NC Mountains Apple Pickin’

After making the apple crisp dessert the other week, I have been itching for a trip to the mountains to visit an apple orchard. Eric and I went with one of my old roommates several years back and I haven’t been back to one since. I googled apple orchard and what do you know… Sky Top Orchard is the first hit. Seems pretty popular. So I decided I was going. After finding out that this place was also only 36 mins away from Tupelo Honey Cafe, I knew another stop was mandatory.

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If you have seen my post from another trip I had to Asheville, you will see why I love Tupelo Honey Cafe so much. I’ve been back twice more since that trip and every time the food is out of this world. I loved it so much that I bought the cookbook and I am actually making a black bean burger from from the cookbook this week for dinner. I’m seriously obsessed. Luckily, we are getting one of these restaurants in Charlotte in the coming months. Let me tell you, I will be first in line.

We invited my mother-in-law on our day adventure as well, and I’m so glad we did. I am very fortunate to have a mother in law who is amazing. We have so much fun hanging out. So off we went bright and early Saturday morning up to the mountains. We got to the Orchard right at 9 am which was when they opened. Note to others: that is the way to do it. The place was packed by the time we were ready to leave. So getting there early is the way to go if you want a peaceful experience and not one with a bunch of crowds and chaos.

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You would not believe the amount of apples they had. I was blown away with just the large selection of apples in the front store. Once you are ready to pick some apples, they hand you a map of the farm. Looking out from the store, you can see apple trees for days. Plus there are so many different types of apples. Apples I have not even heard of.  They even have a sample table which is a great way to try all the different kinds of apples. We just wandered around the orchard picking apples as we chose. We ended up picking several different kinds.

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Eric loves Granny Smith apples, so we got a good amount of those for him. We also got my favorite apples: Fuji; love me some Fuji apples. Then we picked up a bunch of random apples in twos including: Rome, Cameo, Arkansas Black, and Pink Lady. I’m sure we will not be able to tell the difference now between all of the apples, but we picked the nonetheless.

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After picking apples we headed back to the storefront where we browsed through all the jams, jellies, butters, and apples. They also have fresh apple cider and apple pies. We all bought cider but Eric’s mom bought an apple pie (I need to ask her how it was). It looked mighty tasty!

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But the best part of the trip is the apple cider doughnuts. OMG… you walk up to the stand to purchase doughnuts and the heavenly smell of sugar and fried bread is in the air. It’s enough to make anyone salivate. I of course had to buy a dozen and it took all I had not to eat them all while holding the warm package in my hands. Ohh they are delicious. Eric and I had several with apple cider for breakfast the following day. You HAVE to heat them up. They are 10X better warm. Throw them in the oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes and its sheer perfection in your mouth.

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The views at the top of the orchard were also wonderful. You can pick your apples while enjoying the mountain views in the background. The air was crisp and the leaves were just beginning to turn. The skies were overcast which all came together to make a perfect day for apple picking. I plan to make it a tradition to go up there every year. And hopefully with Sarah and James, Eric’s sister and boyfriend. This is an experience that everyone should have. Nothing like a day in the NC Mountains.

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We went home with 10 pounds of apples each. Now I’ve got several dishes in mind this week with all these apples. We are having apple, fig, and Gruyere cheese paninis this week, apple based salads, grilled apple, and I may even make some apple cinnamon buns with whatever is leftover next weekend.

How are you celebrating fall?

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Jamaica – Clear Blue Water Vacation

This summer, we decided to venture back out into the Caribbean. We’ve been once before about two years ago on our honeymoon. At that time we visited a Sandals resort in St. Lucia. It was wonderful. Unlimited drinks, laying out by the pool, walks on the beach, delicious food.

After busy season this year I was so ready to leave Charlotte as quick as possible. I’ve never felt like I needed a vacation so bad in my life. And it really wasn’t that bad of a busy season this year. I used CheapCaribbean.com to book our vacation. A great website if you are looking for a deal. The earlier you plan, the better the deal. I did not plan ahead but still was able to book our trip for 5 days, 4 nights at $2,085 with transportation to the hotel.

