Friday, October 4, 2013

Euphoric in Greenville, SC

Greenville, SC - In its seventh year, the festival founded by local restaurateur, Carl Sobocinski and singer/songwriter Edwin McCain, was the scene of national chefs, winemakers, distilleries, and famous musicians last week when Euphoria hit the town. The 3-day food and wine festival is not like others around the country — music is in the mix making it a “total eat, sip, listen” experience. Events and a myriad of chef-owned restaurants make it clear why the culinary destination was recently voted Top Ten on the “South’s Tastiest Town” list from Southern Living. The aptly named festival continues to bring in crowds annually from across the U.S. in celebration of culinary, beverage and musical talent with all proceeds going to local Upstate charities.

 The 2013 concert headliner was Grammy award winner Kim Carnes and her longtime band. Carnes treated the energetic crowd to the original sound the Nashville star is known for with “Betty Davis Eyes” and other hits. “It is our first time here,” said Carne’s guitarist/songwriter, Greg Barnhill. “We love it here and want to come back as tourists.”

The Taste of the South highlighted local and national chefs in the historic former Duke Mayonnaise factory building: Nose Dive, Bacon Brothers Public House, Tupelo Honey, The Lazy Goat, Roost, and other eateries showcased exceptional cuisine. From comfit of chicken wings with peanuts, cilantro and Thai sauce (Nose Dive), bittersweet chocolate barbeque spare ribs (Roost), braised duck pot pie with jalapeƱo cornmeal crust (Stella’s Bistro), smoked Manchester farm quail with pimento cheese grits (Bacon Brothers Public House) and others, it was all worth sticking a fork into. Fresh, local greens dressed up salads, roasted brussel sprouts and watermelon feta tarragon salad cleansed the palate. To wash it down, breweries were on tap with Stella’s, along with Firefly moonshine, Six and Twenty whiskey, and wines from across the U.S.

Chef luminaries in town are too many to name but to name drop a few: Clay Miller,(Yardbird, Miami); James Boyce (Cotton Row, Huntsville); Rob Newton (Seersucker, Brooklyn). Charleston chefs brought a brigade with famed kitchen kings: Craig Deihl (Cypress), Frank Lee (SNOB), Kevin Johnson (The Grocery) and Mike Lata (FIG/The Ordinary). Culinary rock star Ed Lee of Magnolia 610 attended in 2012. Executive Chef, Anthony Gray said the inspiration for the name Bacon Brothers Public House literally came from a plate of bacon as investors and chefs sat down to talk. Meat is smoked for three days in the back for a guaranteed superb taste, and all ingredients are made in-house. Known for its exceptional charcuterie program the restaurant gets it right with chicken and waffles, voted “Best Chicken and Waffles” in Travel + Leisure.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Traveling Just Got Easier

You wake up to the alarm set on your Smart phone. Check e-mail. Check the weather. Pay a bill. Use the calculator to figure out how much money is your checking account. Listen to Pandora to get through the day. Check Fandango for a movie. Oh, and yes, it’s time to start thinking about vacation. That means checking your favorite travel app – Dwellable to plan your vacation (named by as one of the ten best apps).

If you are like most of us, you have a bunch of apps on your iPhone/Android and iPad. Some you use a lot; some almost never. The Dwellable app is in the first category. First, it is free so anyone can access it. You don’t have to be a techie – it is easy enough for a fifth grader and easily installed on your iPhone/iPad. The best part is that at your fingertips you have great places to stay across the U.S. Start at the Dwellable app home page where images of beautiful vacation spots across the country are front and center. The destinations are among the most beautiful in the U.S. – Hawaii, San Diego, Hilton Head, Colorado, Cape Cod, Outer Banks, to name a few.

Simply select the city you want and let your fingers do the walking through images of beaches, sun, sand and beautiful homes. When you find one you like, another touch brings up the contact information of the owner to allow you to reserve the location. At your fingertips are a full description, prices, availability, and map. Take a virtual tour of your “home away from home” so there are no surprises. There are no gimmicks or tricks. Dwellable works for family vacations, solo travelers, business retreats or family reunions. Whatever the need, you can find it from nice to ultra-nice. The vacation locations on Dwellable fall in two categories: places I have been and places I still want to visit.

As a former Floridian, I was happy to see the Sunshine State as a destination. From Sanibel to South Beach, Siesta Key to Disney World, Florida has it all: looking for shells, soaking up rays at one of the nation’s most glamorous beaches, and walking with Mickey Mouse in the Magic Kingdom. At Cedar Key live the Jimmy Buffet lifestyle and eat oysters on the water.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has long been a popular “vacay” spot. From this vantage point you can check out other cities worthy of a day trip: Charleston, Hilton Head and Aiken, to name a few. I recently took at trip to Aiken, just because. I knew little about the Southern town except for that it is known for Thoroughbred horses, and it began as a railroad town. Not much to go on but it was enough for me.

Aiken is one surprise after another. In the town synonymous with Derby winners, horses rule, but a closer look reveals so much more. It is a town of culture. Juilliard students call it home each March when they return in droves to offer free concerts throughout the town. Jazz musicians, theater majors are everywhere. At night, the talented Juilliard crowd entertains locals with concerts under tents outdoors, concert halls and at a cottage named Joye.

History is rich in the town. In the early 1900s, wealthy northerners got wind of the Southern jewel and made the trek down from the north each winter. Elaborate parties, equestrian events, friendly folks and warm weather kept them coming. Names like Windsor, Astor, Vanderbilt, Koch, Hitchcock, Carnegie, Hitchcock and even FDR were the norm.

The owner of the Hope Diamond is from Aiken and her peers lived in 20-room mansions affectionately called “cottages” in Aiken. Visitors flocked (and still do) to the famed Willcox, one of the worlds best hotels where to soak up the historical ambiance. If the walls could talk….

Aiken is the perfect example of the rich places you can visit in the U.S. Other highlights in South Carolina are Greenville where food lovers flock to its European-style downtown; Spartanburg and its Southern music culture and coastal beaches.

The Outer Banks in North Carolina has plenty of places to stay on Dwellable. It is my state’s crown jewel where you can see wild horses on the beach, walk quiet beaches, eat great food and see nature at its best. Southport (see Safe Haven), Wilmington, Beaufort, and our many coastal towns are all great road trip that lead to water. Easy lifestyle, fresh local seafood and low key people offer the promise of a good time for all ages.

If mountains are more to your taste, head west to Asheville where art, craft beer and scenic vistas are a trifecta of good times. Closer to the Piedmont in the center of the state, you can have a great cabin stay experience at White Sulphur Springs just outside the iconic town of Mt. Airy, home to America’s favorite sheriff, Andy Griffith.

Thanks to the Dwellable app traveling just got easier. With minimal effort you can have a great vacation without picking up a phone, working with a travel agent or wading through a convoluted web site. In just minutes you are on your way to a creating a lasting memory.

Once the Dwellable app is installed start dreaming!