Category Archives: Dining in Highlands NC and Cashiers NC


Ruka’s Table in Highlands, NC

highlands-nc-rukas-table-souphighlands-nc-rukas-table-dessert highlands-nc-rukas-table-chicken highlands-nc-rukas-table-fish2So I was talking to a friend from Spain about the introduction of the regional cuisines of his country to the American landscape.
He admitted it was a gradual process, that we have some dining habits that are anathema to the norms of his culture.
“You have trouble relaxing at meals,” he explained. “I can’t believe it when I see signs advertising “All You Can Eat” – that’s how you feed farm animals! And we like to make each bite count – if your goal is to fill your stomach and get out, you’re really missing the point of a meal. It’s an insult to the cook and, really, to yourself.”
America, meet Ruka’s Table.
The management has somehow made the same observations and taken them to heart.
You won’t be rushed. In fact, the service is languid and personal and marvelously indulgent.
And you won’t want to be rushed. Executive Chef Justin Burdett’s menu is built upon an abiding partnership with local farms for fresh produce and meats. He supplements their offerings with herbs and vegetables from his own garden and mushrooms he forages from the woods surrounding Highlands.
So he has his kitchen stocked with all sorts of fresh, natural ingredients. But the real magic begins when he receives your order.
As chef de cuisine at Atlanta’s legendary Miller Union, he learned to embrace traditional farmstead cooking practices. Those skills were honed during his appearance on the seventh season of The Food Network’s kitchen competition show “Chopped,” which we won over three other nationally-recognized chefs.
The proof of all that study and hard work is in his menu.
Since we dined in mid-September, the final days of a glorious mountain summer, my sweetie opted to start with the Local Lettuce Salad. Adorned with the plumpest blackberries we’ve ever seen, radish, fennel, and an agreeably piquant grilled lime vinaigrette, it was clearly the product of a lovingly-tended garden.
How tasty was it?
Well, I ordered the house soup, an extraordinary concoction of summer corn, vanilla bean and brown butter. Rich and remarkably creamy, it made me want to curl up with my bowl and consider all the blessings of my life. That’s right, it was almost a religious experience.
Anyway, I offered a sip of soup to Tricia for a quick sample, but she refused it – she didn’t want to affect the pure, carefully balanced experience that was her salad. Amazing.
Our entrees proved the wisdom and talents in the kitchen.
She ordered the North Carolina Trout, which until that morning had been swimming a few miles away. It arrived upon a bed of swiss chard with a complement of pickled peach puree, a compressed tomato and bacon jam. That’s right, bacon jam.
I opted for the Grilled Tanglewood Chicken Breast. It was delicious, but for me its beauty lay in the adornments that it arrived with — homemade kimchi, Sea Island red peas and crispy rice.
I am normally the most humble of fellows, but I’m an absolute snob when it comes to kimchi. Done well, which it seldom is, it’s Korea’s second greatest gift to the world (next to the Samsung Galaxy S5). Done wrong, it’s a tragic waste of the human spirit. Ruka’s Table’s kimchi was transcendent.
Here I am at the end, and I haven’t even mentioned dessert – Vanilla Bean-Sweet Tea Crème Brulee and Peach-Blackberry Cobbler. I’d have ordered seconds, but I’d eaten too much kimchi.
Let me just say that Ruka’s Table offers exceptional meals in a relaxed, cozy setting, the type of place where a Spaniard would feel right at home.
Ruka’s Table is located at 163 Main Street in Highlands. For reservations, call (828) 526-3636.
by Luke Osteen

“It Feels Great to be Home!”



fressers-restaurant-highlands-ncThat’s Debbie Grossman talking about how she’s moved Fressers Courtyard Café and Catering back to Village Square in Highlands, the original site of her storied restaurant.
In returning to her roots, Debbie’s captured the feel of an inherently languid dining experience. Part of that is derived from the beauty of the setting – the Village Square courtyard is ringed by arching trees and, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear a variety of birds singing. It’s hard to believe this little bistro is just one block from the summer crowds of Main Street.
And a portion of that experience comes from Debbie herself. She’s a force of nature – loquacious, quick with a joke, and relentlessly cheerful. When you place your order (at the counter), you’re dealing with Debbie. She’ll welcome you, offer her frank appraisal of her menu and prepare your order right in front of you. It’s a polished performance that’s testament to a lifetime spent learning the intricacies of fresh ingredients, heat and the subtle application of spice.
But let’s be frank – you come for the meal. On the evening we visited, one of my friends ordered a Summer Salad, which could have been an express bus to Snoozeville. Not this garden jewel – mixed local greens topped with roasted fresh peaches (her Mom’s recipe), beets and goat cheese, finished with balsamic fig dressing. The effect was astonishing! Here on one plate was the secret of Fressers’ continued success – Debbie’s bedrock commitment to relying on local food suppliers. Nearly all produce is harvested within 30 miles of Highlands. Heck, the edible nasturtiums adorning the salad are growing right there in the courtyard and picked as needed!
The herbs that inform every spoonful of Fressers’ Gazpacho and adorn many dishes are snipped daily from the Tower Garden anchoring one corner of the courtyard. A precisely chilled bowl of gazpacho is a thing of beauty; the gustatory quintessence of a summer day lived well.
OK, I just made a big deal about local food, which makes the transition to my Salmon Burger more than a little bit awkward. It’s highly unlikely that this salmon fought its way from the Atlantic to the rolling waters of Big Creek. But believe me, there’s nothing awkward about the burger itself – a generous patty that blends fresh salmon, ginger and scallions. Debbie takes obvious pride in this showstopper. Our obvious attempts to wheedle the specifications out of her were met with an adroit rebuff.
Fressers offers many of the dishes that made them famous, like their Angus Burger and Fresser Fries, but you already know all about them.
I’ve left room for the desserts, which if you’re the sensible type, you’ve also saved a little bit of room for. Do not, do not! forego dessert at Fressers! Debbie’s right-hand Candi prepares their desserts. Our table sensibly shared our Banana Pudding and Red Velvet Cake. It really doesn’t get any more Traditional Southern Summer Dessert than these two, and they were heavenly. I promise that at some point within two weeks of dining at Fressers, you’ll awaken with an implacable craving for your dessert. It’ll be a long, sad journey to dawn.
Here’s the thing – if you really love what you find at Fressers, Debbie offers a complete catering service. You can give her a call at (828) 526-4188.
Oh, and perhaps you’re wondering – “Her name is Debbie Grossman – where does ‘Fressers’ come in?” Believe me, Debbie has a story about that. Ask her.

by Luke Osteen | Photos by Marjorie Fielding

Decadent AND Healthy? Oh, yeah

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach,

Chocolate walnut butter is a decadently rich and perfectly healthy snack. I love making nut butters, as they can be used as an enhancement to many healthy family recipes or eaten with apple slices, bananas, even celery or carrot sticks. This chocolate walnut butter tastes absolutely divine on sliced pears or just by itself.
Walnuts are one of the best plant sources of protein, as they contain 8 grams of protein per 1/4 cup. Walnuts are also rich in omega-3 fats, which promote heart health, preventing or controlling high blood pressure, lowering LDL cholesterol levels, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Omega-3s  act as an anti-inflammatory, protect bone health, ease symptoms of depression, and boost cognitive function.
Walnuts are also rich in  monounsaturated fats, which lower cholesterol levels and triglycerides while increasing good cholesterol levels.
Walnuts contain antioxidants, which can delay aging and prevent the risk of cardio-vascular disease. Walnuts are also rich in essential vitamins and minerals, and promote brain, bone, immune, and heart health.
Walnuts also contain ellagic acid, which supports a healthy immune system and may have anticancer properties.
Walnuts are also rich in arginine, which is an essential amino acid that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart attacks by reducing the risk of blockages, relaxing arteries, and lowering blood pressure.
Walnuts also contain melatonin, which promotes a good night’s sleep. And this recipe is one of the most delicious ways to eat more walnuts.
2 cups Walnuts
1 oz Bittersweet or dark chocolate
pinch of Sea salt
1 tsp Vanilla extract
2 tbsp Coconut oil
1/2 tsp Liquid stevia or 1 tbsp agave syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Put the walnuts onto a dry baking sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes, or until fragrant.
3. Add the toasted walnuts into a blender. Blend until smooth.
4. Melt the chocolate in a microwave or on the stovetop.
5. Add the chocolate, oil, salt, vanilla, and stevia or agave to the walnut mixture in the blender. Process on medium high until smooth and creamy. You may need to scrape the sides and do this for a a few minutes to get the right consistency. Drizzle in a little more oil if the mixture gets too dry. Store in a clean container in the fridge for about 10 days.

Location, Location

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator
Madison’s Restaurant,

My first visit to Wine Country was amazing.
I thought I was in the most beautiful place I had ever seen. I was greeted warmly by wineries and tasting fabulous wines with fresh food and great company.
Many of the wines I tasted were offered at the winery only. Many of these were my favorites and I purchased quite
a few bottles.
Funny thing though, when I got home and opened these great bottles, they just didn’t knock my socks off like they did at the winery. Many have told me of similar experiences.
Could it be that everything tastes better when you are on a balcony overlooking rolling hills covered in vines? Well, of course.
So next time you are in wine country – enjoy the wine, the food, and the scenery and bring back wines that give you the best memories. In the end that’s all we have.
Drink well, Curt

Mixing It Up

For Cyprus International Cuisine’s Richard Errington,  bartending is a passion and a chance to indulge his playful streak.

For Cyprus International Cuisine’s Richard Errington, bartending is a passion and a chance to indulge his playful streak.

Take 3 slices of fresh cucumber,  1 slice of fresh lime and 2 fresh mint leaves.

Take 3 slices of fresh cucumber. 1 slice of fresh lime and 2 fresh mint leaves.

Muddle with Cucumber vodka.  Add crushed ice and a splash of pineapple juice.

Muddle with Cucumber vodka. Add crushed ice and a splash of pineapple juice.

The Cucumber Mint

The Cucumber Mint

Holy lime juice, Batman!
Google “bartending” and you’ll be amazed at how many academies of mixology are out there. There are even bartenders who could double as circus performers. But do you really want your drinks mixed by a joker? Wouldn’t you rather have a superhero behind the bar — someone who cares less about putting on a show and more about getting to know his customers?
Thought so.
Enter Richard Errington of Cyprus International Cuisine on Main Street in Highlands. Richard has been in the restaurant trade for nearly 30 years, 20 of those as a bartender. And he has long-time ties to Highlands. He says his family has been coming here “since you had to hand-crank cars.”
Having lived in Florida full-time for most of his life, he realized that he was ready for a change. After visiting his family in the mountains 10 years ago, Errington says, “I know this sounds cheesy, but after living in Tampa and New Orleans, you learn not to look people in the eye. When I walked down the street in Highlands, people kept waving and nodding. So after my vacation I went back to Florida, put in my two-weeks’ notice and I’ve never looked back. I forgot there were places like Highlands.”
Cyprus owner Nicholas Figel was one of Richard’s first friends when he moved to town and he started bartending at Cyprus in 2013. They were in their former location on the Dillard Road but now that they’ve hit Main Street, he’s taking charge of the huge outside bar on the deck, where they have fresh herbs growing. He loves playing with ingredients — herbs, spices, different fresh fruits — and sharing recipes. Errington says the bartenders in the area are a close-knit group and love bouncing ideas off one another.
Since he’s been perfecting his craft for two decades, he is amazed at how the job has morphed over the years: from Old Fashioneds and Whiskey Sours to Martinis of every variety. But he sees some of the old standbys returning to popularity.
“Over the past 10 years the art of mixology has just bloomed. Now you have to really think and be creative, which is a lot of fun. But it’s truly the one-on-one interaction with people that I enjoy the most.”
He has never met a stranger and a lot of his creations come from friends and locales he visits on his travels during the
off season.
Not sure what you’d like to try? Not a problem. Just tell Richard what tastes you prefer and he’ll be happy to do the rest. He has a lot of mixology experience to draw from and loves nothing more than making his customers happy.
Cyprus International Cuisine is located at 332 Main Street, Highlands and they’re open seven nights a week. For reservations, call them at (828) 526-4429 or visit Visit their website at

Evenings at Lakeside

Lakeside Restaurant’s community spirit extends to local charities through its Evenings at Lakeside.  For reservations and information, call (828) 526-9419.

Lakeside Restaurant’s community spirit extends to local charities through its Evenings at Lakeside.
For reservations and information, call (828) 526-9419.

Lakeside Restaurant has long been sought out for its terrific food and quaint atmosphere, but it is equally known for being a good neighbor and supporting worthy local causes.
Laura Huerta is the new proprietor at Lakeside, but she is not a new face, having been part of the Lakeside team for seven years. She recognizes the importance of maintaining the high standards of Lakeside by providing fresh food and exceeding guests’ expectations, but she also treasures the tradition of giving back to the community.
They are especially excited to be continuing their “Evenings at Lakeside” as a means to support local non-profits. Wednesday evenings are set aside for area non-profits to join Lakeside in raising money and awareness for their causes. Interested non-profits should contact Lakeside at (828) 526-9419 to select an available date. Lakeside will donate 15 percent of the non-profit’s guest checks that evening to the non-profit. It is up to each organization and their board members to market their evening. It is also important that when making reservations you mention that you are there to support your chosen non-profit.
This year several non-profits have already claimed their dates. The Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and Scaly Mountain Woman’s Club enjoyed their evenings in July. August 6 has been claimed by Gilliam’s Promise; August 27 by the Literacy Council; and October 8 by the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival. Thousands of dollars have been raised through these evenings since inception, and the success is growing by leaps and bounds each year.
These evenings are a great chance to get together with your friends and enjoy great food and a relaxing atmosphere, all while supporting your favorite cause.
For more information or to make reservations please call Lakeside at (828) 526-9419. They are located at 531 Smallwood Avenue.

by Mary Jane McCall

Highlands Culinary Weekend

For an unforgettable taste of Highlands, mark your calendar for the Culinary Weekend, November 6-9.

