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Travel - Culinary Travels

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kiawah island sanctuary resport roomDiscover a new dimension at Kiawah Island Resort.  

By Jan Walsh


If Kiawah Island Resort and The Sanctuary Hotel were across the globe, I would travel the world to arrive here. Fortunately from Birmingham, I can leave early morning and arrive here in time for a late lunch. This is our second trip to Kiawah Island, and I do not plan for it to be our last—as it is one of the most special places I have ever visited, and it is Southern.
Henderson Inn suite Discover a private piece of Destin at Henderson Park Inn.

By Jan Walsh


Henderson Park Inn is a beachfront, adults-only, all-inclusive, boutique hotel. Located on a quiet cul-de-sac on Scenic Highway 98 in Destin, Florida, the property is situated beside the 208-acre Henderson Beach State Park and its long stretch—1.3 miles—of unobstructed beach. Henderson Park Inn also has a fine dining restaurant, Beach Walk Cafe. My husband, Kevin and I enjoy a long, quiet, and delicious weekend here for Valentine’s.
Pair The Hermitage Hotel with Nashville Wine Auction.  

By Jan Walsh


I recently enjoyed a lovely weekend in Nashville, without the country music. I paired a stay at The Hermitage Hotel with a weekend of wine at the Nashville Wine Auction’s inaugural Pairings event, held at Noah Liff Opera.

This was my first stay at The Hermitage Hotel. And I do not plan for it to be my last. I fell in love with this place as soon as I entered the Tennessee marble columned lobby with its magnificent painted glass ceiling. The Hotel Hermitage opened in 1910, as the namesake of Andrew Jackson's Hermitage estate. Five Presidents of the U.S. and countless celebrities have stayed here. I could write a book on its history. But that has already been done by Ripley Wills, II: The Hermitage Hotel at One Hundred. The hotel was purchased in 2000 by Historic Hotels of Nashville, LLC, which led to the $17 million renovation of the guest rooms and public areas, after which the hotel reopened on Valentine's Day 2003. Less than nine months later it received the prestigious American Automobile Association Five-Diamond rating, and it remains Tennessee’s only Forbes Five Star and AAA Triple Diamond Hotel.

Rediscover world-class wineries, a fairy tale town, and one spectacular lake.

By Jan Walsh

In the previous issue of this column, I shared the perfect Napa Valley trip. Picking up our suitcases where that trip left off, we take the top down on the convertible for a scenic drive to Healdsburg, in Sonoma County. This weekend we revisit our Sonoma County favorites.
We combine the best of Napa Valley into one perfect trip.
 
By Jan Walsh

 
Touring Napa Valley is a yearly pleasure. Typically I repeat very little in order to have new experiences. But this year instead of new, past favorites are synthesized into one wonderful trip—luxury accommodations, legendary wineries, sensational cuisine, and a convertible.
Discover great restaurants, awesome views and interesting tourist attractions.

By Jan Walsh


Kevin and I take a couple’s weekend to Chattanooga. Making better driving time (less than three hours) than expected, we arrive in time for lunch in the city—rather than on the road as we had expected. Yet this unexpected pleasure also creates a problem. I have not researched where to have lunch and quickly begin to do so on my iPad.

A weekend at The Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation pleases all.

By Jan Walsh

Family time is precious. Yet with busy schedules, it is difficult to find time to be together as a family. Yet when I mentioned a weekend at the AAA-5 Diamond Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation, schedules suddenly freed up a bit.

A weekend at Barnsley Gardens is long enough to fall in love.

By Jan Walsh


Weekend escapes are my favorite travel. And I recently spent the perfect weekend escape at Barnsley Gardens. I arrive knowing little about the property and leave two days later in love with this place.

High Hampton Inn offers a rustic mountain escape.

By Jan Walsh

If you like camping out, try “camping in” at High Hampton Inn & Country Club, in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Since 1922 High Hampton Inn has hosted families who want to get away from the hustle and bustle and simply enjoy what life used to be—before we were “wired.”

Listed on National The Register of Historic Places, the property is reminiscent of the camps of the Adirondacks. The Lodge was constructed of local materials in 1932. The lobby boasts a huge stone four-sided fireplace. Beyond the Inn’s guest rooms are mountain cottages, for couples or large families. Some have fireplaces and screen porches, and all have fabulous views. For honeymooners or couples on a romantic getaway, the secluded Honeymoon Cottage is highly recommended.

Blackberry Farm’s chef Adam Cooke brings the farm’s fare to Ritz Carlton’s Atlanta Grill.

