Tasty Thursday: Travel Picks

J and I took a road trip this past summer: Wilmington, NC to Charlotte, NC to Asheville, NC to Nashville, TN. Yup, that’s right. We went to both Asheville, NC and Nashville, TN. Random trip, but we had loads of fun. If you’re scratching your head about logistics since we live in Minnesota, we flew into Charlotte at the start of the trip, rented a car, and then flew from Nashville back to Minnesota.

One of my favorite parts of traveling is sampling different restaurants and flavors. We have a multi-tiered approach to restaurant hunting: searching online for best places in a city to eat, wandering around neighborhoods and popping in to places that just look fun, and asking locals for recommendations. When it comes to asking locals, that’s usually something J does. I recognize the value; I’m just on the shy side, so that part is a little more awkward and painful for me. As a result, I avoid that one.

Here’s a few of our favorite meals from the first part of the trip. Nashville picks will show up in another post, since we had loads of memorable food moments there — particularly ones where I took pictures.

Wilmington

Dock Street Oyster Bar

Dock Street Oyster Bar Wilmington We stopped in here for dinner after a long day of walking and adventuring: rising early to catch the sunrise on the beach, meandering through a few local gardens (Airlie Gardens was amazing — an excellent blend of beauty, history and whimsy with a bit of creepy thrown in for good measure.), and browsing through shops in historic downtown Wilmington (I picked up some delicious loose leaf lavender earl gray tea as well as a delightful distilled lavender spray, which came in handy for soothing my sunburns later on the trip. ).

Being by the ocean, we felt seafood was a must on the trip, and of the places we saw, this had the best reviews. And it was delicious. My shrimp were delightful — seasoned nicely with lemon and Old Bay. Peeling shrimp feels like an event, not just a regular supper. J loved his seafood platter, which was chock full of aquatic creatures that I don’t eat. Clams and oysters — no thank you. He was kind enough to share some of his potatoes and corn with me. Just thinking back to that meal simultaneously makes me happy and longing for summer again.

The staff was friendly, and the service was great. Also, there’s a funky, artsy vibe to the place, which makes it an enjoyable place to hang out and chat a bit.

Downtown WilmingtonWilmington itself was a delightful place to visit– probably my favorite part of the trip, and I’d love to go back again. Traipsing through downtown Wilmington, we were tickled by the combination of history, old architecture, and wit. Sandwich boards placed outside the restaurants vie over most clever and comical slogans.

If we make it back to Wilmington again (and I really hope we do), I hope to check out the Little Dipper fondue restaurant. One, I love fondue — particularly when I don’t have to make my own house smell like a grease factory. Two, this might be the cutest and most apropos name for a fondue restaurant. We ran out of time and didn’t get a chance to eat here on our visit.

Charlotte

Smelly Cat Coffeehouse & Roastery

121715 Smelly CatAs you faithful readers know, I love a great local coffee shop. Needing a place to unwind and write for awhile, J and I stopped in here one morning on a whim. Well, I did a search for local coffee shops, and the name just grabbed my attention — Friends, anyone? Plus it had great reviews. And its neighborhood is a nice place to explore. So, we popped in here, and it had everything that I love in a coffee shop — cozy places to sit, wi-fi, and most importantly — really, tasty coffee. If I lived in Charlotte, I’d be back again and again. Staff was really friendly, which was particularly nice for us two tourists.

Asheville

Wine Tasting at the Biltmore

Biltmore wine tastingJ and I visited the Biltmore Estate while we were in Asheville. Well, let’s be honest. We came to Asheville to go to the Biltmore. In fact, we remapped out our trip after talking to folks at the conference we attended in Charlotte so we could go to the Biltmore. If we had planned better, we might have been able to actually get a reservation for afternoon tea in the Biltmore library, but alas reservations were booked by the time we switched plans. Sad pandas. As you probably already know, I like me some afternoon tea.

Anyway, J talked me into going to the winery. I’d never gone to a tasting before, so I felt a bit adrift, kind of like a lone mouse in a room full of cats. This was a whole new awkward experience for me. We choose to sit and sample some wine and cheese in the bar area, which sampled their premium wines. As a result, we had to pay a bit extra for our wine. But, then we got to sit and chat while we drank our wines. I don’t remember what we drank, but everything was delicious with our cheese and crackers. I got a little on the tipsy side from my single flight and almost fell down some stairs. My sister and dad have some great text message stories about me from that afternoon. Yet more embarrassing moments for me.

The experience itself was a cozy and relaxing way to wrap up our day of battling rainstorms, hiking through gardens, and exploring the Biltmore mansion. I look back on this fondly since I took a risk in trying something new and something which previously scared me. So, thank you J and the Biltmore for a new life experience from this summer!

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