Thursday, April 26, 2012

Scallions and Litres and Bears, Oh My!

This is what it looks like when you've been out-ordered...

Some of you, no doubt, have probably figured out that this blog is as much an unvarnished chronicle of life in the Gump in the early 21st Century as it is about lunch. Decades from now it is possible that this blog will be taught in the history classes of some charter schools and, perhaps, in some ASU sociology classes studying the remnants of the "Old South" and the beginnings of the new. Along these lines we have previously explained the connection between the Gump and the beaches along FLA 30-A in So-Wal. Today I will discuss the "Highlands" connection between the 'upper crust' of some in the Gump and the mountains of North Carolina.  We will, as usual, try to use food as the glue holding the narrative together. But, as you have also probably noted, the glue we use here at LITG is sort of like the glue they use on Post-It Notes® or the bonds between movie stars and their spouses. Capice?

Think of this as as a journey to the Emerald City a/k/a the verdant Appalachian forests of Highlands N.C. along the Yellow-striped road called I-85/75.  It is a trek that the upper crust and hoi polloi of the Gump have made for decades to escape the heat and humidly at 325 feet above sea level for the cooler temperatures of life at 4,000 feet or so.  Many Gumpers own homes in the Highlands/Cashiers area. There, during football season at snobatoriums like Highlands Country Club, gentlemen wearing their Harvard and Penn club ties sip their scotch with their pinkies in the air and sniff when "ruffians from Montgomery" hoot and holler over news of a Bama touchdown. "Hey," one Gumper watching the game said to the ivy league crowd huddled around the fire, "anyone have the Penn-Temple score?" Of course, they didn't.

Personally, I am easily enticed to weekend in beautiful locations where they have fine restaurants. Recently, I tagged along with a group of native Gumpers to enjoy a long weekend in the Cashiers/Highland's area.  It was a little early in the season and the weather was cold at night.  But after litres of fine wines before a roaring fire in an outdoor fireplace overlooking the mountains I was in mini-vacation mode. This vacation, however, also involved a mixture of terrific food made with local vegetables and meats, as well as an element of danger in the form of the black bear.

A typical mountain lake view near Cashiers

In Highlands, based upon the wares at shops and the decor of mountain chalets, one would think that the local mascot is the black bear.  Carved images of them are omnipresent as are warnings not to feed them or  leave food outside.  Elaborate child proof garbage containers can be found all over town and at most parks designed to keep Yogi and Boo Boo out of the "good stuff" that humans throw away after their "Pick N Nick" baskets are empty. I dreamed often of meeting up with a hungry bear while staying in Cashiers. Thankfully, my dreams did not come true.  In fact, I never saw one of these so-called bears once during my stay.

Putting the bears aside, I want to draw your attention to a particularly fine meal we enjoyed "On the Veranda"  located on beautiful Lake Sequoya near Highlands. OTV is celebrating its 30th year of fine dining inspired by the extensive travels of owners Andrew Figel and Marlene Alvarez. They use fresh ingredients grown locally--like their scallions or "ramps" as they call them in the mountains. The photo above shows one of the specials--a filet atop a bed of smashed potatoes--covered with a delicious sauce and vegetables.  Not only tasty but attractive and colorful. Wine Spectator Magazine highly rates the place and I can confirm--wine snob that I am--that the wine list was extensive but, fortunately, the prices were not outrageously high. Why, I, tightwad extraordinaire, actually purchased a round of wine by the glass for the table (after learning someone else would be picking up the check for the meal).

There are many other fine places to eat up there.  I have enjoyed very enjoyable meals at Paoletti's in downtown Highlands and at Lakeside on Harris Lake. The Orchard in Cashiers has some fine fresh cuisine (although you need to BYOB).

One thing all these places have in common, besides the scallions, litres and bears, is the fact that on a Friday or Saturday night in season you can't throw a napkin without hitting a Gumper up for the weekend.  Indeed, so many of us go there so often that they speak Gumper there and accept our money.

Scallions and Litres and Bears! Oh my! What a weekend!

On The Verandah on Urbanspoon

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