Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Finally, some semblance of spring in Blowing Rock! No matter how mild or severe the winter is it always feels long. On the upside, the winters in the NC Mountains force you to truly enjoy and savor every day the other 8 months of the year. Not to mention it toughens us up a bit...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Seriously??? This Frog is Huge

Check out this crazy thing we found at Trout Lake off of the Parkway. It was easily bigger than my hand! Notice the well placed Croc in the top of the frame.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Date Night Restaurant Review - The Gamekeeper

I am pleased and thrilled to bring you our observations of the meal that we enjoyed at . This little gem of a restaurant is nestled into a little nook off the side of Shull's Mill Road near . The unassuming exterior both speaks of a simpler time in the mountains as well as the unique character of the foods and experiences found within it's walls. With reservations for six o'clock, we were able to be seated by a window to enjoy the lush beauty of the as a backdrop to this culinary expedition.
Upon entering the restaurant we were greeted by the Front of House Manager and local legend Angie Pate. She guided us to our table and introduced us to our waitress Sandi Priest. Sandi's menu knowledge was outstanding. She had great presentation at the table and was attentive without being intrusive. She explained dishes well and was very accommodating.
Opening the Experience:
To begin our journey we were able to select a beverage from a wide range of wines, custom mixed drinks and beers. We opted for an Oatmeal Porter from Highland Brewery in Asheville and a Nutty Angel Martini that featured Stoli Vanilla, Frangelico, Bailey's, Buttershots and topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg created by bartender Evan Vernon. The drinks were followed in short order by a little surprise to our evening, an amuse-bouche.
This unexpected treat set the tone of the quality and presentation of the meal to follow. It was a wonton with mushroom and cream cheese with Parmesan, ponzu sauce, four daubs of a fiery red hot sauce and baby arugula. Unfortunately, to list the basic parts does little to explain the culinary layers of this seemingly simple bite sized dish. The savory of the wonton, the sweet/sour/saltiness of the ponzu and the heat of the pepper sauce worked to activate the tastes and prepare us for the culinary adventure to follow. As you can see from the photo, the presentation was outstanding utilizing an edible bloom from outside the restaurant.
After enjoying the start of our dinner we were given an assorted selection of breads from local bread maker of Boone with an oil, vinegar and black pepper presentation for dipping.
We decided to  dive head first into the Mixed Grill appetizer. The plate arrived with a great selection of game and accompanying sauces. On this day's plate we found rabbit and rattlesnake sausage, buffalo bratwurst, and buffalo and ostrich medallions with a center stack of home fries. For dipping sauces we were offered a sun dried tomato BBQ, a sour cream and green onion horseradish sauce and a coarse ground honey mustard. The portions were substantial and could easily be shared among friends.
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The buffalo sausage was rich, bold and savory with a smoky finish while the lighter rabbit and rattlesnake sausage offered a mild sage flavor and a tender texture. If the flavors of these meats alone aren't enough, you can experiment combining their flavor profiles with the available sauces. We favored the rabbit and rattlesnake sausage with the coarse ground honey mustard and the buffalo bratwurst with the sour cream and green onion horseradish.
The buffalo and ostrich portions of our appetizer were so enjoyable that we decided that we would keep enjoying these fine meats as entrees. We’ll save the description of these for the discussion of the main course. For those who decide to go another route for dinner, we found the buffalo paired wonderfully with the horseradish sauce and the coarse ground honey mustard brought out the flavors of the ostrich.
The Entrees:
Inspired by our excellent appetizer, we followed suit with the Ostrich Fan Filet and the Buffalo Hanging Tenderloin. The buffalo came with an herbed blue cheese macaroni and cheese, green onion and sour cream horseradish sauce, and a medley of fresh local organic vegetables including sugar snap peas, zucchini, squash, kale and beets. The ostrich was brought in from Hilltop Farms in Forsythe County and featured a roasted garlic risotto and sun dried tomato jus with the same vegetable selection as the buffalo.
Before the entrees came we sought a beverage to help accent our dinner selections. Leaving the choice of wine to Sandi, we were suggested the Andeluna Malbec for the buffalo and the Villa San Juliette Petit Syrah with the ostrich.
The buffalo itself was rich and as tender as one could imagine a cut of red meat. The seasoning was light and complimentary to the smoky flavor of the wood fired grill. The vegetables were grilled just long enough for flavor but not overcooked. The Mac and Cheese was savory but not over sauced and the consistency was firm. The blue cheese served as an accent flavor but did not overpower the dish. 

The thing that was the most intriguing about the spice rubbed ostrich was its exquisite texture. It lends itself more towards a red meat than a poultry. It's preparation over the wood fired grill added a touch of crisp on the outside to counter the tender medium rare interior. The risotto was another pleasant surprise on this plate. It was light and saucy and not laden with a heavy cream sauce. The vegetables were complimentary to the overall flavors of the plate.

