All posts in Food

Strawberry Fields Forever!

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strawberries

strawberries

Strawberry Picking in Wilkes

Spring is a wonderful time filled with great weather (kinda rainy), beautiful nature and short sleeve shirts.  But each year as April arrives, the conversation at my house turns to…. Strawberries.  Yep, believe it or not, my wife and I begin to imagine the taste of locally grown, ripe to the center, red, delicious strawberries and strawberry pie.  As they say…. It is the simple things in life.

Shine to Wine

Shine to Wine

The Shine to Wine festival gets bigger and better each year.  The festival is held in historic downtown North Wilkesboro.  The festival includes regional wines and beer for the tasting, live music and art. The festival lasts from 12 PM – 6 PM and is free to the public.  However, if you plan on sampling the wines, a wristband must be purchased. (Proof of age is required)

Wilkes County was at one time known as the Moonshine Capital of the World and for good reason. Nowadays, the region is becoming known for it’s variety of wines.  Ideally situated with the right precipitation and temperatures, the Yadkin Valley is a perfect region to grow grapes. (Who knew, right?)  So the name, Shine to Wine is a throw-back to the old days with an eye on the future of the wine industry in our community.

Several of the downtown North Wilkesboro restaurants join in the celebration and offer a “Downtown Wine Dinner”.  Be sure to visit 6th and Main and Branciforte’s. Both of establishments offer special entrees paired with signature wines.  Reservations for this special evening is advised, so call ahead and ask them to save you a seat.  The food is always delicious and the prices are reasonable, so enjoy.

The festival always has a great band to listen to while you sample the wines.  Enjoy the distinctive sounds of some of the regions best bands as you walk the streets of North Wilkesboro.  These groups have always provided a great backdrop to the entire event.  Vendor tent hopping and wine tasting to live tunes played with true talent is a great way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

Should you attend?  If you enjoy friendly people, great music and art and a sip of the fruit of the Yadkin Valley Winegrowers, then this is a festival for you.  Check out their website for all the ins and outs and make your s plans now before all the hotel rooms fill up.  Salute!  (www.shinetowine.com)

How to get to the Shine to Wine Festival?

The Shine to Wine Festival is located in Historic Downtown North Wilkesboro.  If you are coming from the east, I would advise taking the NC Hwy 115 exit and then turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into Downtown North Wilkesboro where festival signs and parking will be easily visible.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.


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Wilkes County Flea Market

Wilkes County Flea Market

(also known as the Cattle Sale)

Wilkes County Flea MarketIf you are visiting Wilkes you may hear many of the locals talking about going to the Monday Cattle Sale. What they are really talking about is not buying cattle but rather the flea market that occupies a large field near the actual Cattle Sale. The Wilkes County Flea Market has been going on for as long as I can remember. The Wilkes Monday Flea Market has all kinds of stuff from food and plants to antiques and live animals; sometimes you can even find pony rides and live music! This is a great place to find good deals on all things especially produce. I like to go early in the morning and stock up on my veggies for the week.

What to take:

  • Be sure to bring enough cash to get what you want. If you are making a larger purchase some of the vendors may be willing take a check.
  • Be prepared for the weather with sunscreen or an umbrella. Some of the vendors have booths and some setup tents but the market is mostly exposed to the elements be it rain or shine.
  • I have seen avid  shoppers equipped with tote bags and small carts. There is a lot to see and you may not want to carry your purchases in grocery bags as you walk (though you could always make a quick trip to the car)

How to get there and where to park:

The Wilkes County Flea Market is located on Orange Street, just before the VFW Campground in North Wilkesboro.


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Wilkes County Flea MarketOnce you are on Orange Street you can’t miss the market parking area.  Cars will be parked in a grassy lot alongside the gravel road.  Just pick a spot and remember where you parked.  If you are there on a very busy day you may need to park further away…possibly at the VFW.  The VFW will sometimes charge a small fee for parking in their lot but it goes to a good group of people and is well worth it.

