One More Trip to Banner Elk Winery
18.04.2014 - 20.04.2014
We spent a wonderful spring birthday weekend and a beautiful fall weekend at the Banner Elk Winery & Villa a couple of years ago, so when I got an email that they were having a “reserve one night, get one free” sale, I jumped on it.
I reserved the Alacante Barrel Suite, the biggest room in the house, for our anniversary weekend. I had always wanted to stay in that room, but had thus far been too cheap to pay the price tag. This was my chance! Besides, Matt would appreciate a weekend away much more than matching “I Love You” t-shirts or a singing fish to hang on the wall.
Nothing says “I Love You” like a weekend full of wine and fireplaces.
TEN BEST THINGS ABOUT OUR WEEKEND AWAY:
1. The Alacante Barrel Suite.
The Alacante Barrel Suite was bigger than my first apartment. And it didn’t come with a creepy neighbor that wandered the hallway in his boxer shorts and smoked cigarettes by my door. As an added bonus, it had actual working heat, unlike my first apartment. It was also gorgeous. Unlike my first apartment.
2. The Wine.
The best part of staying at a winery is that there is really no time of day that it’s not appropriate to drink wine. Except for breakfast. But that’s what mimosas are for.
3. Getting Outdoors.
The highlands of Western North Carolina are filled with opportunities to get outside. For the less adventurous (or those who don’t want to mess up their pedicure with something like hiking boots), there are countless drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway or any number of winding country roads.
Nearby mountains and parks like Grandfather Mountain, Roan Mountain, or Cherokee National Forest have an abundance of hiking opportunities. There is also white water rafting, trout fishing, kayaking, and mountain biking.
We chose to do a hike on Roan Mountain. The hike takes you 5 miles across a ridge that connects 3 balds: Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald. An Appalachian bald is a mountain summit that is not a peak covered with dense forest, but rather a large grassy area.
As I walked, I was not really thinking about how many miles I had hiked, I was thinking about how many glasses of wine I had earned.
4. Hidden Surprises.
I love finding out of the way, off the beaten path, little known surprises. In many cases, this has taken Matt and I on wild goose chases where we drive for an hour through winding country roads looking for “this place I read about” only to find an abandoned building with a paper sign taped to the window that says, “Closed Forever.”
I convinced Matt to follow some obscure signs in the tiny community of Roan Mountain that promised Pizza. He was dubious, but it was that or eat lunch at the gas station with the 3 day old hot dogs spinning in their own fat by the microwave burritos. We found ourselves at what appeared to be a garden shed.
He looked at me and said, “Are you sure?”
Am I EVER not sure when it comes to eating?
We went inside and were greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread, garlic, and wood smoke. Fresh loaves of crusty sourdough bread were stacked in brown paper and a wood fired pizza oven glowed in the back of the kitchen.
Smoky Mountain Bakery is where Tim and Crystal Decker have been crafting artisan breads and pizzas for about 5 years. The cinder-block and wood shed that houses the bakery only had a couple of tables, so we claimed one and ordered the Friday special: a 3 topping pizza, 2 salads, and 2 sodas for $15.
The pizza was ready in about 10 minutes with a perfectly charred crust topped with savory sauce, gooey cheese, pesto, roasted garlic, and pepperoni. It was PERFECTION.
We also saw this strawberry cheesecake in the dessert counter. It was so good we couldn’t even wait to cut a slice. We ate it right out of the box. Classy.
5. Rest. Relax. Rejuvenate.
I once surprised Matt with an in-room massage on a weekend getaway. When the massage therapists showed up, there was a male and a female. I prefer not to be massaged by a dude. I’m sorry, but it’s just weird. Matt and I quietly conferred and we agreed that he would be as uncomfortable watching me get rubbed down by a dude as I would be getting rubbed down by a dude, so he sacrificed himself and let me have the female massage therapist.
Apparently, being massaged by a guy wasn’t the worst part of the experience for Matt. It was being massaged by a guy with REALLY BAD BODY ODOR.
So this time, I booked us massages at the upscale Chetola Resort in nearby Blowing Rock.
And I specified no dudes. And no B.O.
I love the quaint little shops in Banner Elk and Blowing Rock. I can waste an entire day wandering around looking at adorably displayed nonsense that I don’t really need.
Especially if the shop has FREE CUPCAKES.
We were disappointed that our favorite restaurant in the area, Artisanal, was not yet open for the season. Another restaurant I really wanted to try, The Gamekeeper, was also still closed. No matter. We had some phenomenal meals.
The Winery & Villa provided us a great breakfast each morning.
We also had an incredible dinner at Vidalia in downtown Boone, NC. I never met a french fry I didn’t like, especially parmesan truffle fries with a creole dipping sauce. Matt opted for a Caesar salad and white wine steamed mussels. For dinner, I had the crispy pork served with Cheerwine BBQ sauce, stoneground grits, and smoky collard greens. Matt ordered the oat crusted NC trout with applewood bacon jam, green apple slaw, and fingerling potatoes.
Lunch at Bistro Roca in Blowing Rock started off with a drink called the Sparkle Pony. Yes, I only ordered it because it said it had edible glitter, but I was not disappointed.
Edible glitter is tasty.
Especially when served with tequila.
We shared the lobster mac n’ cheese and the chicken tamales.
There was also a fantastic dinner at the Painted Fish in Banner Elk. When we arrived, I thought we had made a mistake. It was in a strip mall and it reminded me of a Shoney’s. Not that there is anything wrong with Shoney’s.
Unless you are under the age of 68.
However, the food was FANTASTIC. And I ate enough of it to be sure. We started off with the tuna nachos and French Onion Soup. I followed that with a bacon and cheddar burger. I don’t remember what Matt had because I was buried in a crispy pile of herbed tater tots. TATER TOTS!
8. Crispy Crème Doughnut Cheesecake.
Sure, this could come under food, but it was so good, it deserves it’s own category. The Painted Fish in Banner Elk a cheesecake that had a doughnut crust and chunks of Crispy Crème glazed doughnuts inside. Someone decided that wasn’t decadent enough and topped it with a carmel bacon sauce.
Oh Dear Sweet Gooey Doughnut Heaven.
9. Horses and Rainbows.
Really. What’s better than horses and rainbows? Nothing. Except maybe kittens.
Or free wine.
10. Time. Together. Away.
Because that's really what it's all about, isn't it?