Fine dining is different at every restaurant, but there is something magical about having a fully prepared gourmet meal in the privacy of your luxurious mountain cabin. Lucky for us, so many of the finest award-winning international chefs have found their way to the Appalachian mountains, tired of the hassle of metropolitan restaurant life, and a few special ones chose to settle right here in Blue Ridge to share their talents.
These professional chefs will come to your cabin, prepare an incredible meal suited to your tastes and dietary needs, and the best part is they clean up all the mess! The surprising part, is this 5-star service is much more affordable than you might think. Seriously. It is! We recommend you consider one of these amazing options (listed alphabetically because we love all 3!) on your next Escape to Blue Ridge.
Steven Lash is a veteran of the restaurant world having worked in some of the top kitchens in Atlanta for over 15 years. Steven’s food is best described as “inspired American cuisine” combining fine dining with local influence inspired by his extensive travel, passion for the outdoors, and hunger for understanding cultures.
With over 15 years of restaurant experience, this 33 year old Executive Chef takes pride in sourcing his produce from local farmers, and bringing the best quality to the table for every plate he delivers, so you know it’s fresh! He puts his entire heart, passion, and skillset into dinner parties, family dinners, or an exotic feast for two. He also offers packaged meals that are ready in minutes, so you don’t even need to leave your cabin!
Featured blog cover photo courtesy of Chef Jeff Servin.
Using the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients, Chef Trey is passionate about sharing the experience of fine dining with his clients. His services include initial client consultation, a customized menu plan, grocery shopping, meal preparation, and kitchen clean up!
There’s no denying it, the craft beer market has grown substantially over the past few years. In 2019 it’s estimated there were over 8,000 independent craft breweries in the United States. Blue Ridge and the Copper Basin are home to a few of the best!
Taking home a growler to drink while sitting in front of the TV and screaming at the umpire was a favorite pastime for many before the 2020 sports season was pre-empted. Now, visiting craft beer taprooms has become a favorite diversion for many aficionado hopsters. But many more of us barley know the yeast of what goes into a good brew. So before we take you beer hunting in this region, let’s do a very quick primer.
Craft Beer 101
Where does beer come from?
Barley – mainly used for beer, this is the base ingredient for beer.
Malt – barley by itself won’t make beer. Barley seeds need to be sprigged to life by malt extract and then roasted and toasted to achieve their distinctive flavors.
Hops – Without hops, beer would be pretty boring. Hops are the spices of the beer world creating bitter, tropical, and citrus flavors that balance out the sweetness of the beer. Grown as bines or long vines, you might have passed a hops crop along the roadside and mistaken it for a vineyard.
Yeast – You can’t make beer without yeast, and the yeast plays maybe the biggest part in the whole beer equation. Pitch too little, your beer is sweet. If the yeast is not healthy, it will throw off a strange and unpalatable flavor.
Brewing – Oh yeah, that part. Brewing takes on a lot more than simply boiling the beer. There is milling the grain to get it just the way you want. Then there’s the constant cleaning and maintenance of all the equipment, hoses, and fittings to make sure there is no contamination. Someone must carefully monitor the production to hit all of the right “checkpoints” to ensure that the proper alcohol levels are achieved. And then there’s carbonating it just right for the style you are brewing.
Ale – It’s typically fermented warm, using a strain of yeast that rises to the top of the brew. It ferments faster than lager and is more strongly flavored. Esters produced during fermentation lend a slightly fruity and floral taste. Hefeweizen is a wheat beer. IPA stands for India Pale Ale, which long ago was high in hops and alcohol content, to survive a voyage from Britain to India. It still tends to have an intense hop flavor.
Lager – This is another basic type of beer. It’s usually fermented cold, using yeast that sinks to the bottom during fermentation and works slowly. Long, cold fermentation inhibits the production of esters, and lagers have a cleaner, crisper taste than ales.
Hard Cider – Whoa! Where did cider fit into this primer? Well, not everyone likes beer, but they still like the low alcohol content compared to liquor. On a warm summer’s day, hard cider is a great and healthier alternative to beer, especially for those who have to avoid wheat and other grains.
Cliff Notes on Style:
The best ales have intense, complex, and balanced flavors.
The best lagers are very tasty but they generally aren’t as complex or intense as ales.
Beer vs Cider – If you are someone who enjoys the distinctive bitterness of beer and enjoys a sugar-free drink made of barley, then beer is the drink for you. If you are looking for a gluten-free, sweeter option, but still want the bubbles and the buzz, look to the craft hard ciders.
You are now ready for our North Georgia Beer Hunt!
3758 East First Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-258-2762 | Hours: Friday & Saturday 12pm-8pm, Sunday 12pm-6pm
This brewing company was founded by someone passionate about starting a winery in Blue Ridge. Plans change. He meets a guy passionate about German beers. They combine their passions and voila! They now have one of the most highly respected craft breweries in the South. Tours of the plant are available on Fridays and Saturdays. BYOP– Bring your own pup. Yes, your canine friends are welcome throughout the brewery.
1315 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-946-2739 | Hours: Monday – Wednesday 12pm-6pm, Thursday – Saturday 12pm-8pm, Sunday 12:30pm-5pm
This is a great hangout for any age brewster. Family friendly, kids will love the GIANT JENGA outside and the games inside, plus there’s craft soda on tap. Open seven days a week. Big screen TV’s throughout. Thursday night is Karoake night and it is well attended and lots of fun. Always 18 different craft beers on tap. On Friday, Saturdays and Sunday’s check out their hot dog stand.
8660 Blue Ridge Dr., Blue Ridge, GA | 706-632-3411 | Hours: Sunday – Thursday 8am-4pm, Friday & Saturday 8am-6pm
Mercier’s is the only apple orchard in Georgia that can say they grow, press, ferment, and bottle their product. Their full line of cider seasonally takes advantage of most of the fruits that are grown year-round at the orchard. The tasting room is part of the gigantic market, restaurant, and bakery. You may visit with the intent to pick out your favorite hard cider, but be prepared to spend additional time foraging the whole market.
Visit this brewery and you won’t know if you are in Tennesee or Georgia. Located in Copperhill, just outside their tasting room door, you can have one foot in Tennessee and the other foot in Georgia. It’s very cool to straddle the state line! Sample their brews and you’ll wonder if you haven’t traveled to Scotland or Germany. This brewery takes craft beer way, way serious. It’s not a passion for them. It’s an art form. Some of the friendliest and most knowledgeable staff this side of the Mason Dixon line.
This brewey is a converted gas station with a great tasting room, but an even better outdoor area that, when the weather permits, is just hopping with folks having fun, listening to great music, and some amazing beer choices. You can join the Mug Club and have your picture painted on a mug that’s yours to keep fillin’up with their vast and ever-changing selections. Great fun for the whole family. It’s where the white water rafting crews call “home”.