The flea market itself is not immediately visible but you are sure to see people walking towards a row of tightly planted evergreens.  A small stream runs along one side of the market and you will cross one of two small footbridges to enter.  Then you can pick a direction and explore!

Don’t miss The Barn Yard Opry as you walk through the Wilkes County Flea Market!

MenaRick Vineyard & Winery

MenaRick Vineyard and WineryMenaRick Vineyard and Winery is a special treat nestled in the foothills of North Carolina. This family owned and operated vineyard specializes in Spanish and Portuguese varietals. With more than 8 acres of vines planted, including Syrah, Merlot, Chardonnay, Albariño, Grenacha, Tempranillo and Tinta Roriz every guest is sure to find a new favorite wine.

Mena and Rick have built this winery from the roots up! They cut the timber, cultivated the land and built the tasting room with logs from the property. Each year they make a trip to Portugal where they visit the vineyard operated by Mena’s family and search for special treasures to bring home for the winery. These treasures add a special touch to the tasting room and help to tell stories of their Portuguese history. For Mena and Rick, wine making is a passion and labor of love that they gladly share with all who visit. They encourage their guests to take in the scenery by taking a stroll by the pound, having a picnic on the hillside or relaxing with a glass of wine on the patio. This vineyard is a place to escape the bustle of everyday life and is a must see while you visit Wilkesboro NC.

How to get to MenaRick

• Head East on 421 from Wilkesboro towards Winston-Salem (about 10 miles)

• Take Exit 276 toward Red White and Blue Road

• Turn Left after exit and follow until road ends at NC-268 E/Elkin Hwy

• Turn Right onto 268 and follow for about 4 miles

• Turn Left on Hoots Road and follow for 1.5 miles

• Turn Right on Austin Little Mountain Road and follow for 2 miles

• Turn Right on Luffman Road and look for the MenaRick sign and gravel drive shortly on your Right

What to bringMenaRick Vineyard and Winery

Feel free to bring anything you may want for a picnic and be sure to pack your camera to capture the scenery. MenaRick Winery accepts debit and credit (except for American Express).

Where to stay

The Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express are only a short drive away and are located just off of Hwy 421 making them easy to find.  Both offer a delicious hot breakfast and cozy accommodations.  These two hotels frequently offer romance or wine packages which are sure to make your visit extra special!  

 

Click here for details.

 

Brushy Mountain Apple Festival

The first Saturday in October brings the masses to North Wilkesboro for the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. They come to town for what has become one of the largest single day arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast US. Over 160,000 people crowd the downtown streets enjoying a day of food, fellowship and downright fun.

How to get to the Apple Festival.

The festival is held on the streets of downtown North Wilkesboro, so regardless of where you are coming from, just follow the signs once you get into Wilkes County. If you are coming from the east, I would advise you to take the NC Hwy 115 exit and turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into the festival.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.

Parking

Like most large events, parking is the challenge. The downtown area is closed off, so parking has to be in the surrounding areas. Many public and private lots are open for paid parking (the closer the parking, the higher the price). In addition, the Festival provides free shuttle service to and from parking at West Park where there is lots of free parking. Visit www.applefestival.net and click on the parking link for information on this service.

You will find a place to park, so be patient and decide if you want to walk in from paid parking or ride in from free parking. Also, a word to the wise, the neighbors around the festival are wonderful people, but they draw the line when you park in their yard or driveway, so play nice.

Food and Beverage

The Brushy Mountain Apple Festival is famous for its food selection. My wife always shows up early (7am) and enjoys a country ham biscuit or apple pie. Food is available throughout the festival grounds, so be sure to bring your festival map or pick on up the intersection of Main and 9th and do your food research ahead of time. (Nothing worse than eating something at one location only to realize that you missed out on your favorite just a block away)

Prices are reasonable and the food quality is excellent. The variety is expansive and you will find more that you want to eat than you can eat (very frustrating J). Again, research is the key to finding just what you are craving. My favorites are always the ice cream, the homemade apple pies, awesome Carolina pit cooked bar-be-que, anything with grilled peppers and onions and that really greasy slice of pizza. But whatever your personal tastes are, you will find a place to chow down and enjoy.