As you can see from the photos, the plate presentations utilized a nice three dimensional approach.  It was a nice balance between using the available design space and ease of consumption.
True to their name, a unique thing that stands out about the Gamekeeper is that the proteins are allowed to stand alone as the true focal points of the meal through their simplicity. The meats are not drenched in sauce, nor are they hidden behind a veil of strong flavored sides. The meats are selected well, spiced well, grilled well and presented well. The entire plate appears to be designed around that focus.
Deserts and More:
The desert menu brought upon us a whole new realm of challenges. As mentioned by Sandi, The Gamekeeper is well know for it's Bread Pudding but we decided to go another route opted for the Turbo Coffee and the Pound Cake to polish off our evening.
True to it’s name, The Turbo Coffee is a rich blend of local , Frangelico, Bailey's, Kahlua, Amaretto and topped with whipped cream. The dark chocolate and ginger pound Cake was topped with a warm chocolate sauce, almond brittle and Chantilly cream. The cake was pleasantly light in composure and not heavy as most pound cakes tend to be.  Both items were thoroughly enjoyed and were a nice finish to an excellent dinner.

Random Thoughts and Words on the Night:
There is not salt and pepper on the table thus conveying a trust in the chefs and their vision for the dinner.
The food is cooked using a wood fired grill using apple wood and hickory conjuring up memories of cooking over a campfire.
Local organic and sustainable ingredients are utilized and throughout.
The interior design struck a personal note as a person who lived in the foothills and visited the area very often as a youth. It has a modernistic twist to the rustic mountain style of the area. It’s a nice mix of styles that does well to enhance the experience.

Summing it All Up:
Walking to our car we felt like we had run a culinary marathon.  For us and many consumers, we associate an amazing dining experience as a sum of the parts.  When the food, the presentation, the decor, the service, and the company all line up, we all as consumers enjoy an amazing dining event.  On this night, this was definitely the case.
A special thanks goes out to Chef Alec and our hosts for the evening, owners/chefs and all around great people Ken and Wendy Gordon. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