Our Tasting Room Choice: Berry My Heart at the Trailer Park
500 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, GA | 706-946-4440
Best known as Blue Ridge’s “Husband Day Care Center”, the Black Bear Bier Garten offers great local music and 19 local, craft & imported draft beers. Pare your brewski with one of 9 varieties of wild game sausages and you’ll be pretty happy you stopped in!
733 East Main Street, Blue Ridge, Georgia | 706-258-2539
Set in a historic Blue Ridge building, Chester Brunnenmeyer’s delivers not only an elevated food selection, but their adult beverage menu is most robust with signature cocktails like the ESCAPE TO BLUE RIDGE (Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka, macerated blueberries, lemonade), an impressive wine list, and regionally crafted beer!
Throughout the South, BBQ reigns as the premier cuisine. Though Texas waves their 10 Gallon hats boasting that they are the king of the Que, few know that Georgia is where smokin’ meats all evolved. The word “barbecue” comes from the Caribbean word “barbacoa.” Originally, barbacoa wasn’t a way of cooking food, but the name of a wooden structure used by Taino Indians to smoke their food. In 1540 Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto’s expedition through Georgia came upon a deserted Taino camp and discovered meat left roasting on a barbacoa, the embers of the fire still warm.
Originally, usage of the verb barbecue meant “to preserve (meat) by drying or slowly roasting”; the meaning became closer to that of its modern usage as a specific cooking technique by the time Georgia was colonized. But barbecue isn’t just a verb, it’s also a noun. It’s something you attend, and going to a barbecue is one of the gatherings we Southenerners just can’t resist. So it’s not surprising that when one vacations here in the north Georgia mountains, BBQ is the cuisine most sought out.
Rembrandt, Picasso, and Warhol are all celebrated master artists, putting paint to canvas, yet yielding a different effect. Barbeque in the South is more than just the slow burn of meat, it’s a subculture with wide variations of techniques, seasonings, textures, and sauces. With well over a dozen BBQ joints in a twenty-mile radius of Blue Ridge, we’ve chosen to highlight three different experiences, much like the three artists we mentioned. They are masters at the Que, but they are different.
If you agree that what makes the best restaurant experience is great food, atmosphere, and service, then Mike’s has you eating off his black checkered lined metal trays. With only 5 tables inside and 4 more on the porch, this tiny place packs a huge punch! Let’s talk about the atmosphere first. It starts with that 1939 Chevy pick up truck parked outside. Walk around it and imagine hauling around the dirt mountain roads of eighty years ago in this prize jalopy. This is just the beginning of your museum tour. The porch and the whole indoors is covered ceiling to floor with tons of fun historical memorabilia.
If you can manage to take your attention away from the décor and turn it to the menu, you might find it difficult to decide what to order before they close. With their meats selection, they more than have you covered. There’s the traditional smoked brisket, pulled pork and baby back ribs. Add smoked chicken wings, smoked sirloin, pulled chicken breast, and their famous all-beef “Kiolbassa” and your decision becomes even tougher.
Though the protein is usually the main event at a good BBQ, the sides complement the fare, and Mike’s has some very noteworthy offerings. We recommend the Mountain Dew stewed apples with walnuts, an old fashion fresh-squeezed lemonade, and the Texas toast. Yes, even their Texas Toast is called out as the best in Trip advisor reviews. All this is served up with a friendly, helpful staff, and if you decide to get it to-go (check out these picnic spots) you’ll find it will be packed up with TLC and everything you need to dig right in once you get to your destination.
Mike’s Trackside BBQ Open Monday through Thursday 11-6 and Friday-Saturday 11-7. Closed Sundays. 3950 E First St, Blue Ridge, GA |(706) 258-2533
Up the hill and across from the Blue Ridge Post Office is a small, unassuming strip center. On the facia, in large block letters, it reads “ Carroll’s Barbeue”. The size of the letters matches the Que experience diners get here. Walk inside and you’ll get the old country jive. Not only are the optics there, but you’ll get that smell of smoke rendering the fat that emanates from the real wood-fired pit, and the hunger pains spike the brain and you gotta have everything on the menu.
This is some of the most tender and tasty of briskets you’ll find in these parts. The ribs are “fall off the bone” good! They have pulled pork, pulled chicken, and smoked wings. But the one meat that they are legendary for is their smoked turkey, available on a plate, stuffed in a large sandwich or covering up a fresh salad for those who eat just a little lighter. They also have a few unique items on the menu that, when dining with a group, are great sharing treats. The BBQ Burrito (baked beans & shredded cheese in a flour tortilla, topped with Brunswick stew) is stuffed with your choice of pulled pork or pulled chicken. Then there’s “Tater Hill”. Carroll’s takes a large, classic baked potato, covers it in their white sauce, pile it mountain high with pulled pork, mac & cheese, baked beans, and coleslaw and then drizzles it with mild & sweet sauce.
All servings are generous, as is the hospitality at Carroll’s. Only open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for lunch and dinner, you want to plan a trip here with plenty of time to chow down your main plate, and then rest up a little before you indulge in a couple of their famous desserts, including homemade banana pudding served warm with a meringue topping or their show stopper, the Skillet Brownie Sundae.
Carroll’s Barbeque Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11am – 8pm 39 Lance St., Blue Ridge, | GA 706-946-1126
This smokehouse has been an institution in these mountains for over 50 years, and it is still cared for daily by the family of Granddaddy Holloway who first manned the smokers. Just down the road from Blue Ridge, in Cherry Log, GA, The Pink Pig stands out from the roadside. The Pink is not a subtle hue, but then every artist has its shade. And speaking of shade, The Pink Pig is one of our favorite places to outdoor dine, especially with kids. Lots of places to spread out as a family while eating succulent ribs with sauce all of your face and fingers.
The Pink Pig’s menu has some twists to it that you won’t find at many other Que’s. They receive five-star reviews every day for their garlic salad (it’s the garlic brine the lettuce is soaked in- yet stays crunchy- they keep coming back to devour). You can get this salad veggie style or top it with grilled chicken, fried chicken, smoked pork, or brisket. Signature offerings like Bubba’s Brisket Nachos and SJ’s Brisket Tacos are the distinguishing brushstrokes that make this a Picasso of fine BBQ dining. The entrée menu includes a mouth-watering Ribeye cooked perfectly on the grill. Sandwiches and burgers can be topped with peppers, mushrooms, and onions. We like that you have a choice in the size of your sandwich, too. Those with a hearty appetite won’t be disappointed.
You might want to leave room for dessert because the Holloway family has a way with a cobbler that is served warm with a healthy scoop of vanilla ice cream all cuddled up next to that fresh seasonal fruit and topping. And note: they are open on Sundays and also stay open till 9 pm.
The Pink Pig Open Thursday through Sunday 11am – 9pm 824 Cherry Log St. Cherry Log, GA | 706-276-3311
Bringing your dog with you on your Blue Ridge mountain vacation can enrich a trip in so many ways. You’ll meet and talk to dog-loving strangers who otherwise would have passed right by you. You’ll travel to dog-friendly parks and other places that wouldn’t ordinarily be on your itinerary. You’ll have a built-in reason to go outside, exercise and have fun. Most meaningfully, you’ll have your best friend at your side. We are glad that you and your four legged pooch have decided to stay with us, and we thought we’d take this opportunity to share some of Blue Ridge’s favorite canine and people friendly spots.
