Old Edwards Inn

A Mountain Christmas

Christmas on the Plateau is much more than a single day or a week. It seems to begin the moment one pushes away from the Thanksgiving table.

The kick-off event takes place the day after Thanksgiving, November 24, so that any guests in town for one holiday can immediately begin celebrating the next. The place to be is Cashiers' Village Green, where from 2 to 5 p.m., Santa and Mrs. Claus will be in the Village Green gazebo to hear the Christmas wishes of local boys and girls. There will be games, a few tasty treats, and hot drinks as guests await the traditional lighting of the Cashiers Christmas Tree, a spectacular 65-foot spruce. The lighting will take place between 5 to 6 p.m., accompanied by holiday music. Stay to roast marshmallows and make s'mores around the fire pit.

Meanwhile, over at the Bascom Center for the Arts in Highlands, there will be Gingerbread Workshops at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on both Friday, November 24 and Saturday, the 25. Families should register in advance to attend and come prepared to build personalized gingerbread houses, which will be entered in a contest for Bascom gift certificates.

On Saturday, November 25, Mr. and Mrs. Santa will make their way to Highlands at Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park. An added attraction will be the reading of the Christmas story by local ministers. Song books will be distributed for a community sing-along and local merchants will be offering hot chocolate and cookies. The tree lighting, which takes place at 6:30 p.m., will be especially dramatic as all the other business lights will be turned off for that special moment.

If you're in the park for the tree-lighting, be sure to check out the ice-skating rink which will be open extra hours during the Christmas holidays. The charge to use the rink is just $5 and ice skates are provided. The rink, which opened for the 2017-2018 season on November 9, will be available for extended hours throughout the holiday season beginning each day at 1 p.m. For more information regarding the holiday schedule, call the Highlands Recreation Department at 828-526-3556.

With the lighting of these community Christmas trees and the season's kick-off comes thoughts of a tree for one's own home. There is no better place to find a live tree than here in Western Carolina, where Christmas tree farms are a cottage industry. Our region's elevation, excellent soil, and well dispersed rainfall contribute to its deserved reputation as a reliable source for Christmas trees

A perfect place to visit is the 80-acre Tom Sawyer's Tree Farm in Glenville, where families can choose and cut their own Fraser Fir trees, measuring from three to 12 feet. While the tree is being packed to take home, visitors can check out the farm's charming village populated with Christmas elves, a craft tent for creating Christmas art, and a storytelling room. Move to the big red barn for food, drink, and evergreen selections, participate in a scavenger hunt and then drop off letters to Santa at his own post office. A ride in a horse-drawn carriage can round out a memorable experience. Tom Sawyer's is open through the season until Christmas Eve for people arriving to the mountains later in December. Please note, because of his busy schedule in December, Santa will only be at the farm on weekends.

Of course, you could choose to create a truly indelible family memory with the Christmas Tree Package from Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, the luxury hotel which is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Spend one night, enjoy dinner at Madison's, and take in such family-friendly amenities as popcorn, holiday movies, and games in the Kelsey Game and Theater Room. You can even ask an elf to come to your room to tuck in the children. Awake the next morning and drive to a local tree farm with a voucher for a five-to-six-foot Christmas tree. Now that's a holiday kick-off!

The month-long celebration continues the following week with Highlands' Olde Mountain Christmas Parade, Saturday, December 2 at 11 a.m. This tradition draws participation by area marching bands and school groups and boasts a live nativity scene including real camels, the Mountain Garden Club Dancing Ladies and, of course, Santa Claus. Small children are encouraged to bring bags for the candy that is distributed from the various floats. The merchants in Highlands will be competing in a holiday window decorating contest, making Main Street and surrounding streets perfect for strolling all day long.

Cashiers hosts its Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 9, at noon. This year's parade is titled Silver and Gold Bells, It's Christmas Time in the Village and honors the Village Green's 25th anniversary and the Volunteer Fire Department's 50th. Look for another appearance by Santa and then head to the nearby Community Center for the tenth annual Christmas luncheon showcasing Cashiers Cares. The luncheon provides a timely opportunity to learn about the work of this neighbors helping neighbors organization which supports ten local charities. A hot dog luncheon will be provided by Cashiers Rotary Club, and Santa (he's everywhere!) and Mrs. Claus will be guests of honor for those wanting photos.

