Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Recent Summer Vacation

I recently took a trip with my family from Florida to Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina to visit my stepfather's parents. During this time, I ate at several different restaurants and enjoyed all kinds of foods and treats: traditional and new alike. :)

Driving through Georgia, I stopped at a local favorite among people from my hometown, "Cheddar's." Cheddar's is a casual restaurant that offers some wonderful food at low prices. Even though they're sparsely located throughout the south-east U.S., the quality of the food makes up for the scarcity.

I recommend starting your meal with the onion rings, which are stacked high and served with two different dipping sauces: ranch and a spicy, southwestern flavored sauced. The batter is very light, making these tasty, but not too filling.

Highlands Smokehouse
595 Franklin Rd.
Highlands, NC.

I made it a personal goal of mine to seek out the best North Carolina BBQ I could find while visiting the state. Having stopped at several locally recommended places that offered less-than exceptional food, I was starting to believe that the "First in Flight" state was the last in smokey cuisine. Thankfully, everything changed when I visited "Highlands Smokehouse."

Nestled on the side of a mountain, 4,000 feet about sea level, this small establishment offered big flavor. While the entrees were incredible (I had the beef brisket with au jus), the BBQ Pulled Pork Nachos appetizer was a delectable delight, combining salty nachos, baked beans, BBQ sauce, and tender pulled pork for a hearty start to a wonderful meal. If you're ever in the area, stop by and check it out!

Kilwin's Chocolate & Ice Cream
370 Main Street
Highlands, NC.

Kilwin's is a wonderful establishment that offers exceptional quality chocolate and ice cream guaranteed to satisfy any sweet tooth. I had never set foot in a Kilwin's until I visited Highlands North Carolina. It was raining and dreary the day I visited, but the quality of the food and service made up for the nasty weather. As to be expected with all elegant chocolate stores, you can spend a lot of money if you buy by the pound. I bought 4 different pieces for around $5.00. Unlike other chocolate stores like Godiva or Lindt, Kilwin's chocolate had a broader range on my palate. I was able to taste the contrasts between the milk and dark chocolates more distinctly than the aforementioned companies.

Unique to Kilwin's are its milkshakes, malts, and ice creams. The chocolate milkshake with added malt is made from fresh whole milk and cream with chocolate made in the store. Thankfully, there are many Kilwin's establishments throughout the United States. Check out their website for the closest one near you!

Noisy Oyster
24 North Market Street
Charleston, SC.

When you visit Charleston, it's not too hard to see the importance of seafood in the community. From the bustling main street filled with local patrons riding their bicycles to the harbor, to the local restaurants preparing fresh seafood, the city thrives on tourism and the sea. Even though I only spent one day there, the local's dedication for preparing delicious seafood was obvious.

Being a Florida native, I know what quality seafood tastes and smells like. I'm not picky by what I eat, but I do have a standard with seafood that's a bit higher than other food, especially when I'm going to pay market price. I came across this place called "Noisy Oyster." I noticed that the outside windows where removed, allowing people sitting in booths to see main street directly outside. I took a chance with the place and sat down to order.

Next to seafood, chicken is one of my favorite meats. While considered a template to build upon, chicken's taste is an excellent compliment to other flavors. Knowing this, I was intrigued to see several combinations of seafood and chicken. However, the Baked Chicken Neptune really caught my eye. The dish is prepared by stuffing a chicken breast with blue crab stuffing and topping it with sauteed mushrooms and a rich cream sauce.

Unlike some places that will skimp patrons on the more expensive ingredients, the dish was literally stuffed with blue crab meat. The flavor was incredible. Very rich and filling.

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