Let’s Get Our 20,000 Steps In
Fido isn’t wearing a Fitbit, but he does have twice as many legs that welcome the fresh air and exercise that come as a vacation bonus here in the foothills of the Appalachians. The Chattahoochee National Forest is dog-friendly. When combined with the Oconee National Forest, the Chattahoochee National Forest spans nearly 867,000 acres across 26 counties and features thousands of miles of clear streams and rivers, 850 miles of recreation trails, picnic areas, and areas rich in natural scenery, history, and culture. Hikers bringing their dogs on the trails must keep them under verbal or physical restraint at all times—using a leash in crowded areas is highly encouraged.
If your dog loves to socialize with her canine counterparts, then a visit to the Humane Society of Blue Ridge Dog Park is a must. An off leash park there offers both Big dog and Small Dog areas. There are toys to play with or you are welcome to bring your furkids favorite fetch toy. Clean up bags are provided, but you need to do the heavy lifting and disposal into the litter cans. The park is open sun-up till sun-down, 7 days a week.
Shopping is GRRRRReat
Blue Ridge Cotton Company is a dog-friendly clothing store, located in downtown Blue Ridge. Inside the store, you’ll find an extensive pet section, including gifts, books, leashes in a variety of colors, treats, and more. There’s even more irresistible human stuff, too. Additionally, Blue Ridge Cotton Company donates one percent of every purchase to a number of animal charities in the local area.
If it’s a girls day out, then the two of you need to head over to Humble Pie Ladies Boutique. A pet-friendly ladies outfitter in Blue Ridge, the clothing they stock is Bohemian-style, unique, affordable and comfortable. Dogs are welcome to join you in the dressing room as you decide which flowing dress or headband best suits you.
Love Dogs and Cats Too is a pet-friendly store full of items for Fido and Fluffy. They stock everything from healthy treats and snazzy leashes to plush toys and comfy beds. Dogs are welcome inside to sniff out their birthday gift or drop some hints as to their favorite kind of toy to take home.
Drinking out of a bowl, frosted mug or goblet
Eventually you and your pet are going to get thirsty. Though your four legged friend isn’t old enough to legally indulge in liquid spirits, he/she will still love to socialize with you as you test out some of the finest in craft beers and wines produced in our region. Hanging out on the patio seating at Grumpy Old Men’s Brewing will actually put you all in a good mood. Fannin Brewing Company is another favorite for Fido travelers and the Ale beer connoisseur on the other end of the leash. Just up the road from downtown Blue Ridge is Bear Claw Vineyards & Winery, a boutique farm winery with vineyards where production of handcrafted wines are offered in the tasting room which also includes a dog friendly patio. Salud!
This Movie Rates 5 Bones
When was the last time you took your pooch to the movies? Here in Blue Ridge you can bring Chunky with you to catch Call of the Wild (or Lady and the Tramp if she’s into chick flicks) on the biggest screen she’s ever seen – at the Swan Drive-in Theater. Screening since 1955, this drive-in features 1st run blockbusters & an old-school snack bar with burgers. You’ll love the nostalgia, your pet will dig the burger bar outdoor patio and you’ll both enjoy the movie.
French Fries to Fine Dining
It’s vacation, and McDonalds isn’t going to do for either of you. It’s time to try new gourmet delights, something that didn’t come out of a can. Toccoa Riverside Restaurant, located in Blue Ridge, GA, is a casual eatery that serves up a variety of delicious American fare. Best known for their local trout dishes, it’s best not to mention to your pet that there is also catfish on the menu. Spot is welcome to join you at one of their pet-friendly outdoor tables while you enjoy your meal. (They even offer a special menu just for pups with options like hot dogs, burgers, chicken, rice, and more!) And there is live entertainment for your pet too, as they quack up watching the ducks waddling along the river bed.
You don’t have to be a Polish Greyhound to enjoy the patio dining at Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen. Margo makes everything fresh daily, and Cuddles will appreciate that she refers to her famous steamed weiners as sausages, not hot dogs. If you are both preferring something more like a pizza than a pierogi, upstairs from Margo’s is where Blue Jeans Pizza is located. Rated #1 Blue Ridge Pizza on Trip Advisor, this Italian-American eatery also serves up menu options like appetizers, salads, burgers, pizza, strombolis, calzones, subs, pasta, wraps, and more. And your furry bambino is welcome to join you at their outdoor patio seating.
When the palate calls for something more upscale or a certain date night ambience, then be sure to sniff out these two places. Harvest on Main has comfortable seating on their patio under the porch for both you and your furkid. Don’t share the menu though. Cuddles will have you ordering the Smoked Duroc Bone-In Pork Chop served with Red Skinned Garlic Mashed Potatoes & Pork Collard Greens, topped with Mushroom Ragout. Guess who wants the bone?
And talk about the right canine atmosphere to indulge in culinary perfection, check out the 200 year old tree that Cuddles can rest under while you indulge in what’s been voted the best weekend brunch in Blue Ridge at The Black Sheep, just a short walk down Main Street.
I’m not sure
if I was in my right mind when I let my two cousins convince me to spend a week
with them in the cabin they rented in Blue Ridge last September. It started as
friendly banter between us at the annual 4th of July family reunion.
My Aunt asked me about my love life, and my cousins snickered. They accused me
of being a workaholic. I assured them that was not the case. They asked me how
much vacation time I had accrued at my job. I admitted to three weeks (It was
actually 5). They challenged me to join them on their annual fall fishing trip,
promised me the master bedroom, and said that if I’d agree to cook the fish
they caught, they’d foot the bill for everything, all week. That included my
choice of wines.
I contemplated. I made them pinky swear to the wines of my choice. My Aunt chided me when she kissed me goodbye that evening. “I look forward to hearing all about you great escape adventure”.
later I was in the back seat of a jeep sans shock absorbers, my suitcase
stuffed with ten books I had been collecting to read on the vacations I had
never found time to take and my cast iron frying pan (because frying fresh
trout in anything else would be a crime).
That evening when we arrived at Eagles Landing, all my trepidations about the “deliverance” experience were evaporated. This cabin was gorgeous. And true to their word, they dropped my bags in the upstairs master suite. I decided to explore the kitchen to see what might already be there to help me execute my “duties” in the next six days. I was impressed with the tools of the trade and took out my tablet to start to create my menu.
Jake and Jeff are twins. My Aunt and her sister (my Mom) were pregnant at the
same time. I was born a mere 34 hours after they were. At family reunions, we
were referred to as the triplets. Growing up we lived just two blocks away from
each other until we all left for college. Our families took summer trips
together for as long as I can remember. Vacationing with these guys wasn’t
going to be a new journey. In many ways, I was hoping it would be a rekindling
of such joyful past adventures. While deciding on the culinary options, I knew
what they’d eat, what they’d abhor, and what would make them gastronomically
morning I woke up to find the car keys on the counter and a credit card. The
note from my cousins said their guide picked them up and I should feel free to
take the jeep into town and shop for whatever was needed to keep us all well
fed and hydrated.