Christmas, of course, would not be Christmas without special music and The Cashiers Adult Community Chorus is practicing for its Christmas concert to be presented in the Sanctuary of the Cashiers United Methodist Church on Sunday, December 3 at 3 p.m. Selections include the God with Us! cantata, Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, and Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

Another community offering on December 5 at 7:30 p.m. is the Rhythmic Circus performance of Red and Green at Western Carolina University's Bardo Performing Arts Center. A family-friendly celebration of the season, Red and Green is a song and dance extravaganza of rapid-fire tap backed by a seven-piece band.

Of course, merchants from Highlands to Cashiers will be a big part of the holiday spirit with lots of festive temptations. One must-see is the famed Christmas Cottage on Main Street in Highlands which has been a local landmark for more than thirty years. Richard Osborne, who owns the shop with his wife Teresa, says that Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones themed ornaments are very popular this year, as is an electric climbing Santa who walks up and down a ladder that can be leaned against a wall. Animated Christmastime televisions are also flying off the shelves. A visit here will fortify you for the rest of your holiday shopping and preparations.

And, before you know it, it's here!

Packages wrapped, family safely gathered, pantry fully stocked. By Christmas Eve it's time to slow down and remember what the season is all about.

A Regal Night's Sleep: A Peek inside a Trio of High Country Luxury Lodgings

 

Nestled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau holds as many allures as there are stars in the sky high above Whiteside Mountain. From a romantic escape to a weekend adventure, what often draws visitors to the Cashiers-Highlands Plateau are the picturesque views, enchanting waterfalls, temperate climate, charming collection of shops and restaurants, and incredible array of exciting events and outdoor activities. Of course, once they arrive, these sightseers are often pleasantly surprised by the caliber of our accommodations and the fact that Southern Hospitality is still alive and well. Whether seeking rustic refinement in a rental lodge or a posh place along Main Street to rest one’s head for the night, our lodgings serve as a sophisticated sneak peek into what life might be like as a regular high country homeowner. To that end, NC Living Magazine is proud to shine the spotlight on three of our finest proprietors of repose to aid you in planning your next visit to our beautiful little corner of the world…

 

Old Edwards Inn & Spa
This five-star oasis at the heart of Highlands’ renowned Main Street has garnered the attention Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes Magazine, Southern Living and TripAdvisor, among others – making its mark as one of the best hotels in the state, the South, the nation and the world. Boasting Old World-inspired architecture, Old Edwards Inn touts itself as a “casually elegant” resort. At center stage lies the historic inn with its individually appointed guest rooms featuring period antiques, fine European bedding and Italian linens alongside thoroughly modern conveniences such as free WIFI, heated floors in the bathroom and flat-screen TVs. Radiating out from there is the award-winning Spa with a number of sophisticated Spa Suites, a variety of quaint Cottages and an awe-inspiring assortment of Guest Estates. Not far away, the Old Edwards Club showcases 18 holes of golf that are as scenic as they are challenging, as well as an outdoor heated mineral pool, clay tennis courts and state-of-the-art fitness center. In perfect balance with the stylishness of the surroundings and the superiority of the guest experience is the diversity of the culinary encounters. Presenting farm fresh local cuisine crafted using ingredients harvested as close as Old Edwards own gardens and a number of regional farmers, Old Edwards showcases seven sophisticated restaurants, eateries and watering holes, including the highly-touted farm-to-table Madison’s Restaurant, The Wine Garden, Hummingbird Lounge, Arts at the Lodge, The Spa Café, The Grill Room at Old Edwards Club and seasonal opportunities for poolside dining. Eat, Drink, Play, Sleep and Repeat.

