to the informal and playful culinary creations that strike a chord of the food history of Southern Appalachia and the broader South.

Chef Fleer came to Canyon Kitchen after a notable 14-year career as Executive Chef of Blackberry Farm. Named one of the "Rising Stars of the 21st Century" by the James Beard Foundation and three-time finalist for the James Beard "Best Chef in the Southeast" award, John is known for transforming local ingredients into world-class cuisine. Featuring fresh produce and organic selections from Lonesome Valley's own community garden and the surrounding western NC area, sample menu selections include: smoked Sunburst Trout cakes with charred tomato vinaigrette; garden lettuces and summer stone fruit with honeyed goat cheese, spiced pistachios, and blackberry-lavender vinaigrette; rhubarb-glazed Heritage pork tenderloin; and blueberry and brown butter tart with creamsicle sherbert, white chocolate, and thyme creme chantilly.

They have also started planning their event calendar for the season, which includes a Forage to Table Dinner with Alan Muskat, a Maysara Winery Dinner, and a Kermit Lynch Wine Dinner. So whether dinner for two or a special event for the family, check out Canyon Kitchen next time your travels take you to the North Carolina mountains. Or if you are headed to Asheville instead of Cashiers, check out Chef Fleer's new ode to southern food, shared experiences, and personal memories at his new downtown restaurant, Rhubarb.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

April Welcomes the Return of North Carolina Beer Month

April has officially been declared Beer Month in North Carolina, one of the nation's top craft beer states. And the state is celebrating all things beer and the crafstmanship of 100 breweries and destinations throughout the state all month long. The effort, sponsored by the North Carolina Division of Tourism and the N.C. Craft Brewers Guild, helps to direct travelers to varied beerscapes throughout the state. From brewery-rich cities and towns to lesser-known gems in unexpected places, the effort features major festivals, singular events, special-edition beers, lodging packages, beer dinners, brew schools, the state's bounty of breweries, and more.

The NC Beer Month website allows you to seek out events and happenings by date or location in more than 20 cities and regions of North Carolina and in more than 100 venues spread throughout the state. They've also crafted several beer trip ideas and put together travel packages that combine accommodations, meals, beers, and other tasty add-ons. So celebrate the spring harvest with malt, barley and hops during NC Beer Month.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Richard Petty Museum to Return to Level Cross, North Carolina

Painting of Richard "The King" Petty by Stephen Holland

All you race car fans, it's time to plan a trip to the original Petty family compound in Level Cross, North Carolina, the new home of the Richard Petty Museum. After being housed in Randleman, North Carolina for the past 10 years, the museum has returned home to Level Cross, on the site of the original Petty Engineering and later Petty Enterprises race shop, the same facilities where The King developed many of the cars that led him to a record seven Grand National and Winston Cup championships and 200 career wins.

Founded in 1988 by Richard Petty's wife, Lynda, the museum houses memorabilia and personal collections of the most decorated American stock car driver and his family. After the relocation and renovation, the museum plans to expand to honor team patriarch, Lee Petty, including the "Reaper Shed," the first home of Petty Engineering where Lee Petty founded the family dynasty. The museum will also include the Dodge Barn, built in the days of the team's close connection to Dodge and Plymouth and offer opportunities to visit the Lee Petty house, where both The King and his brother Maurice were born. The new-look museum will also feature exhibits of the Petty family's four members in the NASCAR Hall of Fame (Lee, Richard, Dale Inman and Maurice), "Mr. and Mrs. The King" from the Pixar film "Cars" and the family's many contributions to the sport of stock car racing.

The new and improved Richard Petty Museum is located at 309 Branson Mill Rd. in Level Cross and is open Monday through Saturday 9am-5pm.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Catch the Spirit(s) at South Carolina Cocktail Supper

Cocktails are all the rage and our friends at Circa 1886 in Charleston are getting into the spirit(s). On Wednesday, April 16th, Circa 1886 will be collaborating with Charleston's Striped Pig Distillery and High Wire Distilling Co. for a Cocktail Supper. The four course dinner will pair a delightful taste of spring with alternating Striped Pig rum and moonshine cocktails and High Wire "Hat Trick" gin and vodka cocktails.

