Food & Libations

A Breath of Fresh Air

Jennifer and Steve Snead-SmithJennifer 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. •

Aperol Spritz

Aperol SpritzThere 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

ShellfishLobster, 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.
 

The Entertaining Season

Entertaining Season in the Blue Ridge Mountains

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!
 
 


 

Simple Summer Recipes

4 Easy Steps to an Aperol Spritz

Fill a wine glass with ice.
Combine equal parts of Prosecco and Aperol.
Add a dash of soda.
Garnish with an orange slice.

 

Foil-Wrapped Baby Back Ribs

RUB 

1 T. kosher salt
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. granulated garlic
2 tsp. dried thyme
1⁄2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 
2 racks baby back ribs, each about 2 pounds 
1 cup prepared barbecue sauce 

 

INSTRUCTIONS 

Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes (wood chips are optional if you want a smokier flavor). 
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F). 
In a small bowl mix the rub ingredients. 
Remove the membrane from the back of each rack of ribs. Cut each rack crosswise in the middle to create two smaller racks. 
Season each half rack evenly with the rub. Using eight 18-by-24-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil, double wrap each half rack in its own packet. 
Brush the cooking grates clean. Place the ribs on the grill over direct medium heat and cook for 1 hour, with the lid closed, occasionally turning the packets over for even cooking, making sure not to pierce the foil. 
Remove the packets from the grill and let rest for about 10 minutes. Carefully open the foil packets, remove the ribs, and discard the rendered fat and foil. 
Drain and add the wood chips to the charcoal or to the smoker box of a gas grill, following manufacturer’s instructions, and close the lid. When the wood begins to smoke, return the ribs to the grill, bone side down. Grill over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until they are sizzling and lightly charred, 10 to 12 minutes, turning and basting once or twice with the sauce. Remove from the grill and let rest for about 5 minutes. Cut into individual ribs and serve warm with any remaining sauce. 

Recipe from Weber's Time to GrillTM by Jamie Purviance 
 

 

Grilled Peach, Onion & Bacon Salad with Buttermilk Dressing 

Total Time: 45 minutes | Serves 8

 

Ingredients 

How to Make It 
Step 1 Preheat the oven to 325°. In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the sour cream, buttermilk, mint, parsley, chives and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate. 
Step 2 Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange the bacon slices on the sheet in a single layer and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cayenne. Bake for about 25 minutes, until caramelized (the bacon will crisp as it cools). Let cool, and then cut the bacon into bite-size pieces. For a vegetarian option, skip the bacon.
Step 3 Meanwhile, light the grill. Brush the onions with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until softened and browned, 10 minutes. Separate the onions into rings. Brush the peaches with olive oil and grill over moderately high heat until tender, 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate. 
Step 4 In a large bowl, toss the onions with the peaches and bacon.  If preparing ahead cover with foil and set aside. Add the buttermilk dressing and toss to coat. Serve right away. 

 

 

Tags

Community Updates

 

We will keep this list updated as we receive information. If you are a business and have an update for us, please email info@ncliving.com. (Updated 5/7/20 at 2:24 pm)

 

NORTH CAROLINA STATE COVID-19 HOTLINE: 866-462-3821

On Friday, May 8 at 5 pm, North Carolina will move into Phase One of easing restrictions. The Stay-at-Home order stays in effect with some modifications:

- Retail stores can open with 50% capacity and customers standing 6 feet apart
- 10 person limit on general gatherings indoors
- Teleworking and face-covering are still encouraged
- Salons, spas, entertainment venues, gyms, playgrounds, and theaters are still closed
- State parks and trails are encouraged to re-open
- Restaurants will still only be able to serve food via take-out, drive-thrus, and delivery

 

Black Sheep Taxi is offering delivery of takeout from restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacy, shopping, etc. Call, text 828-200-7006 or  theflock@blacksheeptaxi.com. Rates are posted on their website for one-way trips.  

 

Events

Highlands Festivals Inc. Spring Concert is canceled.

The Village Green is open but all Easter activities have been canceled.

Highlands PAC and Highlands Playhouse have canceled their 2020 seasons.

 

Cashiers Businesses

Cashiers Kitchen Co. is closed.

