The Barn


, , , , , , ,

I don’t know how long I have been following Kristin and The Barn in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Certainly a few years. This dreamy barn, up in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where they have cooking classes, and fancy dinners, and culinary experiences. It has been on my “restaurants to try” list for a long time.

Our supper club has slowly been checking these restaurants off the list and when I mentioned The Barn, Laura, my friend (and now boss at The Runner Box), casually said “Oh, that’s my cousin.”

Her grandparents owned the barn, she spent many of her summers there, and even lived there for a while. Now her cousin has renovated it into a gorgeous cooking school where you can bring a group and enjoy amazing food, a beautiful atmosphere, and learn some cooking skills.

The hour and twenty minute drive takes you through the most winding roads, up and down mountains, and back and forth on steep switchbacks. The slow travel allows you to soak in the beautiful scenery and enjoy the tranquil journey through the mountains. Kristin is as charming as she seems online, and upon our arrival presented us with a winter sour (a play on a whiskey sour) and ushered us into the large kitchen to begin preparations for our meal!

Trying to encapsulate the southern cooking of Appalachia, we made homemade graham crackers and fluffy marshmallow cream for chocolate covered moon pies, jammy pickled eggs with trout caviar & creme fraiche, pickled shrimp topping a bright citrus salad, the flakiest buttermilk biscuits, and chicken & ricotta dumplings w winter veggies and shaved Parmesan cheese. Snacks were passed around while we cooked; salty boiled peanuts, creamy pimento cheese, crunchy pickled okra. Everything is as locally sourced as possible. Eggs from a farm up the mountain, trout caviar from a trout farm down the road, local things from the farmers markets in the area.

Not only was it a delicious and gorgeous farm to table meal, we learned a lot, tried new things, and got to be involved in the preparation. I loved the experience of helping to prepare the food I think its always so cool to cook with people. Preparing nourishing food for yourself and for others is an experience that brings you closer together and fills your

I soaked up the entire experience, and loved every minute of it. The beautiful atmosphere, breathtaking views, and quiet mountain vista, and the amazing company. I always fill out these things in my day planner and it asks “what makes you come alive” and I never know how to answer that question, but I am slowly learning about myself, things around food, and people you love, and the table. Those are things that make me come alive. It was truly a ‘fill me up’ experience, one I won’t soon forget.

Shauna Niequest from her book, Bread & Wine:

“What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table. The particular alchemy of celebration and food, of connecting people and serving what I’ve made with my own hands, comes together as more than the sum of their parts… My best moments have been spent in the kitchen, and many of the most deeply spiritual moments …have taken place at the table.”

*For more information about The Barn


Books I Read in 2022

My goal for 2022 was 41 books. (The same as my age) But I surprised myself and read 50 books this year! So I’m keeping that same goal for 2023. I’d love to hear about your favorites that you’ve read recently so I can add them to my list!!