I had done
my internet research on possible provisions before our arrival. My first stop
that morning: Out of the Blue. This is one of the finest gourmet
shops I’ve ever had the pleasure of shopping, and now, on my cousin’s tab, I was
going to indulge for all three of us.
Sara, Out of
the Blue’s founder, who travels all over the world to select wines from small
producers, asked me my vin likes and dislikes. We also discussed my menu ideas
for the next week. I settled on wines from three countries, craft beer for the
boys from the region as well as from Europe, and a selection of cheeses that
she packed on ice for me so I could continue on my shopping adventure. I left
feeling accomplished and I also bid farewell with a promise to revisit before
heading back to the city.
stops were Blue Ridge Olive Oil Co. and Tupelo Tea, two sister stores that abut
one another. My morning rituals are always accompanied by at least one cup of
freshly brewed tea so the first door I chose was Tupelo
Tea. It was amazing;
a “candy store” for tea drinkers. I browsed and sniffed and tasted. After
having indulged in a cup of MOCHA NUT MATE, I left with pouches of PU-ERH
HAZELBERRY and CHINA MILKY OOLONG, as well as a pump jar of honey.
Next door, I found the Blue Ridge Olive Oil Co. to be more than irresistible. I wanted to taste-test every one of their 65+ olive oils and balsamic vinegar from around the world, but alas, the day was short and my palette overwhelmed. I had two salads and two appetizers on my menu that needed the right dressings. Two bottles of olive oil and two of balsamic seemed a bit excessive, but it was my cousins’ nickel. I added a small bottle of blood orange olive oil to the purchase and made a note that I was going to have to make a dessert with this that both of the guys would adore (recipe below).
While downtown, I found my way over to Huck’s General Store. I nearly didn’t find my way back out of there. This is the kind of place that our parents would find on past summer trips, knowing that we kids would be occupied for at least an hour deciding on how we were going to spend the five dollars they gave each of us. Then we’d negotiate with each other for the rest of the trip, swapping pieces of candy and taking turns wearing the raccoon hat. Even though the barrels of candy were overwhelmingly nostalgic, my adult tastes led me to the outstanding selection of rubs, sauces, jellies, pickles, and other canned delicacies. I took a long time deliberating before making my choices: pickled okra, habanero pickled garlic, and Huck’s sweet potato pecan butter. (recipes below).
Man (or in
this case “men”) can not live on just fish alone, so it was off to find some scrumptious
protein. I knew that easy grill meats were in order this week. These guys were
going to want to just kick back with a beer (or 3) after trolling the fishline
all day. I needed to keep it simple but succulent. I wanted a variety of
sausages so my research took me to Margo’s Gourmet Polish Kitchen. Not only did I find a great selection of European weiners
and sausages, but she also carried locally raised beef, pork. chicken and free-range
Now it was
time to take a lovely drive out to Mercier’s Orchard. Mercier’s started over 40 years ago as an apple
orchard, but the second and third generations of the Mercier family have
developed an amazing farm to table experience that draws visitors twelve months
of the year, seven days a week, and from all over the world. I decided that I
would have lunch in their café, and stuffed myself with a delicious salad and a
fried peach pie. That gave me all the energy boost I needed to continue on my
shopping throughout their huge market for the best of provisions.
Mercier’s fresh produce, homemade cheese spreads, and a hefty selection of hard
cider, I had just left myself enough time for my last stop of the day, Ingles Supermarket, Blue Ridge’s large grocery chain
store. Trip Advisor reviews gave Ingle’s nearly 5 stars. It didn’t disappoint.
I found all the rest of the staples on my list and made it home in time to sip
a glass of fine wine while I read three chapters of my first vacation book
before starting dinner.
Snakebite Cocktail: Mix the following in a chilled mug: Six ounces of a dark German Guinness ale from Out of the Blue. A pinch of salt. A tablespoon of liquid from the jar of Huck’s General Store pickled Okra. Stir. Now pour six ounces of Mercier’s Sneaky Jack Hard Cider over the beer mixture. Serve with Huck’s Pickled Okra, (slit down the middle and scoop out the seeds) stuffed with Mercier’s Pimento Cheese Spread. Shake a dash of Cayenne pepper over each filled okra.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes: I cheated and bought Bob Evans family size at Ingles. You can’t tell the difference after I spiced them up with three minced cloves of habanero pickled garlic from Hucks and drizzled with Garlic Olive Oil from Blue Ridge Olive Oil.
Trout: What can one do to fresh trout besides adding a light dusting of flour, salt, and pepper then pan-fry in a hot cast-iron skillet and a large slab of Amish Butter? Well, I topped each filet with a tablespoon of Sweet Potato Pecan Butter from Huck’s General store. The guys devoured it all.
Vegetable: Steamed shredded red cabbage with a side of Spice Apple Chutney from Mercier’s.
Blood Orange Olive Oil Pound Cake
INGREDIENTS (Makes one 9 inch loaf) 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the pan 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon baking powder Pinch of salt 3 large eggs 1 cup of sugar 1 cup of Blood Orange olive oil 1/2 cup whole milk 4 tablespoons brandy (or bourbon) 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest 1 tablespoon grated orange zest 1/4 cup fresh orange juice ¼ cup of grenadine (maraschino cherry juice) Frosting Ingredients: ¼ cup of sugar ¼ cup of orange juice
PREPARATION Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter a 9 × 5-inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 cup of the sugar. Whisk in the olive oil, milk, brandy, lemon zest, orange zest, and 1/4 cup of the orange juice. Add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. The batter is wet. It’s okay. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 5 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean. You will smell the cake when it is done. Remove the cake from the oven and let cool enough to handle, then flip over onto a rack to cool thoroughly. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup orange juice. Turn the cake right side up. Using a pastry brush, brush the glaze all over the cake. Allow the glaze to harden some before serving.
Not a cook? Call the Chef!
Local area professional chefs will come to your cabin, prepare an incredible meal suited to your tastes and dietary needs, and the best part is they clean up all the mess! We recommend you consider one of these amazing options (listed alphabetically because we love all 3!):
Steven Lash is a veteran of the the restaurant world having worked in some of the top kitchens in Atlanta for over 15 years. Steven’s food is best described as “inspired American cuisine” combining fine dining with local influence inspired by his extensive travel, passion for the outdoors, and hunger for understanding cultures.
With over 15 years of restaurant experience, this 33 year old Executive Chef takes pride in sourcing his produce from local farmers, and bringing the best quality to the table for every plate he delivers, so you know it’s fresh!
Using the freshest, often locally sourced ingredients, Chef Trey will create an imaginative menu for your family or friends, all in your kitchen. Giving consideration to food allergies or dietary restrictions is something he takes into account when writing the menus.
