Archive for the ‘Beer’ Category

Fans of family entertainment flock to Branson

May 20, 2013

I was surprised by how many of my East Coast friends had never heard of Branson, Missouri, one of the country’s top tourism draws. I described it to them as “G-rated Vegas without the gambling,” but now that I’ve been, I need to amend that add “with a generous scoop of Christianity and patriotism.”

Photo ExploreBranson.com

A walkway runs along Lake Taneycomo in Branson [Photo ExploreBranson.com]

If you like family-friendly variety shows and if you don’t need a drink during said show, and if you are Christian and patriotic, you’ll love Branson. I was there for a travel writers’ conference last weekend and toured around a bit. Truthfully, I felt a bit like a donkey out of water, so to speak. But that’s OK. I appreciated Branson for what it offered its fans, of which there are many. (The fairly remote Ozark Mountains town of just 10,500 hosts more than 7.5 million tourists a year and generates nearly $3 billion in annual tourism revenue. Wow.) And I admired its resilience after a tornado destroyed many buildings just last year, including the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel, where I stayed. There was nary a sign of distress at the Hilton, one of the nicest I’ve stayed in.

Branson Airport

Branson Airport

The two-room Branson Airport, serviced by Southwest, is totally cute, with hillbilly décor befitting its locale. Tourists visit two areas – “the strip,” Highway 76, where the show theaters are, and downtown. In town, Main and Commercial streets are home to several “flea market” type shops and the famous Dick’s 5 and 10 (loved the linoleum and the merchandise). A block away on the waterfront is the newish Branson Landing development, an outdoor mall anchored by Bass Pro Shops White River Outpost. A walkway runs along Lake Taneycomo (which connects to Table Rock Lake), and the view is lovely. The main fountain area is a favorite gathering place for visitors. I also recommend Waxy O’Shea’s, where I had a most delicious Mother’s IPA, brewed up the road in Springfield, Mo.

Mother’s IPA is brewed up the road in Springfield, Mo.

Mother’s IPA is brewed up the road in Springfield, Mo.

The tourism folks took my group on a few side trips, including to Silver Dollar City, a longtime amusement park now boasting a giant wooden roller coaster called Outlaw Run. Also wild is the Powder Keg coaster, which launches passengers from zero to 53 miles-per-hour in 2.8 seconds. I had no idea that was its “thing,” and when I watched it from standing still to screaming speed, my jaw dropped.

We writers broke up into groups and toured different spots. I checked out Dogwood Canyon Nature Park, developed by the Bass Pro folks. This is nature lite, and quite manufactured at that, but it’s well done and I’m guessing introduces people to the great outdoors who might not otherwise venture out. Visitors can explore the 6-mile paved loop by foot, bike or guided tram, and only the tram will take you to the Elk and Bison pasture. I cycled, and it was quite pleasant. The chapel was particularly nice – I’m sure many people get married there.

Cycling at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Cycling at Dogwood Canyon Nature Park

Some of my writer friends on that trip went on to the Branson Zipline, which they described as soft adventure, but any zipline is too much for me, so I passed. Others went fishing with the Bass Pro folks. That sounded cool, but, again, not my thing. I wish I’d had time to kayak. Folks at Kayak Branson told me they were considering a kayak station right from Branson Landing, which would be wonderfully convenient. Another writer friend loved her tour of Christian-focused College of the Ozarks, aka “Hard Work U.,” where students work instead of pay tuition. They make their own everything, including clothing, furniture, and butter, and even run a hotel. Interesting! I wish I’d had the chance to see it. All the writers toured the Titanic Museum Attraction, fascinating in that inside the half-scale replica you feel you’re on the Titanic.

After my visit, I’m now very curious to see “We Always Lie to Strangers,” a new documentary billed as “a story of family, community, music and tradition set against the backdrop of Branson.” The film also explores how conservative Branson will change (or not) as the country becomes more socially liberal. Interesting points to ponder about this  intriguing place to visit.