  1. Next Year in Havana Chanel Cleeton
  2. Three Wishes Liane Moriarty
  3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shafer
  4. The Bookshop on the Corner Jenny Colgan
  5. The Invisible Corset Lauren Geertsen
  6. The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Taylor Jenkins Reid
  7. The Eye of the World Robert Jordan
  8. Undistracted Bob Goff
  9. The Diamond Eye Kate Quinn
  10. Atlas of the Heart Brene Brown
  11. I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet Shauna Niequist
  12. A Discovery of Witches Deborah Harkness
  13. Dessert Can Save the World Christina Tosi
  14. The Christmas Bookshop Jenny Colgan
  15. 500 Miles from You Jenny Colgan
  16. Welcome to the School by the Sea Jenny Colgan
  17. Shadow of Night Deborah Harkness
  18. Anne of Windy Poplars Lucy Maud Montgomery
  19. This Time Tomorrow Emma Straub
  20. Persuasion Jane Austen
  21. The Midnight Library Matt Haig
  22. The Food Explorer Daniel Stone
  23. Waymaker Ann Voskamp
  24. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
  25. The Paris Apartment Lucy Foley
  26. Anne’s House of Dreams Lucy Maude Montgomery
  27. Delancy Molly Wizenberg
  28. The Minimalist Home Joshua Becker
  29. The Lake House Kate Morton
  30. Rules at the School by the Sea Jenny Colgan
  31. Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery
  32. The Things we do for Love Kristin Hannah
  33. Meet me at the Cupcake Cafe Jenny Colgan
  34. The Little House by the Sea Tracy Rees
  35. Ordering Your Private World Gordan MacDonald
  36. Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl
  37. The Next Right Thing Emily P. Freeman
  38. The Invisible Kingdom Meghan O’Rourke
  39. The Winners Frederick Backman
  40. The Cafe by the Sea Jenny Colgan
  41. Little Beach St Bakery Jenny Colgan
  42. Garden City John Mark Comer
  43. The Hobbit J.R.R. Tolkien
  44. Summer at the Little Beach St Bakery Jenny Colgan
  45. The Greatest Gift Ann Voskamp
  46. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek Michele Richardson
  47. Live No Lies John Mark Comer
  48. Christmas at the Little Beach St Bakery Jenny Colgan
  49. Finding Love at Mermaid Terrace Kate Forster
  50. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow Gabrielle Zevin

167 Raw | Charleston


, , , , , ,

It is very rare that a restaurant checks all of our boxes. Even more rare for us to frequent the same place two times in one trip. 167 Raw is definitely an exception. We had been wanting to try their new Bar 167 and had never had time to wait for 167 Raw (they do not take reservations) So we put in our name at Raw and walked over to Bar 167 to grab drinks while we waited for our table to be ready. Bar 167 is stunning. So well designed with a Mediterranean flair. We sat up on the rooftop, enjoyed our beautiful drinks and relaxed until receiving the text to come back to Raw.

We were sat at a high top table at the window. Perfect people watching spot and enjoy the ambiance of the restaurant while having enough privacy to enjoy our conversation. Our server was a delight. He had great recommendations and we ordered every. single. one.

Starting the night with a dozen oysters is always the right choice. Being a little bit of purists, we prefer our oysters with just a drop of lemon juice and usually forgo the accompanying sauces. However, the dipping sauce that came with the oysters, some magical mix of vinegar and dill and lemon, was so delicious that we dipped our spoons in and ate it just plain and vowed to try it on our oysters the next time we came. Following the oysters was the Crudo of the day. This raw fish topped with a chili crunch and pistachios is the most amazing thing I have ever tasted. Liz and I each took a bite and then just stared at each other. What. The. Actual. Heck. Amazing. Next came the Tuna Tataki. A large piece of fresh tuna, breaded and flash fried to quickly cook and crisp up the outside but leave the inside raw. It was delicious. So tender. Perfect amount of crunch. Perfect balance of flavor. We finished the night with the Lobster Tostada. The lobster itself was perfection, but it really was competing with the other flavors of the toppings and while all delicious, we probably won’t be ordering it again in the future.

Overall we LOVED this spot. Our server was fabulous and every item he recommended was absolute perfection. The atmosphere of the restaurant is upbeat and energizing. I’d say it gets a 8.5 or 9 out of 10. We loved it so much and wanted to try all the things on the menu but didn’t want to overdo it so… we went back two nights later.

Two Nights Later:

We did almost the same thing. Started at Bar 167 for drinks, went back to 167 Raw when our table was ready. This time we tried some drinks at Raw. The 167 dirty martini: a tequila martini, so smooth, topped with oyster brine and an oyster on the side. The appeal of this drink was that it came with an oyster, but let me tell you it was SO smooth. And a martini with tequila, very interesting. The saltiness of the oyster brine with the sweet earthiness of the tequila… magical. The other drink we ordered was a special that evening and definitely is now one of our favorite cocktails of all time. The Army/Navy cocktail: gin, amaro, lemon juice, bitters. The way the almond flavor came through and blended perfectly with the herbal gin… perfection.