By Jan Walsh

The Ritz Carlton, downtown Atlanta is hosting a program to show off the culinary skills of renowned young chefs from the Southeast. These dinners will take place on several chosen weekends over the summer, with a different chef preparing dinner at Atlanta Grill.

The chefs—ages 27 and 32—and their cuisines are featured at Atlanta Grill on selected dates throughout the summer. Bennett Hollberg, chef de cuisine, will collaborate with each of them create a four-course dinner menu, with wine pairings recommended by Silvio Garcia, hotel sommelier. “This is a unique opportunity for guests to meet the young chefs who are making an impact on the culinary scene now, and who will be leading the future dining experiences in the region,” said Chef Hollberg. “We’re excited to be working together, and guests are going to enjoy great dining experiences.”

The Ritz Carlton, Buckhead, debuts new spa and spa level guestrooms and suites.

By Jan Walsh


Leave it to The Ritz Carlton, in Atanta’s Buckhead to add not only a spa but also spa level guestrooms and suites—for ultra convenience. I recently enjoyed a weekend of rejuvenating solitude in a ninth floor, executive spa suite and the tranquil pleasure of a customized spa treatment.

Arriving under the portico of this renowned hotel, we are met by the valet, and our gracious doorman, James Wilson—who has worked at this hotel for 25 years. Wilson opens the doors for us and welcomes us with a friendly and dignified Southern hospitality. Inside the lobby are massive, crystal chandeliers sparkling above gleaming paneled walls, jeweled toned oriental rugs and velvet upholstered English antiques. Fresh touches of live plants and magnificent arrangements of fresh cut flowers dot the lobby—and the entire hotel. The lobby is open to the lounge of the same décor with a focal point of a roaring, marble fireplace in the lounge.

Stars are “regulars” at The Beverly Hills Hotel's Polo Lounge.

By Jan Walsh


During a stay in Santa Monica, California, my husband Kevin and I take a day trip to Beverly Hills. Here we window shop Rodeo Drive and lunch at The Polo Lounge at The Beverly Hills Hotel. Situated atop 12 acres on Sunset Boulevard, this “Pink Palace” is a short and convenient distance from Rodeo Drive.

We arrive early for lunch—allowing us time to walk around the property and are greeted by valets in waiting at the porte-cochere. Walking up the famous red carpet towards the entrance of the hotel, I quickly realize that a stay here WILL be on my next California itinerary. 

The hotel’s restaurants have long been the place to catch a glimpse of celebrities lunching together. But—as on all of my trips—my email communications have no respect for legends. So I walk through the Hollywood Lobby, where Sidney Poitier danced barefoot past the ever lit, oak-burning fireplace, outside to a small, shady secluded patio in the Citrus Garden.

The Sanctuary is a luxurious hotel situated oceanfront on the private, gated Kiawah Island.

By Jan Walsh

One of my favorite television series as a child was Gilligan Island. The idea of being a castaway on a private island was a delightful fantasy. As an adult, my idea of the perfect private island is a bit different, and much different than Gilligan's.

My fantasy island has a—Mobil Five Star Award and AAA Five Diamond Award—seaside hotel and a staff whose Southern hospitality is as authentic as their familiar, Southern accents.  It serves award-winning cuisine and in a variety of eateries from an ice cream shop to fine dining. My island has a gourmet market and other specialty shops that keep me from leaving this lap of luxury for mere shopping purposes. Relaxation is the way of life on this island. I enjoy a swim in the indoor lap pool and a signature massage, with heated grain and herb filled wraps placed on key tension points and major muscle groups, in the Mobil Five Star Spa upon arrival. Each day begins with heavenly sunrises and ends with miraculous sunsets over the Atlantic. And in between I find time to walk along the beach gathering as many beautiful shells as I can carry—as a memory of this day.

Plan a long, luxurious weekend at The Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynold's Plantation.

By Jan Walsh

The Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynold's Plantation is s synthesis of The Ritz Carlton's legend for luxury and superior service coupled with authentic southern charm. Conveniently located on Lake Oconee, approximately 225 miles from Birmingham and 75 miles from Atlanta, this is the first Ritz-Carlton located on a lake, rather than a large city or seaside. In addition to The Ritz-Carlton Lodge's 35 picturesque acres, the lake provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and picnicking on a pontoon boat. It is also surrounded by the upscale, gated community of Reynolds Plantation and 99 holes of championship golf, designed by legendary professional golfers.