For an unforgettable taste of Highlands, mark your calendar for the Culinary Weekend, November 6-9.

If you hunger for a great time, you’re in for an epicurean experience that only the best Highlands restaurateurs, chefs, bakers, and drink specialists can dish up.
Save the dates, November 6 through 9, for a Culinary Weekend you will savor for a lifetime.
Established eight years ago by the Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, this four-day destination event kicks off with a spectacular Opening Night Celebration, Thursday, November 6 at the Highlands Country Clubhouse. Join the festivities from 7:00 P.M. until. Enjoy live music while you sample a variety of wines from the area’s prominent cellars. Embark on a food odyssey as you travel table-to-table tasting all your favorite local
chefs’ specialties.
Then, foodie chops in gear, get ready for a virtual Eatopia, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Indulge your taste buds with decadent tastings, cooking demonstrations, and mouth-watering feasts hosted by area restaurants, showcasing each chef’s finest.
Don’t miss the annual Sip and Stroll, Friday and Saturday from 11:00 A.M. until 5:00 P.M. Experience the wares of Highlands’ fine shops, while tasting and enjoying a selection of wine & delightful edibles. Sip, Stroll and Shop till you drop while enjoying everything fabulous in downtown Highlands.
From heart-healthy to decadent to down-home delicious, the Culinary Weekend is the ultimate eating experience. You are guaranteed to find that special dish customized to your discerning palate. So get ready to be happily smothered in tantalizing delights November 6 through 9. Contact the Chamber for more details, (828) 526-5841.

by Donna Rhodes | Photos by Sarah Valentine

Sleeping Well?

Dr. Sue AeryHow well do you sleep? Do you fall asleep and then wake a few hours later? Are you having a hard time even falling asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night unable to go back to sleep? Often, the culprit in these situations is Cortisol, a hormone produced by the almond-sized glands on top of the kidneys. Normally, Cortisol helps with stress and situations that require quick energy and clarity. Once the need is satisfied, the production drops and returns to normal levels. During periods of excessive stress, overproduction of Cortisol by the Adrenals can cause anxiety, depression, anger, heart problems, weight gain, memory and concentration impairment and, you guessed it, lack of sleep. Under tremendous amounts of stress, the body continues to produce Cortisol, ultimately taxing the body’s reserves as well as wreaking havoc with the organs and brain. Among other important functions, Cortisol controls our circadian rhythm, which is how we sleep and stay awake. When the Adrenals are overworked due to stress or chronic pain, the circadian rhythm changes and Cortisol levels are elevated or depressed at the wrong time, causing disruption of the sleep cycle. Adrenal depletion occurs when things get even worse, resulting in Cortisol underproduction. Whether you suffer from any of these symptoms and/or have trouble with your sleep patterns, there are simple saliva tests that can measure the health of your Adrenal glands and get you back on the right track to a healthy stress response. Also, there are many measures by which to control your stress, the first step being recognition. Remember to take care of your body and your Adrenal glands!

Belgian Beer Dinner

For reservations or more information, call (828) 526-8364.

For reservations or more information, call (828) 526-8364.

Beer. It’s not just for frat parties anymore.
Over the last decade or so beer crafting has become recognized as, not only an art, but a fast-growing segment of the U.S. economy. Beer enthusiasts understand the efforts of producing craft beers and recognize the fine distinctions in taste, bouquet, color and clarity.
Whether you consider yourself a “beer snob,” a “beer aficionado,” or simply a beer lover, you’re no doubt aware it has a rich history; especially in Belgium where its creation dates back to before the Crusades. This small country is home to over 180 breweries and 6,500 different beers.
On Tuesday, August 5 The Dog House in downtown Highlands is hosting A Belgian Beer Dinner, where you’ll have the opportunity to experience five different brews, ranging from a classic white ale to the dark, malty quadrupel, product of a 16th century Belgian brewery.
This five-course feast by Executive Chef Adam Bresnahan begins with a Cheese-Filled Pretzel accompanied by an Ommegang Whitte brewed in Cooperstown, New York. Next up is a Warm Terrine of Asparagus with a Brouwerij Het Anker “Lucifer” from Belgium. The third course joins A Salad of Foraged Greens with the Victory Golden Monkey brewed in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. A “Tour de Swine” comprises the fourth course, which is paired with a Blue Mountain Barrel House Local Species from Nelson County, Virginia. And for the finalé you’ll be treated to a Lemon Pot de Créme and a rich, dark Belgian ale, the Strafe Hendrik Brugs Quadrupel Ale.
The cost for this journey to Belgium at The Dog House in downtown Highlands is $70 per person which includes tax and gratuity. Reservations are required and prepaid tickets are available. Doors open at 6:00 P.M. with the first course being served at 6:45 P.M. Reservations for the Belgian Beer Dinner may be made by contacting The Ugly Dog Pub at (828) 526-8364. It’ll be a night to remember as you experience The Belgian Beer Dinner at The Dog House in Highlands.

by Jenny King

Bartending with a Capital “B”


In mixer filled with ice, add  Citrus Vodka, Raspberry Schnapps and Simple Syrup

In mixer filled with ice, add Citrus Vodka, Raspberry Schnapps and Simple Syrup

Squeeze in half a lemon, give it the vigorous bartender shake and pour into sugar-rimmed tall glass.

Squeeze in half a lemon, give it the vigorous bartender shake and pour into sugar-rimmed tall glass.

Brenna’s Raspberry Lemonade

Brenna’s Raspberry Lemonade

When told she was to be Star of the Bar Mixologist for July, Brenna Roper, or “B,” as everyone calls her, had to laugh. She has been bartender, wait staff, and front of the house manager at The Highlands Smokehouse for 4 years, but really only “fell into” the role of bartender.
But Star of the Bar, she is. Growing up, her daddy told her she would end up being a bartender. She laughed as she said, “Most people’s parents tell them to be a nurse, but not my dad. He told me he was sure I’d end up a bartender. I think it’s because I like to talk a lot.” The mother of two teenaged sons didn’t start off that way, though; she worked for years at the Fidelia Eckerd Living Center as a Certified Nursing Assistant and is still a Private Duty Caregiver, but at The Highlands Smokehouse she takes care of everyone.
Brenna genuinely enjoys all kinds of people. Whether she’s pouring a bourbon or serving up the Smokehouse’s famous barbeque, B gets to know her customers. And she treats them all the same – like family. She doesn’t even like to refer to herself as a manager – but a mama. She says she has “lots of kids up here and I love them all,” especially the people she works with. At the end of a crazy day they sometimes get snippy but end up hugging it out, just like families do.
B says that beer is king at the Highlands Smokehouse. They are known for their craft beer selection, both on tap and in bottles. Most cocktail drinkers tend to be of the Crown and Coke or Vodka Tonic variety because the food is “downhome.” And do those patrons love her! She admits to having a heavy hand when pouring. “I like to make sure my customers feel they’ve gotten their money’s worth.” B says she doesn’t get a whole lot of requests for specialty drinks, but when she does, she just rolls with what she knows, does her best and usually has
no complaints.
She does have a cheat sheet behind the bar to refer to when an unusual cocktail is requested, but isn’t afraid to ask a customer to help her out. As a matter of fact, when asked for a “Duchess of Windsor Martini,” Brenna’s customer gave her a couple of items and B did the rest. The end result was “perfect.” B smiles as she says, “Once I make a drink I can usually retain it….unless it’s really complicated!” She uses fresh fruit from August Produce when in season and one of the favorites is a fresh strawberry Margarita. They never use bottled mixers, their Margarita mix is just fresh lime juice and simple syrup. They even squeeze their own oranges.
The Highlands Smokehouse at 595 Franklin Road in Highlands is open 7 days a week all year ‘round. They’re currently open from 11:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 A.M. to 9:30 P.M. Friday and Saturday. Before you go in expecting to meet Brenna, aka: “B”, aka: “Mama”….call (828) 526-5000 to make sure she’s there, because she loves spending time with her real children!

Ready or Not…

curt-christiansen-wine-navigator-highlands-ncPeople frequently tell of some delicious wine they purchased 5-10 years ago and ask me if I think it’s ready to drink.
A simple question on the surface, not so easy to answer.
Is there a universal idea of when a wine is ready to drink? I have found that not to be the case.
People tell me that they broke open a case that was 10 years old and opened a bottle and thought it was the best wine they had ever tasted. They then ask me when they should drink the rest.
The best wine they ever tasted is a pretty good endorsement. I would say “drink them now.” I have never been more disappointed to open one of my favorite wines, only to find I had kept it too long and it was past its prime.
There are some, however, that really enjoy an older wine simply to marvel at the fact that after all those years it is still reasonably pleasant to drink. I often ask if the wine was served to them and they didn’t know what it was, would they like it? They usually say “no” in a way that makes me think that’s not the point.
So when is a wine ready to drink? Well, the good and the bad news is, it’s completely up to you. I would gladly advise you, but I probably don’t look at wine exactly the same way as you do.
So, Drink Up! Or not…

Reach for a Peach Recipes

anastasiapicPeaches are abundant in the summer; their aroma and sweetness remind us of the farmer’s markets and of warm summer nights. Peaches are rich in Vitamins A, C, E, and K, and they contain potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, zinc, manganese, and phosphorus. Peaches are also rich in fiber. Here are some healthy peach recipes to try this summer:
Peachy Banana “Ice Cream”
Blend 1 cup of frozen bananas with 1 cup of frozen peach chunks until the mixture resembles soft-serve ice cream. Add some raw honey, if needed. Serve.
Peaches and Cream
This vegan milkshake is great as a dessert as well as for breakfast.
Blend 3 small Peaches, 1/4 cup Rolled oats, 1 medium Banana (frozen), 2 cups milk of your choice, and 1 tsp vanilla extract until smooth.
Peachy Oatmeal
Add 1 teaspoon of butter to 1 bowl of cooked rolled oats. Mix. Add 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup, slices of ½ a medium peach, 1 tsp Chia seeds, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, 4 tbsp Non-dairy milk, and 1 pinch Cinnamon. Serve.
Healthy Peach Curd
Blend the following ingredients until smooth: 4 large peaches, 1/4 cup pure maple syrup , juice of ½ lemon, 1/4 cup coconut oil, and 3 tablespoons arrowroot powder, or organic cornstarch. Cook in a medium pot on medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reduces to about a half in size. Transfer to a clean jar, refrigerate, and consume within a week.
Strawberry Peach
Avocado Salad
This peachy salad screams “Summer!” with all its juicy fruit and bright colors.
Layer the following ingredients on a large plate:
2 cups baby lettuce leaves or mixed greens
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium peach, sliced
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 medium avocado, sliced
2 small cucumbers, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, sliced Combine the dressing ingredients in a cup:
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, diced
2 tbsp mint leaves. diced
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp honey or maple syrup
Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.