We ordered TWO dozen oysters this second night and topped half of them with the delicious dill magic sauce. Oysters were followed again with the crudo and the tuna tataki. To throw in something new we added the King Crab Mafaldine. Perfectly cooked pasta. With a creamy sauce from heaven and large lumps of king crab. I’m sure everyone thought we were crazy as we sat there in silence, savoring every single bite of that pasta dish, eyes wide with disbelief at the flavors that were catapulting us into food euphoria.

Our server the second night was equally as fabulous. The atmosphere just as electrifying. We LOVE 167 Raw. I will be back in Charleston in 3 weeks and we already have plans to visit AGAIN and try their other restaurant 167 Sushi.

167 Raw… Thank you

Bistronomy by NICO | Charleston


, , , , , ,

I love bringing foodie people together. And that’s exactly what this dinner was about. I have two friends living in Charleston who had never met each other and both love food, so I planned a meal for us to all enjoy together and then hopefully when I am back in Asheville they can continue to meet up and enjoy the many food options Charleston has to offer.

The first thing I want to acknowledge is that our server was perfection. She was from Paris, very friendly and took care of us so well. She was so fun, we wanted her to sit down and join us for the meal. We absolutely LOVED her and would go back to the restaurant simply because of her.

We started with delicious mixed drinks. Brown Butter-Washed Old Fashioned, Tequila Salad, Get Sauced Give Thanks, Plum Perfect, and a Chocolate Mezcal Martini. Favorites were definitely the Get Sauced and the Chocolate Martini.

For starters we ordered Beef Carpaccio, Goat Cheese Spring Rolls, and a special of the day, the most delicious Cheese Board. While I will say there was an imbalance of flavors in most of our dishes, the cheese board was amazing. The bleu cheese was outstanding and the crusty baguette, pickled veggies and accompanying honey, delicious. The Beef Carpaccio was slightly overwhelmed by the berry hoisin gastrique and dijon creme. What you want to taste in a dish like this is the amazing and full flavor of the beef. Not have it masked by other strong flavors.

For mains we had Scallops with coconut rice, Coq au vin, and curry shrimp soup. The coconut rice was amazing, and the accompanying green curry beurre blanc complimented it perfectly. We enjoyed the Coq au vin and the soup. Both flavorful, and cozy dishes. Everything else was good but not mind blowing.

We finished the night with cappuccinos, chocolate mousse with brandied cherries, and creme brûlée. Again nothing stands out in my mind as supremely excellent.

It was a gorgeous evening and we sat outside in the courtyard enjoying a cool breeze, good food and even better company and conversation. I will highlight our server once again as she was by far the best part of the evening. If you do want to try out Bistronomy by Nico, you will not be disappointed by the amazing service. We would give our experience a 6.5/7 out of 10. While we wouldn’t say no to visiting Bistronomy again, we will choose to visit the many other amazing restaurants in Charleston before returning.

Chai Pani | Asheville


, , , , , ,

After being awarded the Outstanding Restaurant James Beard Award 2022, Chai Pani has been filled to bursting. They don’t take reservations so the line is down the sidewalk every evening. I haven’t been in months because… tourists. Its great food, but we have so many other great food options in Asheville that waiting two hours for dinner seems silly. HOWEVER. I had friends from NY visiting this weekend and we decided Chai Pani was the place for us.

They start taking phone numbers at 5pm. So you get in a “virtual line” once you register your party. This is very convenient because you then can walk around downtown and they will text you when you are next in line. We put in our name, went to DSSLVR for some beer, walked a bit around downtown Asheville and then our table was ready!

The atmosphere at Chai Pani is lively and colorful. The energy reflects the eclectic menu of mindblasting Indian street foods. Chef Meherwan Irani artfully combines spices that tease your taste buds and warm your soul. I immediately ordered Kale Pecoras and Bhel Puri for the table. The crispy kale, lightly battered and fried has long been one of my favorite dishes from Chai Pani. The dipping sauces that accompany the dish, a green chutney and sweet yogurt, are creamy and fresh, perfectly complementing the salty, crunchy kale. The Bhel Puri is like a dish of savory rice krispies. Puffed rice and crispy chick pea noodles spicy chutneys… its delicious. Every bite is a burst of crunchy, fresh, and bright flavors in your mouth.