Circa 1886 lead bartender Brooks Alger and Sommelier Mark Severs gathered libation inspiration from the Savoy Cocktail Book, a classic go-to for bartenders that comprises a collection of recipes from The American Bar, a cocktail lounge inside London's first luxury hotel, The Savoy. The book shares American Bar recipes which catered to the era's concern with "supreme gentility and extraordinary fun." Alger and Severs revived a handful of these Prohibition-era cocktail recipes for supper, adding a modern twist and an updated spirit selection.

The four cocktails on the menu are The Margato with Striped Pig Rum, served with Seared Sea Scallops, Jalapeno Pineapple Salsa, Morello Cherry Lacquer, Jasmine Rice Cake and Lime Bubbles; The Jasmine Cocktail featuring High Wire "Hat Trick" Gin, served with Juniper Brined Duck Breast, Pea Shoots, Sweet Potato Salad, Peanuts, Beech Mushrooms, Watermelon Radish and a Poached Cippolini Onion Vinaigrette; a Cinnamon Moscow Mule featuring High Wire Vodka, served with Curry Braised Veal Osso Bucco, Coconut Mashed Potatoes, Grilled Baby Carrots, Fennel Chow Chow, Frisee Bell Pepper Salad; and a Bee Sting with Striped Pig Moonshine to accompany a sweet finish of Blueberry Fried Pie and homemade Buttermilk Ice Cream. See the full menu and get more information here.

The Cocktail Supper begins with a 6:30 reception on the patio of Circa 1886, set inside the garden of the historic Wentworth Mansion. Seats are $65 per person, plus tax and gratuity. Call (843) 853-7828 to make reservations.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Largest SUP Yoga Class in Hilton Head, South Carolina

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa, Outside Hilton Head, and BIC Stand Up Paddleboards are attempting to stage the world's largest in-water, yoga class on stand up paddleboards this weekend in Hilton Head, South Carolina. The event will take place this Saturday, March 22 at 2:15pm at the Outside Hilton Outpost at Shelter Cove Marina. There will be a pre-event introduction to SUP for $15. Admission for the world record YogiBoardHHI attempt costs $5 (price does not include board but they are available for rent) and benefits The Outside Foundation, dedicated to getting kids outside and protecting the local environment.
Register for the event here.

To celebrate the event, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is offering a special YogiBoard HHI package for a seaside vacation along the Lowcountry coast. The package includes:
*$125 per night (plus resort fee and taxes) accommodations
*10% off services at The Heavenly Spa
*One hour beachside yoga session on Sunday, March 23
*Shuttle to/from the Outside Outpost at Shelter Cove Marina for the world attempt

For those interested in booking, call 843-681-4000 or check out the package online (Booking code: YogiBoardHHI).

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Opening Day Coming Soon at Charlotte’s New Minor League Baseball Stadium

Views of Uptown Charlotte's skyline from home plate of the new BB&T Ballpark
The Charlotte Knights are getting ready for their inaugural season at downtown Charlotte’s new BB&T Ballpark. The Knights will christen the new gem in Uptown Charlotte on Friday night, April 11th, against the Norfolk Tides. With approximately 10,000 seats for fans, the Chicago White Sox AAA farm club expects to draw at least 600,000 fans this year, and that’s just for baseball—BB&T Ballpark will be home to other events throughout the year, including concerts, festivals, and corporate and community events. The location at the intersections of Mint, Martin Luther King, Graham, and 4th provides easy access from I-77 and I-277. The new Romare Bearden Park will be located across the street from BB&T Ballpark’s right field.
Take a peek at the transformation!