 

200 Main
A sister property to Old Edwards Inn, this rustically refined mountain retreat currently features 40 guest rooms and one chic suite – some of which boast private balconies overlooking Main Street. In order to keep up with growing demand, 200 Main will throw back the curtain this summer on two additional buildings to include 20 new guest rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness room. The new guest rooms will comprise two queen beds, a fireplace and a choice of either patio or balcony. In keeping with the tranquility of its setting, 200 Main offers an overwhelming sense of leisure with its heated outdoor mineral pool, fire pit on the terrace, friendly cornhole competitions on the lawn, and so much more. Adventure abounds within mere miles of 200 Main, including hiking trails, waterfalls, zip lining, boating at Lake Glenville and an active arts scene – not to mention the unique boutiques and excellent eateries of Highlands and the neighboring village of Cashiers.

 

Half Mile Farm
This self-proclaimed “country inn” is also owned by Old Edwards Hospitality. Like its sister property at 200 Main, Half-Mile Farm has undergone significant property enhancements – all of which will be revealed June 2017. Imbued with the sense of an authentic Bed & Breakfast experience, Half-Mile Farm provides complimentary chef-prepared breakfasts and afternoon social hours featuring delectable wine and hors d’oeuvres on the house. In addition to a spectacular collection of rooms and suites in the historic main inn, Half-Mile Farm also boasts a number of surprisingly sophisticated cabins. As a member of Old Edwards Hospitality, Half-Mile Farm guests are afforded room signing privileges at each of the restaurants at Old Edwards Inn, as well as access to the amenities at Old Edwards Club. However, with 14 acres of fields, forests, streams and lakes for the exploring, there’s rarely a reason to leave the Farm in search of distractions. While here, guests can take a dip in the heated outdoor mineral pool, wander along a creek side trail, go fishing or canoeing on the 6-acre Apple Lake or simply relax and soak up the serenity of their scenic surroundings. 