For the main dish I ordered the Butter Chicken Thali. This dish is so satisfying. A warm tomato cream sauce smothers the perfectly cooked and tender chicken accompanied by basmati rice, garlic naan, masala slaw, and a sweet yogurt sauce to oppose the spice of the tomato cream sauce on the chicken. It truly is a feast for all your senses.

The James Beard Award is well deserved. In it’s 17 years, Chai Pani has proven to be one of the best restaurants Asheville has, and now it is recognized as one of the best in the United States. If you ever get to visit our little mountain town, be sure to put Chai Pani on your list!

Sullivan’s Fish Camp | Charleston


, , , , ,

I think the biggest surprise of my last trip to Charleston was Sullivan’s Fish Camp. It has been on Sullivan’s Island forever, but we had never tried it. We spent the evening at the beach, watching the sun set and the waves rolling in. As darkness fell, we walked over to Sullivan’s Fish Camp for dinner. We sat at the bar. This dimly lit restaurant has dive bar feel with dark wood accents, and vintage fishing decor. We were quickly seated at the bar and made immediate friends with the bar tender. She had great recommendations about both food and beverages so we picked her brain before making our decisions.

To start off the evening we ordered drinks: The Deckhand, a delightful blend of flor de caña rum, yellow chartreuse, lime, and strawberry shrub. and the Cap’n Sully’s G & T, and a dish full of cold, fresh oysters. I love oysters. The briny, salty liquid with a dash of lemon juice and the tangy Mignonette. Side note: oysters are so, so good for you and provide so many essential minerals that our bodies need! Give me all the oysters!

We followed this with the Truffle Parmesan Fried Shrimp. The crispy seasoned shrimp melted in your mouth and when paired with the cool roasted garlic aioli it was truly delicious. The star of the evening was the Fish Sandwich. Sounds anti-climactic I know. But every bite was a mouth explosion of flavors. The fresh jerk rubbed mahi, milk bread bun, mayo and peach chutney was a brilliant combination and the recipe for the perfect sandwich.

It was such a relaxing evening. Enjoying all the delicious food, chatting with the friendly bar-tenders, and spending time with my best friend. Sun-kissed, completely covered in sand and smelling like the ocean. Could anything be any more perfect?

We ended the night with a cutie little soft-serve. Who can resist?

If you visit Sullivan’s Fish Camp let me know! I’d love to hear about your experience!

Rancho Lewis | Charleston


, , , , , , ,

I was so excited to get to try Rancho Lewis this week in Charleston. Chef and Pitmaster, John Lewis, has already been made famous for his bbq restaurant, Lewis, and this new restaurant, “a place where West Texas, Chihuahua, Mexico, and New Mexico meet” did not disappoint. It was busy when we arrived. They don’t take reservations, and the wait time was estimated to be about an hour. The courtyard was lively. Rancho Lewis has a small outdoor bar so you can get delicious margharitas while you wait. We promptly ordered a few and sat down to enjoy. They were strong and fresh and deliciously flavorful. To our delight, the wait ended up being only 15 ish minutes and we were ushered inside to our table. The Texan ranch style decor transported us to a different world. The attention to detail creates a relaxing and immersive atmosphere, from Mexican Equipale Barrel Chairs, longhorn cattle skulls, to lovely Mexican artesania paintings.

We started with freshly made chips and Queso Asado. Crispy and warm chips dipped in creamy and smooth queso. Hint of smokiness and a dash of spice. We raided the self serve salsa bar and tried all the different kinds available. All fresh and perfect with the most delicious hints of spices.

For the main entree I ordered The Lloyd Lewis. The Mesquite steak was grilled to perfection and it came served with cheese, & onion enchiladas, a side of Spanish rice and refried beans. We also enjoyed the Chicken Tortilla Soup, the Christmas Burrito and chicken enchiladas. Every dish was even better than we had anticipated.