The Zookeeper Bistro




zookeeper-three-cashiers-nc-restaurantMy sweetie and I recently dined at The Zookeeper Bistro at 45 Slabtown Road in Cashiers.
Here’s the thing about going to a place called The Zookeeper Bistro – you know there’s not going to be an ounce of pretension on the premises.
Sure enough, the restaurant was clean and bright and all about serving wholesome, reasonably priced breakfast and lunch.
We came in around noon and were seated at a table in the midst of a good mix of locals and summer people. Over the years, I’ve learned that that delicate balance between the two populations is a reliable indicator of the overall ease of the dining experience.
Tricia ordered The Highlander Press, a carefully constructed sandwich of sliced corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, swiss cheese and cole slaw.
This was a creation of architectural proportions. And this is where The Zookeeper Bistro reveals itself to be true to its geographical heritage. This is a restaurant on Slabtown Road, where guys literally worked in a quarry. This sandwich was crafted with those storied workmen in mind. They wouldn’t walk away from here hungry.
And while we’re talking about local heritage, let me tell you about our server, Josi. She was attentive and efficient and all those other great server virtues. But here’s the thing – with a little prompting on our part, she opened up and told us about her community, some of the sites that we should see, what we should avoid, and the people we’d meet along the way. Hers was a warm, homespun soul, the kind that’s all but disappeared from the American landscape. Our little chat was a reminder that no matter how beautiful the mountains that surround the Cashiers Valley, they’re matched by the beauty of its people.
But don’t think that all we can say about Tricia’s sandwich is, “It was big.” The Highlander Press was carefully blended to hit all the high spots on the palate.
I opted for the Slabtown Cheeseburger. OK, so they’re naming the thing “Slabtown Cheeseburger,” so they’re positively declaring it’s going to be massive. And it is. But like all the important things in life, size doesn’t matter (right?). This burger is charcoal-grilled by someone who understands the intricate relationship between flame and ground chuck. In a scene reminiscent of Godzilla devouring Tokyo in his 1954 film incarnation, I wolfed it down, ignoring Tricia and her attempts at civilized conversation.
So that was our lunch experience, but that doesn’t even get into The Zookeeper Bistro’s Breakfast Menu, nor its tremendous Sunday Brunch. Both options include the fantastic Buttermilk Pancakes (I added bananas for an experience that would have prompted Verdi to write an opera – I’m not kidding).
And both include Crab Benedict, a remarkably indulgent dish featuring two poached eggs and pan-fried crab cakes served upon English muffins and topped with Hollandaise Sauce – in a less-enlightened age this would have been banned on Sunday.
I’ve run out of space, and I wanted to mention the adjoining Grandpop’s Ice Cream Parlor. They’ve got all sorts of cold treats and childhood favorites, but really, I’m not sure how hungry you’ll be after a meal at The Zookeeper’s Bistro.
So, visit for a delicious meal, but by all means, don’t deny yourself the experience of a small-town place that remembers what it’s meant to be.

by Luke Osteen | Photos by Marjorie Fielding

A Napa Valley Picnic

 A bountiful picnic in a gorgeous venue is an unforgettable front in the battle for mental health. For information about an exclusive picnic at Canyon Kitchen, set for Sunday, August 17, call (941) 504-6717 or email

A bountiful picnic in a gorgeous venue is an unforgettable front in the battle for mental health. For information about an exclusive picnic at Canyon Kitchen, set for Sunday, August 17, call (941) 504-6717 or email

The grounds of the Jennings Barn at Canyon Kitchen in Cashiers are the beautiful settings for a Napa Valley Style Picnic on Sunday, August 17. Chef John Fleer’s picnic will also feature the exclusive wines of the acclaimed Staglin Family Vineyard of Napa Valley, California.
The fun will start at 4:30 P.M. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by Chef Fleer’s marvelous picnic. Guests will experience the culinary creations of one of The James Beard Foundation’s “Rising Stars of the 21st Century” and a three-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef in the Southeast, while enjoying the sublime beauty of late summer Cashiers.
The event will benefit the International Mental Health Research Organization, an organization dedicated to providing hope to the 57 million Americans who suffer from mental illness by funding scientific research into the causes, prevention and new treatments for brain disorders. Tickets are $500 and are tax-deductible. Sponsorships are available by contacting development coordinator Marlene M. Hauck at (941) 504-6717 or
Shari and Garen Staglin, co-owners of Staglin Family Vineyard and Co-founders of IMHRO, remain focused on the mission of funding cutting edge research for the top three major mental illnesses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and depression; as well as building awareness of the scientific achievements and the need for funding brain research.
“With their motto ‘Great Wines for Great Causes,’ the Staglin Family has donated and raised more than $800 million to support charities, including IMHRO, which they founded in 1995 to help cure diseases of the brain,” says Marlene Hauck, development coordinator. “The Staglin Family Vineyard is dedicated to producing world-class wines that reflect the distinctive character of their historic Rutherford Bench estate in Napa Valley.”
Brandon Staglin, communications director of IMHRO and Staglin Family Vineyard and a leading advocate for mental health says, “My schizophrenia once made me feel like my life had no hope.” Mr. Staglin adds, “With thanks to a pioneering research program funded by generous donors through our fundraising events, I’ve been able to get well and find life full meaning and watch IMHRO bring recovery closer for the hundreds of millions worldwide who grapple with mental illness.”

The More Things Remain the Same

Laura Huerta

Laura Huerta

Lakeside Restaurant’s new owner Laura Huerta is confident that longtime patrons will find the same level of attention that has made this little restaurant a Highlands institution.
“We’re maintaining our commitment to local produce and the freshest ingredients, coupled with the warm service that people cherish about us,” she explains.
Those qualities have earned Lakeside a loyal following, who last year voted it as TripAdvisor’s Number One Restaurant in Highlands.
Part of that recognition comes from Lakeside’s superb menu, which emphasizes carefully prepared dishes made from the freshest ingredients.
That means you can start off your meal with appetizers like the Mussels Sofritto, a hearty blending of peppers, jalapenos, cilantro and chorizo broth; or grilled sea scallops over a black bean cake with chipotle relish and avocado mousse; or the flash fried Goat Cheese Salad with seasonal fruit, mixed greens and a roasted shallot citrus vinaigrette.
But these appetizers are just place setters for the unforgettable entrees that await.
A little mountain town hundreds of miles from the coast is one of the last places you’d expect to find a solid selection of seafood, but Lakeside manages to pull off the feat with its customary panache.
Look for Shrimp, Scallop & Mussel Cioppino – a playful creation that incorporates these fruits of the sea with a delicate tomato saffron broth over pasta. One of the most requested dishes is the Triggerfish Maison – a white mild fish sautéed with artichoke hearts, mushrooms, lemon and wine.
But maybe you’re looking for a fish with a local address. The Stuffed Rainbow Trout, loaded with crabmeat and applewood smoked bacon, was swimming in Jackson County just a few hours before it ended up on your plate.
That’s not to say that Lakeside Restaurant skimps on the beef portion of its menu.
“We have had so many requests for quality meats that three years ago we added an Off the Grill section to our menu,” says Laura. That means dedicated carnivores will find a 8-ounce Filet, 11 ounce Berkshire Pork Chop, and the majestic 14-ounce Bone-In Ribeye. And true to Lakeside’s unshakeable commitment to flavor, these cuts are paired with the diner’s choice of Wild Mushroom Marsala, Bleu Cheese Burgundy or Au Poivre sauces.
Veteran Lakeside patrons know that no matter what their choice of entrée, they need to save room for one of the restaurant’s unabashedly sinful desserts. A long-time favorite is the bread pudding, infused with seasonal fruit or with chocolate chips. You really should try the Chocolate Budino, a cross between a pudding and a cake that will work its way into your dreams.
Whatever you choose on the menu, you can be confident that Lakeside can pair it with its deep wine inventory.
Combine all of that with the view of Harris Lake and the overall effect is one of sublime tranquility. It’s hard to believe that this restaurant is only a block from Highlands’ busting Main Street.
To make reservations or for more information, call (828) 526-9419. Lakeside Restaurant is located at 531 Smallwood Avenue in Highlands, one block from Main Street.

There’s a New Chef in Town

Chef Tommy Lasley

Chef Tommy Lasley

Cyprus has always been famous for the culinary journeys that it offers its diners. Each week introduces a menu that’s adorned with dishes from around the world. The result is a dining experience that’s deliciously exotic, yet somehow as comfortable as a treasured family recipe.
That’s why it’s so appropriate that one of Cyprus’ original chefs has returned to the kitchen after years of travel and study. Tommy Lasley, who grew up in Highlands, is once again working alongside Executive Chef and Owner Nicholas Figel.
Lasley left Highlands to pursue his education at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. During his time in New York, he learned and collaborated with Andre Soltner, an internationally recognized French chef and author, as well as Dan Barber, owner of several restaurants including the Blue Hill, a nominee for the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.
“He’s truly a rising star in the world of cuisine,” says Figel.
Season after season, Cyprus embarks on a culinary expedition around the world and back again. Each week the menu showcases a new region of the globe accompanied with seasonal produce to enhance it – from the herbs that complement every entrée to the salt water fish that is ordered every night, in-transit, to ensure freshness and variety.
“Cyprus is designed to easily incorporate any ingredient in the world,” said Lasley when asked about the benefit of working in the Cyprus kitchen. “Some restaurants become pigeon holed by ingredients that dominate their genre where as at Cyprus there is no border that restricts our culinary ambitions.”
The collaborative effort of Figel and Lasley has culminated in exceptional cuisine and an inspiring international experience.
Listen to some of the upcoming inspired dining destinations these world-class chefs have cooked up for you: May 7: Gran Sasso to Pescara (Classic food and wine from Abruzzo, Italy); May 14: Contemplating Wu-Xing (A menu of five Chinese traditional elements); May 21: Wild Appalachian Treasures (Foraged Gifts of Local Sun and Soil); May 28: Perfect Poles on the Tribal Earth (Compared cuisines of Northern Viet Nam and Southern Bolivia).
So if you want fun, fabulous food, and a culinary night to remember, call (828) 526-4429 and book a reservation, and give Tommy a proper welcome back greeting. Cyprus International Cuisine and World Tour Experience can be found at Main Street in Highlands. Take the Tour, bon jour and bon appetit´!

Mixology as Art


Combine maple syrup, bitters, orange slice and lemon twist.

Combine maple syrup, bitters, orange slice and lemon twist.

Muddle to extract the citrus flavors into the cocktail.

Muddle to extract the citrus flavors into the cocktail.

Add rye bourbon, a splash of club soda, stir and serve over ice. Garnish with long orange twist.

Add rye bourbon, a splash of club soda, stir and serve over ice.
Garnish with long orange twist.

The Maple Old Fashioned.

The Maple Old Fashioned.

When asked why he made the switch from Asheville to Highlands Carlos Palaez, this month’s Star of the Bar mixologist, grins and says, “I needed a bar and Clinton needed a tender,”
Clinton O’Brien, owner of The Lost Hiker Sports Bar adds, “We went out of our way to find the best bartender around and were so fortunate to discover Carlos!”
Carlos was born in Asheville, the son of an Irish mom and Cuban dad. He says the cultural diversity has served him well. He appreciates all kinds of food and drink and uses his international exposure to merge the best of all flavors, textures, and bouquets in his creations.
He says, “While I enjoy straight drinks when I am home, there is pleasure in the adventure of trying new things at work.” So why would someone who likes simple and straight want to go for layers and complexities? He explains, “A guy might like a steak smothered in bleu cheese. I’d rather have a plate of steak and a bowl of bleu cheese and enjoy them separately. It’s simply a matter of preference.”
And maybe that is what makes Carlos such a popular mixologist. He knows how to cater to every palate …the blenders and the separatists.
According to Carlos, the trend in drink making over the past few decades has been the easier the better. You can buy vodka already flavored with any essence imaginable: root beer, s’mores, salmon, even bacon. But Carlos says, “Easy can be boring. I am willing to sacrifice easiness
for character.”
Maybe that is why Carlos’s combinations draw a crowd. And it doesn’t hurt that he is a bit of a showman. “I top off a French martini with a splash of champagne which creates a sparkling layer of fizz. Then, a dramatic finishing touch: a zesty twist of fresh lemon peel.” It’s much more fun to watch a pro demonstrate his mix-mastery than to try it at home.
To watch and taste Carlos’s creations visit The Lost Hiker Sports Bar. Call first to be sure he is on call to create your customized favorites: (828) 526-8232 or visit fb: at
by Donna Rhodes | Photos by Marjorie Fielding

Chez Dupont & the Stone Soup Café


Chez Dupont & the Stone Soup Café, located at 48 Village Walk in Cashiers, is a calculated fall down the rabbit’s hole.
Dark and more than a little mysterious from the outside, it reveals itself to be a large dining room with carefully designed lighting and tables arrayed in a pattern to ensure intimacy. The walls are adorned with art nouveau posters from another age and the ambient music is acoustic jazz and gentle world beats. Conversations are hushed, punctuated by sudden explosions of laughter from the larger tables. The overall effect is a startling bistro that’s light years removed from this sleepy village. Chez Dupont feels like it should be nestled in Atlanta’s Five Points or along Chestnut Street in San Francisco.
And fortunately, all that attention to detail and oh-so-precise care in setting the ambience is mirrored in chef/owner Christopher Dupont‘s menu. Local foodies will recognize Dupont’s name from Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro in Highlands, where he energized the kitchen and demonstrated an almost preternatural understanding of the intricacies of time, heat and seasoning. Chez Dupont represents the full flowering of his talents.
I started off with an order of Naan. Naan is one of those little touches on a menu that can go wrong so easily. But this was exquisite, warm and chewy with hints of a brush of butter. It arrived paired with Kalamata Olive Pate, Goat Cheese Boursin, and Chimichurri – a subtle Argentinian sauce of parsley, oregano, red chilies, lemon zest, vinegar, and olive oil. I reluctantly shared with my sweetheart.
Fortunately for me, she wasn’t so stingy with her Crab Fritters. A half dozen little pouches of delicately-seasoned crab, they were ridiculously addictive. I would have lobbied for more, but I’d been so parsimonious about my Naan.
And anyway, our courses arrived, and it turned out to be a good thing that I hadn’t filled up on appetizers.
Tricia ordered a Cuban Pork Sandwich. Simple, right? Let’s just say, there are sandwiches and there are Sandwiches. This enormous creation was paired with a delicate basil-mint sauce that somehow steered the venerable Cuban Pork Sandwich into exquisite new territory. This creation was bedded in a warm soft tortilla, removing it from its sandwich heritage. When you add in the avocado and mango and – this is crucial – the patatas bravas and you’ve got something unforgettable. It’s not up there with Moses Parting the Red Sea or Lincoln Freeing the Slaves, but it’s got be equal to DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
I ordered the Chili. If you’ve read my coverage of Highlands’ Chili Cookoff in Laurel over the years, you know I approach this subject with a frightening intensity. This bowl was remarkably seasoned, spicy without being overpowering and obviously composed with care. The freshness was declared with every spoonful. Chef Dupont framed the bowl with handmade chips and salsa. 2015 Cookoff Contestants, the gauntlet has been tossed.
Well, I only have a little bit of space left – I don’t have room to tell go into any detail about our desserts – let me just say, Blackberry Cabernet Sorbet and French Apple Tart. You know what to do.

by Luke Osteen | Photos by Marjorie Fielding

Wolfgang’s, Two Decades of Divine

Daughter Katie, Chef Wolfgang and Mindy Green.