Thanksgiving, Mountain Style

Thanksgiving on the Plateau is becoming a holiday tradition as more and more people are discovering the pleasures of food, family, and football at 3,500 feet. For others, it is the weekend that officially signals the end of the summer and fall seasons and an obvious time to fill the house or cabin with loved ones. It provides the warmth of a family gathering without all the stress that often comes with Christmas.
But for those of us who see nothing stress-free in preparing a delectable feast, there are ways to ease the burden. More and more local businesses stand ready to streamline the holiday with an array of delicious offerings that seem homemade but require little effort.
Robin Crawford, for example, the well-known proprietor of the Cashiers Farmer’s Market, will be offering everything from all-natural turkeys you prepare at home to multi-course à la carte meals you build from her considerable list of sides.  Typically, she says, she offers meals to serve four to six people and a customer may pick up a fully cooked turkey along with any number of sides, including a squash casserole, green beans, and “pilgrim mashed potatoes,” a recipe similar to twice-baked potatoes without the skin but with lots of butter. She can even provide the homemade gravy. All the traditional pies will be available, of course!  
While Thanksgiving marks the end of the season for the Farmer’s Market, they will stock garlands and greenery to usher in the Christmas holidays.  Some people, she says, will put a fall-colored bow on a green wreath and just change the ribbon to green or red as Christmas nears. She also carries a fun selection of yard decorations—turkeys and pumpkins mounted on wire to be stuck in the ground—and can provide simple centerpieces made from straw.
In Highlands, the Mountain Fresh Grocery at the bottom of Main Street offers a complete traditional dinner for six people, the centerpiece being a butter-basted turkey or spiced, glazed ham cooked Thanksgiving morning. The meal includes dressing, traditional green bean casserole, cranberry relish, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, turkey herb gravy, and homemade yeast rolls. For dessert, the market offers Granny Smith apple, pumpkin or pecan pie.
A new and welcome addition to Thanksgiving take-out this year is Sapphire Valley’s Library Restaurant and Bar. Executive Chef Johannes Klapdohr anticipates a traditional menu with a Southern accent or two,  such as collard greens and macaroni and cheese. He, too, will be preparing ham, and orders may be picked up on Thanksgiving morning.
Ingles is another helpful source, offering a fully-cooked turkey or ham dinner for the holidays. A variety of side dishes are available, including homestyle gravy, sweet potato casserole, broccoli and rice casserole, and Amish-style cole slaw.
If you fall somewhere in between doing dinner from scratch and carrying it home ready-made, the Plateau offers lots of help. The Spice and Tea Exchange in Highlands is stocking a wonderful assortment of seasonings to dial your cooking up a notch. Consider, for example, a turkey or ham herb rub. Manager Adison Harris also recommends a baker’s spice blend, a pumpkin pie spice blend, and an autumn harvest blend which intensify the flavors of fruit breads, soups, squash, and sweet potatoes. Another idea she suggests for a home celebration is a mulling mix spice blend that is delicious with apple juice or red wine.
Fresser’s in Highlands will have “everything from soup to nuts,” according to chef Debbie Grossman. Pick up an order of roasted butternut squash and chestnut bisque or a casserole of bourbon sweet potatoes, made, she assures, with excellent bourbon. She can help with the night before Thanksgiving as well, providing her legendary lasagna.
Save room for dessert, because the choices are staggering. Most all the sources listed above will have traditional pies available. Additionally, Whitney Henson, regional manager of Cream and Flutter in Slabtown, says   by Thanksgiving week, she will have the three favorites in her store: pumpkin and apple, of course, but also pecan, which comes in regular, chocolate, or bourbon flavors. The pies can be ordered with 24-48 hours’ notice and may be picked up from the “take and bake” line, which enables you to take the unbaked pie home to bake it in your own oven just like grandma might have done.
Another sublime source for homemade pie is Appalachian Harvest on Main Street in Highlands, where Kimberly Baldwin already has orders for more than thirty.  The pies, which are so heavy they require two hands to hold, are legendary for their organic and generous fruity fillings. Her jarred marmalades, fillings and jellies, which are also sold in Williams Sonoma and Whole Foods Market, include several which are perfect for Thanksgiving. She makes a rich cranberry relish and also recommends a homemade holiday pepper jelly, made from pecans and cranberry.
