Life & Leisure
  NORTH CAROLINA BECKONS
January 30, 2013
North Carolina came to town to trumpet a summer of hospitality. Known for its blue-ribbon barbecue and dramatic coastline, North Carolina is stretching beyond normal fare and dishing up some enticing cuisine, local wine, spas, mountain reveries and colonial escapes.

Winston-Salem straddles the past and the future. Designated a National Historic Landmark, old Salem's Moravian community breaks out the bands during Easter pitching an all night musical celebrating the resurrection. Happily for all, festivities are fueled with the local wines, like the one I tasted -- Cabernet Francs (warm, well balanced red) to Viogners. Where tobacco leaves once grew, grapevines spread across the fertile soil on the Yadkin Valley. Yes, wine is the up and coming commodity from North Carolina.

From the looks of it, local growers and restaurants are creating memorable signature dishes as well like smoked beef belly, foie gras, sweet potatoes, onion marmalade, and pine glaze by Chef Scott Crawford, Herons Restaurant. Despite initial assumption, the combination produced a subtle and rich taste sensation. which I tasted and was surprised by the subtlety of favors -- by Chef Scott. Some other products on display included award-winning cow's milk cheese from Chapel Hill Creamery called the “Calveander” -- which I did not taste, and an assortment of sensational hearth breads that I munched on baked by the most enthusiastic Lionel Vatinet of La Farm Bakery. His mantra is back to traditional methods using unprocessed grains and homegrown starter. For those bread enthusiasts, his bread book is coming out in November “Passion for Bread.”

After all that eating and drinking, head to Grandfather Mountain for some fine cool breezes, a family style vacation and some winning events like the Highland games—the second weekend in July—when the gentlefolk from Scotland descend decked in kilts with all manner of folk music, dance and ritual events.

If you are looking for a little less drama and a lot of restorative relaxation, consider the Umstead Hotel and Spa in Carey, North Carolina. Lathered with awards, the Unstead features a glass sculpture by the famed artist Dale Chihuly as well as pottery by local potters with national reputations. In the midst of a transformation, the Unstead will unveil its renovated hotel and spa in the summer and it will surely tantalize all the senses.

Known as an area hospitable to artists of all kinds, I was the lucky recipient of a raspberry pink iPhone wallet by Holly Aiken. A slip pocket on the outside of the wallet serves as a perfect spot for my MTA Subway card.

North Carolina holds many pleasures for all. For more information about travel to North Carolina, visit: http://www.visitnc.com/
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis




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