67 Things to do in Boone and Blowing Rock, NC

download1. Have a tall margarita on the deck at Canyons and watch the sunset - best view in the "High Country".
2. Walk downtown Blowing Rock and check out all of the unique shops. While you're there spring for some ice cream at Kilwin's.
3. Grab some local produce and sundries at . They also have hot Bald Guy Brew Coffee and an area for kids to play out back!
4. Go fishing at Grandfather Trout Farm. Rods are provided and bait and tackle are free! You only pay for what you catch... and they'll even clean 'em for ya. Can't beat that!
5. Go tubing. There are several local outfitters that will set you up, drop you off and pick you up. It's a great way to relax on a sunny day. We always put in on the New River in Todd but there are several other runs as well...depending on how high the water is.
6. Hike around Bass Lake. There's a nice flat walking loop around the lake that's .8 miles. There are also other trails to take once you get there.
7. If you want to make it a nice half day trip. Hike from Bass lake up to Moses Cone Manor. You can tour the 13,000 square foot estate and check out the Parkway Craft Center that has found its home there. (Moses Cone was a "prosperous textile entrepreneur, conservationist, and philanthropist"...in a nutshell). If you want to drive up to the home instead of walking it's mile post 194.1 off of the Parkway.
8. Go to the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis.
9. Grab some coffee at in Blowing Rock over Footsloggers on Main Street in Blowing Rock. They have a Train Table, are really kid friendly and always know what’s going on in town.
10. Tweetsie Railroad - If you have kids it's a no brainer. What's more fun than a "wild west" theme park. Tweetsie is open May-October.
11. After that, you'll want someone to watch the kids while you go out to eat at the Gamekeeper, a local and visitor favorite tucked away between Boone and Blowing Rock on Shulls Mill road. The eclectic mountain cuisine on their seasonal menu has just about any kind of wild game you can think of. There are vegetarian selections as well. It's sure to be a dining experience that you will remember.
12. Scream Time Zip Line in Vilas...this one speaks for itself? There’s also Ski Valley Zip lines and one at in Seven Devils.
13. Go gem mining.
14. Check out Mystery Hill if you have kids...it's hard to explain so just go and see for yourself what the mystery is.
15. "The Blowing Rock" is definitely worth seeing. You pay six dollars for adults and one dollar for kids. They have trails and an observation deck...the view is really something to behold; I don't know where a better one is except maybe the top of Mt. Mitchell (highest peak east of the Mississippi).
16. Blowing Rock has a open Memorial Day till Labor Day. It is heated and it’s typically pretty crowed during mid day so after 4 is your best bet for peace and quiet. They do have a shallow end for the little ones and a slide.
17. If you're really getting desperate and it's a rainy day, we do have a TJ Maxx in Boone now (behind the mall). You could browse around there for deals or hit up Shoppes on the Parkway outlet mall located on 321 as you're coming into Blowing Rock (from Boone).
18. On the other hand if it's a nice day just cruise the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are plenty of places to pull off and have a picnic. Go to the Blowing Rock Market for a deli sandwich and a bottle of wine.
19. Take the Parkway North towards Sparta and tour the Omni Cattle farm located between mile markers 264 and 265. I don't particularly love cows but these Highland Cattle are so awesome. Go to their site and click on their pictures. They would be more than happy to give you a tour if you call ahead.
20. Another no brainer is Grandfather Mountain. The famous Mile High Bridge, Hiking Trails, and small zoo make this a perfect way to spend a day. If you go in April (with someone who lives here) it's only two dollars.
21. Walk dogs at the Watauga County Humane Society. Fun for the kids, fun for the dogs. They have a wonderful new facility that just opened recently. You can access it off of old Hwy 421.
22. Buy a cheep fishing rod and go throw a line in one of our many streams. You can also plan a guided tour. Make sure you check the regulations on the NC Wildlife Website and have a current fishing license.
23. Appalachian State University always has cultural events going on; from student concerts and plays to acts that they bring in like symphony's and dance concerts.
24. If it's football season, definitely go see a football game. ASU has an amazing team. There were 3 years in recent history that they were were the National champs!
25. If you want to play golf, the Boone Golf Club is open to the public.
26. Boone Bowling
27. Bo's right down the mountain in Lenoir has food, an arcade, bowling, pool...and drinks. It’s a nice clean facility and they are not crowded at all during the day, I highly recommend it. (20 or 25 minutes from Blowing Rock).
28. The Library and the Children's Playhouse in Boone always have fun things to do with kids.
29. Art in the Park in the summers is always fun in Blowing Rock if you don't mind the crowd.
30. I know I'm writing a lot about food and drinks, but my absolute favorite place to eat in Blowing Rock is Bistro Roca. It's tucked away on a side street...get directions, but you can't beat the atmosphere. They have a unique menu with a wide range of selections and pricing. You can go all out with their unique entrees or just get a personal wood fired oven pizza and a salad. Whatever is on special is always good.
31. There's a disc golf course in West Jefferson. If you don't have discs of your own, you really just need a putter, mid-range and driver to get started.
32. In the winter go skiing or snowboarding at Sugar, Beech or Appalachian Ski Mountain. If you're clumsy like me you might be better off snow tubing at Hawksnest snow tubing park in Seven Devils. In the summer, Sugar Mountain lets you go up the Ski Lift and check out the view.
33. Go horseback riding.
34. If you aren't scared of heights climb the Footsloggers Tower outside of their store in Boone. If you don't like heights, get some coffee at Espresso News next door and watch your friends climb...best coffee in town in my opinion.
35. My favorite place for brunch or lunch in Boone – . It's a small, intimate restaurant with local/organic fare. It's reasonably priced and they have great vegetarian selections. Located on King Street in Boone.
36. Watauga Lake is located about 40 minutes from Boone just over the Tennessee line. There are a wide range of water activities to choose from at one of their many marinas.
37. In the summer's there's tons of free music in the High Country. My favorites are Friday nights at the Valle Crucis Park or on the Lawn of the Best Cellar in Blowing Rock. BYOB for Valle Crucis and there’s a full outdoor bar at the Best Cellar.
38. Horn in the West - (an outdoor drama put on by locals and equity talent in the summer).
39. Daniel Boone Inn... It's like dinner at your Grandma's house on a Sunday. I'm not going to say any more about it, just go eat there!
40. Woodlands BBQ. Picnic tables, live music, good BBQ also a kids menu. Try the house wings! For an entree I never get anything other than the chop pork plate with double slaw, fries and fried okra. (Full bar as well).
41. I hear the Tapas bar (Zudza's) in Banner Elk is absolutely amazing but I can't get my husband to go with me. He's just not a mini servings kind of guy.
42. Another fine dining option in Banner Elk is the Louisiana Purchase. Cajun/Americana theme dishes and one of the largest wine lists in North Carolina. Seasonal menu and lots of local food included in the dishes (at least the last time I went).
43. The Lee's McRae Performing Arts Department does fantastic summer stock musicals. Check their site to see what's coming up.
44. Canoeing or Kayaking is a great way to spend a day in the summer. Wahoo's and do guided tours for this as well as white water rafting.