An honorable mention here, a local water bottling company sets up a location at the Main and 9th intersection and gives a cold, clear drink of mountain water to every festival goer. Kudos to Brushy Mountain Water and Coffee Company!!

Things to do at the Apple Festival.

Every corner brings a surprise and every street a new series of crafts to enjoy. My favorite times at the festival are watching the artisans at work. Blacksmiths, quilters, potters, wood workers and many others are hard at work and you can quietly watch or ask questions as the work their magic. Where else can you watch cane be turned into molasses or hear southern gospel singers while your child is having their face painted? To say the least, diversity reigns supreme. Take your time, get into the crowd and see what each vendor has to offer.

And don’t forget, this is a celebration of the apple harvest on the Brushy Mountains. The orchards produce some of the best apples in the nation and are available for purchase at the end of almost every street. My favorite apple is the Pink Lady, a wonderful combination of sweet and sour that leaves your mouth watering.

The festival has added a Friday night event known as the “Apple Jam” that is centered on local music. It is held in the Festival Park located on the corner of 10th and Main in downtown North Wilkesboro. The Friday night festivities begin at 6 PM, so come early, bring your chairs and enjoy some beautiful mountain music.

Suggestions

1. The crowds are large, but the people are wonderful. If you are opposed to large crowds, show up early or arrive late and you will miss the biggest crowds.

2. Do your homework ahead of time; this will save you time and lots of walking, nothing worse than backtracking at a street festival.

3. Bring something to carry your awesome purchases in. Backpacks or shoulder bags are excellent choices.

4. If you bring children, allow adequate time for them to have a blast in the children’s area. My kids always loved the sand art and face painting.

5. Wear great walking shoes. You are on streets and sidewalks the entire time and some nicely padded walking shoes will seem worth their weight in gold.

6. Dress in layers. You are in the foothills of North Carolina and as Forrest Gump said… “You never know what you’re going to get”.

7. Get a good night’s sleep the night before and bring a big bag of patience. If you get in a hurry, you will miss something pretty special or you will be very frustrated.

8. Get a bag of apples! This festival is still months away and I am already craving one of those wonderful Brushy Mountain apples.

 Leaving the Apple Festival

Because it is an all day festival, leaving is no big deal. There is no mad rush or clogged highways, so take your time, leave when you want to and enjoy the view as you go. Before you go, be sure to stop by the Festival headquarters at the intersection of 9th and Main and get your free VisitWilkesboroNC.com bumper sticker. See you there.

Elkin Creek Vineyard

Vineyards & Winery at Elkin Creek

All About Elkin Creek 

Located in the Yadkin Valley, Elkin Creek Vineyard is a wonderful place to do a wine tasting, have a wedding, or simply enjoy a nice dinner!  Southern Living called Elkin Creek “the best in the valley”, referring to the excellent wine and food!  The land was previously a century-old mill (which can still be seen from the winery), and today it is home to 6 acres of lush vineyards and a beautiful winery.  The vineyards were planted in 2001 and are used for the 8 different types of wine available at Elkin Creek.

The Wine

Elkin CreekThe first bottles of Elkin Creek wine were bottled in the fall of 2005.  Talk about an exciting time for the owners!!  Today there are 8 different types of wine available, which include; Chardonnay, Soft White, Sangiovese, Adequate Red, Rossa, Cabernet Sauvignon, Classico, and Remembrances.  These are all as unique as the land the grapes were grown on.  With the variety of wines, and bottles ranging from only $14 to $34, there is a bottle for every taste-bud and budget:)

*Hours & Wine Tasting- The winery is open Thursday-Sunday 11-5.  Tastings are available by appointment only (336)526-5119

The Kitchen

Elkin CreekThe Kitchen at Elkin Creek is currently only open on Sundays to the public.  The talented chefs create pizzas made to order that are cooked in their wood-fire brick oven.  YUM!  What goes better with a glass of red wine than pizza??  It is strongly encouraged that you make reservations if you are planning to make a visit, the space fills up fast!  The Kitchen is also used for weddings, receptions, special parties, meetings, and other events.