The ramp is an early spring vegetable, and one you might never had heard about. A perennial wild onion with a strong garlic-like odor , it has a pronounced onion flavor. It’s horticultural title is Allium tricoccum and a.k.a. spring onion, wild leek, wood leek, and wild garlic. It grows wild in the Appalachian forest beds, and the North Georgia Mountains is about as far south as you’ll find them. Quebec is the northernmost vicinity where these delicacies can be found roaming the Canadian countryside.
Ramps were first introduced to Britain in 1770 and to Appalachia in the 19th century. Their high vitamin content and blood-cleansing properties meant that the ramps were highly prized by the American Indians for their nutritional value. Native American tribes such as the Iroquois and Cherokee have traditionally used ramps to treat cold symptoms . Because they were one of the first greens to appear in spring, ramps were considered an important “tonic” by providing vitamins and minerals that had not been available during the winter. Both the Ojibwa and Menominee dried and stored parts of the ramp to be used in the winter months. The Chippewa decocted the root to induce vomiting, while the Cherokee consumed the ramp to treat colds and made a juice from the plant to treat earaches.
Modern Day Uses
Two centuries later this amazing spring vegetable has emerged in the nouveau culinary scene with even more gusto than pungency. Yet, there’s the distinct possibility you’ve gotten to this stage of your life never even having heard of a “ramp”.
Their harvest season is short — just a few weeks from late April to early June. You won’t find ramps at the grocery store. Though growing ramps from seed are possible, it can take five to seven years until harvest time, too long to tie up land by commercial farmers. That’s not to say that you can’t find it to harvest yourself. Put on your hiking boots in search of this green leafed perennial and head out into almost any forested area up here in our spring green mountains.
A Foraging Adventure
Ramps are easily recognized by their 1 or 2 broad leaves measuring 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 12 inches long. Because deer avoid eating ramps you will find these plants in large clusters, with the surrounding area already chewed down. Ramps like shade and being covered up with leaves, but they don’t like pine, for some reason, so you won’t find them at the base of pine scrub. The plants favor sandy, moist soils and are often found near streams, though you might also find them carpeting the forest floor where poplar and maple trees are found.
Eve Fox writes in her blog The Garden of Eating, “Ramps are such beautiful plants. I think they look just like a cross between a Lily of the Valley and an onion. Strong but slender with green leaves and a beautiful purple stem, they have a “seam” that runs partway up the leaves.” If you see such a plant and you are still not sure, pull a leaf and tear it. Take a sniff. Debating if it is onion or garlic? You most likely have found a ramp.
If your hike has produced a bounty of ramps, you might just be wondering how to best prepare them. Historically, the Cherokee boiled or fried the young plants, while the Iroquois consumed them seasoned with salt and pepper. The ramp’s bulb and its leaves are consumed when the plant is still young. The ramp is similar in taste to the spring onion, but with an aromatic pungency closer to garlic. Here in these Appalachian hills, they are commonly consumed by frying them in butter or animal fat, though they are also consumed raw in salads. They can be pickled and are delicious just beer-battered and fried, similar to an onion ring. They are frequently consumed with potatoes or scrambled eggs and used in soups and other savory dishes.
Here are three easy recipes that we think you might enjoy, using your foraged plants.
Ramp and Apple Quesadilla
8 six inch flour tortillas 2 Granny Smith apples – thinly sliced 1 ½ cups of sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated 1 cup of chopped ramps 2 tablespoons of olive oil 2 tablespoons of butter – room temperature
Butter one side of each tortilla and set aside. Heat olive oil in pan. Sauté the ramps until they are tender, even caramelized. Place 4 tortillas butter side down on a cold grill pan. Next spread ¼ of the apple slices on each one. Top each with ¼ of the ramps. Cover each with ¼ of cheese, then place a tortilla, butter side up over each. Turn the heat on to medium and cook till side one is nicely toasted and then flip and do the same to other side. Cut in four to serve as a lunch portion and cut into eight pieces to serve as an appetizer.
Black Bean and Ham Ramp Chili
1 cup shredded carrots ½ cup of chopped celery 1 large sweet onion chopped 1 cup of ramps chopped ¼ cup of olive oil 1 ½ lbs of ham, chopped 3 cans of black beans 2 can of diced tomatoes with peppers 1 packet of McCormick original Chili mix Sour cream for serving
Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add ramps, carrots and celery and sauté until tender, stirring often. Add chopped ham and sauté till ham is heated through. Add beans, tomatoes and chili powder and stir all together, well. Simmer for 30 mins. Serve with a healthy size dab of sour cream (not low fat) in each bowl.
1 lb of fresh asparagus, washed, trimmed and cut into two inch pieces ½ cups of ramps, finely chopped 1 lb of fresh snap peas ¼ cup of dried cranberries ¼ cup of chopped walnuts 1 bag of fresh spinach and baby kale mix ¼ cup of your favorite vinaigrette
Steam the asparagus and snap peas. Run cold water over them to cool them before tossing in your salad. Add them to all your other ingredients, salt and pepper to taste. Toss well with the dressing. Serve immediately.
In Blue Ridge there are amazingly diverse, reasonably priced, restaurants designed with families in mind. It’s not all just chicken fingers, tater tots, and buffet lines. Dining out with children, especially if you’re on a budget, is tough. But if you approach things differently, and look at it more as a family outing, you will be much more satisfied, and to be honest, so will the kids.
You might be surprised by the variety. You might also be surprised at the way in which many restaurants have managed to cater to families’ needs, including recognizing that, with all there is to do in Blue Ridge, dining out is an important part. So, in addition to providing good food at a good price, their approach is more – “ya’ll take your time, enjoy your meal and plan your day”; or “don’t worry about a thing, we can move things along quickly to get you out there enjoying your day”.
In the end, it all comes down preferences and choices, and Blue Ridge has many choices to choose from. Sample traditional Southern cuisine, classic barbecue, or everyone’s favorite – pizza! The following is a list of tried & true places to go that your kids (and Mom) will like, but that won’t break the bank.
What’s in a name? Well, quite a lot actually, when you can simply say what you are. Southern Charm is Southern and it is charming! But it’s location, in the heart of Blue Ridge, makes this a great starting spot that will appeal to all members of the family.
This is traditional family style dining, featuring Southern cooking in a casual setting. Biscuits and apple butter? Yup. Fried chicken? Of course. Collards? Need you ask? Expect to be called “honey” or “darlin” by the attentive staff. Reasonably priced and worth every penny!
How can you be so bold as to pronounce, in large block letters, on the front and side of your building, on your website, and in your advertising that you have the “Best Burgers in Town”? Well, it seems when you have testimonial confirmations online, in local “best-ofs” and random people-on-the-street recommendations for where to go for a great burger, and it all comes back to “Sue’s Best Burgers in Town”. Sue’s is most loved for their crispy, crinkly fries and fabulous desserts.
