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LAND OF THE ANCIENTS

"This animal is over 125 years old, weighs 500 pounds, and is super slow, so be patient as it will take him several minutes to move past us,” says our naturalist guide. Like a good student, I stay still, Keens cemented to the dirt beneath them. Goosebumps rain down my arms and I feel each individual hair stand at attention. Everyone on the trail senses that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but thankfully not a fearful one. The prehistoric-looking shell slowly crawls by at a height equivalent to a dining room table, and in a way, it looks oddly like a very slow-moving, thick piece of furniture.  Poor-sighted, the Galápagos Giant Tortoise holds its head high on its outstretched neck, sniffing its surroundings. With awe-inspiring sightings like this one, you half expect a director in the background to shout, “Cue the dinosaurs!” as if on a Jurassic Park movie set.
Similar unusual wildlife experiences occur at every turn in the Galápagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in South America, which sit smack dab on the equator and three major tectonic plates. Considered a hot zone due to seismic and volcanic activity, the Galápagos consist of an ancient, volcanic archipelago spanning 17,000 square miles in the Pacific Ocean where three major ocean currents also converge. It became Ecuador’s first national park in 1959 and a marine reserve in 1986. Home to endemic species only seen here and on channels like National Geographic, these islands were born three million years ago, and many of their inhabitants look like it, too. As remote and primitive as one can get, being here feels like stepping back in time before humans ever existed.
The Galápagos Islands were left mostly undisturbed for millions of years until they were literally put on the map by naturalist Charles Darwin back in 1835 while sailing around the Americas on the HMS Beagle. They are an explorer’s dream where one can find a living museum of iconic animals like the giant land tortoise described above and the rest of the “Big 15”, including penguins, flamingoes, fur seals, sea lions, land and marine iguanas, and several species of birds. In total, there are 26 species of native birds, 14 of which are the Darwin finches living only on these islands. The finches are what spurred Darwin’s theory on natural selection and led to his famous book Origin of Species, written in 1859. Off land in the water, you will also find a variety of marine life, such as oversized green sea turtles, golden rays, and sharks. 
Like Darwin, the 170,000 tourists that visit the islands annually find the best way to see them is by small cruise ship or sailboat, spending up to 14 days in the hopes of seeing the "Big 15". While these well-preserved islands are teeming with marine and wildlife, they are thankfully carefully regulated so boats and tourists are at a minimum to preserve the park and its inhabitants. 
Our group chose the 48-passenger motor yacht called La Piñta for our six-night, seven-day exploration, visiting five out of the top 13 most popular islands. Our days were filled walking through wild animal habitats, snorkeling coral reefs, kayaking rocky shores scouting for playful fur seals and sea lions, and swimming off beaches of all colors including red, black, white, and olivine-crystal. Ecuadorian law requires all activities to be led by certified expert naturalists who carefully curate the experiences. And since Galápagos animals have no fear of humans and get quite curious around tourists, the question of who is studying who here comes to mind.
Our first stop on our journey to the large seahorse-shaped island of Isabela gave us the opportunity to see many of the "Big 15" including the flightless cormorant, the only existing marine bird in the world other than the penguin that at some point in its past changed from a flying bird to a diving bird to adapt to a new habitat. Over a million years old, six volcanoes, five of which are still active, created this island through eruptions, uplift, and erosion. While Isabela is on every Galápagos tour itinerary in order to witness the giant tortoises, its landscape of volcanoes that dramatically rise out of a lush yet rugged terrain of black lava is another reason for Isabela’s popularity. Although tourists are required to keep a six-foot distance from the animals, it is not uncommon to have an inquisitive mockingbird alight next to you or a Darwin Finch land on your shoulder. Living in harmony with other wild residents, the Darwin Finch is often seen grooming other animals of insects and regularly perches on the vibrantly colored land iguana. While Isabela’s rocky shores are populated with Galápagos penguins, Nazca boobies, marine iguanas, and sea lions, its waters are filled with thousands of green sea turtles and rainbow-colored parrotfish.
Second on our itinerary was the island of Fernandina, one of the most active volcanic islands and the youngest at just one million years old. White sand, black lava, and mangroves make up the interesting topography and allow for an easy walk among teams of friendly (and lazy) sea lions lining its beaches, many of them pups, as well as colorful red Sally Lightfoot crabs. Our group witnessed a singular National Geographic moment as a stunning juvenile Galápagos hawk, just thirty feet away from where a sea lion pup was posing for photographs, flaunted her keen ability to swoop down and capture her iguana lunch with her long, sharp talons. Just off the beach, we could watch hundreds of marine iguanas at work diving from their warm black lava beds into the ocean to feed on aquatic plant life and then swim back to shore, often climbing over a sea lion or two to get back home.
One of my favorite islands on our tour was the tiny Red Island, officially named Rábida. This island is a land of contrasts with its red sand beaches created by iron-rich lava flows juxtaposed against vibrant green topography. This is nesting territory for the beloved blue-footed booby, identifiable by their big blue feet which stand out like beacons against their beautiful grey and white feathers. In addition, the first-class snorkeling found here is spectacular as you swim along a red ocean floor enhanced by clear blue waters among curious sea lions and gorgeous tropical fish. 
A visit to the island of Santa Cruz offers an important historical tour of the Charles Darwin Research Station as well as a conservation and tortoise breeding center. The final island on our journey was Floreana, famous for its historical Post Office Bay. The story of this site dates back to 1793 when a group of whalers put a wooden barrel on the beach and aptly named it The Post Office. Those traveling by the island would routinely stop at the “post office” to drop and pick up mail for delivery that might be marked with destinations along their route. This post office barrel is still in use today as island visitors drop and pick up mail regularly. Further adding to Floreana’s interest, the Devil’s Crown is a volcanic crater that serves as an excellent snorkeling site filled with king angel Fish, balloon fish, hawkfish, yellowtail Grunts, tiger snake eels, gentle black-and-white-tipped sharks, eagle rays, various wrasses, and sea turtles.
While the Galápagos attract nature lovers and followers of Darwin, the experience is rewarding for active people of all ages and interests. Year-round daytime temperatures average 72 degrees making it easy to travel any time of the year. The Islands’ depth of flora and fauna is overwhelming, but photos and travel journals help to keep the day-to-day discoveries mindfully collected and provide for a lifetime of memories. Above all, a visit here will deepen your perspective of life on Earth and the theory of evolution. To learn more before you go, seek out the numerous documentaries on Netflix, the BBC, and YouTube. •