Cashiers Valley Pharmacy Open Monday - Friday 8 am-6 pm and Saturdays 8 am - 2 pm 828-743-3114

Ingles is offering a special shopping hour for seniors, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 am to 8 am.

Paws on the Mountain (828-743-7500) is delivering and offering curbside pick-up.

Woof Gang Bakery (828-743-9663) is delivering and offering curbside pick-up.

United Community Bank will remain open by drive-thru and appointment only.

Zoller Hardware is open and offering curbside pickup.

 

 

Cashiers Restaurants

Buck's Coffee - Open for takeout 7 am - 6 pm. Every Wednesday morning from 7 am to 10 am, all medical & emergency personnel can enjoy a complimentary to-go beverage.

Chili Loco - Offering takeout. Call 828-743-1160. See website for menu.

Cork and Barrel Lounge - Offering takeout Wednesday - Saturday 4 pm - 9 pm. Call 828-743-7477

Cornucopia is closed at this time.

Mica's - Offering takeout from 11 am - 6 pm. Call 828-743-5740. See website for menu.

Randevu - Offering takeout from 9 am - 2 pm. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Closed 828-743-0190.

Slab Town Pizza - Offering takeout from 11:30 am-5 pm Call 828-7743-0020 See website for menu.

The Library Kitchen & Bar - Offering takeout and delivery (5-mile radius) Tuesday-Saturday place order between 12 pm - 6 pm and pick up between 4 pm-7 pm. Discounted menu for takeout and offering wine by the bottle to-go. 

The Ugly Dog in Cashiers - Offering takeout. Call 828-743-3000 and visit their website.

Winslow's Hideaway - Offering to-go and delivery orders. Call 828-743-2226.

Whiteside Brewing Co. - Call 828-743-6000. Offering takeout 11:30 am - 8 pm (closed Wednesday and Sunday).

Zookeeper Bistro is closed at this time.

 

 

Highlands Businesses

All businesses and restaurants are closed except those offering curbside service:

Highlands Playhouse has canceled their 2020 season.

Highlands Wine Shoppe - Offering wine delivery. Call 828-526-4080, Tuesday - Saturday 12pm-5pm.

The Skin Lab - Offering medical-grade skincare for home care or curbside by order. Call 704-575-2038.

Zen Spa is offering chair massages. Therapist and the customer can wear a mask while they receive quick chair massages at $2 per minute with 10-minute minimum, as well as foot reflexology. Call ahead for an appointment Monday to Saturday 10 am - 5 pm at 828-200-9934 to avoid delays. They also carry spring sugar scrubs and anti-viral essential oil blend on sale now for curbside pickup at $24.99 per bottle.

 

 

Highlands Restaurants

4418 Kitchen & Bar - Offering curbside pickup from 11:30 am-7 pm. Call 828-526-5002.

Asia House is closed at this time.

Blue Bike Cafe - Offering curbside breakfast and lunch, Monday-Friday 9 am - 2 pm. Call 828-526-9922 or order off ChowNow.

Bridge at Mill Creek - Offering curbside takeout from 5 pm - 9 pm (Closed on Tuesdays). Call 828-526-5500. See the menu on their Facebook page.

Cake Bar - Taking orders Monday through Thursday for Friday or Saturday afternoon pick up. Call 828-421-2042.

Calder's Coffee Cafe is closed at this time.

Serving Highlands since 1999, Fresser's Courtyard Cafe offers take out. Opens at 11 am, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday -  Saturday for May. For now, closed Sunday and Wednesday. Call ahead at 828-526-8847. Menu is available at www.wecaterhighlands.com.

Four65 Wood Fire Bistro & Bar is closed at this time.

Highlands Burritos is closed.

Highlands Smokehouse - Offering curbside pickup, Thursday - Saturday 11 am-8 pm and Sunday 11 am - 7 pm. Call 828-526-3554 or order online.

Kilwin's is closed at this time.

Lakeside Restaurant - Offering curbside and in-town delivery. Open Tuesday- Saturday. Call 828-526-9419.

Midpoint - Offering curbside pick-up, Thursday-Sunday 1 pm - 7 pm. Call 828-526-2277.