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The resort we stayed at was a 3-star hotel. Definitely did not live up to the standards of Sandals but for over half the price, I was willing to give it a try. And I was not disappointed.

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We stayed at Sunset Beach Resort & Spa in a Bayside View room. If I could do it again, I would not do the Bayside View room. Not really much of a view and it’s an extra price too. Doesn’t make much sense. However, we were hardly in the room but to sleep so it didn’t affect my attitude on the trip.

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This resort was more family oriented so there plenty of families with kids around. To be honest, I was a little concerned about this but to be honest this didn’t end up being an issue at all.

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The food was pretty good. The omelets were the best part for me while Eric loved their jerk chicken. Some of the other guests at the hotel said it was better than the jerk chicken on the side of the streets. The drinks were pretty good as well. The best was the Jamaican Rum Cream. We ended up coming home two several bottles. Like Bailey’s but better in my opinion.

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But I think the best part of Jamaica was the views. The water so blue. I don’t think I can stay at another beach that doesn’t have clear blue water. Even on a rainy day, you can’t beat the views of Jamaica.

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We had a great time on our trip. It was a much needed vacation. Would I go back again? Absolutely for the price. I still however have my eyes set on the new Sandals resort in Grenada. And a much dreamed about trip to Italy next year. But Jamaica still has a place in my heart.

Where did you go for your summer vacation?

Bon Appetit – Wilmington, NC

Part 3 of Vacay: The Food

I don’t know why my life seems to revolve around food, but for some reason it does. I love good food and drinks. During our vacation I’m pretty sure all that was on my mind was trying as much food as possible. Sorry in advance for the terrible picture quality. We used the iPhone for most of the pictures since they were taken while we were out.

The first day we got there we headed straight to the beach. We stopped at a bar type restaurant called South Beach Grill. I had the Cuban Fish Tacos without the ancho chili.

The food at South Beach Grill was yummy. Eric got a Southwest Quesadilla that looked equally delicious. It was a super messy meal, but as we all know, those are the best kind. The fries tasted like they had been fried in the same grease with fish which made them awesome. The water on the other hand was disgusting. I did not order water in any other restaurant at the beach. You could definitely tell it was beach water. Gross.

That night we went to an Italian restaurant in downtown Wilmington called Fat Tony’s Italian Pub. They were having a special: buy two entrees and receive a free bottle of wine.

I got the “Pasta Tony” that included angel hair pasta, artichokes, mushrooms, ricotta cream sauce and mozzarella cheese. And of course it came with yummy garlic bread. It was such a huge serving. I think I only ate half of it and Eric finished the rest along with his entree.

Eric got the baked ziti that also was to die for. I know for a fact that if we got back to Wilmington, we will be revisiting this restaurant.

After eating dinner we decided to venture out some more and we found a wine bar called The Fortunate Glass. They had a huge selection of wines and exotic beers. They also had a really good system where you could pay $4+ dollars for a “taste” (4 oz) or you could pay $7+ dollars for a glass (8 oz). I decided to “taste” two wines. It was nice to try two kinds instead of just having a huge glass of one. I was already feeling the wine from dinner so I only tried two. 😦

My favorite wine was the Syrah, Cambria “Tepusquet”, Santa Maria Valley, CA with flavors of Cherry cola, mocha, cinnamon and toasty oak with velvety mouth feel. I will definitely be buying a bottle of that wine in the future! The second one I tried was Crianza,Ramon Bilbao, Rioja, Spain with flavors of deep, cherry-red fruit with touches of coconut and licorice. It was okay but maybe that was because I was so blown away with the first wine.

I also wanted to bring to attention their wine menu which was made out of wine cork material. It’s the small things in life that facinate me. 🙂

The next day at the beach we at at Tower 7: Baja Mexican Grill. I didn’t even think about taking pictures till after we were pretty much done eating. I got a fish taco salad which was really good and Eric got a burito of some sort that weighed like 5 pounds and was humungous! I’m sure we will be going back there again as well.