 

 

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Aperol Spritz

There is something about the orangey glow of an Aperol Spritz, Italy’s famous warm-weather sipper, that brings happiness. Originating in Italy in 1919 from the Barbieri brothers, Aperol can be the perfect added touch to just about any cocktail, but the Aperol Spritz is its most famous offspring. 

Not only is this spirit chic, like everything Italian, but also it is the trending aperitif of the season. Chilling out on a lazy sunny afternoon with an Aperol Spritz in hand will soon become a ritual. And when sharing your newfound joy with friends, the spirit of the Aperol Spritz “sparks nothing but good times, one orange sip at a time.” 

Preparation Time: 5 min

Fill a wine glass with ice

Combine Prosecco (or other sparkling white wine) followed by Aperol in equal parts 

Add a dash of soda (which keeps the Aperol from settling to the bottom of the glass)

Garnish with an orange slice

Written by Kristin Bowen
Recipe by Gruppo Compari, makers of Aperol
 

get to know your shellfish

Lobster, specifically cold-water American lobster, are found in the Atlantic Ocean all the way north of Newfoundland to the Carolinas, the vast majority coming from Canada and New England. This is the type of lobster you generally see in restaurants, as well as grocery stores and specialty fish markets. Warm-water lobster tails, also called Caribbean lobster, are also a staple in many grocery stores, but the flavor isn’t nearly as good as their northern cousins, and given the choice, most opt for North Atlantic lobster or Maine lobster over their southern cousins. As for spiny lobster—sometimes called rock lobster—the clawless species are harvested off Florida’s coast, in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean, and can be found on menus in the southern states when in season. And though American lobsters are not native to the Pacific, there is a California spiny lobster—the demand, however, is small here in the U.S. and most are exported so it’s unlikely you will ever come across one in the store or restaurant.
To purchase live lobster, look for ones with a curled tail and pick those that are active in the tank. Lobster is best broiled, steamed, baked, or grilled. Lobster tails should be steamed one minute for every ounce. So a four-ounce tail takes four minutes in the pot. For whole, live lobster, steam 13 to15 minutes for a one to one-and-a-half-pound lobster; 17 to 18 minutes for a two-pounder. As for the tomalley, yes, some people do eat it. I don’t. And I wouldn’t recommend it—tomalley is actually the lobster’s liver and pancreas and therefore, carries the creature's waste. Enough said.