Affordable? Yes. Fast food burger prices? Sue’s Burgers is the oldest restaurant in town, family owned and operated since 1976, and will settle for nothing less than the best in food quality, service, and friendliness!
The Trailer Drive-In
When was the last time you ate at a place that accepted cash-only? Now that is indeed old school. And this throwback Trailer Drive-In diner is old school. It’s actually exactly what you expect – delicious food, large portions, outdoor picnic table seating, monstrous breakfast biscuits, a chicken sandwich that can’t be beat, and ridiculously good sweet tea! This is one of those under-the-radar kind of places, but your kids will love it! They can be sloppy outside, if you decide to dine outside, and it’s decidedly dog-friendly.
Mystic Mountain Pizza
No list of family-oriented, affordable restaurants would be complete without the obligatory entry from the pizza category. In this case, Mystic Mountain is not your ordinary pizza joint. It comes with extra sauce – live music! Plus it’s Blue Ridge’s “grooviest pizza parlor”. But seriously, folks, Mystic Mountain is family-friendly, relaxed, trendy, and colorful. Oh, and by the way, they also have great pizza, cooked in oak-fired brick ovens, unique hot dogs (like a Deep South Texas Dog), and crazy tasty wings, plus sandwiches and salads. It’s a great place for a family to be laid back. Like totally, man.
Mike’s Trackside BBQ
You knew we’d get there. You just knew it! After all, who doesn’t like barbecue? You are in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Georgia!! And you deserve some great barbecue. Which is why we are recommending Mike’s Trackside BBQ. Mike’s is another one of those tiny places with a big heart for food and great service. Although barbecue is in the name, you might want to be adventurous and try their extraordinary, fall-off-the-bone ribs or the chunked smoked chicken.
Mike’s is located exactly where it says it is – trackside. That doesn’t mean you can bet on the ponies from there. It means you’ll hear that lonely train whistle loud and clear, and you might even be inspired to load the family onto the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway after lunch for a ride that will be long-remembered.
This is an American-styled restaurant that’s rustic and homey, and it’s Southern enough to have great grits. We recommend you trying the delicious, locally-caught, and freshly-prepared trout, but any of their classic choices like chicken parmesan or pecan chicken salad will delight your palate. At Pete’s Place the prices are reasonable, the service is great, and not only do they welcome your children, but they also welcome your furbabies to dine on the patio!
Rum Cake Lady Cuban Café
And now for something completely different. Okay, calm the kids. We’re gonna get a little crazy here. We’re moving off into something far, far away from hot dogs and brown beans. But we will survive, and maybe even thrive. Besides, the name of this restaurant has “cake” in it so that, kids, is a good thing, because, very likely, there is dessert at the end of this meal!
Indeed, the Blue Ridge rum cakes are amazingly delicious. But so are the sandwiches, plantain chips, and the Cuban food bowls. This is called adventure. Striking off into the wild Cuban yonder to discover new foods. Try it. You’ll like it!
March is when things start to come alive in North Georgia. After a winter that’s been warmer than normal, then colder than normal, then wetter than normal, and finally, just … normal! Now we have buds and early flowers, parades and green beer, and of course the wineries and brewpubs are waking up with tastings and special events. What a great time of year! Let us help you plan your next getaway. Check out the events below and come stay with us this month!
If you love eating and music then you will love the laid back vibes of Misty Mountain Hops. Good food and sweet tunes make this Vinyl Pub a must!
March 3 – Open Mic Night Hosted By Danny Rhea March 6 – The Orange Walls (duo) March 7 – Paul Constantine March 13 – Quinn Leach March 14 – Gopher Broke March 20 – Travis Bowlin March 21 – Danny Rhea March 27 – Dave Dale March 28 – Rivertown Road
Forgive the name, but enjoy the play! This is one of those plays where the setting could be anywhere, like “Our Town”, but when you localize it (in this case, Helen, Georgia), it makes it all the more fun for those who know the places and the sometimes obscure references. For those who are not familiar with North Georgia’s little slice of Bavaria, just sit back and relax, you’ll get it soon enough!
Starting from a historic rail station in downtown Blue Ridge, this classic ride of 26 miles, or about four hours, winds its way along the scenic Toccoa River, through small towns and along pastoral and dramatic topography. You have your choice of vintage, climate controlled or open-air cars, and there’s even time built in for lunch and shopping for unique gifts.
Pizza, beer, tunes. It’s a perfect combination for relaxing, refreshing, rejuvenating. And it’s simply fun. The atmosphere in Mystic Mountain allows you to dine and delight with food, beverages, and live music! Every member of the family will enjoy this, and they serve soft drinks too!
March 6 – Gopher Broke March 24 – The Foothill Brothers
You don’t have to be crafty to make crafts, especially when you have the care and guidance of accomplished artists. In this case, you’ll have a chance to make three macramé bracelets, and you choose your own focal pieces. Then take it easy, maintain attention to detail, get into a rhythm, and complete your piece at your own pace. It’s fun, and rewarding.
Great beer (18 beers on tap), a fun atmosphere and a stellar philosophy (delicious beer, dog-friendly, people tolerated). Plenty of craft beers, including those brewed in the brewery, and lots of live music. It’s one of those places that locals like!
March 6 – Travis Bowlin March 13 – Captain John March 14 – Steve Baskin March 20 – Hunter Lyons March 27 – Trailer Hippies
The Blue Coyote is known for their live music and entertainment. While you’re there you can enjoy their tasty bar food and a whole bunch of beer! They even have a dog-friendly patio! Stop by, check it out, and enjoy the music!
March 6 – Bad Ju Ju and the Ems March 7 – Adrian Stover March 13 – Natti Lovejoys March 14 – Gregg Erwin March 20 – Topper March 21 – Mind the Stepchildren March 27 – Donnie Hammonds March 28 – Breaking Point
It’s hard to beat a relaxed setting for live music and Bin 322 Tasting room and Tapas Bar has managed to accomplish that with comfy, family style furniture in a restaurant so you don’t have to cook or even walk to the fridge. Relax. Take your shoes off. Well…at least relax!
March 7 – Chip McCain March 14 – Robbie Litt March 20 – Loose Shoes Duo
This should be obvious – cork=wine; canvas=art. Put the two together and you have the perfect combination for some fun and fundraising. Wine, a silent auction, a count-the-corks raffle, live music and tasty delectables all contribute to a fine event each year.
It’s not like there’s any shortage of kudzu. So, what do you do with it? Well, it’s rumored that goats eat it, but what fun is that? Much better to get all crafty and artistic with it. Weave it, along with some nice green ribbon, into a kudzu vine shamrock! A perfect gift for your favorite leprechaun.
A beautiful vineyard and winery set in pastoral farmlands in the heart of the Southern Appalachians. Cartacay’s wine history dates to 2007, but it’s heritage is comprised of Cherokee roots (in fact, Cartecay translates to “bread valley”). The winery features plenty of locally sourced wines, tastings and special events, plus live music on most weekends.