Advertisements

Woodson’s Mill in Virginia keeps tradition alive

May 1, 2013
201305_01c_Roseland_VA

Diane cycles in the Tye River valley in rural Nelson County

While we were exploring the Brew Ridge Trail south of Charlottesville, Va., for a magazine article, we took a day off to bicycle. Lina created one of her trademark custom loops using Google maps and our collection of trusted DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteers. We did a 42-mile loop around rural Nelson County, and the scenery was just gorgeous. Lina mostly kept us in valleys and along rivers, though we did have a few challenging climbs and some long stretches on dirt roads (surprise!).

Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, VA

Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, VA

One of the many delightful sights we happened upon was Woodson’s Mill in Lowesville, a village that used to be an important stop along the Virginia Blue Ridge Railway. The building was so impressive that I stopped to take a look, and of course Lina snapped several photos. The gate was locked, so we didn’t poke around. Later, I was delighted to read on the mill’s website that it has been owned by only a small handful of families since its construction in 1794 and is operational! Read the full history here.

More info from the website: The late J. Gill Brockenbrough Jr. purchased the property in the early 1980s and started a massive restoration effort there. The mill served as the backdrop to son Will Brockenbrough’s childhood and formed his appreciation for history, architecture, and historic preservation. Will and his wife, Sarah, reopened the mill and now run it. How wonderful!

All-natural flours and meals are made at Woodson’s Mill

All-natural flours and meals are made at Woodson’s Mill (photo by Woodson’s Mill, LLC)

They make all-natural flours and meals in small batches, by hand, with stone-ground grains. All the power for grinding comes from the Piney River’s water, which runs the Mill’s overshot wheel and hand-dressed millstones, making the entire process renewable and sustainable.

And now, for the best part: Woodson’s Mill is open May 25 through October 26 on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. If you can’t go then, contact the owners to see if you can make an appointment for a different time. Or, if you can’t make it to the Mill Store, their products are available online and at regional retailers.

What a happy story, and it’s not over yet!

April in North Carolina is all about beer

April 11, 2013

201304_02s_NCBeerMonthCraft beer followers already pour into North Carolina because of its reputation as the South’s premiere beer destination, with more breweries than any state south of Pennsylvania (73 and counting). In April there’s another reason to imbibe — a month of foam-focused activities, including tastings, hotel packages, and special events as part of the state’s inaugural North Carolina Beer Month. “We hope to open even more eyes and palates to the popularity of craft beer,” said Win Bassett, director of the North Carolina Brewers Guild.

NC Beer Lover's Weekend at O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro

NC Beer Lover’s Weekend at O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro

Participating breweries range from “nano-brewery” Bear Creek Brews, west of Raleigh, to Oskar Blues, the state’s largest craft brewery, near the Pisgah Forest (its parent brewery is in Longmont, Colo.). Offerings include a float trip down the French Broad River in Asheville followed by a tour and tasting at Altamont Brewing (April 20 and 27, $50); the Hickory Hops festival hosted by Olde Hickory Brewing with 40-plus breweries, music, and the Carolinas Championship of Beers.(April 20, $10-$30); and NC Beer Lover’s Weekend at O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro, with dinner and cooking class featuring beers by Highland Brewing Co. (April 26-27, $319 to $678). http://www.ncbeermonth.com

Charleston, SC: Living time capsule, thriving city

March 3, 2013

I wrote a “36 Hours in Charleston” feature for the Boston Globe than ran on Feb. 24, timed to the first nonstop flights from Boston to Charleston, SC (Jet Blue). But any time is a good time to visit this vibrant city. Well, maybe not August. Start packing, and feel free to follow my lead.

By Diane Daniel

People stroll on the Battery, a landmark promenade along the Charleston peninsula

People stroll on the Battery, a landmark promenade along the Charleston peninsula

CHARLESTON — A visit to the Holy City, so named for its historic houses of worship, pulls you back in time. Horse-drawn carriages transport tourists along cobblestone streets flanked by centuries-old, beautifully preserved, and impeccably manicured gardens and homes, many open to the public. From land, you can gaze across the harbor to Fort Sumter, where Union soldiers suffered the first hit in the Civil War. But Charleston comes with a fast-forward button, too. Lowcountry cuisine keeps raising the bar, and a new wave of boutiques and bars buoy several neighborhoods. Mix it all together for heavenly results.