Daughter Katie, Chef Wolfgang and Mindy Green.

Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro invites you to experience the culinary mastery of Chef Wolfgang Green, former Executive Chef for the Brennan Family of Commanders Palace.
This season Wolfgang’s celebrates their 20th season in Highlands.

Chef Wolfgang and his wife Mindy came to Highlands in July of 1994 on vacation and decided that this was where they would make their lifelong dream come true. Wolfgang’s on Main opened that September in the historic Hildegard’s House. Over the years Wolfgang’s has added a romantic garden pavilion, the Bistro, and an outdoor patio off of the Bistro that’s become a local favorite.

Chef Wolfgang and Mindy not only have a passionate love for fine cuisine, but they also have a special connection with their customers. Mindy has dedicated her time to making sure that the restaurant operations are running smoothly.“Our customers are the reason we are here,” says Mindy. “They are very important to us and we look forward to their return each season.”

New Orleans specialties, house-aged steaks, fresh seafood, wienerschnitzel, venison and much more are found on the menu. Wolfgang’s also has a Wine Spectator Award-Winning Wine List not to be missed with over 650 wines including 20 wines available by the glass.

“You have to be passionate about something, and I am passionate about giving our customers the best dining experience we can with our staff, service and food quality,” says Chef Wolfgang. “I enjoy getting out of the kitchen in the evenings and speaking to our guests, even for a brief hello.”

Help Chef Wolfgang and Mindy celebrate their 20th season in Highlands by making your reservation today. Whether you are celebrating a special occasion or just need a dinner out, Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro has something for everyone. For more information on Wolfgang’s visit or call (828) 526-3807. Bistro service starts at 4:00 P.M. and dinner service starts at 5:30 P.M.

The Perfect Move

Cyprus International Cuisine’s arrival on Main Street promises diners an exciting window on international cuisine and heralds the return  of one of the restaurant’s storied chefs.

Cyprus International Cuisine’s arrival on Main Street promises diners an exciting window on international cuisine and heralds the return of one of the restaurant’s storied chefs.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and end, and as the 2014 season approaches the story of Cyprus International Cuisine continues.
Twelve years ago, Executive Chef and Owner Nicholas Figel used his unique perspective on life, which is overflowing with imagination and creativity, and merged it with world histories and recipes. As Cyprus begins their 13th summer season they will do so on center stage as construction has officially commenced at its new location on Main Street in Highlands.
Tommy Lasley, one of the original chefs to work alongside Figel returns to join him once again after departing Highlands to pursue his education at The Culinary Institute of America in New York.
“He’s truly a rising star in the world of cuisine,” said Figel.
When asked about the expectations of Cyprus and the collaborative effort of both, Figel replied, “I’m happy to announce that we will be combining our skill sets to produce an exceptional cuisine and an inspiring international experience and I believe our unique food will be a great vehicle to facilitate the ideas and concepts we are striving to achieve.”
As Cyprus takes its place on Main Street, the expectations couldn’t be higher. A ceiling to floor window and open-air patio will allow each and every patron walking the streets of Highlands to look up and see the adventure that awaits them. “I’m visualizing a city center experience that invokes the energy and passion of the traditions of cuisine that we are exploring,” said Figel when asked about the new location. “I’m intrigued about the “outside-in” point-of-view and the opportunity for passersby to take a glance past our copper sign and into our windows.”
Copper is a dominant component of the décor at Cyprus and it will continue to be so. It’s fitting that the element itself is essential to all living organisms as is the consumption of food. The characteristics of copper and that of the restaurant itself share numerous qualities and the continuity of this detail is prevalent to Cyprus as a whole as copper was principally mined on the Greek island Cyprus, hence the origin of the name Cyprium.
As every story has its three-act structure, Cyprus finds itself ascending through the second act with its audience dying with anticipation of how it will all end. Figel and Lasley both agree it will be the combination of Tommy’s subtlety and attention to detail interlaced with Nick’s energy and excitement that will allow this dream to become a world class restaurant.

Contributed by Clinton O’Brien

Lighter Food, Lighter Mood

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach

Rucola Salad And OilSpring is the time for a lighter mood and lighter food. Full of vitamins, fiber, and protein, this crunchy, colorful, and slightly sweet salad is designed to keep you full for a while.

1 cup Arugula leaves
1 cup Purple cabbage shredded
2 Carrots shredded
1 Cucumber sliced
1/2 cup Parsley diced
1 can Chickpeas rinsed
1/3 cup Sunflower seeds raw
4 tablespoons Olive oil
1 tablespoon Apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon Sea salt
Ground black pepper

Arrange the first 7 ingredients in layers on a large plate.
In a bowl, mix oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the salad and serve.

Dining Out for Life

A trio of local restaurants – Cyprus, On the Verandah,  and The Ugly Dog – invite you to dine out and help support AIDS  education and prevention, April 24.

A trio of local restaurants – Cyprus, On the Verandah, and The Ugly Dog – invite you to dine out and help support AIDS education and prevention, April 24.

If you subscribe to the adage, “I don’t cook, I make reservations,” then this is the day for you!
On April 24, thousands of caring individuals will be making reservations across the country and in Canada to support the AIDS Fundraiser, Dining Out for Life.
In Western North Carolina over 110 fine dining establishments will rally the cause in support of the Western North Carolina AIDS Project Since 1986, WNCAP has provided HIV/AIDS outreach education and prevention programs across 18 counties in Western North Carolina and case management services to those affected by the disease. Dining Out for Life is a vital fundraiser necessary for WNCAP to carry on their critical services throughout our region.
This year’s 12th annual DOFL benefit will take place in eight WNC counties.
This year in Highlands you can make your plans for an exciting dinner at Cyprus, On the Verandah, or the Ugly Dog Pub. Twenty percent of your bill will generously be donated to WNCAP. Last year, DOFL raised over $165,000 in a challenged economy to help with the shortfall of funding at the federal and state levels, while expanding much needed services to other counties.
For a complete list of sponsors and other participating restaurants, please visit
So make your plans now, call your friends, clients, and neighbors, and put together a gathering at your favorite restaurant, or use this opportunity to try a new restaurant. As an added bonus this year, you will have an opportunity to win several great prizes including roundtrip airfare tickets for two on Delta Airlines, plus other exciting prizes just for dining out.

Varietal Correctness?

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator Madison’s Restaurant,

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator
Madison’s Restaurant,

Throughout the course of a week, I may taste as many as 60 -70 wines. Over the years the amount of poorly made wines I try has greatly diminished.
I recommended a Cabernet to a gentleman last week and he asked me to try it with him. The wine was thick and rich with dark black fruit and hints of coconut and overripe banana, finishing with dark chocolate and more aromas of coconut. We both loved the wine and he commented that if he had tasted it blind he would not have guessed it was a Cabernet.
I immediately understood what he meant and began to wonder: Should a Cabernet smell and taste like one? is that a benchmark of a well-made wine?
I have found that with the global cross pollination of winemakers, techniques and grapes, that varietal correctness has become blurred. I taste Sauvignon Blanc that tastes like Verdejo. Merlot that tastes like Amarone.
I cannot answer the previous questions, but I know that tasting wine is more exciting now. I describe a wine with new unorthodox descriptors. It’s more challenging and exciting.
Out the window with the aroma wheel.
Drink well,

James Crandall, Star of the Bar

James Crandall

James Crandall

Two cucumber slices and  two fresh mint sprigs

Two cucumber slices and two fresh mint sprigs

Add Hendricks gin and fresh lemon sour

Add Hendricks gin and fresh lemon sour, Pour into ice filled shaker and give it a vigorous shake


Top off with soda water Garnish with a juicy slice of  cucumber and a sprig of mint

Top off with soda water, Garnish with a juicy slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint

James Crandall, recently awarded The Laurel’s Star of the Bar at The Gamekeeper’s Tavern in Sapphire, started his restaurant career at the age of 14 as a dishwasher. It didn’t take long to graduate to bussing tables. A couple of years later he started bussing tables at The Gamekeeper’s. Thanks to his engaging personality he was promoted to server. Mat Kowal of The Gamekeeper’s Tavern knew a good man when he saw one. He moved James up the ranks to bartender.

Having held so many positions, James knows just about every job in the tavern, which explains why in five short years he is now service manager. It’s no wonder he has risen through the ranks so rapidly. He is eager to learn, a quick study, a loyal employee, and this month, Star of the Bar.

He and Mat have talked about moving the bar offerings to a new level. James has been doing a lot of research on the latest bar trends. In fact, he’s been reinventing retro drinks going all the way back to Prohibition. He resurrects old, sometimes overlooked reliables such as Vermouth, Bourbon, and Gin. Then he tweaks mixed drink ingredients with a dash of this, a sprig of that, and gives the concoction his own personal twist. He only uses fresh fruit and juices, as well as house made syrups, so there are no preservatives or aftertastes in his creations.
His latest reinvention is April’s featured drink, which approaches gin in a new way. Imagine cooling down on a warm day with this satisfying twist on an old classic. A delightfully refreshing cocktail made with a “most unusual gin.” To taste this and more of James’ delicious drinks visit Gamekeepers Tavern at 3646 US Highway 64 in Sapphire. Website: Call (828) 743-4263, ext. 201 for more information. E-mail James: And don’t forget to congratulate James on being Star of the Bar.

by Donna Rhodes  |  Photos by Marjorie Fielding


On the Verandah, the Perfect Tonic

highlands-on-the-verandah-calamari highlands-on-the-verandah-creme-bruleeon-the-verandah-highlandsA meal at On the Verandah is the perfect tonic for the cares of the 21st century.
Part of its irresistible formula is the fact that the restaurant is situated on the shores of Highlands’ Lake Sequoyah, a stress-free setting as sensually indulgent as a visit to the spa. Even when the roomy dining verandah grows boisterous (the place invites group celebrations), there’s an unmistakable aura of tranquility.
Of course, part of that implicit tranquility is buoyed by the expansive wine list. Owner and Executive Chef Andrew Figel have assembled a deep wine inventory ranging from the modestly priced yet surprisingly playful 2008 Calera chardonnay to the marvelous 1992 Harlan Estate cabernet sauvignon, the oenological equivalent of a Renoir landscape. Delve into this wine list and you’ll be amply rewarded.
But who are we kidding? On the Verandah is a 30-year-old Highlands treasure because of its menu – the extraordinary dishes produced by Chef Andrew and Pastry Chef Sid Jackson.
Some people opt for ordering a clutch of Small Plates for a tapas bar experience — Fried Beer-Battered Calamari with Ancho Chile Sauce; Cornmeal Fried Blue Crab Claws drizzled with Tabasco Beurre Blanc; sublime Spinach & Feta Phyllo Puffs in Fresh Basil Tomato Cream; Marine Lobster Piccata with Lemon Thyme Beurre Blanc and Capers; Eggplant Manicotti supported by Herbed Goat Cheese, Piquillo Vinaigrette. It’s like treating your taste buds to an around-the-world cruise.
My sweetie launched her Verandah evening with a bowl of Mushroom Soup. Rich and earthy, topped by a dollop of sour cream and dill, this was a bowl of joy a thousand miles removed from what slides out of a can of Campbell’s Soup.
I went with the Buttermilk Caesar Salad – an unimaginative choice, but I find that the presentation of a salad is the canary-in-the-coalmine for a restaurant experience. This Caesar didn’t disappoint – the lettuce was crisp and cold and adorned with pan-fried croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds and shaved Grana Padano cheese.
Tricia was presented with Seared Scallops over Angel Hair Pasta, drenched in an agreeably provocative Ginger Scallion Sauce. The scallops were wonderfully prepared and played upon the tongue like silk.
My Black Pepper Crusted New York Strip was bathed in a Pink Peppercorn Brandy Cream. It was the kind of dish I know I’ll be able to recall fondly years from now, probably in the middle of the night.
Since we’ve been talking about the unmistakable aura of comfort that informs On the Verandah, let me make a case for its mashed potatoes. For me, mashed potatoes have always exerted a gentle take-me-home pull on my heart and stomach. They’re the epitome of comfort food. Chef Andrew’s mashies, which accompanied my steak, were exquisite in their construction. Rich, creamy, with just enough texture to let you know they’d just been mashed by hand, they somehow corrected what had been a cold, drizzly day larded with deadlines and disappointments. Since my Mom’s been dead for eight years, I guess it’s safe to say – These were the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had! I suppose if you’ve had a particularly awful day or week you could just order a big bowl and settle in. But don’t do it – there’s just too much good stuff on the menu!
Well, I’ve run out of space and I haven’t even mentioned our fabulous desserts – Apple Raspberry Pie and Crème Brulee – nor On the Verandah’s deservedly famous Sunday Brunch. Make your reservations at (828) 526-2338 and find out for yourself.

by Luke Osteen

Restaurants Serving Easter Sunday Brunch

Highlands Cashiers Restaurants Serving Easter BrunchBrown Trout Mountain Grille
Special Brunch Menu
828-877-3474 |

Special Brunch Menu including mimosas
10:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
828-743-3750 |

The Dog House
Special Menu Selections
11:30 A.M. – 2:30 P.M.
828-526-8364 |

Madison’s Restaurant
Special Brunch Menu | $49 adults – $24 Children
11:30 A.M. – 2:30 P.M.
View menu at
On the Verandah
Special Brunch Menu
11:oo A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
828-526-2338 |

Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro
Special Brunch Menu | $36 adults – $16 Children
11:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
View menu at

The Zookeeper Bistro
Special Brunch Menu
8:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.