Weddings at Elkin CreekElkin Creek

Elkin Creek is a wonderful location to have a wedding!  The spectacular Oak trees, May apples, Rhododendron, and Mountain Laurel create a scenic backdrop for the special event.  There are two locations where the ceremonies can take place, one setting is by two creeks coming together as one, and the other is by a more intimate setting by a gentle waterfall.  Receptions can be held in the vineyard harvest barn.  There are proposal, wedding, elopement, and renewal of vows packages available.

Cabins at Elkin Creek

At Elkin Creek there are creek-side cabins available for visitors to stay in on a nightly, or weekly basis.  The cabins have a rustic feel, but provide modern day conveniences.  All cabins feature a queen size bed, a full kitchen, a stone fireplace, LCD TVs, and back porch swings…and that’s just mentioning a few!

*Rental Rates: Weekdays (Sun-Thurs) $119/night, Weekends (2 night minimum) $135/night, and Weekly Rate $109/night


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Suggestions

1. Go see the Vineyard.  Whether you want to do a tasting, or just see the 6 acre spread, Elkin Creek is a site to see!

2. Schedule a Tasting!  Grab a group of friends and try something new!  Chances are you have never tried their wine, and it will be unlike any you have had before.

3. Visit The Kitchen.  Try a pizza cooked in their home-made wood-fire brick oven!  If you love pizza, you will love this!

4. Take a Bottle Home.  If you find a type of wine that you like, buy a bottle!  If you have a birthday of a loved one, or holiday coming up, wine also makes a wonderful gift:)

5. Stay the Night.  The Cabins are located next to a creek and are a great little escape for your normal routine.  The setting could not be more peaceful!

6. Take some Pictures.  With the lush, green vineyards as your backdrop, you are sure to get some wonderful pictures!

Apples and Orchards

Every town has its claim to fame and it just so happens that Wilkes has several. We have MerleFest, Stone Mountain, W. Kerr Scott Dam and reservoir, Cycling, Tom Dula, Bluegrass and Apples!

Wilkes County Apples

A visit to Wilkes is a trip for the senses. See the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, feel the breeze or the cool river waters, listen to local musicians, and taste apples fresh from the tree.

Ever since I was a little kid I have made several trips a year to visit the apple orchards of Wilkes. One of my earliest memories is one of my sister and me walking with our parents through an apple house during harvest. We watched as apples were sorted and each of us received a huge apple from a friendly man in overhauls. I remember peeking over the edge of the baskets filled with chocolate covered peanuts and cream drops at Christmas.  I still drop in to search the shelves for the perfect jar of honey and comb just as I did with my family when I was a child. For many families, trips to the orchards of Wilkes are part of a family tradition.  To them it is just as important as the yearly trip to choose a Christmas tree. Others have traveled to Wilkes in search of long lost apple varieties. One such individual described Wilkes as “mother load of heritage apples” and with more than 400 varieties having been found here it is easy to see why.

Where are they?

There are several orchards in Wilkes and each one is well worth a visit. The bulk of the orchards are along highway 16, between Wilkes and Taylorsville although there are several on Brushy Mountain, near Stone Mountain and throughout the county.  You can look at our list of orchards to find the one, or many, that you wish to visit.

When to go and what to get?

Many of the orchards sell apples throughout the year with the aid of refrigeration during the cold months. The right time for harvesting the apples depends on the weather and variety but apples are generally harvested from late June to early December. Other goods can be found at the apple houses besides the usual variety of fresh picked fruit. Some houses offer cured meats, local honey, various seasonal produce, traditional candies and caned goods.

Apple Festival

If you are a fan of the apple orchards be sure you don’t miss the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival. This festival is one of the largest events in the area and has far more than apples to offer. Each year, on the first weekend in October, the streets of Downtown North Wilkesboro are closed to traffic and filled with vendors and their goods. Food, music, art and crafts line the streets and people flock downtown to join in the spectacular.