 

Crawfish run rampant throughout the U.S. with more than 300 varieties found everywhere from rivers and lakes to smaller tributaries and even swamplands. Also known as crawdad or crayfish, they are the smaller cousin to lobster and average three to seven inches in length. Right around 90 percent of all farmed and wild-caught crawfish come from Louisiana—no wonder crawfish boils are so popular in the South! The nutritional value is similar to lobster as are cooking methods; the most common being boiled in large pots with Creole seasoning. They’re also great in etouffeé and jambalaya. When purchasing live crawfish to cook at home, similar to lobster, they should be active and have a tail that curls when cooked.

 

Crab is easily considered a delicacy and a special treat for many, yet most have tried it at least once. The species you’ve more than likely had is often dependent on where you reside, as different crab hail from different coastlines. The most common types of crab in the U.S. are Dungeness, snow, blue, stone, and king.
   Dungeness crab is a West Coast staple and is sold live up and down the coast but often times can be found stored over ice in specialty stores throughout the country. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on one that’s been previously frozen, boil it for about 20 minutes then immediately dunk into cold water to stop the cooking process.
   Snow crab is found in the Bering Sea and is readily available in the frozen section of most supermarkets—just be sure to look for the bluefish seal from the Marine Stewardship Council before purchasing. Cook as directed on the package, but typically they’re best when steamed or boiled.
   Blue crab is commonly seen in restaurants, sometimes as hard shells, sometimes as soft shells. A soft shell blue crab is one that’s been harvested before molting, hence the softness. Lots of restaurants and pubs fry them, shell included, in a sandwich. 
   Stone crab is caught in the south Atlantic and warm Gulf waters. They’re a highly regulated species as legally only the claws can be harvested. Fishermen remove the front two claws, then return the crabs to the water where they regenerate. 
   King crab is probably the most sought after, thanks in part to their flavor, but also to the huge success of the TV show, Deadliest Catch. Caught in the Bering Sea, this cold-water species can have a leg span of up to six feet—so unlike many smaller crab species, you don’t need many legs to fill up. When cooking the legs at home, it’s best to steam them in a large pot, but if you don’t have one try this: put water on a deep cookie sheet, cover it with a rack and place crab legs on the rack. Place in a hot oven and let steam for about 20 minutes. Be careful taking it out as the water is boiling. Serve with a little bit of drawn butter and a smile. Enjoy!

 

"Shrimp" not "shrimps," not ever—the word “shrimp” itself is both singular and plural, so please, don’t ever say “shrimps.” (Lucky you, you get to learn about crustaceans and have a grammar lesson, too!) There are hundreds of different species of shrimp, both saltwater and freshwater. But the most common varieties throughout the U.S.—ordered in restaurants and cooked at home—are Gulf, rock, pink, black tiger, and Pacific white.
     Gulf shrimp are found up and down the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, from Southern Florida to the Yucatan. Gulf shrimp are not farmed (yet) and can be nearly 10 inches in length from tail to head. There are brown, pink, and white Gulf shrimp.
   Rock shrimp are much smaller than Gulf shrimp and are best suited for adding to dishes rather than on their own. Great for salads, to top off pizzas, or tossed into pasta.
   Pink shrimp are found in the North Atlantic, the North Pacific, and in many other waters throughout the continent. Pink shrimp are about half the size of Gulf shrimp, and like rock shrimp, are best suited for add-ons rather than as a main course.
   Tiger shrimp, aka giant tiger prawns, are the largest of the species and are excellent grilled. Most of the tigers you see in the U.S. (restaurants and grocery stores) come from Asia.
   Pacific white shrimp are excellent in shrimp cocktail, or cooked “peel and eat” style. Nearly everyone who’s ever had shrimp has eaten this variety as it is the most widely harvested variety in the world.

 

A rose is a rose, but is a shrimp a shrimp? A prawn a prawn? And what exactly is scampi?