Older Wine

Curt Christiansen,  Wine Navigator Madison’s Restaurant

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator
Madison’s Restaurant,

I have frequently had people share 30-40 year old wines with me.
Most times they marvel at how it still tastes like wine after so long. Many have lost their body and texture, they are thin and tart and lose what little fruit they have after a few minutes of air. Had I tasted these wines blind, I would think they were flawed or over the hill. Yet we continue to drink and ooh and aah over these thin neutered wines. Might it be that a wine was produced in the year of a first born or a first kiss. Might the vintage represent an important person or time in history.
I shared with some friends a bottle of 1870 Madeira. the year was the birth year of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, or Vladimir Lenin.
Not exactly a celebrated figure for me, but certainly an important and influential figure in human history. His historical presence lent gravity to the tasting. I remember marveling at the the creamy texture and toasted coffee and caramel notes that emanated from my glass. This 135 year old wine was, as I recall, delicious.
I don’t know if it really was as good as I remember, or if it was the history or the friends that enjoyed it with me, but it was unforgettable.
I guess wine is like pictures of grandchildren. They may have a lazy eye, crooked teeth and big ears, but to the grandparents they are perfect.

Six Spring Detox Diets

fruitSpring is the time to think about a detox diet or a plan to purify the sluggish digestive system. One of the following six detox diets can help you get ready for the spring season:
1. The Fruit Flush Detox diet – Jay Robb invented this diet, which washes excess weight and toxins off in three days. The results are accomplished by eating only fruits. This plan requires a specific amount of fruit taken every two hours to maximize the system while keeping blood sugar levels stable.
2. Lemon Detox – This diet was invented by Stanley Burroughs 60 years ago. Also known as the Master Cleanse, it consists of taking lemon juice, pure organic maple syrup, pure water and cayenne pepper for a period not less than 10 days. Get ready for frequent bathroom visits.
3. Paul Bragg’s detox –involves periodic fasting for purification purposes. These short fasts (24 hours once a week and thirty-six hours once every few months) are supposed to help your body detox.
4. Dr. Frank Lipman’s detox is designed to avoid extremes and still allows for eating “real” food and not just juicing and fasting. In return, you are supposed to get cleansed of Candida and have a lot more energy.
5. The Raw Food Detox diet – created by nutritionist Natalia Rose, allows for flexibility in making the transition to consuming raw food at the participant’s own pace. This unique program allows for healthy animal products as well.
6. The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox – based on Ayurvedic medicine, this program eliminates all acidic foods to help the body eliminate toxin build up. It supposedly alters the body’s pH balance to its ideal alkaline state.

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach

Justin Burdett, a Rising Star

Executive Chef Justin Burdett

Executive Chef Justin Burdett


An All-black course with Brasstown New York strip.

An All-black course with Brasstown New York strip.

Ruka’s Table in Highlands has earned a regional reputation for the sheer variety of its inventive dishes, showcasing sophisticated Southern flavors.
The restaurant proudly partners with local farms to source fresh proteins and produce in support of the local slow food movement. Every dish is made from scratch, including the cheese, with seasonal and local ingredients, to invoke a homemade feel along with its authentic and rustic menu.
Behind all this is Executive Chef Justin Burdett.
His talents in the kitchen have earned him a berth on the cooking team at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival’s New and Notables Dinner in March, an honor extended to three rising national chefs. Burdett will team up with chefs Brett Cooper from Outerlands in San Francisco, Michael Toscano from Perla in New York City, pastry chef Jenna Hodges from Colt & Gray in Denver and and Charleston chef Jason Stanhope from FIG.
This selection comes on the heels of Burdett’s receiving a Carolina Rising Star Award from, the online magazine for culinary insiders that honors the up-and-coming American chefs.
“Putting together tasting menus is one of my favorite things to do in the kitchen as it keeps everything fresh, artful and vibrant,” said Chef Burdett about creating his four-course tasting dinner for the StarChefs team. “My menu took months of preparation and I really challenged myself by doing dishes like the all-black dish and my nose-to-tail pork dish. The idea was to surprise the taster with a flavor profile that they’re not expecting based upon the color of the dish.”
Burdett’s first course was his silky, butternut squash soup with peppered apples, crème fraiche and local peppers. The second course consisted of North Carolina sheepshead, buttermilk fried fish cheeks, brain ravioli, red-eye gravy consommé and gremolata. The third all-black course featured Brasstown New York strip sous vide in squid ink, Yukon potatoes in squid ink, fermented onion pureed with squid ink, lardo, bone marrow and anchovy vinaigrette, Maldon salt and chives. The finale highlighted a cabbage and okra kimchi stuffed pork trotter, sorghum-glazed pork ribs, and braised tongue-and-ear salad in blackberry vinegar.
Following his bravura performance in Charleston, Chef Burdett will prepare a five-course dinner at the James Beard House in New York City on April 4 to support the foundation whose mission is to celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that inspire and educate. Menu highlights include Passed Hors D’oeuvres of Cured North Carolina Lamb Heart, mint gelee, English pea crackers, and radish; North Carolina Trout Terrine with turnip greens, pickled turnips, fermented and puffed rye, sumac mustard; South Carolina Oysters, frozen buttermilk, and vegetable ash; the First Course — North Carolina Flounder, carrot and Meyer lemon broth, and country ham; the Second Course — Nose-to-tail Rabbit, ramp textures, celery and beets; Third Course — Cheerwine Glazed Pork Belly, boiled peanut puree, stewed mustard greens, and rhubarb mustard; Fourth Course – Venison, fermented onion, smoked lardo, and foraged mushrooms; and Fifth Course — Kumquat Cake, lemon gel, pine sorbet, and strawberry.

By Luke Osteen

Champagne Dinner at The Farm

Cozy up with your favorite dinner companion for an enchanted winter’s eve at The Farm at Old Edwards on Saturday, January 25, for this Laurent-Perrier Champagne Dinner. This magical Saturday evening begins with a cocktail arrival followed by a five-course dinner at 7:00 P.M. Sip Laurent-Perrier champagne throughout the evening paired with fresh and innovative dishes by Old Edwards’ Executive Chef Johannes Klapdohr and his team from Madison’s Restaurant.  The dinner menu features a trio of veal, black truffle savoy cabbage, a T-bone steak of Alaskan Halibut, and citrus coriander poached Maine lobster. The dinner will finish with warm flaugnarde of white Valrhona chocolate, preserved mission figs, and dried cranberries. And every delicious course will be paired with elegant Laurent-Perrier champagnes by Madison’s Sommelier Curt Christiansen.  Call (828) 787-2625 to reserve your spots. The cost of the evening is $125 per person including live music, cocktail arrival, and five-course dinner with paired champagnes. For more information about the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Dinner, including the full menu, visit

The Farm at Old Edwards will host a Laurent-Perrier Champagne Dinner on Saturday, January 25.

Cozy up with your favorite dinner companion for an enchanted winter’s eve at The Farm at Old Edwards on Saturday, January 25, for this Laurent-Perrier Champagne Dinner. This magical Saturday evening begins with a cocktail arrival followed by a five-course dinner at 7:00 P.M. Sip Laurent-Perrier champagne throughout the evening paired with fresh and innovative dishes by Old Edwards’ Executive Chef Johannes Klapdohr and his team from Madison’s Restaurant.
The dinner menu features a trio of veal, black truffle savoy cabbage, a T-bone steak of Alaskan Halibut, and citrus coriander poached Maine lobster. The dinner will finish with warm flaugnarde of white Valrhona chocolate, preserved mission figs, and dried cranberries. And every delicious course will be paired with elegant Laurent-Perrier champagnes by Madison’s Sommelier Curt Christiansen.
Call (828) 787-2625 to reserve your spots. The cost of the evening is $125 per person including live music, cocktail arrival, and five-course dinner with paired champagnes. For more information about the Laurent-Perrier Champagne Dinner, including the full menu, visit

Creamy Parsnip Soup


Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach;

Parsnip soup is a wonderful, healthy, creamy winter soup, which is easily made. Its lightly sweet flavor, its earthiness and the fact that kids love it make it a success every time. Parsnip is a sweet root vegetable, rich in fiber, folate, vitamins C and K. If you like sweet potato dishes, chances are you’d love the sweet parsnip soup, too. The measurement for chopped parsnips is given in cups, because the size of the actual roots differs a lot.
4 cups Parsnips peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cup Almond milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Sea salt
1 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 Garlic cloves
2 tablespoons Coconut oil or virgin olive oil
1/4 White onion chopped
Place the parsnips into a large pot and cover them with about 5 cups of water (just so that they are barely covered.) Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes or until soft.
Place the contents of a pot in the blender with all other ingredients. Taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
Transfer the mixture back to the pot, bring to a boil. Let stand for five minutes, then serve.

Not a Better Mousetrap

Curt Christiansen,  Wine Navigator Madison’s Restaurant

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator; Madison’s Restaurant;

There seems recently to be a new, desperate rush to drink young wines before they are ready. Retail shelves are littered with products designed to chemically or mechanically aerate or “open up” otherwise unapproachable wines.
This leads me to the obvious question. Why are so many people in such a hurry to drink wines that will benefit from a short stay in the cellar? “I want to drink this 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet now, but I have to go to dinner in an hour, or I want to get to the next bottle, or I have to get surgery. I wish they made a device that would prematurely age my wine so I can drink it now. I could just dump the wine into a decanter, but that is so low tech and doesn’t make cool sucking noises.”
Well your prayers have been answered, so it seems, by an egg-shaped device with three channels that brutally aerates your wine. I have found that most of these gadgets, rather than improve an already good wine, neuter or destroy the body and structure of the wine. On a positive note, these devices are actually good at turning an undrinkable, poorly made, gritty tannic wine into a somewhat drinkable poorly-made wine.
Many wine lovers like myself enjoy drinking full-bodied red wines in their youth. To aerate, I turn the bottle upside down into a decanter. When a decanter is not available, I have resorted to a flower vase. The wine gets plenty of air but maintains enough body and character to offend most sensible
wine drinkers.
All joking aside, conduct a test yourself. Decant half of a bottle, then pour the rest of the bottle though the egg. Taste and compare.
Happy holidays and drink well. – Curt

Madison’s Restaurant

Coffee Dusted Venison Loin

Coffee Dusted Venison Loin

The Old Edwards Inn and Spa has won an international reputation for luxury and comfort – Travel and Leisure’s 2103 #2 Best Resort in the United States, 2013 Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List and Travel and Leisure’s 2013 23rd Best Resort in
the World.
That means that the house restaurant – Madison’s – has an extraordinary reputation to live up to.
First impressions are promising. The well-appointed chairs are made for luxuriating. Lighting is subdued and careful, setting the stage for whispered intimacies.
Our server Andi was bright and efficient and imminently conversant about the evening’s choices. Her surprising flashes of humor were a tonic to intimations of stuffiness that such rarefied surroundings could foster.
Now I don’t drink, but my companions relied upon Curt, our wine navigator, for their selection. That’s right, a wine navigator. As far as I can tell, a wine navigator is a sommelier without the $100 attitude. Curt was warm, self-effacing and deeply, deeply knowledgeable. He carefully listened to our dining choices, our experiences, even the peculiarities of our taste buds before making his suggestions. This guy is good.
But all of this is window dressing to the menu. Chef Johannes Klapdohr, who’s won the prestigious King of the Mountain Chefs Challenge twice, is committed to farm-to-table sustainable dining. That means that the foundations of the meal come from Madison’s Organic Kitchen Garden. He also draws upon the produce of local farmers at Brasstown Beef, Sunburst Trout Farm, Jolley Farms, Painted Hills Farm, Barkers Creek Mill, Faith Harvest Farm, Benton’s Country Ham, The Chef’s Garden and Sweet Grass Dairy. This ensures freshness and a menu that’s kaleidoscopic in its variety.
The proof was in the pudding, or in this case, the appetizers. My friend opted for the Roasted Rutabaga and Chestnut Soup, which sounds like something thrown together with leftovers, yet proved to be silken and smooth and redolent of an Asian spice market. My sweetie opted for something simple – the Fresh Garden Salad. Sure enough, you could tell that the vegetables were grown five miles away. Paired with the house-made apple cider vinaigrette and Madison’s has transformed this most simple of salads into something extraordinary.
I went along with the Vanilla Roasted Pear – a heady creation complemented with Kale and Baby Arugula Salad, Candied Walnuts, Butternut Jelly, and Crispy Goat Cheese Fritters, drizzled with an exquisitely sensual Walnut Vinaigrette. This played my taste buds like a
pinball machine.
Our entrees offered further proof that Chef Johannes relishes the promise afforded all of that
extra-fresh produce.
My girlfriend ordered the Riesling Poached Sunburst Trout, which came adorned with Braised Red Cabbage, Butternut Purée, Roasted Pears, Toasted Walnut, and Riesling Froth.
Our friend opted for the Coffee Dusted Venison Loin, served with Cauliflower, Roasted Apples, Matsutake, Whole Grain Mustard Spaetzle, and Chestnut Honey Jus.
For me, it was Roasted Cornish Hen. I know that sounds incredibly bland, but consider this – it came with Green and White Asparagus, Boiled Peanut Purée, Roasted New Potatoes, and a remarkable RC Cola Barbecue Sauce. You know how the Highlands Olde Mountain Christmas Parade always astonishes you with its unique combination of the comfort of down home and the elegantly sophisticated? Well, this humble hen did the same thing for my palate.
Here’s something sad – I really haven’t gone into any detail about the richness of our selections and the deeply seductive ambience. I’ve run out of space.
But I have just enough room for two more words – Chocolate soufflé!
By Luke Osteen | Photo by Marjorie Fielding

Star of the Bar at Wolfgang’s

This month’s Star of the Bar, Wolfgang Bistro’s Heather Johnson.