Click here to read our Insider view on the

 Brushy Mountain Apple Festival.

 

Raffaldini Vineyards

Raffaldini Vineyards

I have heard it said that life is a journey, not a destination and that is true, but in the case of Raffaldini Vineyards, the destination is worth the journey. Getting there is a little challenging, but don’t give up. There are a few lefts and rights, a few dirt and gravel roads, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow makes the trip seem fun.

Arriving at the vineyard, I was struck by the setting and the architecture. The Tuscan-style villa sits atop a gentle rolling hill with views in almost every direction. It was a clear day and the mountains were especially beautiful. I parked in the lot adjacent to the winery and took a stroll through the flower gardens that lead to the entrance. Being greeted by roses and seasonal flowers, put me in a great mood before I entered the tasting room. I must admit, leaving the beauty of the setting and the amazing vistas was difficult, but I tore myself away and ventured into the villa.

The winery was no disappointment. While I have not been to Italy or visited a vineyard there, I would imagine that this is a faithful reproduction. I was certainly transported to somewhere other than the foothills of North Carolina. I was greeted with a warm hello and given instruction on how the operation works. I paid my dues and stepped up to the wine bar and was given a list of available wines to taste. I am certainly no wine connoisseur, but I know that if I must taste wine… the sweeter the better. I found a few that tilted towards the sweet side, but even the dry wines were enjoyable.

The experience was excellent and the stories told by the tender filled the time with interest. My problem was focusing on the wine when the view was so incredible. I left the tasting room and found a comfortable chair on the patio outside and just soaked in the setting. I could try to communicate what I saw and how I felt, but I am telling you that you need to go and see and hear and touch the place to fully understand. Several couples purchased bottles and made their way onto the ornate patio and sat together to enjoy the wine and the day.

I was informed that the vineyard had become a wedding destination and that they were booked up nearly a year in advance. I fully understand! What a setting to make a vow to the one you love. The only thing that I can think that would rival the beauty of the setting is a glowing bride on her wedding day. So, if you are making those types of plans, call early and often to book your weekend.

My wife and daughter enjoyed the visit as well and we plan on making a return trip this year. This time, I will know to allow for an afternoon rather than an hour and a picnic basket as well. Enjoy or as they would say “salute”.

Dan’l Boone Inn

Danl Boone Inn

No day trip to the High Country of North Carolina is really complete without a meal

with Dan’l Boone.

The Dan’l Boone Inn doesn’t have rooms to rent, but after eating there, you just might need one. This award winning restaurant is located in the heart of downtown Boone and has served delicious southern cuisine for over 50 years. This near-local restaurant is just a short 30 minute drive from Wilkesboro and well worth the trip. (the drive is worth the drive)

I arrived on a Saturday morning in March at around 9:00 and much to my surprise was taken to a table and within 5 minutes I was drinking my first cup of hot coffee and making decisions about what to eat first. While I am sure this is not the case year round, not having to wait in line was a nice bonus. The waiter was a really nice young man who very quickly became a member of our family. He made sure we had everything we needed before we needed it. We had a window seat and enjoyed the morning sun and the view of a bustling Boone.

We were outfitted with country ham, sausage and bacon. Each cooked just the way I like it. Other folks might prefer the ham fried a little more, this way it was nice and tender. Along with the meats, we were served a basket of biscuits. It was a nice touch to have both regular southern biscuits and some cinnamon biscuits as well. Both were excellent. Of course gravy was an essential ingredient at this morning feast; both red eye and cream. My recommendation is to put a little red eye on the biscuit first and then smother it with the sausage cream gravy. Scrambled eggs, grits, cooked apples, pancakes and Black Cherry Preserves filled the table to capacity.

The more we ate, the more food appeared on the table. It would seem that Dan’l Boone has an endless supply of the southern delicacies and he is not stingy with them. I had skipped the evening meal the night before, planning for the morning outing with my family. Even with the extra space and the early planning, I was easily defeated by this colossal breakfast. Every bite seemed to taste better than the last. I had to be very careful what I said, as my wife (who is amazing cook) was sitting beside me. For sure, the Dan’l Boone Inn serves up a breakfast that is a close second to what my sweetheart can whip up on a Saturday morning.