The Ugly Dog Pub - Offering curbside and delivery from 11:30 am - 9 pm. Call 828-526-8364 or order online on ChowNow.

Tug's Proper is closed at this time.

Wild Thyme is closed at this time.

Whole Life Market - Offering curbside service. Call 828-526-5999.

Liquid Gold

How to Choose an Olive Oil

Picking out an olive oil can be an overwhelming experience. The number of oil-containing bottles and tins gracing a grocery store’s shelves is almost as impressive as the cardboard boxes lining the cereal aisle. Of course like breakfast cereals, not all olive oils are created the same. So how do you choose? Maybe you look at price. Maybe you just go for the same one you’ve always bought. Maybe you just pick one with a pretty picture on the label. Or, maybe, you choose one based on what you think you know and like about olive oil. Bottomline, no matter what you eventually decide on—be it extra virgin, virgin, refined, pure … one that hail’s from Greece, from Italy, from Croatia, from the U.S. … one that’s organic … one that’s lite … or one that’s flavor-infused, be forewarned, there’s far more to choosing an olive oil than simply glancing at the label.  
Don’t judge an olive oil by its cover
In 2010, the University of California at Davis Olive Center and the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, published a report on the quality of olive oils readily available in America’s grocery stores. And of the 19 brands tested, “69 percent of imported olive oil samples and 10 percent of California olive oil samples labeled as extra virgin failed to meet the IOC/USDA standards for extra virgin olive oil.” The study, partially funded by California olive oil producers, received its fair share of criticism but nonetheless, proved what many expert olive oil tasters had been saying for years—not all EVOO labeled as so, is indeed EVOO. 
     “If you’re using olive oil for the health benefits,” says Chicago-based culinary expert and Iron Chef America judge-in-rotation Mario Rizzotti, “but it’s not really olive oil, then you’re not getting the health benefits.” And in a country plagued by cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and obesity problems, it’s vital to do as much as possible to improve our overall health—which is why Rizzotti is on a mission to help Americans choose products, and foods, that will put everyone on the road to better health—one EVOO spoonful at a time. 
Drizzle, don’t dip
     “What we’re trying to accomplish is to promote the healthy benefits of authentic Italian food and authentic Italian ingredients,” Rizzotti says. “There are so many things out there that people consider Italian that in Italy, we don’t even have.” 
     And one of those things, says Rizzotti, is the presentation of bread baskets with accompanying bowls of olive oil before the meal.
     “That’s not Italian,” he said. 
     “Really?” I asked. I mean you can barely go to an Italian restaurant here in the U.S. without a substantial serving of bread hitting your table long before your meal arrives. And so, admittedly, I was skeptical. How can that be? It’s a staple practice in most stateside Italian restaurants but here was a genuine Italian chef telling me the practice was anything but authentic Italian. So I Googled it, and as it turns out, Google agreed with the Italian. 
     “I use olive oil for cooking,” explained Rizzotti, “but really good olive oil should be used for finishing dishes and drizzled on food once its prepared.” He uses Terre Rosse DOP Umbria Kosher Organic EVOO, which he has shipped directly to him from Italy’s Umbria region, just north of Rome, bordering Tuscany. Interested in trying the oil Rizzotti dubs liquid gold? You can purchase Terre Rosse on his website, MarioRizzotti.com, $22 for 250ml. 
     Curious about other olive oils? Or maybe you have a favorite and want to see how it stacks up to world-renowned oils. Check out BestOliveOils.com for the most recent list of The World’s Best Olive Oils. The list represents compiled results from the New York International Olive Oil Competition, the world’s largest most comprehensive olive oil quality contest. Or better yet, plan to attend the 2019 event, May 10 in NYC and be one of the first to experience award-winning olive oils paired with regional specialties from around the world by the International Culinary Center team and NYIOOC Resident Chef Perola Polillo. Tickets go on sale Feb. 15. More information visit NYOliveOil.com.
How to choose an olive oil
When purchasing EVOO, there’s plenty to consider and individual palates have different opinions as to what tastes good and what doesn’t. Therefore, the best advice is twofold—first, educate yourself on the different varietals, and second, don’t be afraid to experiment with new oils. 
     “There’s lots of good olive oils,” said Rizzotti, "and lots of opinions," he added. But whether you choose an oil from his homeland of Italy, or one from anywhere in the globe, he wants you to know these two things: 
     One, “cold pressed” doesn’t really mean cold: It only means the olives cannot be pressed in an environment with a temperature exceeding 80.6 F. In other words, it’s marketing lingo consumers have come to associate with quality but in all actuality, doesn’t directly correlate. 
     And two, just like the “Product of Italy” quote on the back of his cooking jacket, if you want an Italian olive oil, the label, in accordance with Italian law, must say either Product of Italy or 100% Italian. "Made from Italian Olives," "Packaged in Italy," and "Made in Italy" don't assure an authentic product. •

