6 Ways to Wind Up with the Best Deals during Shoulder Season

  1. Book early—reserve a room in advance to reap benefits like peace of mind, plenty of selection and discounts that are only available if you book ahead. For example, the oceanfront Courtyard by Marriott in Carolina Beach is currently offering 20% off when you book a weekend stay 14 or more days in advance.1605-Final
  2. Stay standard, but be prepared to upgrade—as with rental cars, it can be worth the risk to book a standard room, or the cheapest available, and hope for an upgrade upon check-in. Often, when reservation agents hear the reason you’re visiting—i.e. honeymoon, anniversary, long overdue vacation—they’re happy to offer you a free or low-cost upgrade if they have the rooms available. Chances of getting an upgrade are greater during shoulder season when more rooms are available.
  3. Look (and book) online first—before you pick up the phone to call the reservation agent, look at the property’s website to see if they’re currently offering any online-only specials. For example, the Blockade Runner Beach Resort at Wrightsville Beach has weekly e-specials that are only available online.courtyard 3
  4. Consider a longer stayVictory Beach Vacations in Carolina Beach is running a deal for buy three nights, get the fourth free. Often hotels don’t advertise their discounts for extended stays, so be prepared to bring up the subject.
  5. Shoulder, shoulder season—stay during the week for cheaper rates. Many properties such as Dolphin Lane in Carolina Beach and Darlings by the Sea in Kure Beach offer double discounts in the shoulder season. Not only are rooms cheaper because it’s not summer, but they’re also discounted again for stays that fall between Sunday and Thursday.Kure Beach
  6. Don’t limit yourself to discount websites—while websites like Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia can be convenient for quickly finding hotel rooms, they often lack the more charming accommodations that offer character, and in some cases—lower rates. Leave it to the locals—a.k.a. visitor bureaus—to provide the best inside information on accommodations in the area. For example, the Wilmington and Beaches website lists accommodations for all three neighboring beaches and regularly posts updates on special packages and promotions. This is information that comes from the proprietor and is information that discount websites may not be privy to.

~ Courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches CVB

Detox with spices

Often times “spice” is used synonymously with “heat.” Spices are generally used to impart flavors to food, and not all spices are hot. When people refer to spicy food, they are thinking curry, red chili and strong flavors. But the truth is cinnamon and nutmeg are as much as a spice as are cumin and turmeric. There is a reason why spices have been used across cultures for thousands of years. Most spices have some advantages for the body and have been used to treat illnesses, prevent diseases and detox. For example, turmeric is a natural anti septic and Alzheimer’s preventer, while black pepper and curry powder help prevent breast cancer. Continue reading “Detox with spices”

A Christmas Tree family tradition

Escape to the mountains, sit by a cozy fire, bite into a peppermint soufflé and visit a Christmas tree farm. Picture a better Christmas tree family tradition? I recently experienced the perfect weekend holiday-season getaway at the Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, North Carolina. Continue reading “A Christmas Tree family tradition”

Pork Shoulder Confit, Wild Rice, Parsley Root Pure, Cheerwine Glaze

Recipe courtesy of Old Edwards Inn and Spa

2# pork shoulder
1 cup green salt (3/4 cup kosher1/4cup herbs processed in robocoupe)

Portion pork shoulder into 4 -8 oz portions. Liberally season with green salt. Leave to rest overnight. Rinse next day cover with pork fat and place in oven at 180F and cook until tender about 3 hours. Remove pork and let rest.

1-2 lt Cheerwine soda
¼ cup dried cherries

Meanwhile add Cheerwine and cherries to a pot and reduce to about 1.5 cups place in blender puree until smooth and strain through chinois

2 cups wild rice
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1tb grapeseed oil
¼ cup brunoise carrots
¼ cup brunoise celeriac
¼ cup brunoise onions
¼ cup toasted walnuts

In a 8 qt pot sweat off brunoise of veg until tender add rice toast for 2 mins add stock and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer until rice is tender about 45 mins. let cool slightly add toasted pecans.

4 ea parsley roots peeled and rough diced
1 small onion peeled/rough diced
2 tb butter
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream

Sweat small diced onion add salt and pepper until translucent in butter add diced parsley roots sweat until soft add stock and cream bring to a boil cook until tender about 20 mins, Place in a blender puree until smooth strain through chinois.

4-ea parsley roots peeled/sliced thin on mandolin
12-ea baby round carrots peeled tops removed

Bring 2 pots of water to a boil salt liberally add carrot to one and parsley root to the other cook both vegetables until tender remove with a slotted spoon and place in icewater bath til completely cool.

¼ cup vegetable stock
2tb unsalted butter
1 tsp chopped thyme

Place sliced parsley roots and carrots in a pan with ¼ cup vegetable stock and 2 tablespoons butter add salt and pepper glaze vegetables finish with thyme.

½ cup pork jus

To finish place shoulder in pan with clarified butter sear all sides add ½ cup glaze evenly being careful not to burn glaze. Remove from pan let rest. Place parsley root puree on warmed plate push add wild rice to center of plate place glazed veg around rice slice meat put on top of rice sauce shoulder with pork jus and drizzle Cheerwine glaze around plate. ENJOY!

Oak Street Cafe

Located off Main Street in downtown Highlands, is a restaurant you will make sure not to miss. A tiny doorway leads you to a staircase to the first floor of Oak Street Cafe where a casual dining room playing Gypsy King music awaits you. A cheerful server greets you and seats you to your table overlooking the most popular street in town.

The menu is deceptive at first. You see is Hummus, Fried Green Tomatoes and Escargot…what is theme here? The menu has traditional American, European and Southern influences but everything is well prepared and authentic to it’s flavors. You order a glass of wine from a carefully selected wine list and contemplate your next move.

In the kitchen is a 25 year old chef who apprenticed with former Executive Chef of Oak Street Cafe, Mark Hibbs. Hibbs was nominated for the Best Chef of South East by Prestigious James Beard Foundation in 2009 and has left his legacy behind at the restaurant.

The signature Mushroom Bisque is acclaimed among the locals so you have to give it a try. Simple, light and flavorful, the mushrooms tease your taste buds while preparing your appetite for greater things to come.

Next is another uncomplicated Apple and Walnut Salad Mixed Greens, with sliced green apples, spiced walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and dried cranberries tossed in a mild vinaigrette. It is the perfect blend of sweet, tangy, smooth and crisp. It feels like the radicchio dressed appropriately for the occasion.

For entree comes Carolina’s favorite Shrimp and Grits. No southern meal goes complete without it so why should you leave before tasting the succulent sauteed shrimp resting on melt-in your-mouth creamy Cheese Grits drizzled with scallions, mushrooms and bacon swimming in a delicate lobster broth.

And if you are still not satisfied with the perfectly cooked dishes so far, the Chicken Kiev will transport you back to a home in Eastern Europe. Stuffed With cheese, Garlic Butter and Herbs Served With Julienne Vegetables and Roasted Potatoes. A chicken breast is stuffed with cheddar cheese, garlic butter and herbs, and fried leaving the meat juicy and tender, with  a gooey cheesy interior that makes it wonderful comfort food.

A sweet ending is a must to round out this meal, so you get oh nothing fancy, just a good old Creme Brulee. It’s made home style and has just the right amount of burned sugar to crack with your spoon and is  just plain delicious.

Oak Street Cafe

332 Main Street, Highlands, NC

828.787.2200