Finally that night we went to what I consider to be my favorite restaurant: Crow Hill. I didn’t take this picture cause I forgot (sorry!) but found a good one on a foodie site. This restaurant devises it’s menu based on local NC produce and meats. It’s organic and supports local farmers in the area.

The theme of the restaurant is “Rustic Southern” which I like to think is also my style. . Give me some mason jars and some old wooden tables and I am in heaven!

I obviously did not take these pictures but got them from their website. The pictures I took were too dark and I found these to be perfect. This restaurant has me written all over it. Eric even exclaimed how much this restaurant resembeled me. Love!

Now to their food: Eric and I were a little overwhelmed by the menu at first. Let’s just say they did not have chicken fingers on the menu. They had about nine choices including fish varieties, roasted chicken, and chicken pot pie. I was going to be boring and get the chicken pot pie but the waitress talked me into the NC Trout dish.  The trout came with sweet potato hash, pancetta, and brown butter. So if you were me you were thinking what the heck is sweet potato hash?

But now looking back it makes sense. The combination sounded completely weird as at first but it turned out amazing. I even ate the skin on the trout which added great flavor to the fish. Eric tried the Pan-seared Local Corvina with Market Succotash, Cornbread Crust, Sherry Vinegar Gastric. Sounds crazy right?

But turned out to be very appetizing. PS their starting item like most restaurants have bread was pickles!

Do you want me to move in here or what?

In Summary:

The vacation was a much needed break filled with fun, relaxation, sun, drinks, and most importantly… food. 🙂 But as always, all good things must come to an end. And we had a certain someone who was ready for his mom and dad to come home:

I think Bailey enjoyed his vacation at Grandma’s as well. He slept the whole way home. 🙂

Where did you go or plan to go for summer vacation?

Quick Glance at Historic Downtown Wilmington, NC

Part 2 of Vacay: Downtown Wilmington

I had actually planned to spend more time in the downtown area instead of the beach. Funny how plans change when you go on vacation and actually get there. We only ventured out to Historic Downtown Wilmington on Thursday and found it to be very vacant. Everything was closed and I’m pretty sure we were just about the only ones walking around.

When my family and I went to Wilmington last year , it was slammed with people. This was probably due to the fact that our visit was on a weekend. Apparently nothing goes on during the week in Wilmington. We did see more people at night and the crowds significantly picked up on Thursday night. I’m pretty sure if we had stayed till Friday it probably would have been more exciting.

I love all these old houses.

The fountain in the middle of the street. We went to a Comedy Club on the last night and they brought up a good point. It’s the most random thing that this fountain is in the middle of an intersection. You have to swerve around it to continue going straight. Kind of unecessary.

A bench that is also in the same intersection as the fountain. Because I guess people like to sit and stare at the fountain. I didn’t take a picture of it, but they had these stone benches at all of the medians of the intersection. One was completely shattered. I assume a car ran into it and I would hate to see what that car looked like.

The Bellamy Mansion.

I love the detail.

The Bellamy Mansion gardens.

I would love if the back of my house looked like this. I love the huge porches.

I couldn’t get over all the moss in the trees. I found it creepy but beautiful at the same time.

The theater which apparently is haunted like everything else in Wilmington, NC. My family and I took the haunted tour when we went to Wilmington, NC and found out all sorts of interesting stories. This place definitely has a lot of history.

We walked around downtown for probably a good two hours and then headed back to the car. We decided not to visit any houses because I had actually visited one last time (The Bellamy Mansion) and it was an empty house with no furniture but they charged at least $10 a person to see it. No thanks. So instead we walked around and took pictures and got ice cream. 🙂

This last picture is for my parents. We were walking in all the little stores in downtown and came across this sight in a local coffee shop. My parents are very outspoken republicans and are also very enthusiastic schnauzer owners (hence why I have a schnauzer of my own!). I found this picture to be hilarious for those two reasons. See Dad, Obama loves schnauzers too! 😉