Here in the U.S., most people call small and medium shrimp, “shrimp” and refer to the larger, jumbo variety as “prawns” or even “scampi.” But many purists insist the term “prawn” should only be used when referencing the Dublin Bay prawn, also known as langoustine. However, the species isn’t found in Dublin Bay, rather, they live off Ireland’s west coast, as well as the Irish and Celtic Seas. Unlike shrimp, langoustine have pincer claws—similar to lobster only much smaller—and are almost always cooked in their shells with heads intact. Stateside, they’re rarely found in grocery stores or even specialty fish markets, but they are served in a few upscale, American restaurants.
     As for scampi, in Italy, they call Dublin Bay prawns “scampi,” and other shrimp, simply “shrimp.” But in both Canada and the U.S., the term “scampi” is generally associated with a specific dish; jumbo or giant shrimp (aka prawns) sauteed with garlic and butter, sometimes tossed with pasta. So what is the ever-popular dish “shrimp scampi”? Depending on where you are, “shrimp scampi” could be considered a redundancy as it’s a bit like ordering “chai tea” as the word “chai” means "tea" in Indian. But to each their own. Because asa rose is still a rose by any other name, shrimp scampi is still delicious no matter if it’s being made with shrimp or prawns.
 

A Breath of Fresh Air

Jennifer and Steve Snead-Smith have owned Highlands' Mountain Fresh Grocery for just one year, but if the lunchtime crowd on a recent Wednesday is any indication, they've already caught on to the vibe of downtown Highlands.
The blackboard at the entrance announces the specials of the day: Philly cheesesteak melt, red bean, and andouille sausage soup, and blackened mahi-mahi tacos.  And that's just the beginning. A long line at the pizza counter is a testament to the delicious homemade slices produced on-site, and the grill chef could use an extra pair of hands as he cooks order after order. 
To say this is “just” a grocery store is a little like saying Barbara Streisand can carry a tune. The little emporium, near the corner of Fifth and Main, is alive with the sensual scents, sights, and tastes of food well done.
The Snead-Smiths are new to Highlands, as well as the food business. In their “previous” lives in the Richmond, Virginia area, they were immersed in engineering and human resources for two large corporations. They both felt an urge to explore something new in a new location, but the parameters were hazy at best.  “We're people-oriented,” Steve explains, “and we like the mountains.”
A graduate of North Carolina State and Duke, Steve grew up in small-town North Carolina and is naturally drawn to the mountains.  Jennifer shares this love, although she grew up in a more metropolitan environment in Virginia where she graduated from the University of Richmond. They explored any number of business opportunities, some as far away as Denver, before visiting Mountain Fresh Grocery, then owned by J.T. Fields and Don Reynolds.  Steve says they sensed right away a great opportunity in the making. The four developed a good relationship during the period between their first meeting and the eventual closing, and Steve says they still talk regularly.
Interestingly, the Snead-Smith family wholeheartedly bought into the change.  Their eldest son still works in Richmond, but their daughter works in the pizza department and manages the books.  Another son also works in pizza, his girlfriend works in the bakery department, and her brother is on the grill!  The couple's youngest son is just 13 and attends Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School, but was a diligent worker in the ice cream department during summer vacation. (For the record, the family's two rat terriers, Bogie and Gracie, are very happy with the move as well.)
To anyone who would question the transition from corporate America to small-town market, Steve is quick to say that many principles remain the same no matter the business.  A business school graduate, he notes that the kitchen is really a lot like a manufacturing assembly line.  His experience in the chemical business taught him to work with government agencies, a background that serves him well in his present-day interaction with the health department which is an integral part of the restaurant business.  
Jennifer's background in human resources is a huge plus in the day-to-day operations as well. And, does she, perhaps, have some experience in the food business?
“I like to eat,” she answers, plain and simple, and will avoid at all costs “business lunches” which detract from the sheer pleasure of the meal.
“I don't have to be an expert in every area of the food business, I just need to hire the experts,” Steve says.  Two examples that prove his point are Vince Malcer and Kevin Hayes, director of operations, and pastry chef respectively.
Vince comes from Florida with a resume that includes Whole Foods, the Cheesecake Factory, and Bradenton Country Club, where he served as executive chef.  Kevin, too, was drawn from Florida to the mountains after forty years experience and a client roster that includes Burt Reynolds, Celine Dion (he baked the cake for her twins' christening party!), and Keith Hernandez. He was also named one of Southwest Florida's top ten chefs by Golf & Leisure Magazine.
Steve says they knew they had bought into a beloved part of the community as soon as they began to move in.  He laughs recounting the difficulty he had getting ready for the opening because so many “locals” would stop by to welcome him and stay to talk.  But he recognized immediately that he was the new owner of a Highlands institution, and he honors that.
So open they did, and the response from the community has been heartening.  The store is open 363 1/2 days a year (Christmas is non-negotiable!), and this year even opened the doors for a half-day on Thanksgiving.  The store's complete Thanksgiving dinner carry-out was sold to more than 140 patrons, and Steve admitted they took home one for their family as well.
The rest of the days are busy, beginning with a daily breakfast made to order and an extensive breakfast buffet on Sundays.  There are nightly specials, from Asian to pizza to Mexican and the biggest night of the week is Friday, which features steaks, salmon, and lobster.  In good weather on Fridays, the picnic tables outside are full and some customers even bring tablecloths and candles to decorate them. (Wine is readily available from the store's wine department and corkage fees are mostly waived.) And the desserts are always tantalizing, from chocolate flourless torte to Linzer cookies and eclairs.
Steve and Jennifer are already becoming involved in the community, having sponsored a fundraiser for the Highlands schools whereby students could sell meatloaves in the community, for which Mountain Fresh Grocery donated 50% of revenue to the schools. Interestingly, last December's storm which caused widespread power outages gave them a great chance to “payback,” as their generator was operative and many of their staff live within walking distance of the store.  “We hardly missed a beat,” he remembers.  Mountain Fresh Grocery has long had the reputation of being open when every other store is closed and he isn't about to tarnish that local goodwill.
There are lots of plans afoot for the coming months, including wine tastings with appetizers on Friday afternoons and more opportunities for online ordering.  The Snead-Smiths remain committed to doing as much on-premises as possible, like freshly ground meats and from-scratch baking. Even their fresh ground coffees are roasted at a nearby in-town facility. Shoppers can also choose from a wide variety of artisan oils and kinds of vinegar which bear the Mountain Fresh logo.
It's been a full but fulfilling first year for this couple, who dared to step out and test new waters when others would have stayed put. The happy outcome was embodied in the comments of one recent guest who was enjoying a late afternoon cinnamon roll.  Asked if it was as good as it looked, he nodded with a full mouth.
He swallowed, then earnestly asked, “But have you tried the pizza?”
Jennifer and Steve, it would seem, are doing something very well. •