This month’s Star of the Bar, Wolfgang Bistro’s Heather Johnson.


To create her signature Pomegranate Martini, Heather combines vodka and POM liqueur with fresh-squeezed juices, then gives it the vigorous martini shake.


An extra dimension of flavor is added to both the rim and the interior of the glass by a beautiful and zesty orange twist.


Celebrate the holidays with your favorite wine, beer or cocktail at Wolfgang’s Bistro. The gentle warmth of the fireplace chases away winter’s chill as you chat with friends.
Bar Manager Heather Johnson and all the dedicated professionals at Wolfgang’s look forward to serving your favorite beverage. Wolfgang’s is the winner of multiple awards including Best of Award of Excellence by Wine Spectator for 11 years for their extensive wine list. They also offer a number of craft beers and have recently added some craft liquors to their inventory.
Heather has worked in several different Western North Carolina cities. She really enjoys meeting people and likes the challenge of making sure that every customer finds the beverage that they enjoy most. Whether you are a wine drinker, a beer or cocktail drinker, Heather says you will find the taste you prefer here at Wolfgang’s.
When it is time to branch out from your tried and true drink, check out two unique martinis offered
at Wolfgang’s.
For a slightly tart flavor, you’ll enjoy the hint of fresh basil added to your favorite martini. For a slightly sweeter drink, the pomegranate juice will tingle your
taste buds.
Think about Wolfgang’s as Highlands’ neighborhood bar. It is the place where friends and neighbors come to enjoy their favorite libation while catching up on the latest news. It is also a great place for newcomers to get up-to-speed on places to see and events that are
coming soon.
Jovial laughter fills the air as people enjoy tasty small bites along with their favorite beverage.
Heather has served tables but prefers to work behind the bar. At the bar, she gets the opportunity to interact with her customers more. She loves sharing her knowledge of the area with customers and hearing their tales of adventure. At first glance you might never dream that Heather is a thespian at heart. Her repertoire includes a number of Shakespearean roles plus performances in the Agatha Christy show “Patience.” Ask her about her role as Suzy in “Wait Until Dark” or one of her roles in various cabaret shows. Many famous actors/actresses have supported themselves in similar roles like Heather is today.
For more than nineteen years Wolfgang’s has been offering quality food and superior service in a friendly, casual atmosphere. Enjoy light bites in the Bistro beginning at 4:00 P.M. or your favorite selection from the full menu of the restaurant beginning at 5:30 P.M. Wolfgang’s is located at 474 Main Street, Highlands. or reservations call (828) 526-3807.

By Wiley Sloan | Photos by Marjorie Fielding

The Orchard

Grimshawe’s Ribeye

Grimshawe’s Ribeye

Keyline Pie

Keyline Pie

The Orchard, Cashiers’ sumptuous dining destination, is housed in a marvelously rustic cabin sheltered at the edge of, naturally, an apple orchard.
This rambling 100-year-old farmhouse is jammed with antiques, road signs, vintage newspaper clippings and an attic’s worth of ephemera that give the place a cheerful, homespun feel. You can tell that this is the kind of restaurant that attracts both boisterous conversations between friends and families and whispered intimacies between couples.
In fact, with just a little imagination, you get a sense of Cashiers’ early days when the Valley attracted guests from across the Southeast looking for a getaway from the stresses of life. The Orchard is the kind of place that invites you to unlace your shoes and sip a cool drink.
“We wanted a restaurant that would give our clientele a chance to relax while at the same time, enjoy some really fine dining,” explains Chad Boswell, who with his brother Travis owns The Orchard and keeps it rolling along. “We wanted to give people an experience that they wouldn’t forget for a while.”
That’s a pretty tall order and like mostly lofty goals, the proof is in the pudding – or in the case of The Orchard, the Panthertown Pork Tenderloin. This herb-rubbed cut is pan-roasted and enrobed in a black cherry demi-glace. It’s then plated with sweet fried onion rings and topped with garlic-chive goat cheese crumbles.
“We’re proud of our Orchard Chicken, too,” explains Chad. “It’s a fresh, all-natural chicken breast that’s stuffed with an apple, walnut, sage and provolone cheese stuffing. We bread it and lightly fry it and drizzle it with an apricot glaze. It’s probably our signature dish.”
Travis and Chad’s menu boasts meat and poultry raised locally and produce grown by local farms. This commitment ensures rich, flavorful dishes.
And somehow, despite the distance from the shore, The Orchard has incredibly fresh seafood, spotlighted in a nightly fish special.
In fact, The Orchard has a tradition of combining the best of seafood with the finest home cooking. A perennial menu favorite is the unforgettable Shelley’s Shrimp and Grits – large shrimp, andouille sausage, applewood smoked bacon, Vidalia onions, red peppers, squash and wild mushrooms all seasoned, stir-fried and served on a bed of locally ground “Anson Mill” cheese grits.
That deep variety of seafood doesn’t mean that The Orchard ignores the local fish. My sweetie opted for the Glenville Fried Trout — a gorgeous rainbow caught a few miles away, pecan breaded and served with a black-eyed pea relish and a honey dijon tartar sauce. She was reluctant to share with me.
I had the Grimshawe’s Ribeye. It was tenderly marbled and dipped in a subtle and provocative Worcestershire marinade.
(Here’s a riddle: Everyone knows about Grimshawe’s, the tiny Post Office nestled in Whiteside Cove. Tiny? Supposedly the smallest in the United States. So why does The Orchard call its monumental 12-ounce ribeye “Grimshawe’s?” Wouldn’t a majestic local feature like Whiteside be more appropriate?)
There are desserts freshly made every day and this is definitely not the place to demonstrate restraint. I ended up with a slice of Key Lime Pie that was light and tart and redolent of the Tropics. My sweetie wisely refrained from finishing her platter-sized trout and was able to find room for a sinfully-rich Crème Brulee.
Just as essential to The Orchard’s down-home ambience as that farm-fresh menu is the warm attention lavished by the staff. You’re made to feel at home. If you’re local, they probably know you. If you’re a visitor, well, it’s a marvelous welcome to the community.
Dinner reservations are highly recommended.
The Orchard is located just one mile south of the Crossroads on Highway 107 (across from Cashiers United Methodist Church). For more information and reservations, call (828) 743-7614.

By Luke Osteen | Photos by Marjorie Fielding

Stars of the Bars

This month’s Star of the Bar, On the Verandah’s Alexa Orr.

This month’s Star of the Bar, On the Verandah’s Alexa Orr.


Alexa mixes Pear Absolute, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Ginger Liqueur and grapefruit juice, gives it a shake, pours into chilled martini glass  and tops off with Pom Liquer.

Alexa mixes Pear Absolute, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Ginger Liqueur and grapefruit juice, gives it a shake, pours into chilled martini glass and tops off with Pom Liquer.

Garnish with orange zest, and you have yourself a Blood Orange Sunset.

Garnish with orange zest, and you have yourself a Blood Orange Sunset.

The late fall sun sends shards of gold and crimson dancing across Lake Sequoyah as the staff at On the Verandah Restaurant prepare for their evening customers.
Chef Andrew Figel is completing the early prep on tonight’s menu while Bar Manager Alexa Orr finishes checking her stock in preparation for folks in search of their favorite cocktail.
Long known as one of Highlands’ premier restaurants, visitors to On the Verandah come from throughout the Southeast. Whether they’re first-time-visitors or old favorites, Alexa greets them with her million-dollar smile and an irresistible hello. Don’t be fooled by her youthful demeanor, she knows her way around a bar. Her father was a bartender so she carries the DNA of a master mixologist.
When it’s time to decompress from a busy day or you are looking for a change of scenery, the Dugout Bar at OTV is a great place to enjoy your favorite libation. Martini lovers say that Alexa creates the best martini in town. New this season is her Blood Orange Sunset martini made with Absolut Pear Vodka, Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur, Domain Decanton Ginger Liqueur, and grapefruit juice with pomegranate liqueur drizzle. It’s pretty as a picture with a taste that’ll capture your taste buds. Rumor has it that she also makes a mean Manhattan. Let her create your favorite drink for you.
With football in full swing, stop at OTV to cheer on your alma mater while enjoying your favorite micro-brew beers and a snack from the Light fare menu. Current favorites include Stone India Pale Ale from California, Canada’s La Fin Dun Monde and Atlanta’s Sweetwater 420. There are many more, so if you aren’t sure which beer you want, let Alexa guide you. OTV’s extensive wine list offers a wide array of tasty wines by the glass or bottle. Alexa will gladly help you pair the right wine with your meal. Busy nights can be a challenge for any bartender but Alexa is seldom flustered. Her skills for multi-tasking will amaze you. With a smile and a nod of the head she greets customers while preparing a bevy of cocktails. She ticks off the orders with precision, ensuring that each drink is made-to-order. With a shake and a splash she garnishes each glass and sends it on its way.
Her love of people is evident. She exudes charm and thrives in making sure that everyone leaves OTV relaxed and upbeat.
When not behind the bar, Alexa enjoys creating jewelry and painting pastels.
The next time you have reservations at OTV, go a little early and hang out in the bar with Alexa or just drop by for a causal drink on your way home. On the Verandah is located at 1532 Franklin Road, just a few blocks from Highlands’ Main Street. For reservations or more information call (828) 526-2338 or go to

By Wiley Sloan | Photos by Marjorie Fielding

Drink How You Like

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator Madison’s Restaurant   |

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator
Madison’s Restaurant |

I had an interesting conversation with a customer recently. He told me the wine he liked, but I didn’t have that particular wine. Based on his suggestion, I recommended a new alternative, he tasted and loved it. While I was pouring, I noticed he looked a bit distressed and he soon asked if I minded if he poured his own wine. I offered no objection and he gave a visible sigh of relief. He said he likes to pour his own wine and some reactions have made him uncomfortable.
He thanked me for not correcting his pronunciation, not judging his wine knowledge and generally not talking down to him.
Wine is something to be enjoyed by all, frivolously or seriously, neither deserving more or less respect. Too many wine organizations encourage their members to believe that this is the best Merlot or Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.
Drink what you like, the way you like it and don’t apologize. Don’t be afraid to try new things and remember, your dining experience is about you.
Cheers, Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator

Anything But Chardonnay?

Curt Christiansen,  Wine Navigator Madison’s Restuarant

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator
Madison’s Restaurant,

There is a strangely persistent moniker in the wine world – ABC: Anything But Chardonnay.

Ten years ago I could understand this backlash against chardonnay. Overly oaked, flabby, buttery chardonnays literally lined up to get their 90 plus rating. I remember picking up a popular wine magazine’s chardonnay issue and looking through four pages of chardonnays deemed worthy of 90 points or higher. Four pages.

Ten years later however, things are vastly different. I taste on average about 80 wines a week and I am always excited when it’s a chardonnay. I taste some from Oregon that resemble a Grand Cru Meursault. Some are completely new interpretations of chardonnay. While an old school chardonnay from Ric Forman is raved over by those who try it, though the style has not changed for decades. Chasseur single vineyard chardonnays are as appealing as any wine can get. Every Alex Gambal white burgundy (chardonnay) is as different and exceptional as any other varietal. Every vintage of the Lucien LeMoine Bourgogne Blanc is a celebration of passion and dedication to chardonnay.

My point is that ABC is not over. It is irrelevant. We are in the midst of a chardonnay renaissance – therefore rules and preconceptions no longer apply. In this climate of farm-to-table, organic, sustainable and biodynamic farming, it’s all about the terrier, the land. Today’s chardonnay is being made by what nature provides the winemaker, not by over manipulation.

Don’t get me wrong. There will always be wine made for ratings as long as there are rating hounds. But in my opinion, there has never been a better time to drink chardonnay. So, I say to the ABC people, thank you, renew your membership and drink something else because there is not enough of these great chardonnays to go around.

