Nothing brings out the little kid in me like a blanket of freshly fallen snow. Add to that delicious food and quality time with my favorite person, and life is grand. My husband Kurt and I took a mini-Christmas vacation in early December to experience Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, where we awoke to 10 inches of pure white, fluffy, undisturbed snow. Then, we headed north for Sevierville, Tennessee, where I have a good friend who’s a performer at Dollywood. It was a vacation to remember — and the food and wine couldn’t have been any better.
For years, I have wanted to visit the Biltmore mansion at Christmas. I’ve driven past the billboards many times and never stopped, but this year, it was my mission to get there. Wow, was it something to see. Now, I am officially obsessed with the Vanderbilt family. Dazzled in the most exquisite holiday decorations, each room of the mansion had its own massive Christmas tree that reached high to the ceiling. The harmonious sounds of a perfectly blended children’s choir greeted us as we entered the home and a live harpist played softly as tourists walked the expansive hallways. The estate grounds were immaculate and from the shopping to the dining, we loved it all. Our first stop on the grounds was the winery, of course. We each sampled our choice of seven different red and white wines. My favorite was Cardinal’s Crest, a medium-bodied soft and easy-to-drink wine with dried herb aromas, rich blackberry flavors and smooth tannins. The marketing concept is effective: we purchased four bottles to bring home!
Just before our self-guided tour through the Vanderbilt home, we enjoyed the most satisfying of meals at a restaurant on the grounds called Village Social. I ordered Frogmore Stew, or as many of you may know it, a Lowcountry Boil. This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill sausage, potato and shrimp song though. Resting in the most flavorful, light broth I have ever tasted and served with two grilled slices of crusty French bread for dipping, the dish included shrimp, clams, lobster, corn, andouille sausage and a mixture of small purple and white tender potatoes. Much to my surprise, when I asked the knowledgeable waitress how the chef prepared the dish, she informed me the restaurant granted recipe requests. I am literally watching my e-mail inbox for the moment this recipe arrives. We finished the meal by sharing a festive dessert: a slice of maple gingerbread cake complete with a gingerbread cookie garnish and hot coffee.
The next morning, we made our way to the Tennessee mountains where we experienced a truly “Tender Tennessee Christmas,” at Dolly Parton’s Dollywood. We were entertained with a wonderful musical titled “Christmas in the Smokies” which had us all in tears by the end. We then rode a coal-fired train around the park to the tune of Dolly Parton singing "Winter Wonderland," oooing and ahhing at the snow-covered, naked tree limbs and Great Smoky Mountains in the distance. In the cold, crisp mountain air as we took in our surroundings, it was a special moment of reflection and peace.
If you’ve never been to Dollywood, one of the famous park foods is the cinnamon bread. It’s a soft, cinnamon-sugar laden twisted bread with doughy texture. You can’t visit the park without at least a sample. Even in the snowfall, people stood in line outside for it. We warmed up with hot chocolate and enjoyed this treat, telling ourselves we had walked enough that day to not count the calories.
At the conclusion of our trip, I gathered up my souvenirs, quickly realizing, with the exception of a few Christmas presents, all the things I’d bought were food and beverage-related: Kettle corn, Rocky Road Fudge, Oatmeal Cookie Moonshine (and yes, it’s just like eating a cookie!), coconut cream coffee and Biltmore wine. I really am a lover of the finer things in life.
I read somewhere this week that there’s scientific proof that a few inches of freshly fallen snow absorb sound. The world definitely seems a little quieter, more calm and still when covered in a seemingly magical blanket of snow. It’s as if nature’s acoustics are aligned with the hectic holiday season to make us all slow down and simply say “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.”
Wherever you spend this Christmas season, I pray it’s filled with less noise and distraction, and more moments of peace and reflection. From my family to yours, Merry Christmas.
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast, writer and the cooking show host of SKG-TV on YouTube. The personality behind the blog, SomeKindaGood.com, she is a public relations graduate of Georgia Southern University and attended Savannah Technical College’s Culinary Institute of Savannah. Search Facebook for Some Kinda Good or tweet her @SKGFoodBlog.