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.


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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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A Winter Escape on the Plate – Alaskan Snow Crab Legs with Drawn Butter

wpid-IMG_20140108_200724.jpgIt’s a rare day in Statesboro when the weather requires scarves and gloves. This week when the temperatures dropped to 16 degrees, I used the Some Kinda Good™ Facebook page to ask, “What’s your favorite thing to eat on freezing days like this?” Many of you responded with exactly what most would–soups, chili, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot chocolate, hot tea–anything comforting and warm. I certainly agree, but the truth is, I’m a warm weather creature. I don’t do well in the cold. Once Christmas is over, I’m ready to go to the beach. If hibernating were an option, you wouldn’t see hide nor hair of me until April when the flowers bloom and the sunny, bright days return. My cold weather comfort isn’t soup. Ironically, it’s beach food. Food that allows me to envision myself on the Georgia coast after a day of basking in the summer sun. So, I cope by cranking up my summer playlist, with songs like Joe Nichols’ Sunny and 75 or Luke Bryan’s Suntan City. I make meals at home that take me to coast and count down the days when I can cruise with the windows down and smile as my 11-pound Shih Tzu cools his belly on the tile floor of the kitchen following an afternoon walk. 

wpid-20140108_191241.jpgIf any meal helps me escape the winter, it’s Alaskan Snow Crab Legs with drawn butter. They’re the easiest thing to make. You’ll need salt, Old Bay, Shrimp & Crab Boil, butter and a few pieces of equipment…

wpid-20140108_191320.jpgA large stock pot fitted with a steamer basket and a lid are essential. Fill the pot about a quarter of the way full. Just be sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the steamer basket. You want to steam the crab legs, not boil them. Then season it with salt and add about a teaspoon of the Shrimp & Crab Boil. Stir.

wpid-20140108_191334.jpgBring the water to a boil. If your crab legs are frozen, rinse them good under cold water or thaw them in the refrigerator overnight. Place the crab legs in the steamer basket and set the basket inside the pot.

wpid-20140108_192409.jpgSeason the crab legs with several dashes of Old Bay.


Then, cover them with the lid. Let the crab legs steam over medium-high heat for at least 8-10 minutes. If frozen, you may want to steam them longer, but no more than 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt butter. I like using unsalted butter. To create drawn butter or clarified butter, use a spoon to skim the fat off the top. Once melted, the fat and solids separate (pictured above on the right). Melted butter takes steamed seafood from good to gourmet.

wpid-20140108_194948.jpgThe result is beautiful, tender, succulent crab meat fit for a king. I served the crab legs with rosemary roasted potatoes and a fresh green salad, but another complimentary side dish is good ol’ Southern grits. 

wpid-20140108_195359.jpgNothing makes me happier than a whole, intact piece of crab meat fresh from its shell. Thank you, Jesus. The art of cracking crab legs takes some time, but oh, is it worth it. Boy, is it ever. Dunk the meat in the butter for optimum food nirvana.

wpid-20140108_204011.jpgThe aftermath.
wpid-20140108_195010.jpgIt may not be summertime yet, but a girl can dream.

A Holiday Menu Featuring Pastured Pork Tenderloin

wpid-20131030_222638.jpgIt’s officially holiday season. Let the menu and party planning begin! I’ve put together a holiday inspired meal including a classic combination of flavors, along with some of my family’s traditional recipes that are impressive on the table but simple to execute. These dishes are special enough for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, but delicious year ’round. Here’s what’s cookin’: Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin, Sautéed Cinnamon Apples, Mama’s Sweet Potato Casserole, Farm-Raised Green Beans and Grandma’s Made-from-Scratch Buttermilk Biscuits. We couldn’t celebrate the holidays without incorporating pumpkin, so for dessert, the Pumpkin Spice Trifle will make its debut appearance.
wpid-20131030_222643.jpgThe star of this show is the Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin. This time of year, I think folks get ham and turkey’d out. So, now is a great time to allow pork to step into the limelight. To accomplish that gorgeous golden brown exterior and moist meat, I use a combination of dried and fresh herbs and Georgia olive oil. Season the meat liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Drizzle it with olive oil, then massage in a healthy amount of fresh basil, fresh rosemary and about a two teaspoons of dried oregano. Here’s a tip: Cook the tenderloin in a 9 x 13 dish, and just before putting it in the oven, add about an inch of water to the pan. Roast the meat at 425 degrees for 25 minutes per pound. Another reason this tenderloin tastes amazing, is because it’s pasture-raised. This little piggie wasn’t given any antibiotics or steroids, and was free to roam and eat Georgia grass. The result is a much more nutritious animal that’s healthier to eat and healthier for our environment. Thanks to my friends at Hunter Cattle Company for raising it.

wpid-20131030_222647.jpgNothing compliments pork like a side of delicious cinnamon apples sautéed in butter. This is as simple as it gets. Slice 5 to 6 medium apples about a 1/4 inch thick and saute in four tablespoons of unsalted butter. Allow them to cook down, then season with cinnamon and keep them warm. You don’t even have to peel them!

wpid-20131030_222657.jpgGreen beans may be a popular side item, but served this way you can’t go wrong. My Farm-raised Green Beans also feature Hunter Cattle’s smoked bacon and sweet Vidalia onions and homegrown tomatoes from the Statesboro Mainstreet Farmers’ Market. Cook the bacon and set aside to drain on paper towels. Saute diced onion and tomato in the remaining bacon fat, season with salt & pepper and add to cooked green beans with a pat or two of butter. Top with crumbled bacon. On the left above, Mama’s Sweet Potato Casserole is a regular at every family function. It adds a wonderful pop of color to the plate. The topping, made of chopped pecans, brown sugar, flour and butter–is like candy.

wpid-20131030_222650.jpgFinally, no meal would be complete without Southern, made-from-scratch Buttermilk Biscuits. With a dollop of blackberry jam, bread never tasted so good.

wpid-IMG_20131101_110403.jpgAfter a mouth-watering meal, a 14-layer cake or heavy pie is overwhelming. My Pumpkin Spice Trifle hits the spot. Complimented by soft spice cake and crunchy gingersnap cookies, it’s like a pillow-y cloud of light fresh whipped cream and vanilla pudding bursting with fall flavors. Plus, it makes a stunning presentation.


For the complete recipes to these dishes and to watch me cook them in action, tune in to my next episode of Statesboro Cooks, premiering in mid-November on local cable Channel 99. Be sure to watch the show to discover my secret to the best buttermilk biscuits you ever tasted! For those outside of the area, I’ll be sure to post the episode right here on Some Kinda Good, so you can watch too. Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season. Eat well!