Of course, there is always the option of dining out, and the choices are enticing. Madison’s, at Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, will be offering a full-service dinner, as will Wolfgang’s, also in Highlands.
Wolfgang’s will serve dinner in a series of seatings, beginning at 11:30 a.m. and ending at 4:00 p.m. The menu features such favorites as shrimp and lobster bisque, traditional turkey or ham, as well as a slow-braised lamb shank with root vegetables.  
The Verandah, not to be outdone, will be serving an extensive buffet from noon to 6:00 p.m., featuring a “cold table” laden with shrimp and salads and a hot buffet serving the traditional turkey as well as “turducken,” made of boneless turkey, duck, and chicken held together with stuffing. An elaborate dessert bar will finish off the experience, including traditional pie as well as an assortment of cookies.
And so, like those Pilgrims hundreds of years ago, we gather together for what can only be called a magnificent mountain feast. ◊

Old-Fashioned Family Fun

Trending today is the idea of strengthening the family bond by sharing more memorable and meaningful moments together. Families are increasingly electing to put down their smartphones and turn off their televisions in order to find group activities away from screens. In the new year, if you and your family resolve to find quality time together then the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau has several terrific options to enjoy good old-fashioned family fun outdoors. The small town of Highlands, surrounded by national forest and nestled in the mountains at 4118’ in elevation, may appear like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The town plan lays out ideally for visitors and residents alike to easily walk the sidewalks and enjoy the quaint shops and plentiful restaurants, or sit on a bench to watch the world go by (perhaps with an ice cream cone in hand). Steepled churches, rhododendron walkways, and front porches adorned with rocking chairs make for a handsome picture-perfect postcard. Adding to the charm and character of the town is the newly opened ice skating rink that draws more families to experience the fresh air and find fun on the ice. Sandwiched between Main Street and Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park, the town green space named after Samuel Hutchinson and Clinton Kelsey who founded Highlands in 1875, the state-of-the-art rink was a gift to the town by Art and Angela Williams of Old Edwards Inn and Spa. Open from November to March, Thursday through Tuesday, the ice rink entices people from families to singles to wrap themselves in fleece and don their skates. People of all ages take to the ice amid gleeful faces and peals of laughter. While lively background music plays, you’ll see some young and old holding hands, solo skaters finding their own magic, and observers on the sidelines snapping photos of loved ones and sipping hot chocolates. While there is the option to use your own skates, the $5 entrance fee includes skates, making it an affordable form of entertainment. And for those with more limited skating abilities, plastic Skate Helpers are available to assist in keeping everyone upright on the ice. One visiting Atlanta family staying in town was thrilled to find amusement of this kind for their five kids ranging in age from 5 to 13. They loved the accessibility of the rink and the beauty of its surroundings. While the rink hosts birthday parties, after-school gatherings, and events, “date night” has become popular on Friday and Saturday nights when the rink remains open late. No matter who is on the ice, bliss and delight seem to be a common theme. If you need to be outfitted for chilly weather, go to Highland Hiker in Cashiers or Highlands to find the best brands in outdoor apparel. Around town or at the rink, you may just run into an old-timer who recalls many years past when ice skating on local lakes was commonplace. Neighbors and families would gather to enjoy a good skate, but not before shoveling lots of snow off the ice. Times have changed because winters are not as cold as they once were, but this area is fortunate to have two manmade rinks on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, along with other outdoor sport offerings for you and your family. With the summer crowds gone, winter is a perfect time to enjoy the beauty this area holds. Don’t let time skate by before you and yours find some adventure on the ice.