Yet I did not come here for the convenience or golf. I came here for the AAA-5 Diamond accommodations, food, wine and award winning spa. Southern hospitality greets me upon arrival and remains throughout my stay. The wood paneled lobby boasts a stacked stone fireplace—wrapped by scenic views of the lake. This gathering place offers light dinner fare at fireside tables with lake views and live music Friday and Saturday evenings.

New Orleans restaurants are back; where are you?

By Jan Walsh

Today, three years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans restaurants are back, some better than ever. The non-stop flight to New Orleans on Southwest is also back. After a 50-minute ride, the plane descends and prepares for landing. I see New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina and see no physical evidence of her aftermath. Cabs are plentiful at the airport. And for those who prefer a limo or private car, Shelley's Taste of New Orleans Transportation and Tours is recommended.

Favorites from Atlanta's Buckhead are found over 15 years.

By Jan Walsh

Buckhead became a favorite getaway of mine many years ago. I have seen restaurants and bars come and go, new hotels erected, and the skyline rise. Some old favorite bars and restaurants were swallowed up by the progress. Others were replaced by their betters. And a few, which I have loved from the start, make Buckhead my second home.

Time was when the bar scene in this area was most frequented by the affluent locals. Atlanta Braves players would mix and mingle upstairs at Otto’s. Times have changed. Progress is fast and furious. It is a shopping and dining destination. And I must visit Buckhead often, or I don’t recognize sections of it.

Blackberry Farm's Down Under event pairs foothills cuisine with wines from Australian vintner's cellar.

By Jan Walsh

A trip to Blackberry Farm means heading down South for many. Yet from down under it is across the globe for Australia's Two Hands vintner Richard Mintz. And the farm, located in West Millers Cove in Eastern Tennessee, is only a four and one half hour drive north from Birmingham.

I arrive at Blackberry Farm for the “Down Under” culinary event, held from Sunday June 29 until Wednesday, July 2, 2008. This event—one of Blackberry Farm’s 2008 seasonal cooking school and epicurean events—showcases Mintz’s wines and the skills and cuisine of guest chef Colin Crowley. Mintz and partner Michael Twelftree began making Two Hands wines in 1999. And accolades came quickly as their wines have been named in the Wine Spectator Top 100 for the last five years, with two listings in the top 10.  The Aussie wines are divided into four series: The Flagships, Single Vineyard The Garden Series, and The Picture Series. And they recently released Two Hands Napa Valley series. Terlato Wines International distributes Two Hands wines. And as executive chef for Terlato, Crowley prepares meals for a demanding audience: the world’s great winemakers.

Asheville, North Carolina moves forward while preserving the past.

By Jan Walsh

It is exciting to watch Asheville, North Carolina progress, while respecting and restoring pieces of its past. On this, my third trip to Asheville in the past seven years, the evolution is immediately evident.

On previous trips I had found Biltmore Village a maze of historic, peddle-dash homes—of the 1890s, which once belonged to George Vanderbilt—juxtaposed with newer, less appealing buildings. Yet times are changing. Arriving into town after a lovely drive up the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway, the first glimpse is a hotel rising—under construction—on the previous location of a service station. Across the street is a new (Bitlmore-styled) Starbucks. A whole block of unfortunate buildings have also been replaced by their betters—replicas of the charming pebble-dash homes—with upscale stores, such as Williams Sonoma. And across the street more demolition of buildings, which do not fit the architectural style of the village, is in the plans to make way for more upscale shopping.

The Mansion on Peachtree towers above Buckhead and soars with luxury.

By Jan Walsh

Rosewood Hotel and Residence opens The Mansion on Peachtree in Atlanta's affluent Buckhead neighborhood. If castles were southern, rather than mansions, the name might well have been Castle on Peachtree. Designed by Robert A.M. Stern, the property is crafted of classic limestone and cast stone.

This 563,600 square foot, 42-story tower includes a boutique, ultra luxury hotel, with 127 hotel rooms (including 31 suites), and 45 exclusive residential units, ranging from $2,5000,000 to $12,000,000. A 15,000-square foot destination spa, 29 is the creation of Lydia Mondavi, and is the namesake of Highway 29 in California’s Napa Valley. Also inside the main tower is NEO, a 95-seat full service restaurant serving contemporary, Italian inspired cuisine. And at press time, Craft Atlanta restaurant, with award winning chef Tom Colicchio, was scheduled to open December 8.  The restaurant will front Peachtree Road in front of the main tower of the property. Colicchio’s Craft Atlanta will serve haute cuisine of the freshest ingredients.

 
 
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