The Truth About Sulfites

There are all sorts of misconceptions about sulfites found in wine. Yes, many winemakers add small amounts of sulfites to preserve their wines, but sulfites are also naturally occurring. Sulfites in wine, usually red wine, get the blame for everything from headaches, sleepless nights, congestion and hangovers. Those who speak out against sulfites even claim European wines do not have any sulfites post-production, but are injected with them prior to shipping to the U.S. The confusion among the general wine-drinking community is great, but let’s look to one wine connoisseur to shed some light…

Sulfites (chemically known as sulfur dioxide or SO2) are a preservative and can be found in all wines as they naturally occur as a by-product of fermentation.  Most wineries, including those in Europe and around the world, also add a minuscule amount of sulfites to preserve the color and flavor of their wines. Interesting to note that more sulfites are added to white wines, especially sweeter dessert wines, while dry red wines have the lowest sulfite content.  Sulfites have been used in wine production for centuries, including to clean storage tanks after use rather than harsh chemicals. 

It may come as a surprise that few countries require wine labels that state "Contains Sulfites," and less of a surprise that the U.S. is one of the handful that does.  There is a tiny percentage of the population that is allergic to sulfites, mainly severe asthma sufferers, and there are many foods and beverages, other than wine, that contain more sulfites, such as dried fruit.  It's a mystery why any wine made in the U.S. or imported into the U.S. must be labeled with "Contains Sulfites" while these other products with higher sulfites are not required to do so.

Bottom line: unless you are one of the few who is allergic to sulfites, the sulfites are not the cause of the “dreaded wine headache.”

- source: Fred Bowen from adeptlifestyle.com

Wine 101

Selecting Wine

// what to drink now

Looking for something pink to drink for a Valentine’s Day outing? Turn to rosé in a can by Amble and Chase. This rosé, sourced from Provence, France, will add to the fun while wetting your whistle, $19.99 for four cans

Crisp, fruit forward, and refreshing
Portable, eco-friendly, and a good value

You’ll fall head-over-heels for the 2015 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, $55.00

A well rounded Sonoma Coast white that works perfectly with spicy foods
Tasting notes reveal lemon and pineapple, while the nose sniffs out scents of lemon curd, peach and toasted cinnamon

Interested in something refreshing and bubbly, how about red bubbles? Lini 910- “Lambrusca” Lambrusco allows wine drinkers to step out of the box and try something new, average price $15.99

Appellation is Rosso Reggiano from Emilia-Romagna, Italy
A dry, sparkling red with tastes of berries and cream

Calling all California Pinot lovers! This 2014 Cambria, a.k.a. Julia’s Vineyard, Benchbreak Pinot Noir is a luxurious warm red to cozy up to on a cool, winter night $25.00

Rich, deep fruit, mild tannins and very balanced
Flavors of plum, cinnamon and black pepper
Pair with anything, especially pork

Robert Parker highly rates this easy drinking red, 2014 André Brunel Grenache, $20.99

90% Grenache grape
Produced in the Rhone Valley of France
Complex and intense; tastes of strawberry, cocoa and vanilla with round tannins
Ideal to relax by at the end of the day or pair with lamb


// what to cellar

Suggestions by sommelier Jennifer Cunningham at Highlands Wine Shoppe

2013 Emblem by Michael Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon,  $35.99

93 points by Wine Enthusiast
Rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), Petite Sirah (8%), Petit Verdot (5%), Syrah (4.5%), Zinfandel (2%), and Merlot (1.5%)
Polished, full-bodied with flavors of caramelized crème brulee, blackberry and spice
Any vintage of Domaine de la Berthete Chateauneuf-du-Pape, price varies on vintage