The restaurant is an old home/ inn that has been lovingly cared for and will make the meal even more enjoyable. There was plenty to look at and lots to talk about with my in-laws. There is a little shop located at the front of the restaurant that is well stocked with High Country souvenirs to take home with you. And while I would recommend that, the better option is to grab a couple of the bags beside the register and pack up some country ham biscuits to eat on while driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. They encourage you to take what you don’t eat and we did.

Any way you slice it, the Dan’l Boone Inn is a great place to enjoy some of what the south is famous for; food, family, friends and faith. It is an easy going place and I never felt rushed. We talked and talked and enjoyed our time together over several cups of coffee.  At roughly $10 per person (children less), it seemed like a bargain. Sure, McDonalds is a little cheaper, but seriously….. we are talking apples and oranges. Go, enjoy, and fill up on some of that good southern cooking. Oh yeah, and tell them that the VisitInsider told you about it, maybe next time I am there I will get to eat for free. God bless you.


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For more information, visit www.danlbooneinn.com.

Wilkesboro Open Air Market

Wilkesboro Open Air Market

“Come for the freshness and stay for the fun.”

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Each year the Town of Wilkesboro opens its’ doors to consumers, farmers and artisans to buy and sell at the Wilkesboro Open Air Market. “Fresh from the farm” produce as well as handcrafted products will be available every Friday for some 5 months (depending on the harvest). The market is located on Main Street in downtown Wilkesboro in the parking lot adjacent to the “old Courthouse” which now houses the Wilkes Heritage Museum. Vendors start arriving early and they open for business at 4 pm and stay open until they sell out or 8pm, whichever comes first.

The Open Air Market offers a special event every third Friday…. called “Third Friday” J. During these events, the standard fare is available, but plan on some special things to be available. Additionally, local musicians will perform and there will be children’s activities available. The Heritage Museum will be open for tours during this time as well.

Parking

As with other downtown festivals, parking is somewhat limited, but thankfully is in adequate supply. Take your time and cruise the area and look for the local lots or on-street parking. The crowds are reasonable, so no worries. Enjoy the walk and do a little window shopping while you stroll. There is parking around the museum, beside Nanasan Restaurant, behind the restaurant and of course on the streets throughout the town.

Welcome to Small Town USA

Wilkesboro is the prototype small southern town filled with everything that makes small towns the place to be. The people are the nicest you will ever meet. The food is local “mom and pop” and tastes great. The service is excellent and you will be treated very well. The language is distinctly southern. Everybody will want to talk to you, if you are open to conversation. So enjoy the grits and grins and be sure to join right in. Toto, you are not in Kansas anymore.

My First Impression

I arrived early, maybe too early; many of the vendors were still setting up. The market was not crowded and no one seemed to be in a hurry. Leisurely chats were in order at every booth. I learned about each person, how they farmed or made their product and what they had to offer. I don’t remember any of this at Wal-Mart J. Great looking produce, sweet scented soaps, goat milk cheese, handmade this and that, all waiting to go home with me. I watched a local blacksmith work steel. I had a wonderful coffee from Talia Espresso and sampled several flavors of things that had never been in my mouth before. All very good!

In Closing

If it is Friday afternoon and the Wilkesboro Open Air Market is open and you are looking for a great little outing, drive downtown and enjoy the evening. No stress, no strain, just good friends with wonderful homegrown or homemade items for you to try and buy, if you wish. Wilkes is nationally known for its’ music and the Heritage Museum is home to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame (www.blueridgemusichalloffame.com). Be sure to check out those that have been enshrined in the Hall for their contributions to this regions music. “Third Friday” will feature some of the area’s finest musicians, many of which will likely one day find themselves remembered in the Hall. So, come on out and enjoy the music, food and fellowship, y’all will be glad you did.