Bugatti

French luxury carmaker Bugatti has been perfecting its craft of making sophisticated automobiles for 110 years. To celebrate their history, this year they unveiled a futuristic supercar that is hailed as the most expensive new car ever. Recently selling for close to $19 million including taxes at the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show in Switzerland, this sleek-like-a-panther coupe is a juiced-up one-off, meaning it is bad to the bone and there is only one like it. Paying homage to a 1930’s Bugatti classic called the Type 57SC Atlantic originally designed by Jean Bugatti (only four were ever made), this reinvented masterpiece named La Voiture Noire has a handcrafted body made of carbon fiber which is five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff according to engineering experts. Its glossy design and silky smooth exterior reminiscent of spilled ink gives this sports car its modern look. “Bugatti is bringing the speed, technology, luxury, and aesthetics of an icon into a new era” with this new introduction. The recent buyer in Geneva remains a mystery, but the exclusive hyper sports car possesses an impressive 16-cylinder engine, six tailpipes, and 1500 horsepower.  

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    Featured Community: Big Sheepcliff

    Set high atop a mountain bearing the same name, the homes at Big Sheepcliff provide some of the most spectacular vistas Western North Carolina has to offer. This private, well-established gated community in Cashiers also features large, secluded lots for building a new mountain getaway. Big Sheepcliff is ideally located just a few minutes from the fine dining, culture, shopping, and outdoor activities of Cashiers, presenting its residents with opportunities for the best of both worlds. Several premier golf and country clubs are nearby. With nature playing a central role throughout the development, 52 acres of the property has been donated to the North Carolina Nature Conservancy, making this the perfect community for any nature lover. Visit Big Sheepcliff today and enjoy breathtaking views of Whiteside, Chimney Top, Yellow and Terrapin Mountains, as well as Lake Glenville, Cashiers Lake, Cashiers Valley, and beyond.