As our drinks from the outdoor bar were nearly gone we ordered the So Far So Bueno to share. It came in a big clay bowl filled with tequila, citrus juices, and sparkling grapefruit. It was so refreshing and delicious and beautiful.

The evening finished with a big dish of sopapillas. They came with a delightful little instruction page that laid out how to bite of a corner and pour in a bit of warm honey and enjoy! The honey had a touch of smokiness, was warm, and complimented the chewy fried dough pillows perfectly. Dinner with friends is a beautiful thing. We laughed until we couldn’t breathe. We shared delicious food and had the best conversation.

I do recommend Rancho Lewis if you are ever in the Charleston area! A Tex-Mex experience you won’t regret!

Eldr | Asheville


, , , , ,

The quaint cottage that was once was the old woodworking shop of Biltmore Industries, now holds Chef Eric Burleson’s much anticipated new venture, Eldr. Nestled in Grovewood Village beside the Grove Park Inn, the recently opened restaurant did not disappoint! A welcoming vibe with a lively breath in the air, this cozy and modern of a place beckons you to come in and share a lingered over meal. The bar is gorgeous and the building itself is so cute and quaint. I would like to eat outside next time we go in the secret garden-like courtyard.

We had been anticipating our first meal at Eldr for a while so we were ALL IN. The evening of course began with some delicious cocktails. I started with the Always a Bridesmaid, a beautiful purple drink with Gin, creme de violette, lime juice, basil topped with tiny rose petals. My friend went for a Blackberry Spritz that was both delicious and refreshing.

The menu changes periodically, so we ordered almost everything that was offered, not wanting to miss anything that sounded good. A lot of the offerings are small plates for sharing. We began with the Beef Tartare. Sweet and fresh and the addition mustard seeds on top took it to a whole new level. Next out was the fried squid with crispy and light squid scattered over a plate splattered with squid ink aioli. The whole effect was gorgeous and delicious. The Kombu Cured Red Snapper Crudo arrived in a small spherical dish and was light and refreshing with the most amazing pickled peppers. Duck wings followed in a fermented scotch bonnet and peach glaze. They were crispy and sticky and we ate them with our hands making a mess but how else are you to enjoy wings as much? The last thing we ordered was the Casarecce Cacio e Pepe. Homemade pasta simply tossed with butter, Romano cheese and dusted with black pepper. I think I will now always compare every meal I eat to our amazing dinner at Laura, and this pasta did not disappoint. It was perfectly cooked, light and al dente. The sauce was not overpowering and every bite was a mouthful of flavor.

A second round of drinks was in order and my Gin old Fashioned with Gin, orange bitters, and rhubarb was by far my favorite beverage of the evening. Strong and smooth. My friend chose the Did Someone Sage Peach that was cold and sweet and savory in each sip. A beautiful blend of peach bourbon, bitters, pecan bitters, peach simple syrup, and sage leaf.

We couldn’t end this marvelous meal without trying some of the desserts, so we opted to share the Orange Rosemary Polenta Cake, and the Southern Buttermilk Pie. The polenta cake was the perfect balance, beautifully textured, lightly sweet and airy and so delicious. The buttermilk pie complimented by fresh champagne peaches sweet and smooth and crispy layered pie crust melted in my mouth and was the perfect compliment to a warm and humid summer evening.

Eldr definitely stands up to Asheville’s high foodie standards. I am looking forward to trying some of their early morning offerings with coffee fresh from the espresso bar and a dutch baby which is on the menu and sounds irresistible. If you are ever in Asheville, make sure to put Eldr near the top of your list. We will be back.

The Admiral | Asheville


, , ,

Chef Chuck Baudendistle

The Admiral is located in a small unassuming building in West Asheville. The indoors brings thoughts of being on an old ship. The dark wood, huge moldings, and dark aquatic decor. The dimly lit space is cozy and intimate and while it is still partitioned for covid and slightly cramped, it has been designed well. The outdoor patios are well lit and spacious, but we chose indoors for this special birthday dinner because it has been so hot, and rain was in the forecast.