Just finishing an amazing glass of Davis Family chardonnay,

Curt Christiansen, Wine Navigator


Will You Walk the Plank?

worklikeacaptainMurky waters lap against the deserted shore of Lake Sequoyah. A heavy moon hangs low in the sky casting pale light on weathered bones.

In the distance a flag is heard rippling on an abandoned vessel on the shoreline of On the Verandah. Creatures are seen stirring inside beckoning all those who dare to enter the party. Strains of music from the Chuck Folds Five Band drift across the water enticing listeners to come inside.

On the Verandah summons those who are brave enough to “walk the plank” to join them on October 31 starting at 6:30 P.M. until the last bone has dropped, to feast and dance the night away. All hands are invited aboard for $30 per person and $5 for small mateys.

Captain Andrew Figel will be serving bounties of the sea and treasures of the land. First Mate Trae Ellison will be pouring tempting grogs and specialty ales to quench any carouser’s thirst. Call (828) 526-2338 to reserve your spot amongst the living for a night to remember.

Contributed by Courtney Scarborough


Wild Thyme Gourmet



Crab and Corn Chowder

Salmon with a Vidalia Onion Crust

Salmon with a Vidalia Onion Crust

In less than a year at its new location, Wild Thyme Gourmet has firmly established itself as a Highlands Main Street institution.

Part of its appeal is the luxurious full-service bar, plush in its appointments and designed for sparkling conversation. The new location has allowed Wild Thyme to expand its wine list (earning it The Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the last three years) and beer selection (both bottle and on tap).

The dining room is bright and cozy and adorned with gorgeous art.

Wild Thyme’s patio, with its bright red umbrellas, recalls the casual elegance of European bistros – during the day it’s the perfect spot to view the endlessly fascinating parade of humanity.  At night, it’s candle-lit and perfect for whispered intimacies.

But let’s face it, that all takes back seat to Wild Thyme Gourmet’s exquisitely composed menu.

That menu derives from the genius of chef/owner Dindu Lama. He learned the fundamentals of kitchen work in his native Nepal, but it was his immigration to America that sparked his passion for culinary art. It was his arrival in Highlands that brought his gifts to their full flowering.

“It was good to be in America, I learned to cook Chinese and Thai food, but New York is so big and so different from home,” he explains. “But a friend of my brother was a chef at On the Verandah and he said I should come to live in Highlands. He said there was work and the people were nice.”

A visit convinced Dindu that Highlands was closer to the America he imagined as a boy.

After a lot of hard work, fate provided the perfect opportunity.

Now that he owns Wild Thyme, Dindu’s menu is a provocative blend of nouvelle cuisine infused with Asian spices and sensibilities.

Some people visit for a quick lunch – a salad or soup of sandwich.  For them, the bistro is just a stopping point in a day built around shopping or golf or a vigorous hike. And sure enough, the food is fresh and delicious and undeniably nutritious.

They’re wise choices and it’s a good strategy, but I recommend you come to Wild Thyme ravenous.

That’s how my sweetie and I arrived, and we dove into each selection with unbridled delight.

She started with a wonderfully constructed Heart of Palm Salad – an emerald bed of mixed field greens, julienned vegetables, splashed with a carefully balanced Balsamic vinaigrette.

For me, The Wedge – a majestic chunk of iceberg lettuce drizzled with house-made bleu cheese dressing and warm bacon. It was difficult to share with Tricia.

The Wedge was complemented by a bowl of Crab and Corn Chowder that was hearty and delicately spiced. I did not share.

The singular quality of the salads set the tone for the entrees that followed.

My sweetie’s Salmon with a Vidalia Onion Crust had been slowly oven-roasted with a delicate citrus beurre blanc. The shallots in the reduction acted as a perfect complement to the salmon’s just-hauled-out-of-the-water freshness.

For me, it was the Panéed Breast of Chicken, a subtle parmesan-and-rosemary-crusted creation, served with a lemon caper butter sauce.

Despite my previous reluctance, we shared entrees because, come on, it’s Salmon with a Vidalia Onion Crust!

In fact, so right were the entrees that I ordered Waterfall Beef to go. It’s a spicy stir fry of beef tenderloin, fresh vegetables, ginger, cilantro and lime, served on a bed of basmati rice. Once, a thousand years ago, I lived in Bangkok and darned if Dindu didn’t return me to those halcyon days.

There’s obviously a lot of attention lavished on these dishes. Whether you’re one of those who considers Wild Thyme a quick stop bistro or you’re looking for a place to relax and indulge, you’ll find that Dindu and his crew have a place that’s just right for you.

Wild Thyme Gourmet is located at 343 Main Street in Town Square.  Call ahead for reservations at (828) 526-4035.  It’s open seven days, lunch 11:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., dinner from  5:30 P.M..-‘til.

By Luke Osteen



Cyprus Restaurant in Highlands NC


Here’s the problem about reviewing the menu at Cyprus: By design it’s kaleidoscopic, changing on a regular basis from Italian to Thai, Mediterranean, French, South American, Pan-Asian or Caribbean native cuisines.

Of course, that’s not really a problem if your palate is a world traveler.

Having said that, there are constants to Cyprus that’ll ensure the validity of this piece, regardless of which evening you visit.

First, there’s the luxurious décor, which informs every moment of the experience. Walls are tricked out in impossibly rich shades of olive, orange and sage. The copper-edged bar is at once elegant and electric with its highlights of deep red. The dining room is spacious enough to allow intimate conversation while larger tables are made for boisterous exchanges – Cyprus is that kind of place. It’s all enhanced by soft music and a carefully designed lighting scheme.

Yet somehow, even with all the care given to the details, the center of the restaurant is the dazzling open kitchen overseen by owner/chef Nicholas Figel. It’s an endlessly fascinating show that’s inviting and endlessly surprising, much like the Cyprus experience itself.

On the evening my companion and I were there, Nick’s kitchen was turning out astonishing creations.

We started out with fresh-from-the-sea appetizers – South African Kwazulu Coast Barbecued Red Grouper with Pumpkin and Norland Red Potato Souffle, spread upon a succulent Dutch Snap Pea Salad for my sweetie; Oahu Napali Coast Mixed Sushi Rolls with Wild Salmon, Pineapple, Pepper and Spam, served with Wasabi and Pickled Ginger for me.

If the inclusion of Spam on such a rarified menu surprises you, well, that’s the point. As one who lived for many years on Oahu, I can promise you that Spam is a staple of the Hawaiian diet. Nick is faithful to his peasant-inflected cuisine and there’s an unshakable authenticity that infuses every part of Cyprus’ menu.

“It takes a little more effort, but I regularly shop the ethnic markets in Atlanta to ensure that we maintain uncompromised quality in each dish that we serve,” Nick says. “In the kitchen, we go the extra mile to express ideas in food which are sincere, and we remain mindful that our food is a vessel for communication
with you.”

Sure enough, the extra attention gave the appetizers a fresh immediacy that set the stage for our far-corners-of-the-world entrees – Cape Flattery Washington Coast Grilled Troll King Salmon with Transparent Apple & Sour Cherry Coulis, Barbecued All Blue Potatoes and Tellecherry Black Peppercorn Compound Butter; and New Zealand Coromandel Peninsula Roast Rack of Lamb Seasoned with Garlic and Rosemary, Crushed Potato, Dijon Mustard, and Fresh
Plum Tomato.

Since I only have a limited amount of space here, let me just say that the food was exquisite. Cyprus is celebrating 10 years and its reputation has spread far beyond this little town. That should be testimony enough.

And though our meals were deeply satisfying on so many levels, my sweetie and I wisely saved room for a couple of desserts, the kind that wake you up years later with impossible cravings. She selected the Lavender Ice Cream Sandwich dipped in delicate wildflower honey, while I fell hard for Quetzalcoatl’s Dream – a heady blending of Cayenne and Cinnamon Ice Cream and Seasoned Dark Chocolate Ganache over Chocolate Cake. There was nothing subtle about my choice, it was a full-out seduction.

And while I’ve devoted most of this to the unforgettable food and the luxurious décor, I have to mention the service staff. While there’s an air of flash and showmanship to Cyprus, the servers are a perfect complement – unobtrusive, alert and, quietly confident.

Cyprus is located on the Dillard Road, four-tenths of a mile from Main Street.  Call (828) 526-4429 or visit for reservations.

You won’t need your passport.

By Luke Osteen



Stars of the Bar on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau

Sasha Kikoin and Olivia Lovell are two of The Ugly Dog Pub’s bar stars.

Sasha Kikoin and Olivia Lovell are two of The Ugly Dog Pub’s bar stars.

Carpano Sweet Vermouth and Bulleit Rye Whiskey combine perfectly into a classicly delicious Manhattan.


Add whiskey and vermouth.

Add whiskey and vermouth.


Combine with ice and shake it up.

Combine with ice and shake it up.


Pour into a martini glass.

Pour into a martini glass.


Top with bourbon infused cherry.

Top with bourbon infused cherry.

Cocktails, and the art of making them well, have undergone a strong resurgence in the last few years.  This passion for quality drinks, which can be referred to as ‘liquid baking,’ is alive and well in Highlands.  Liquor-by-the-drink has only been allowed here since 2007.  Once approved, our local establishments lost no time in providing quality cocktails to Highlands.

One of the most well-known watering holes in Highlands is The Ugly Dog Public House (a.k.a. The Dog) located at 294 South Fourth Street, “On the Hill.”  “The Dog” truly is your neighborhood pub where the staff will greet you with a smile and your favorite libation.

The Dog’s bar menu includes a wide variety of local craft beers, fine wines and a full range of spirits.   Feel like you are in a rut with your cocktail?  Try something new and exciting. If you enjoy a Gin and Tonic, give their Jack Rudy small batch tonic a try. Their experienced staff includes Olivia Lovell, Justin Taylor, Caprisha Hall, Becca Ashburn, Sasha Kikoin, and Lindsay Gearhart. They are all well-trained in the art of mixology and are anxious to be sure that everyone gets their drink-of-choice each and every time they visit the Dog.

Branch out from your usual.  Put these stars to work creating unique drinks for your pallet. Let Becca make you a Skinny Margarita or watch attentively as Olivia creates the cool and refreshing Mojito. Trotter’s customers rave about his Puck – a tantalizing combination of organic cucumber vodka, gin and a splash or two of tonic. Don’t worry about stumping this talented group of bartenders – they are ready for any challenge. Caprisha relishes in making the Sazerac-the New Orleans version of the Old Fashion and Sasha makes a Manhattan with the Dog’s own bourbon infused cherries.  Lindsay and Justin’s customers gravitate more to one of the many craft beers and ales on tap.  Be sure to pair your favorite drink with some of the tasty foods that The Dog is known for.  Chef Adam Bresnahan is constantly revising the menu depending on the season to keep it fresh and delicious. For the after dinner crowd, liqueurs, ports or brandies are available for a special night cap.

The Dog’s Proprietors-Kay and Thomas Craig sing the praises of all of their staff. “No matter how hectic things get here or how late the party goes, the entire staff works hard to give you a great experience,” Kay tells me.

Stop by The Dog often to lift your spirits. Don’t expect to see dancing on the bar, but the bluegrass music every Wednesday and the bands on Saturdays will get you up and moving. When you visit The Dog expect a fun time with tasty food and drink and a welcoming smile.

By Wiley Sloan

Nominate your favorite mixologist to be the next Star of the Bar at:


Highlands Culinary Weekend

anna-kincade-john-collette-cashiers-ncThe 7th Annual Culinary Weekend takes place Thursday, November 7, through Sunday, November 10.

Join us as we embrace an amazing weekend of food, wine and fun in the beautiful mountains of Highlands.

Kick off the weekend at the Opening Night Celebration, Thursday, November 7, at 7:00 P.M. at the esteemed Highlands Country Club. Enjoy fine wines and the delectable cuisine of Highlands’ local chefs.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, fill your itineraries with an array of activities, tastings and dinners hosted by local restaurants, merchants and accommodations. Plan to attend the annual Sip & Stroll  from 11:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Friday and Saturday, November 8-9, in the downtown area.

This year’s participating restaurants include Cyprus International Cuisine, Kilwin’s, Lakeside Restaurant, Old Edwards Inn & Spa, Ruka’s Table, The Gamekeeper’s Tavern, Mountain Fresh Grocery, The Ugly Dog Pub, Rosewood Market, and Wolfgang’s Restaurant & Wine Bistro. Participating Wineries include;  Empire Distributors, Mutual Distributing, Lambert Bridge, Silver Oak Cellars, Cakebread Cellars, Justin Vineyards, and Kobrand. Sip & Stroll participants include; 4th Street Boutique, Acorns & Acorns on Church, Alyxandra’s Boutique, Highlands Fine Art and Estate Jewelry, Hen House, Mountain Fresh Grocery, Oakleaf Flower & Garden, TJ Baileys, Vivace, Xtreme Threads, Potpourri and Potpourri 2, Cabin Couture, Cabin Casuals, Bags on Main and Wit’s End.

Tickets to the Opening Night Celebration are $75 and can be purchased in advance via the website or by calling The Highlands Chamber of Commerce at (866) 526-5841.

The Highlands Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center is the presenting sponsor of Culinary Weekend. Event sponsors include The Laurel Magazine, Old Edwards Inn & Spa, White Oak Realty, WHLC 104.5, The Highlander Newspaper, Inland Seafood, A Moment In Time Photography and Trudie Gagne Photography.