DAY ONE

Martha Lou's Kitchen has been dishing up soul food since 1983

Martha Lou’s Kitchen has been dishing up soul food since 1983

1:30 p.m. Meet Martha: Before you hit the highfalutin eateries, start simply and soulfully at Martha Lou’s Kitchen (1068 Morrison Drive, 843-577-9583), operating since 1983. Inside the pink cinder block building, savor a hearty, homemade Southern meal. Daily dishes ($8.50) might include fried chicken, lima beans, mac and cheese, and collards.

2:30 p.m. Uncivil acts: On April 12, 1861, the Confederates attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, turning decades of conflict into what became the Civil War. You can trace the war’s path there and at Fort Moultrie, both part of Fort Sumter National Monument. Sumter can be reached only by boat — a scenic 30-minute ferry ride from Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center (340 Concord St., 843-883-3123, ferry $11-$18), while you can drive to Moultrie (1214 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island, 843-883-3123, $1-$3). While there, visit “A Bench by the Road,” a memorial placed by the Toni Morrison Society in memory of the estimated 300,000 Africans brought to the barrier island on their way to being sold into slavery.

Jlinsnider owner Jamie Lin Snider carries quality vintage clothing and her own fashion line

Jlinsnider owner Jamie Lin Snider carries quality vintage clothing and her own fashion line

5 p.m. King’s crown: Recently arrived independent shops, bars, and restaurants are transforming Upper King Street, above Marion Square. At Jlinsnider (539 King St., 843-751-6075) Jamie Lin Snider carries quality vintage clothing and her own fashion line. A block away, ethereal bridal wear creator Rachel Gordon hosts a range of designers at her One Boutique collective (478 King St., 843-259-8066). When it’s time for a refreshment, try tricked-out diner The Rarebit (474 King St., 843-974-5483) or Closed for Business (453 King St., 843-853-8466), sporting the city’s largest selection of craft beer on tap.

7 p.m. Anything but ordinary: Late last year, celebrity chef Mike Lata of FIG fame opened The Ordinary (544 King St., 843-414-7060), a locally sourced oyster bar and seafood restaurant housed in a former historic bank building. The massive vault door divides the raw bar from the kitchen. Start with New England Style Fish Chowder ($12), where meaty pieces of the daily catch take center stage in a perfectly seasoned broth.

9 p.m. Avondale after dark: Grab a pint at Oak Barrel Tavern (825 Savannah Highway, 843-789-3686), a cozy, laid-back bar with specialty drafts in hopping Avondale Point, 4 miles west of downtown. The reinvigorated shopping and eating destination includes a wildly designed Mellow Mushroom (19 Magnolia Road, 843-747-4992) housed in an old theater, and the boisterous Triangle Char & Bar (828 Savannah Highway, 843-377-1300), specializing in grass-fed burgers ($9-$15).

DAY TWO

Katie Wilson fills an order at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts

Katie Wilson fills an order at Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts

8 a.m. Sugar fix: Energize your day with a sweet treat from Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts (481 King St., 843-577-5557), where you’ll find such delicacies as chai coconut, maple bacon, or plain glazed doughnuts ($1.50-$3).

8:30 a.m. To market: The historic Charleston City Market (188 Meeting St., 843-937-0920) reopened in 2011 after a $5.5 million makeover added wider walkways, skylights, and fans. Among the more than 100 vendors, you’ll find regional items including barbecue sauce, sweetgrass baskets, Gullah paintings, and framed ceiling tins. (more…)

NC food fest recap: all yummy all the time

November 9, 2012

Colleen Minton, belle of the ball

I was treated to some glorious dining and noshing events at TerraVITA in Chapel Hill, NC, last weekend. and now it‘s back to watching the waistline.

