Vacationing in a Winter Wonderland

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My husband, Kurt and I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina for a first-time visit to the Biltmore Estate at Christmastime.  

Nothing brings out the little kid in me like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. Add to that delicious food and quality time with my favorite person, and life is grand. My husband Kurt and I took a mini-Christmas vacation in early December to experience Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, where we awoke to 10-inches of pure white, fluffy, undisturbed snow. Then, we headed North for Sevierville, Tennessee, where I have a good friend who’s a performer at Dollywood. It was a vacation to remember–and the food and wine couldn’t have been any better.

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The library was my favorite room in the Biltmore mansion.

For years, I have wanted to visit the Biltmore mansion at Christmastime. I’ve driven past the billboards many times and never stopped, but this year, it was my mission to get there. Wow, was it something to see. Now, I am officially obsessed with the Vanderbilt family. Dazzled in the most exquisite holiday decorations, each room of the mansion had its own massive Christmas tree that reached high to the ceiling. The harmonious sounds of a perfectly blended children’s choir greeted us as we entered the home and a live harpist played softly as tourists walked the expansive hallways.

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The live children’s choir was absolutely angelic.

The estate grounds were immaculate and from the shopping to the dining, we loved it all. Our first stop on the grounds was the winery, of course. We each sampled our choice of seven different red and white wines. My favorite was Cardinal’s Crest, a medium-bodied soft and easy-to-drink wine with dried herb aromas, rich blackberry flavors and smooth tannins. The marketing concept is effective: we purchased four bottles to bring home!

 

Just before our self-guided tour through the Vanderbilt home, we enjoyed the most satisfying of meals at a restaurant on the grounds called Village Social. I ordered Frogmore Stew, or as many of you may know it, a Lowcountry Boil. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill sausage, potato and shrimp song though. Resting in the most flavorful, light broth I have ever tasted and served with two grilled slices of crusty French bread for dipping, the dish included shrimp, clams, lobster, corn, andouille sausage and a mixture of small purple and white tender potatoes. Much to my surprise, when I asked the knowledgeable waitress how the chef prepared the dish, she informed me the restaurant granted recipe requests. I am literally watching my email inbox for the moment this recipe arrives. We finished the meal by sharing a festive dessert: a slice of maple gingerbread cake complete with a gingerbread cookie garnish and hot coffee.

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Gingerbread cake with maple cream cheese mousse and cranberry orange compote was Rebekah’s favorite vacation dessert, served at Village Social on the Biltmore Estate.

The next morning, we made our way to the Tennessee mountains where we experienced a truly “Tender Tennessee Christmas,” at Dolly Parton’s Dollywood. We were entertained with a wonderful musical titled “Christmas in the Smokies” which had us all in tears by the end. We then rode a coal-fired train around the park to the tune of Dolly Parton singing Winter Wonderland, oooing and ahhing at the snow-covered, naked tree limbs and Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. In the cold, crisp mountain air as we took in our surroundings, it was a special moment of reflection and peace.

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If you’ve never been to Dollywood, one of the famous park foods is the cinnamon bread. It’s a soft, cinnamon-sugar laden twisted bread with doughy texture. You can’t visit the park without at least a sample. Even in the snowfall, people stood in line outside for it. We warmed up with hot chocolate and enjoyed this treat, telling ourselves we had walked enough that day to not count the calories.

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My good friend Chad lives in Sevierville, TN and performs at Dollywood.

At the conclusion of our trip, I gathered up my souvenirs, quickly realizing, with the exception of a few Christmas presents, all the things I’d bought were food and beverage-related: Kettle corn, Rocky Road Fudge, Oatmeal Cookie Moonshine (and yes, it’s just like eating a cookie!), coconut cream coffee and Biltmore wine. I really am a lover of the finer things in life.

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A chapel at Dollywood sits quietly among the freshly fallen snow.

I read somewhere this week that there’s scientific proof that a few inches of freshly fallen snow absorb sound. The world definitely seems a little quieter, more calm and still when covered in a seemingly magical blanket of snow. It’s as if nature’s acoustics are aligned with the hectic holiday season to make us all slow down and simply say “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” Wherever you spend this Christmas season, I pray it’s filled with less noise and distraction, and more moments of peace and reflection. From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.

Watch my Facebook Live video to see just how excited I was over the snow. This is as raw and real as it gets:

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This article was originally published in the Statesboro Herald on December 17, 2017.


New to Some Kinda Good?

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Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a freelance writer, entertainer and food enthusiast who writes and speaks about her love of good food and the Coastal South. A Season 2 Contestant on ABC’s “The Taste,” she is the Statesboro Herald food columnist and host of SKG-TV on YouTube. A public relations graduate of Georgia Southern University, Rebekah also attended Savannah Technical College’s Culinary Institute of Savannah. To learn more, connect with Some Kinda Good on social media, or visit RebekahFaulk.wix.com/RebekahFaulk.