2012 was winemaker Pascal Maillet’s first vintage of this wine
50% Grenache, 50% Syrah
Aged 18 months in stainless steel tanks
Handcrafted, limited production from 50+ year old vines
Aromas of black currant and spice; well balanced, rich, with tastes of pepper

2014 Smith-Devereux Cabernet Sauvignon by Steve Smith and Ian Devereux, $40.99 

First release at a great price point, and a champion out of the gate
Sourced by sustainably farmed vineyards from Napa Valley’s Howell and Diamond Mountains
Deep ruby red fruit, complex, well constructed tannins with tastes of black currant, blackberry, cassis, dark chocolate, loamy earth, leather, and tobacco

2016 Booker Vineyards “My Favorite Neighbor” Red Blend by Eric Jensen $84.99

Full bodied and elegant with tastes of crème de cassis, licorice, and tobacco
97 points by Robert Parker 
2011 Bruno Giacosa Santo Stefano Barbaresco, 100% Nebbiolo, $175.99 

Intense and complex with tastes of violets, licorice, and raspberry
Received 95 Points by Wine Enthusiast 
An icon in Italian winemaking, Bruno Giacosa passed away in January 2018. The 2011 vintage was his last that will make this vintage very collectible.


// Wine Education

Highlands Wine Shoppe (828) 526-4080

Wine tastings and education are part of the offerings at this well stocked wine shop. Advanced Sommelier, Nick Demos, is brought in once a month for the Highlands School of Wine, an educational series to taste and learn about wine. Each class has a different theme from bubbles to food pairings to wines from different countries. Call for a class schedule and to make a reservation.


// Wine Events

Tim Lundy of Rosewood Gourmet in Highlands often holds food and wine tastings at The Vineyard at High Holly in Scaly Mountain. There are two coming up in September and October as well as a special wine pairing dinner at a private home in November. Call for more information at (828) 526-0383.

Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands hosts celebrity chef dinners including wine pairings. Go to halfmilefarm.com/chefdinners for the winter schedule

Highlands Food & Wine Festival is a four-day event featuring food and music of course, but also wine tastings, winemaker sponsored dinners, and education. Check out the website for tickets and the schedule of events at highlandsfoodandwine.com


// NC Wine Trail
Wineries and Vineyards in the Mountains
Burntshirt Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC
(828) 685-2402, burntshirtvineyards.com

Growing only estate-grown fruit from rosé to chardonnay to merlot to riesling, Burntshirt has several medal winners to share with tasters. Daily tours start at 2 pm and wine tastings are available all day. A bistro for a sit-down lunch is on premise as well as a food truck to provide sustenance while tasting. Live music rounds out the experience on the weekends.

Calaboose Cellars - Andrews, NC 
(828) 321-2006, calaboosecellars.com

Noted as “the smallest winery in America” and the furthest west located in NC, Jailhouse Winery, a.k.a. Calaboose, is a tiny 300-square-foot winery with award-winning wines. It’s history as an old jail makes the visit all the more interesting. Their vineyards are located elsewhere in the mountains of Cherokee County, but the wines and beers can be tasted Monday through Saturday. Varietals include Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc. 

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC
(828) 225-1333, biltmore.com

The most popular wine tasting destination in Western NC due to its fame and Disney-like draw, the Biltmore Estate offers a behind-the-scene tour and various wine experiences. Relax at their wine bar tasting all of their many vintages of reds, whites and roses while snacking cheese and charcuterie. Make sure to taste their award-winning pinot grigio. Consult the website for more general information, hours and about booking a private event.

Addison Farms Vineyard - Leicester, NC
(828) 581-9463, addisonfarms.net

Located seventeen miles northwest of Asheville, Addison Farms is a family-owned-and-operated vineyard and winery sitting on 55 acres that has been passed down through four generations. The Addison family grows six varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot and Petite Manseng. Several of their wines have medaled. Receive a personal tour from winemaker, Jeff Frisbee, and enjoy a flight afterwards in their tasting room. Open year-round. See website for days and hours of operation.