I’ve witnessed this fine food and beverage festival, founded and run by the gracious and energetic Colleen Minton, blossom from a decent-sized one-day happening to a three-day Southeastern to-do featuring classes, gatherings, and tastings from more than 45 food and beverage purveyors. I met people from around the Southeast coming to sample dozens of yummies from North Carolina chefs, wine makers and beer brewers. The providers of sustenance have one thing in common (other than offering quality nourishment) — they focus on sustainable products, meaning local farm fare that is grown with minimal chemicals.

Biscuits with pimento cheese and kale pesto

Friday night’s East to West sit-down meal featured three of our state’s top chefs — Vivian Howard of Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, Cassie Parsons of Harvest Moon Grille in Charlotte (and a farmer herself), and Adam Rose of Il Palio in Chapel Hill. Offerings included collard dolmades with pork, confit of carrots and beets, Sunburst Trout fritters, rabbit three ways (ravioli, sausage, and confit), and collard green and country ham creamed Carolina Rice middlins with pickled collard stems and turnip roots. I’m having fantastic food-fueled flashbacks! We sat at long communal tables and ate family style, great for getting to know your neighbors, though I missed the aesthetic of plating dishes.

Tasty morsels from Herons at the Umstead

Saturday’s “Grand Tasting” proved equally compelling, and this time plates abounded, tiny ones and plenty of them with samplings too numerous to mention. Several fell into the meat and biscuit category, my favorites being Weathervane’s butternut squash biscuits with pulled pork, and Chapel Hill Country Club’s sausage biscuit with pimento cheese and collard pesto. Chocolate purveyors were sprinkled throughout, including my two favorite in the state, Escazu from Raleigh and French Broad Chocolates from Asheville. It being early afternoon and with no designated driver, I passed on the alcohol but enjoyed eyeing the microbrews, wines, and the state’s first all-local and organic spirits from Top of the Hill. Next year I’ll have to bring Bob.

North Carolina food and wine fest keeps growing

August 15, 2012

Wow, in only its third year, TerraVITA has become a leading Southern food and wine event, with a focus on farm-sourcing, artisanal producers. This year’s event has expanded over several days, with activities running Nov. 1 to Nov. 3 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Sounds like a great weekend getaway to me!

Much of the credit goes to founder and organizer Colleen Minton. I’ve seen a lot of “food festivals” come and go, but this one keeps getting bigger and better. And … Colleen gives back, as well. TerraVITA has donated more than $10,000 to local nonprofits over the past two years, and this year is adding a fund-raiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. The market, just over the Chapel Hill border, should also be on your list of must-sees!

Below are some details on this year’s celebration, and tickets are on sale NOW! Ordering info. is here.

Jay Pierce of restaurant Lucky 32 at the TerraVITA event in 2010

WHAT: TerraVITA is a 3-day festival featuring the best in sustainable food and beverage in the South and celebrating chefs, farmers, and artisan beverage producers who offer the necessary foundation to create a sustainable network. The event features educational workshops and demonstrations, guest speakers, as well as food and beverage tastings and meals. The festival will begin with the Harvest Potluck Fundraiser for the Carrboro Farmers’ Market and end with the pinnacle event, the Grand Tasting on The Green.

FEATURING: More than two dozen chefs and artisan food producers from across the state of North Carolina participating in tastings, demos, dinners and workshops for the general public. Also, artisan wine producers, micro brewers, coffee roasters and boutique distillers will participate in workshops and over more than 100 tastings.

SCHEDULE:

★ Harvest Potluck Fundraiser: Thursday, Nov. 1,  from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Carrboro Farmers’ Market

★ The Sustainable Classroom (Speakers, Workshops & Demonstrations): Friday, Nov. 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at multiple locations in Chapel Hill (hotel shuttles provided)

★ The Carolina Table: East Meets West (Dinner): Friday, Nov. 2 from 7 to 10 p.m. (Location TBD)

★ The Grand Tasting on The Green: Saturday, Nov. 3, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. on The Green at Southern Village in Chapel Hill