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Bay Breeze, Take Me Away

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Meet my go-to cocktail: the Bay Breeze. No matter where I am, what season it is or the kind of mood I’m in, with one sip, the Bay Breeze inevitably takes me to the Islands. Something about a semi-sweet fruity cocktail in a cold glass sets my mind at ease, and kicks off the countdown to relaxation.

On my recent vacation to the Western Caribbean, I picked up a bottle of Coconut Rum, and I’ll be putting it to good use with this recipe. Don’t forget the garnish…much like a good outfit needs finishing touches, so too, does a good drink.

It’s almost Happy Hour…cheers y’all!

Barcadi Bay Breeze

      Serves 1

    • 1 part Coconut Rum (I like Bacardi or Malibu)
    • 2 parts Cranberry Juice
    • 2 parts Pineapple Juice

· Squeeze of fresh lime juice

  • Fresh pineapple wedges, slices of lime for garnish (Tip: Rather than garnish randomly, I enjoy adorning the glass with something that gives a nod to its ingredients)

Enjoy.

My Cruise Vacation of Gastronomic Proportions

My ride during Oct. 4 - 11 on Carnival Cruise lines.
My ride during Oct. 4 – 11 on Carnival Cruise lines.

During the first week of October, I forsook my fall traditions – The Luke Bryan Farm Tour, the Georgia National Fair, Homecoming at Old Richland Baptist Church and the Georgia Southern University Homecoming football game – to sail the open seas on the Carnival Liberty. During my seven-day cruise vacation to the Western Caribbean, I didn’t write, cook, work or blog, but…I ate, and what a gastronomic experience it was. This was my second cruise, the first one I’d ever taken with Carnival Cruise lines, and while the food experience varied depending on location in the ship, dinner was the meal I anticipated most, brunch made my heart sing and late night dessert from room service was worth every calorie.

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Our table-mates were from Florida, Nebraska and Savannah, Georgia.

Allow me to introduce you to my new friends and table-mates for the week. From left: My good-looking boyfriend, Kurt, Brandon, Christina, David and Sarah. From right, that’s me, Christy, Scott, Will and Courtney. Y’all know my philosophy, good food and good company…that’s what it’s all about!

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Living the good life in Cozumel, Mexico.

We made four stops during the week: 1) Cozumel, Mexico, 2) Belize, 3) Mahogany Bay/Roatan Island in Honduras and 4) Costa Maya, Mexico. In Cozumel, we lounged in hammocks under the palm trees and were serenaded by three natives and their guitars while eating the best guacamole ever in an entertaining little restaurant called Three Amigos.

In Belize, we sipped rum from a fresh coconut and took a 2-hour tour of the city and countryside. Our ferry-boat also broke down in the Atlantic-Caribbean Coast and we had to return to Belize and catch another ferry back to the ship. In Honduras, we swam in the ocean in the pouring rain, and I got my dad a souvenir–a rosewood guitar pick.

Now, this is vacation! Good times in Belize.
Now, this is vacation! Good times in Belize.

In Costa Maya, I tried a native beer called Sol (tasted similar to a Corona) and I bought my mom a hand-carved wind chime.

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Now, let’s get down to the food. Dinner time for us was 8:15 p.m. each evening. Throughout the week, I enjoyed most the lobster and grilled shrimp. My other favorites were Lobster Bisque, Shrimp Cocktail, Alligator Fritters and fresh fish. I ate a lot of seafood–after all we were on the ocean. Here’s a photo gallery of some of the plates and beverages I managed to capture photos of before scarfing them down.

Brunch was served only on days at sea in one of the most elegant dining rooms with big windows. On our first day of travel, we ordered spicy bloody marys and indulged in the French croissants with whipped butter.

One night, just for fun, we ordered cheesecake and chocolate cake from room service.

If you ever take a cruise with Carnival, I highly recommend spending your money on what will be one of the most exquisite and mind-blowing dining experiences you’ll ever have: “The Chef’s Table.” A private dinner with a seating of only 13, you’ll get a tour of the kitchen and one-on-one time with the Chef de Cuisine of the entire ship, along with unlimited wine. I regret to say that I didn’t have my camera on the Tuesday evening of our event, but I’m excited to share the menu we experienced and our group photo with you.

wpid-1014142059-1-1.jpgThe attention to detail, from the correct spelling of my name on both the menu and my place card to the presentation of the plates was absolutely stunning. Chef Singh is one amazingly talented and detail oriented chef. Every week, he and his team cook thousands of dishes for multiple nationalities representing countless cultures. I have so much respect for the man! I was introduced to so many new concepts and flavors. Air pillows and passion caviar anyone? I left completely inspired, really full and a little tipsy.

By far, the highlight of our cruise food experience.
By far, the highlight of our cruise food experience.

After all that food, we still managed to look this good. Thanks Carnival Cruise lines for a vacation to remember!

Owning the cruise ship in our red elegant evening attire.
Owning the cruise ship in our red elegant evening attire.