March 7 – Craig Hendricks March 8 – Camille Rae March 14 – Gregg Erwin March 15 – Cagle Pitts Duo Review March 21 – April Cummings March 22 – Thomas Hinds March 28 – Adrian Stover March 29 – Travis Bowlin
This is a day when you’re encouraged to act a little nuts! Dress up in green, maybe even dress your dog up in green. Starting at about 11 am, put on funny hats, pants and shoes, maybe some green sunglasses, and join in a parade down Main Street in Blue Ridge with a couple hundred of your new best friends. Then stay in costume if you like, do a little shopping, eat some cabbage, and maybe drink a bit of green beer. It’s a party, ya’ll!
There are discernable differences in how different towns celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in these parts. For Ellijay, it includes all the usual green stuff. Dress in green, eat green muffins, drink green beer, but add to that, green pets. A pet parade is a big part of Ellijay’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade. So, get your dog, or cat, or turtle ready to have fun!
Forget Green Eggs and Ham! Despite the urgings of “Sam I Am, this unique event is a chance to eat green stuff that tastes GREAT! It’s mostly for kids, but, as always, adults get drawn into the fun, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself combining colors to make various shades of green cakes, cookies and frostings. And it’s highly likely you’ll be eating more than you take home!
Here’s a simple concept: 1. Love wine 2. Get passport for wine tastings 3. Taste wine all over North Georgia during an entire week! Several of the participating wineries are located central to Blue Ridge, Ellijay, and Blairsville, so you don’t have to go far. But if you decide to venture further, you can use the Blue Ridge Region as home base for hub-and-spoke forays into WineLand. It’s a fun and fruitful way to explore new wineries, enjoy different wine venues, music, entertainment and tasting varieties. One piece of advice: don’t overdo it in a single day. After all, you’ve got all week. Take your time; sip and enjoy!
Here’s a chance to enjoy wine and do something truly good for the local community. Purchase a piece of local pottery and a contribution will be made to the Fannin area food banks. You also get to sample local soups (use your new bowl!), breads and desserts from local restaurants.
If all those sound like kitchen and living room amenities, you probably missed the 1950’s and 60’s the first time around. You’re young. Be happy. But if you remember the Drifters, Coasters and Platters, or you found them among the nostalgic music on YouTube, dig out your dancing shoes and come join the fun!
Randall Blamblett is quite simply a wonder. He’s like a musical encyclopedia (remember those?) of the last thirty years, having played with, and written music for, the likes of Bonnie Raitt, The Allman Brothers, The band, Widespread Panic, and he and his band effortlessly cover iconic bands like Hot Tuna, Delbert and dozens of recognizable others. As part of the Live Music is Better series, all attention is on Bramblett – his skills, diversity and variety.
NEW HOMES ADDED TO OUR PROGRAM
This 4-bedroom, 3-bath cabin is the epitome of beauty and class! Aska Easy Day features incredible views of both the Blue Ridge mountains and Lake Blue Ridge, once you check in, you’ll never want to leave! The best part about this gorgeous cabin is that you can bring your 4-legged family members with you on your escape!
Perched on a mountaintop more than 3,000 feet above the trees with dramatic, sweeping long-range mountain vistas in the distance, The Owl’s Perch is like a magnificent picture postcard come to life. Located northeast of Lake Blue Ridge on a large lot in Morganton that borders unspoiled U.S. Forest Service land, it’s a calm oasis far removed from stressful city life, but just a short drive away from the shops and dining of downtown Blue Ridge.
Spring Break is just around the corner and now is a great time to start planning your end-of-winter getaway. Afterall, we only get 18 school years with our kids, so we should make each and every school vacation count! Because if we’re being truthful, you are dying for a reason to escape from the stresses of work and Spring Break is the perfect guilt-free excuse for a fun family trip! KEEP READING.
Fine dining is different at every restaurant, but there are common threads woven through all of them. First, there is a Chef-inspired menu, with his or her signature, stamped on each offering. Unlike casual restaurants, fine dining service usually includes eating utensils that are a matched set, and have more weight than your summer camp mess hall offered you. Generally, there is a linen napkin to lay across your lap, water served in a glass vessel sans the local bank logo and the table legs have been leveled to assure your plate doesn’t travel across the tabletop each time someone rests against it. There’s also the expectations of the staff. When visiting a fine dining establishment you expect the staff to deliver you a higher standard of service, where they understand the menu and can assist you with accurate answers and solutions to your dietary concerns and preferences. Blue Ridge is proud to be home to many of such dining establishments. Let us introduce you to a small plate offering of eight of our favorites.
We choose this as one of our favorite “wining” experiences. Bin 322 isn’t your richest of decor settings, but it’s charm lies in it’s comfy, cozy atmosphere with many choices of seating including wing back stuffed chairs or around a game table playing checkers. You pick your ideal spot before choosing your sips from an exceptional wine menu. If you like to accompany your spirits with well prepared and incredibly tasty food, you will find just that at Binn 322. The menu includes tapas (salmon nduja), platters (Italian, French, Spanish or Mediterranean), salads, sandwiches, entrees (duck confit) and indulgent desserts (Crème Brulee) that team up perfectly with a sweet wine to complete a choice encounter with your lunch or dinner companion.
This stylish, and classy restaurant believes in fresh food that’s locally sourced and artfully prepared. Set in a historic house (circa 1814) you have your choice of pet-friendly patio seating under a 200-year-old oak tree, the enclosed porch with its flaming heaters, up at the beautifully appointed bar or in the main dining room, where service is second to none. Start with an appetizer of pork belly and marmalade, add a perfect beet salad and eventually savor the lamb pappardelle. We can’t forget to mention that The Black Sheep offers a killer Brunch menu every Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 4pm. The Sunday paper, an inspired Bloody Mary and a chicken & red velvet waffle. Who can resist? Reservations are recommended.
Everyone just refers to it as “Chester’s”, and it’s Blue Ridge’s answer to “Cheer’s”, where everyone knows your name, or at least it feels like they do. But don’t let this friendly bar atmosphere fool you. The dining experience at Chester’s is so noteworthy. The amazing craft beer selection shakes hands nicely with signature appetizers like chili and beer cheese nachos or deep-fried sticky ribs. The soup, salad and sandwich menu all have a plethora of delicious, inspired choices, but if you have a heartier appetite, dig into the entrees like the 14 oz blackened ribeye, cooked to perfection and served with herb roasted fingerling potatoes, garlic broccolini and finished with fresh herb butter. This is fine……real fine.
Chef Danny Mellman takes Italian fare to a new level at this fine-dining Ristorante. This is the perfect place to spend an evening with friends. Start out with a plate of Frito Misto (flash-fried calamari and fish with artichokes and lemon and charred tomato-lemon aioli). The salads are shareable in size. The Treviso is a patron favorite, w/ bacon, balsamic, fresh pear, walnuts, and Gorgonzola. A myriad of pasta, risottos, and polentas, with fresh roasted vegetables, compliment delectable fresh sauces, meat entrees, and the finest of seafood. This is Old World Italian cuisine served mountainside. On Friday and Saturday nights the chef offers a veal Osso Bucco that will transport you across the Mediterranean Sea without the jet lag. Reservations are recommended.