45. Boone Saloon and Canyons are great places to see live music on the weekends. Stick to Canyons if you want a slightly older crowd.
46. Can't forget to mention "Taco Tuesdays" at Boone Saloon. $1.25 beef, chicken or veggie burger taco's and a great beer selection. I hear the in Boone have awesome Tacos on Wednesday as well.
47. Go caving. I'm too scared to so let me know how it is.
48. Westglow spa, or if you want to relax treat yourself.
49. Drive up to Howard's Knob in Boone. (If you go past Earthfare on King Street make a right onto Cherry Street and you should see signs. Amazing view of the city.
50. Browse around at the local Subaru dealership on 105 extension to find your mountain dream car...everybody has one... lol.
51. The general store in Todd (out hwy 194 from Boone) has live Bluegrass music on Saturdays in the summer.
52. On a hot day, jump in a swimming hole. There are two good ones, the first is down from the 105 Dam and the other is called "Snake Pit" out towards Tennessee. Click on this link for directions to both.
53. I almost forgot, my favorite place for gifts and fun home accessories is Neaco's in Downtown Blowing Rock.
54. The Glen Burney Fall's trail is definitely a moderate to strenuous but there's a big payoff at the end. The trail starts downtown Blowing Rock. Grab a sandwich at the new on Main Street before you head out.
55. Jimmy Smith Park in Boone...watch this video on it.
56. in Boone offers guest membership. Included in the price are indoor basketball and racquetball courts, a pool, shower and locker facilities, child care for children over 6 months old, work out equipment and fitness classes.
57. Julian Price Park has trails, camping and canoeing and it's just outside of Blowing Rock down hwy 221.
58. Linville Gorge has mountain biking, camping, hiking and backpacking trails and waterfalls.
60. Grandfather mountain profile trail. From what I understand if you do the whole trail it's moderate to strenuous and takes about 5 hours but you can also just do the beginning section if you want a more leisurely hike.
61. If you don't mind getting really far off the beaten path there's a state off roading park in Collettesville.
62. There are several in the area. Boone has one at Horn in the West on Wednesday and Saturday mornings and Blowing rock has one downtown from 4-6pm in the summers.
63. Boone has several different city parks each with different amenities.
64. See a concert at the Convocation Center at ASU. They bring in big names such as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson and Charlie Daniels.
65.The park in Downtown Blowing Rock also has tennis and basketball courts and a mini rock wall, jungle gym and swing sets for the kids.
66. Blowing Rock has a new Downtown check out their website for Exhibits and Special Programs. Sometimes they have activities for kids. My wedding planning business is proud to be planning their first wedding ever in the facility in October of 2012!
67. Aside from being a High Country Housewife, I’m also a Wedding and Special Event Planner so if you have any further questions about the area - or need someone to help plan your NC Mountain Wedding, Event or Get Together, give me a call or check out my and !!!
Thanks for reading,
Meris Gantt
Wedding Planner –
828.719.9171 – highcountryweddings@gmail.com
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Friday, June 29, 2012

Happy 4th of July Weekend from Blowing Rock!

DIY Fridays–Simple Inexpensive Flower Arrangements

Don’t have a large floral budget for your wedding or party and have a few helpful crafty friends????

in Zionville right outside of Boone is just what the Doctor ordered. You can purchase buckets of local seasonal flowers and then make your own flower arrangements.

If you need a little extra help with bouquets and boutonnieres, they can either make them for you or host an on site class to teach you how to make them yourself.

Mason Jars are an inexpensive way to set off the theme of a rustic mountain wedding but for a more personal touch start browsing thrift stores and flea markets now for fun vintage mismatched containers.

I went this route for my own wedding and have since worked with a lot of brides who have made their own table arrangements from Shady Grove flowers. I’ve never seen anyone disappointed with the results! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Baby It’s Cold Outside…

Yep, that would be Paul and Harrison rotating tires in the snow. It did need to get done before I drove from Blowing Rock to Southport the next day but still…A+ for getting it done in arctic conditions!


Friday, January 13, 2012

DIY Love

Pinterest is definitely a two way street. Equal parts time waster and awesome housewife tool.
Here’s one that I actually use for all sorts of things: jewelry, scarves, sun glasses, tools (with a hole in the handle). Super cheap fix for a lot of odds and ends that need organizing.
Check out my High Country Housewife board for more time, money and space saving tips.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Memory Jar

The busy season is winding down here in the beautiful Blue Ridge High Country of North Carolina. With a full behind me it’s time to shape up, catch up, savor and get ready for the next year.
My crafty/nostalgic side gets to come out during winter. I finally had time to implement an awesome idea that I found on recently…the memory jar.
You make a jar of memories and milestones for each year (this one is small since it’s almost 2012) and then sit down and read them as a family on new years.
What a wonderful way to remember and start fresh! When you grow up you realize that traditions don’t make themselves, you have to shape what you remember and carry on.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011