A New Chapter for the Library

Johannes Klapdohr exudes enthusiasm about his work, and luckily for us, the fruits of that work are accessible. The chef and co-founder of Sapphire Valley’s Library Kitchen & Bar, Klapdohr has hit his stride in the creative reinvention of the local landmark.
The “new” Library opened over the New Year’s holiday in 2016-2017, and in the past year has become the epitomic place for fine dining, brilliantly positioned against the historical backdrop of the 1864 farmhouse that it once was.
On any given night one can see a comfortable blend of regulars and out-of-towners enjoying food and drink at the sleek kitchen bar, a small room with a fireplace, or the happening main dining room. “I like to think it has a ‘clubby’ feel,” he explains, and he’s right. There is a familiarity about the place, but don’t be fooled. This new Library is sophisticated, state-of-the-art, and delicious.
The menu, which changes seasonally to augment the use of fresh local ingredients, ranges from trout with Jerusalem artichokes to seafood risotto and chocolate bread pudding.
Johannes, as most everyone calls him, grew up in a family that respected the process of food preparation.  He is the third generation of family chefs and has warm childhood memories of his grandfather’s hotel restaurant in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, a quaint area founded by the Romans. Everything was made from scratch, he recalls, and everything was fresh.
His culinary ambition fueled fourteen years of study and work under various European chefs at several Michelin-starred restaurants.  It was while he was serving as the executive chef in a Berlin restaurant that his sister, who was in Atlanta, suggested he take a temporary assignment working at the Olympic Games, to be held in Atlanta in 1996. In preparation for the Games, the city was actively looking for international chefs.
What was to have been a brief stint in the United States proved eye-opening and challenging and, at the end of the job, he knew he was hooked.  His post as executive chef at the famed Nikolai’s Roof introduced him to the vibrant chef community in Atlanta and provided the contacts that propelled his life of gastronomic adventure.  It was in Atlanta that he met his eventual wife Liz, well known to the Library clientele for her uncanny ability to make first-time guests feel as if they are coming to her home for dinner.
Next stop after Atlanta was Sea Island, Georgia, where for three years Johannes served as executive chef at The Lodge. It was an exciting time to be there, as considerable development and re-building were underway, but the passion to cull the source of gourmet food proved strong.  And so, he accepted the position of executive chef of the famed Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan.  Milan, Ohio that is.
The Culinary Vegetable Institute celebrates the collaboration of chefs and farmers working together. Located at the tip of Lake Erie, it is renowned for having the most fertile soil in the United States and is a leading supplier of sustainable foods. It was here that he saw first-hand, for example, the importance of soil regeneration for the maximum nutritional value of crops.
“You can’t cheat nature,” he explains, detailing how the proper rotation of crops yields the best output.  
Beans, for example, release nitrogen while tomatoes need nitrogen.  Thus, it makes perfect sense that tomatoes would be planted in soil that most recently grew beans.  He rues the fact that peaches are slowly losing their nutritional value because of improper soil regeneration, and that is merely one example.
The stint at the Culinary Vegetable Institute has informed his attitude about food ever since.  Johannes bemoans the common health problems that are increasingly being experienced by younger people and blames a chemically-enhanced, unnatural diet.  He cites the well-known book by Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food, and would wholeheartedly embrace its doctrine of “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.”
The father of three children, ages 8, 7 and 2, Johannes makes it a practice to take them on walks to discover the smell and feel of “real” food and advocates water and milk over soda. Not surprisingly, the big planters located in the Library’s front yard are actually fresh herb gardens and the iconic red tractor on the lawn gives a nod to his guiding philosophy.
After Milan, Ohio came The Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, where opportunities abounded to put into play the healthy yet delicious principles that were celebrated at the Culinary Vegetable Institute.  As executive chef of the entire resort, Johannes had responsibility for all food services which, in addition to the hotel’s famed restaurants, included infinite special events and all activities at The Farm. The farm-to-table movement was in high gear and there seemed no better place to run with it.
But a chance encounter with Marvin Gralnick at the Lonesome Valley Food Show in 2014 set the stage for a brand-new venture.  
Gralnick and his wife Helene may be best known for the successful retail emporium Chico’s.  Beginning in the 1980’s with one small store on Sanibel Island that sold Mexican folk art and sweaters, by the time they retired in 2006, the chain boasted over nine hundred stores, including the Black Market/White House brand.
But Marvin’s true passion is art, and his visionary works that call to mind Pollock and Miro have found their way to extensive public and private exhibitions here and abroad. At the time of this chance meeting, Gralnick owned the building that had been The Library and was contemplating its future.  
As the two men talked over a period of months they discovered a common wavelength for excellence and creativity and a dream of a cutting-edge restaurant, highlighting Johannes’ food and Marvin’s art. The Library began to take shape.
The building itself was basically a shell, and the two strategized to somehow create a contemporary environment that would also honor its considerable history.  Thus, the name “The Library” was set in stone.
“Our guests chose the name,” he says, recalling that the name was originally selected by the previous owner Scott Rooth, who wanted the restaurant to be reminiscent of a popular bar of the same name that had been in the old Fairfield Inn during Prohibition days.
While the core farmhouse, said to be the oldest building in Sapphire Valley, remains nearly intact, much of the property has undergone extensive renovation. For Johannes’ part, he wanted a “transparent” kitchen, so the design is purposefully open, and guests may even sit at a heavy wood bar and watch their food being prepared.  A prominent chandelier in the center of the kitchen/bar room looks as if it could have hung in the original house, but was rescued from a Chico’s store in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Other lamps were culled from Marvin’s considerable collections. Tables were handcrafted to complement the original Library chairs which are currently used, and copper accents were utilized extensively at the bar for a funky “industrial” look.  The interior is painted a clean white, providing the perfect backdrop for Marvin’s bold and often edgy art.
A rendition of the flag with the words “America, A Work in Progress” hangs high above the kitchen and bar room and another work proclaiming “LOVE” in lights sparkles in the main dining rooms.
For his part, Johannes creates his art in the kitchen where a staff of eight works its magic five nights a week, year round.  The menu changes frequently, to reflect the best of what’s fresh. Temperatures are dropping as this is written, and the Library’s menu offers savory stews and cassoulets and side dishes celebrating brussel sprouts, acorn and butternut squash, pears and apples.
If the always crowded parking area is any indication, the two artists have delivered on their collaboration and are providing what Johannes calls “making the exception the rule.”
At the end of an evening at The Library, guests are presented their checks inside an antique bound journal.  Almost all are compelled to write a brief message, a fitting preamble to the next wonderful chapter at the Library.
“Your food is amazing.  I like it, and I am only a kid,” writes one recent patron, while another calls the dining experience “a slice of gastronomic heaven.”
 Like the proper rotation of crops, everything old is new again, and, in the case of the Library Kitchen & Bar, better than ever.