This is the second of three Chef Danny Mellman eateries to make our list of eight. This was his first establishment in Blue Ridge and it has become what all its competition aspires to be. You might think that it would be the service, the menu, the wine and beer selections that would put this place over the top. Not to minimize any of these, because they are all worthy of five stars, but it’s the rustic appointments of the décor that nails it. Every moment you are being treated to a dining experience at Harvest on Main you are made to feel you are dining at the most affluent of ski resorts, high up in the Grand Tetons when actually you are smack in the middle of downtown Blue Ridge. Make a reservation. Spend the evening. Know that you’ll be back to try every item on the menu. It’s that good.
The third of Mellman’s family of restaurants to make our list, Masseria mashes together Mediterranean countryside food and infuses Appalachian sensitivities into the recipes to share food so fresh, so earthy, so flavorful and dare we say, healthy, that you will feel like you are eating in a Grecian farmhouse the evening of their best harvest. Is pizza fine dining? Absolutely when it is topped with baked bourbon apples, raisins, gorgonzola cheese and ricotta. Couple that with a salad of kale, grilled chicken, couscous, quinoa, lemon vinaigrette, craisins and walnuts and you can see why they made our list.
Forget your past Asian experiences when you ordered by the number next to the dish pictured on your giant menu. South of North dubs itself as “a counter casual establishment serving up a chef-driven twist on classic Vietnamese fare”. If you think that description is a mouthful, wait till you taste the Bún Chả (meatball) with Snake River Kurobuta pork belly blende with a Joyce Farms filet mignon, house fermented mustard and infused chili oil. Menu items such as sticky buns, shrimp rolls, spicy noodle bowls , steamy buns, lettuce wraps – all elevated to a culinary height you’ve never quite experienced before. We carnivores love this place, but you vegans will be particularly in awe of this gastronomical voyage.
When the sign suggests “steaks, seafood and pasta served here”, in a small downtown underground tuck-away, one doesn’t expect too much more than average. Treo is anything but average. Though they say they are casual dining, you might want to dress in something that makes you feel as special as the wait staff is going to treat you. There’s your choice of seating in the main dining room, outside patio, or the old cellar. Even if you don’t choose the cellar, be sure to ask for a tour, for here is where the finest wines and the most amazing bourbons are kept, waiting for the next indulgent guest to order up. A bourbon flight includes a choice of three from a list of 35 of the world’s best bourbons. Wine flights are four samplings, with a choice from an international wine list you’ll be hard-pressed to find at most five-star restaurants. Sit back and enjoy your flights with a charcuterie and artisan cheese board while you contemplate your next move. Will it be the Lobster Mac and Cheese?
That wraps up our Top 8 Fine dining reviews. Did you really think that Blue Ridge was just about train rides and waterfalls? We are happy to share that we are fast becoming the culinary capital of the Appalachian mountains.
I’m often referred to as the “ Santa Claus for Lovers”. I have a little bit of a problem with that. See, the big guy gets to wear a full suit, hat, gloves, boots, and the whole bit on December 25th. I get to fly around, shooting arrows to connect the hearts of couples, which isn’t a bad gig if I didn’t have to perform it wearing barely a loincloth, my chubby body exposed to the elements, in the second week of February.
This is one of the reasons I’m going to encourage you to cuddle up around the fire in your cabin on Valentine’s weekend. Yes, the big day falls on a Friday this year, so you and the person you love most in this world get to spend the whole weekend together. And if you’ve chosen to be here in one of the comfy, cozy and romantic cabins in Blue Ridge, you’ve already set the tone for a weekend to remember. So, get the checklist ready.
Plenty of firewood. Check.
Now we need something intoxicating. That could be wine. Out Of The Blue has you covered. They have an extraordinary selection of the finest wines, beers, and artisan cheeses from around the world. Chocolates are also intoxicating. Try the delectable hand-dipped chocolates at Chocolate Express. They are sure to win any heart.
Let’s face it. You aren’t the only romantic out there. It’s a busy weekend and though spontaneity is great in the boudoir, some of the other activities just might need reservations. I’m going to suggest you make arrangements with a private chef to have that quixotic feast for two, right there at your cabin. Chef Trey Griffith or Chef Jeff Servin can serve up a luscious feast, but they need fair warning. There are also very intimate dining experiences even in public eateries. The porch at The Black Sheep, with it’s towering flame heaters, is a place I’ve noticed lovers getting very starry-eyed over a plate of cold water select oysters.
It has been my experience (my parents are Mars and Venus, so I’ve been around the block a few times) that occasionally destressing from the cacophony of everyday life needs an assist. A Salt Cave Couples Massage at Serenity In the Mountains is an experience neither of you will soon forget. And it might just be your favorite activity away from home, ever. There’s also an opportunity to engage in public intoxication without being unlawful. Imagine indulging in wine with chocolates that have been paired by the connoisseurs at The Vine Wine Bar on Main St. in Blue Ridge. This only happens on Friday evenings, so call for your reservations quickly.
Destressing mode. Check
Now. Maybe you’ve been together a very long time, like most of your adult life, and there needs to be more than a spark added to your relationship. You need an eight-cylinder rev to throw complacency out of neutral and into drive. That usually means you need to find a way to depend on one another again. Be a team. Find a new challenge. Like maybe drive a military tank together.
And, why just drive a tank when you can crush a car with one? Get your heart pumping with 25+ minutes of driving excitement which starts with Tank Town USA’s exciting tank driving course and finishes with smashing a car. Yes, they have a couple’s package. And if that’s a little over the top, you could be locked in a room together for one hour, with only clues as to how to escape. Sound like fun? Make your reservation with Escape Blue Ridge and see if the two of you can figure out how to outfox your captures.
Team challenge mode. Check
If the two of you love these mountains, almost as much as you love each other, why not merge the two and enlist a professional photographer to help? The professional shutterbugs at ZoLu Photography know these landscapes well. They will take you to beautiful places to capture your love in natural light, to be viewed for many years to come.
Photo memories. Check
Before I mention the Hot Tub stuff, let’s be sure to talk about the one big event that takes these mountains by storm every February, that happens to fall on Valentine’s Weekend this year! It’s the 10th Annual Fire & Ice Chili Cook-Off being held Saturday, February 15 from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm, in downtown Blue Ridge. The cook-off will happen come rain, snow or shine. You’ll enjoy live music, ice sculptures and amazing chili. You can purchase a $10 Tasting Card to sample the competition and vote for the People™s Choice Award. There will also be live entertainment from the Blue Ridge Community Theater actors. You’ll love strolling through an amazing display of individual and unique ice sculptures from the award-winning, National Ice Carving Champion Rock on Ice including several ice carving demonstrations.
Fire and Ice Festival. Check.
Now let’s talk about the hot tub. Well…..
No, I think you already know enough about the hot tub.