    FEATURED COMMUNITY: The Lake Club

    Nestled on 150 acres along the shoreline of Lake Glenville near the resort village of Cashiers, North Carolina, The Lake Club is a private community offering the very best of mountain and lakefront living. Touted as “a place where memories are created and traditions continue to grow”, The Lake Club is a very special family-focused development featuring 36 estate-sized home sites and a quaint cottage division. Special attention and careful planning have been given to the architectural and environmental covenants within this exclusive gated community in order to preserve and celebrate the pristine natural setting.

    One of the finest examples of this concentration toward marrying architecture to its environment is found in The Lake Club Lodge. Exquisitely designed by renowned architect Tom Greene and Associates to be reminiscent of an Adirondack camp from a bygone era, The Lodge features native poplar bark, locust wood, and stone accents. This well-appointed clubhouse is an ideal place where friends and neighbors can gather together near the stacked stone fireplace or enjoy breathtaking views from one of many covered porches. Another popular Lake Club amenity, The Marina, is not just a place where homeowners can park their boats; it also offers a generous sundeck to soak up the sun on large Adirondack chairs and an enclosed swimming area, safe from passing motorboats and jet skis. In addition, The Lake Club Meadow is a two-acre park set at the heart of the community where neighbors can play a game of horseshoes or warm themselves by a bonfire under a sea of stars on a cool fall evening. The Meadow also offers many beautiful natural features, ideal for strolling or splashing – including streams, three ponds and hiking trails along a cascading waterfall. There is no shortage of fun to be had nearby, as well. Beautiful Lake Glenville provides 1,400 breathtaking acres for fishing, boating, and watersports, and the historic villages of Cashiers and Highlands feature abundant choices for fine dining and eclectic shops for exploring.

     

    The Entertaining Season

    Nothing says summer quite like kicking back with friends over some good eats and chilled beverages on a warm summer night. With stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains as your backdrop, ready the grill and don your “Kiss the Cook!” apron for your next backyard soirée. With holiday weekends fast approaching, take note of our entertaining tips and recipes to help inspire your planning. 

    setting the mood al fresco
    Create a warm and inviting ambiance with cozy seating adorned with festive throw pillows and Mexican blankets if someone gets chilly. Decorate the table with craft paper as an alternative to a tablecloth, festive melamine dinnerware, mini pots of succulents or rosemary nosegays, and colorful cotton napkins. Douse the lights and decorate the scene with tea lights, globed candles of different heights, twinkling fairy garland and light the outdoor fireplace. Finally, choose one of Spotify’s BBQ Summer playlists to set the tone and add to the fun. Putting your guests at ease allows them to relax and savor the moment.

    what to serve
    Since you have set the mood, mingling over a signature cocktail such as an Aperol Spritz, a chilled glass of rosé, or a craft beer will be ideal at the start of the evening. Serve simple small bites such as bright, seasonal strawberries and/or cherry tomatoes with basil and mozzarella (secure with toothpicks) to dip in nicely aged balsamic vinegar. Since we are grilling out, prepare skewers of grilled shrimp and lemon ahead of time and serve with a feta-dill sauce (click here for recipe on foodandwine.com).

    When it comes to the main course, BBQ is always a winner especially when it comes to wine and beer pairings. Ribs are easy, and our recipe is a fan favorite. However, if you want a little less mess, go with a brisket or burgers on the grill. For sides, a grilled peach, Vidalia onion and bacon salad is divine along with a favorite corn bread. For an easy dessert, individually fill small glasses or espresso cups with gelato. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve and top with a sprig of fresh mint.

    For beverages, pork and rosé are great pairings, but if you prefer to serve a red try a zinfandel or pinot noir. For beer lovers offer a local golden IPA to pair with your pork. For other food pairings, consult seriouseats.com. 

    tools of the trade

    The Charcoal Weber for the Traditionalist: 
    Nothing beats the taste of charcoal and Weber is known in the industry to make a quality, long-lasting charcoal grill. Prices range from $50 to $3000, but capacity can sometimes be a problem when buying the less expensive versions. Weber offers multiple sizes and upgrades and the price goes up accordingly. Light your charcoal with an electric starter or all natural grill starters to avoid the chemical taste imparted by lighter fluid.
     