The Highlands Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and Saturday from 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

For more information, sponsorship opportunities or to be a part of the 7th Annual Culinary Weekend, please call (866) 526-5841 or visit

Contributed by Laura Huerta


Pancake Breakfast Helps Fund Scholarships

It is exciting to think of the 50+ high school graduates that we have helped over the past several years and are currently aiding in their quest for a higher education, whether it be college or a trade school. Many of these young people have gone on to careers not only locally but in far flung places as well. Our scholars have become, among other things, nurses, medical techs, teachers, EMS personnel, mechanics, cosmetologists, business owners, chefs and attorneys. The list goes on and on.

Qualifying students may receive up to a total of $6,800 in support. They must submit an application, along with their transcripts and two letters of recommendation. Once this is done, our scholarship committee follows up with a call. Representatives from our club attend high school graduation and present the graduate with a certificate representing our support. The student must maintain a reasonable grade point average while on scholarship, sending us a copy of their
college transcripts.

The reason this is so gratifying is because most of our fund raising is funneled into these scholarships. Included under that umbrella are our pancake breakfasts, held on the fourth Saturday of the month; our local cookbook, A Second Helping; our annual auction in July, and the chocolate fest in October, where all things chocolate are sold. We appreciate your attendance at these events, where 100% of the profit is given back to the community!

Contributed by Margaret Spraggins



Award-Winning Cuisine at Wolfgangs Restaurant and Wine Bistro in Highlands NC

Sommelier Annelize Giliomee, Chef  Christopher Dupont , and Chef Wolfgang Green.

Sommelier Annelize Giliomee, Chef Christopher Dupont , and Chef Wolfgang Green.

Chef Wolfgang Green and his dedicated staff offer Highlanders a truly memorable dining experience in a comfortable, elegant setting.  Dine alfresco in the garden pavilion near the waterfall or fireside in the dining room of the historic Gray Cottage.  Enjoy a summer afternoon on the patio or grab a table in the Bistro.

Prior to coming to Highlands Wolfgang honed his skills as Executive Chef for the Brennan Family of New Orleans’s renowned Commander’s Palace. Chef Christopher Gregoire Dupont has brought his classical French training supplemented with recipes gathered through years of experience and travel.  Enjoy recipes from Northern California, France and the Pacific Rim plus his unique pasta specials, all made in-house.  The chefs produce a dining experience that is second-to-none.

Choose from over 800 wine selections or let Sommelier Annelize Giliomee find the perfect wine to complement your dinner. She is passionate about winemaking and excels in finding wines that are the hidden gems from the world’s best boutique wineries all at reasonable prices.

The Bistro menu includes a wide selection of small bites complimented by great wines and cocktails. New to the bistro is a Hawaiian Pu Pu Platter. Also, served on weekends are freshly-shucked Oysters on the Half Shell.  I like to drop in often to enjoy Wanda’s Cream Cheese Jalapeno Dip, and the Lamb Chops.  My wife’s favorites include the Lamb Chops or the Oysters Rockefeller.

Wolfgang’s dinner menu includes something for every palate.  Enjoy the freshest seafood, tender Black Angus aged beef, veal, and lamb, along with the restaurant’s signature Short Ribs.     Satisfy your sweet tooth with a choice of Strawberries Romanoff, Bananas Foster, Bavarian Chocolate Mousse or your favorite dessert wine or cordial.  Let your kids choose from Wolfgang’s special Children’s Menu.

Over the years Wolfgang’s Restaurant has been honored by a wide array of awards.  For the past 11 years they have received The Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence.” They were voted as the best place for dining in Highlands by Southern Living, plus “The Place You Must Eat in Macon County” by Our State Magazine.   Highlanders voted Wolfgang’s the Best Restaurant and Best Wine List in The Highlander Newspaper’s Reader’s Choice Awards.

There’s no better place to celebrate a special occasion than at Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro.  Whether you’re hosting a rehearsal dinner, a wedding reception, a birthday party, or any other special event, be sure to let Wolfgang, Mindy and their professional staff create an event that you’ll remember for years to come.

If you are not a regular diner at Wolfgang’s you owe it to yourself to see what many Highlanders already know:  “Wolfgang’s Restaurant offers a truly unique dining experience in a comfortable, casually-elegant setting.” Smiling faces, quality food, friendly atmosphere – there’s nothing better than Wolfgang’s.  For more information check out their website at or call them at (828) 526-3807.

By Wiley Sloan


The Kitchen CarryAway & Casserole Kitchen

Chef Holly Roberts’ The Kitchen CarryAway catering business ramps up with the arrival of spring. For information or to place an order, visit the lower level of the Peggy Crosby Center in Highlands or call (828) 526-2110.

Chef Holly Roberts’ The Kitchen CarryAway catering business ramps up with the arrival of spring. For information or to place an order, visit the lower level of the Peggy Crosby Center in Highlands or call (828) 526-2110.

Oh, the welcome signs of spring! Beautiful yellow daffodils dancing in the mountain sunshine, dogwood blossoms in their resplendent white stir in the gentle breezes.

Tantalizing aromas drift down Highlands’ Fifth Street as Holly Roberts and her dedicated staff prepare an ever-widening array of taste-tempting casseroles, hearty soups and delectable hors d’oeuvres. Check out The Kitchen’s Facebook page to see what’s new and exciting for this season.

Remember to stop by The Kitchen CarryAway anytime you need something nourishing and tasty — whether it’s for a simple evening meal or an evening of entertaining, The Kitchen can feed your guests in style.

Throughout the winter, Holly has kept us all healthy and happy with a variety of items including her Beef Tenderloin, Vegetable Soup and her Black-eyed Pea Stew. I always enjoy her Chicken Tetrazzini; the Seafood Tetrazzini is good, too.

Need a good side dish or an appetizer for that “just planned” get-together? Stop by the Kitchen Carry Away to select items from the freezer. You’ll be able to choose from several different casseroles, a variety of soups, appetizers, hors d oeuvres and desserts. Vegetarians applaud Holly’s recent offering Veggie Bake — a sumptuous layer of cheese grits with mixed beans, squash, kale and tomatoes. This is great as an entrée or a side dish. Have you tried her Lemon Pepper Boursin? Don’t miss this
tasty appetizer.

Holly wants to thank all of her loyal customers who have helped her fulfill her dreams of helping others. In October 2012, we told you about her new venture, The Casserole Kitchen, named after her Grandmother’s Catering business. Since its opening last fall, The Casserole Kitchen has provided food to all of us hungry winter residents, plus Holly has generously donated $900 to area non-profits like the Food Pantry of Highlands, MANNA Foodbank, Fishes and Loaves in Cashiers and the Gathering Table. Be sure to take advantage of the many delicious casseroles throughout the summer.

Holly is launching her website this spring for The Casserole Kitchen. There you can select items and Holly will ship them to you. Plan early and let Holly help you eliminate stress in your life. She’ll get your casseroles out on Monday or Tuesday and you will have them on Thursday. You’ll be ready for that weekend dinner party with
no fuss.

The Kitchen CarryAway and Catering is a trusted source of well-prepared foods for your entertaining and everyday needs. It’s located in the lower level of the Peggy Crosby Center at 350 South Fifth Street. Throughout April give Holly a call to order your items. The Kitchen opens May 1st; stop by from 12:00 noon to 5:00 P.M. daily or you can call Holly at (828) 526-2110. Don’t forget the Kitchen Carry Away and Catering for all your special party needs. For a small soiree for six or a party for dozens, Holly will help you entertain in style. Let her create a special menu that fits your unique desires.

By Wiley Sloan


Southern Hospitality in Napa

Boo Beckstoffer in her  beautiful Napa Valley  tasting room.

Boo Beckstoffer in her
beautiful Napa Valley
tasting room.

I’ve been to California wine country several times in the past, tromping through vineyards and the famous Rutherford Dust to learn about the nuances of viticulture from hardworking vineyard managers.

I’ve enjoyed barrel sampling with winemakers amidst the clanging of pumps and the bottling machines of a working winery.  Sure, it was fun, but the learning curve was aimed high and the motives were far
from hedonistic.

My recent trip to Napa was very different. Instead of going as a vineyard and winery owner, I made this pilgrimage as a tourist. I loved it.

There were different types of tasting experiences— the grandeur of Ovid Winery to an intimate tasting in the downtown St. Helena office of Notre Vin, a winery owned by Denis and May-Britt Malbec, formerly of Château Latour, a First Growth in Bordeaux.

Lasting memories and friendships were made on the last day in Napa with a wine tasting with Boo Beckstoffer, an Atlanta native married to Tuck Beckstoffer whose family is one of the largest vineyard owners in Napa. His family is of the land, devoted to the cultivation of great wine through a deep connection to the vines and those who carefully tend them.

I met Boo at the public tennis courts and followed her in a labyrinth-like weave to one of the Beckstoffer Vineyards.  We tasted Hogwash, a delicious, dry rosé that will certainly grace my table as well as the Semper Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Tuck, Boo’s husband, made the Semper brand of wines as his vinous love letters to Boo.

The Southern hospitality of the wine tasting in the vineyard on that sunny winter day– Boo, another friend of mine, and an interloping jack rabbit that squeezed under the fence Peter Rabbit style–was the true highlight of the trip.

The wines of Boo and Tuck Beckstoffer will be among the many boutique offerings featured at the Bascom’s upcoming Collective Spirits Wine andFood Festival from May 16 to 18. Please see the Bascom’s website for more details.

Contributed by Mary Ann Hardman


Curried Quinoa and Arugula Salad

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach

Contributed by Dr. Anastasia Halldin, Nutrition Coach




After an overload of heavy winter foods, there is nothing that tastes more like spring in the mountains than a fresh, crunchy salad. A salad can easily become a satisfying meal, if you add the right foods to it. Adding nuts, seeds, cooked grains, and chopped eggs adds protein and nutritional value to your regular cucumber-tomato salad.

Curried quinoa, arugula and goat cheese salad is a celebration of spring on a plate. It is bright, colorful and full of life. Cucumbers cleanse the kidneys; arugula supplies iron and folic acid; tomatoes give you lycopene; quinoa is a complete protein with all essential amino acids; curry contains cancer-fighting turmeric;  parsley is a good source of potassium; calcium, manganese, iron, and magnesium and avocado supplies you with the right kind of fats, while goat cheese provides calcium.

You can take this salad to an outside picnic  (take the dressing separately, in a Tupperware container.)

Curried Quinoa, Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad

Makes 3-4 portions


1 cup quinoa, cooked

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon curry
Pinch cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt, divided

1 ½ cups arugula leaves

½ cup parsley, diced

1 medium avocado, sliced

1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 large tomato, chopped

1 tablespoon apple
cider vinegar

optional: 1/3 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled


In a medium sauté pan, sauté cooked quinoa in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add curry powder, cayenne pepper and a pinch of salt. Combine well and sauté for 3 minutes.

Set aside.

Arrange arugula, parsley, avocado, cucumber slices, tomato on a large plate in layers. Put the warm quinoa mixture on top, in the center.

Sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles.

In a cup, combine apple cider vinegar, the rest of the oil and salt. Pour this dressing over the salad and serve immediately.


Wine and Dine on The Mountain in Highlands NC

Wine and Dine on the Mountain will kick off the 2012 culinary season in Highlands, April 13th and 14th, by pulling together a sizzling line-up of fine wines, superb food and fine art. Guests of all events will watch the wines come to life, as Thomas Arvid paints for the occasions.

The “Wine and Dine on the Mountain” weekend is a sensory extravaganza that begins with a “Blue Jeans, Bluegrass Spring Harvest Barn Dinner” at the Farm at Old Edwards on Friday, April 13th. Pisoni Vineyards Wines will be on the tables throughout the dinner. On Saturday, Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro will host David Arthur Vineyards with winemaker Nile Zacherle and four-course dinner starting at 6:30 p.m.

Named one of the top “25 Artists You Should Know” by US Art magazine, Thomas Arvid receives critical acclaim for his monumental compositions of wine and his mastery of light, depth and reflection. Inspired by the grace and hospitality of the southern culture in which he lives, Arvid’s compositions are an invitation to take the time to appreciate sharing a great bottle and good conversation with friends.

“I can’t think of a better place to spend an evening with great friends,” says Arvid. “Highlands and events like this – with wonderful food, wine and culture – truly foster camaraderie, similar to what I try to evoke in each of my paintings.  I’ll have my easel with me; it’s going to be another inspiring weekend in the mountains.”

“Last year’s event really set the bar for a fun weekend of wine and food,” says Richard Delany, President of the Old Edwards Inn and Spa. “We’re looking forward this year to offering an even more diverse assortment of experiences, all tied together with great wine, food and music.”

Wolfgang Green, owner of Wolfgang’s Restaurant and Wine Bistro, says, “We’ve always had great success with our wine weekends, and last year’s Thomas Arvid event was no exception. By partnering with other businesses like the Old Edwards Inn and Spa, we can pull together offerings to celebrate spring by bringing guests to Highlands for some art, music, superb wine and fine dining—an unbeatable combination!”

Limited seating available. To reserve for Friday evenings dinner, call (828) 787-2625. To reserve for Saturday evenings dinner, call (828) 526-3807. For more information, visit