I’ve begun asking for the server’s favorites before ordering because I like to hear how they speak about the food and drinks. Our server was pleasant and had great recommendations for both. Our water glasses were never empty and the kitchen even sent out a sweet little amuse bouche of cucumber slices topped with a dollop of homemade ranch, and at the end of our meal, a little dessert of sugar coated jelly bites, which were both welcome surprises for our evening. The service overall was excellent.

Our evening began with drinks. Some sour beers with the most delightful cans, and two mixed drinks, one mixing Elderflower Infused Gin, Cointreau, Lemon, & Daylily, and the other a blend of Rum, Lime, Mint, Cucumber, Coconut Cream. I’m realizing now I should have asked to taste my friend’s drink, but mine was the mint/cucumber one and while smooth and refreshing, was not excessively flavorful. I would have enjoyed it more if the lime, mint and coconut had been a little more potent.

For my main course I had the spaghetti which was homemade, perfectly cooked to an al dente chewiness and in a creamy lemon and zucchini sauce with lumps of crab. The textures were good. Everything tasted very fresh and the flavors complimented each other well. My mind travels back to the Agnolotti at Laura in Summerville and I wonder if I have been ruined for pasta forever. I’m not sure anything will ever compare. And while this pasta at The Admiral was delicious, it wasn’t the type of dish you dream about and must come back for.

Overall, our experience was enjoyable. We lingered for a long time, soaking in the atmosphere of a bustling open kitchen, the company of good friends, and the pleasantries of being in a full restaurant. I wouldn’t write off The Admiral, however, my ever growing list of Asheville restaurants makes it hard to go back to places a second time. What are some of your must-try restaurants in Asheville? I’d love to hear YOUR recommendations!

Holeman & Finch Asheville


, , , ,

From Linton Hopkins, the chef and founder of Hopkins & Co, comes Holeman & Finch Asheville. I have been wanting to try it since it opened, but with covid restrictions etc it has taken me a while to get in there. I had a friend visiting from Charleston last weekend and we were able to get a reservation for dinner.

Sidenote: We started our night at another place I had been wanting to go, La Bodega by Curate’, who’s chef Katie Button just won the 2022 James Beard Award for Hospitality last week. This new upstairs bar is so unique and well done. We only had drinks (which were perfect) and sat at the bar, but the atmosphere and environment of this pintxo & wine bar, was energetic and fun and I can’t wait to visit again and sample some of their food menu.

We walked over to H&F and got seated at a tiny table between two larger groups of people. It was very cramped. The table was already crowded with a candle and a vase, and East Fork dessert plates. Which I do love seeing East Fork out at restaurants, but wondered where any food we ordered was going to fit. We ordered drinks. Forgettable. I got oysters which were good but I’m assuming were improperly opened because there were tons of shell pieces that I had to pick out of my mouth after each oyster. I’ve never had that happen before. The charcuterie and sweet potatoes we ordered were fine.

For dessert we shared the sticky toffee pudding. Which I have been looking forward to for a long time. It has been a favorite dessert of mine since we traveled to Prince Edward Island and I was anticipating that sticky goodness. The dessert came out with a warm sauce poured over the top. It was good, but I can’t say it met up with my high expectations.

I can’t say I ever need to go there again. Their brunch does look amazing so I may give it another shot. But I do think it is hard to be a tapas type restaurant with Curate’ right down the road. The standards are VERY high in Asheville. I know it is a small town but just last week TWO chef’s in AVL won James Beard Awards. Chef Katie Button at Curate and Chef Meherwan Irani at Chai Pani. They are doing big things here and other chefs will need to step it up in order to survive. I love living in a foodie city, and I guess I have high standards as well. Food should leave you dreaming about it. Hoping you will never reach the last bite. Wanting to lick the plate clean. And in my opinion, Holeman and Finch doesn’t meet the bar.