    The Gas Grill for the “No Fuss” Cook: 
    Looking for something easy, go for the gas grill. According to TopTenReviews.com, Weber Genesis II gets the best reviews for its grill space, price and heating consistency. Despite its hefty price tag ($1200 and up), the Napoleon Mirage is recommended for its quality construction with stainless steel burners that provide heat consistency, an infrared back burner for rotisserie and infrared side burner for searing meats.

    The Big Green Egg or Kamado Joe for the Serious Food Enthusiast: 
    These round ceramic grills/smokers are well constructed and will last a lifetime. Using better lump charcoal, it is all about temperature control with these popular grills for fast or slow cooking. There is an initial learning curve and a considerable investment, but users swear by the results. Since both cook all types of food from pizza to smoked meats to veggies, they make an ideal all-in-one choice. Note: In the event you get strong winds at your mountain home, these heavily weighted grills will stay put while a gas grill could skip across your deck unless secured (this writer has witnessed it!).

    For great grilling accessories, shop Amazon for Elizabeth Karmel’s BBQ tools. We especially love her long handled silicone basting brush and burger press.

    GOOD TO GO!
    If you want to take the night off from cooking, “take away” the hog from anyone of these local haunts. Don’t worry you can still wear the Kiss the Cook apron and no one will know you didn’t do the cooking!

    On the Side BBQ
    Cashiers Farmers Market
    78 Highway 64 East 
    Cashiers, NC 28717
    828-743-4334
    www.cashiersfarmersmarket.com 

    In addition to sandwiches piled high with pulled pork, smoked brisket, smoked turkey and more, On the Side BBQ also serves up Carolina Chicken, Ribs by the Rack, Pulled Pork, Smoked Sliced Brisket and Smoked Sliced Turkey Breast by the pound. Famous for their flavorful sauces, you should try them all! True to its name, the sides at On the Side BBQ are worthy of your attention, as well, featuring barbecue-complementing classics like baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and collard greens.


    Mountain Fresh Grocery & Wine Market
    521 East Main Street, Highlands, NC 28741
    828.526.2400
    www.mfgro.com 

    Located at the end of the main drag in Downtown Highlands, Mountain Fresh Grocery offers a barbecue feast as part of its “Summer Dinners To Go” Menu. On Saturdays, patrons can take home a fully prepared meal for four featuring tender hand rubbed pork butt, pit-smoked overnight and pulled to order served with coleslaw, apple-bacon baked beans and yeast rolls. Available on a first-come, first-served basis, it is best to call ahead to reserve your order. Make sure to pick up one of their handmade desserts too- your guests will appreciate it!
     
     


     

    Charming Cottage with Chimneytop Mountain View

    This charming cottage is located in the well established, gated community of The Chattooga Club on Highway 107 South. The vaulted ceilings of the main level highlight the impressive stone wood-burning fireplace in the great room. Two bedrooms and baths round out the main level with a third bedroom and bath upstairs. A loft adjoins the upstairs bedroom and could be used as an office, family gathering area, or extra sleeping space. Admire the pretty view of Chimneytop Mountain from the outdoor deck with a wood-burning stone fireplace while enjoying evening cocktails on cool summer evenings. 

    The mature landscaping is replete with indigenous trees, shrubs, and flowering plants. Property owner amenities include Mac's View, a beautiful picnic spot just a short walk away, a perfect spot to enjoy the incredible evening sunsets. A fully stocked trout lake is nearby, as well. Club membership is by member referral and board approval only.

    Learn more about this special offering.

     

     

    Contemporary Haven with Incredible Views in Wade Hampton

    Tour this contemporary masterpiece for an awe-inspiring experience! Filled with natural light, this luxurious home boasts a spacious gourmet kitchen, a family room, an office/den, two laundry rooms, a wine cellar, an elevator, and an inviting, three-season porch that can be enclosed or left open and screened, complete with stone fireplace.

    Designed by Al Platt and sitting on over five acres, this home is perfectly sited for taking in the highly desirable eastern views of the Nantahala Forest. A wall of windows in the living room displays the panoramic mountain views while an impressive stacked stone fireplace provides a welcoming ambiance. The sumptuous master suite on the main level includes a sitting room, a private screened porch and bath with deep soaking tub, a separate shower, double sinks, and heated floors. The lower level offers three bedroom suites and a spacious family room with a beverage center. This home's opulent, high-end finishes will not disappoint and were designed to stand the test of time, such as the metal shingle roof (noted for at least a 50-year life).

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