Its been a stressful fall, for sure. But things are looking up and I’ve got a great way to cure that case of cabin fever. For a restorative recovery, take some time away. I suggest you plan a one or two day getaway to Pinehurst and Southern Pines, its good for what ails you and you don’t have to know how to play golf.
Pinehurst, North Carolina is, without a doubt, best known for golf, with just over 40 golf courses in and around the area. Pinehurst Resort operates nine of those courses; the best known of which is Course No. 2, opened in 1907. Designed by Donald Ross, it has hosted several major championship tournaments.
Interesting information, for sure. And the bronze of Donald Ross in PInehurst’s main square is a fun place for photo ops; but what if you don’t play golf – not even the putt-putt variety?
I’m delighted to tell you that there are still lots of beautiful and relaxing ways to enjoy this part of the Old North State – and you should take advantage of them all. Pinehurst is a charming village build in a pine forest. Enjoy the quiet and all the trails, paths and parks all around the area. And, make time to meander your way through the fabulous Sandhills Horticultural Gardens in Southern Pines.
Walk, relax, refresh; antique; dive into the history of the area; and enjoy several different agricultural opportunities. Then, of course, there is the food.
Load up the car; head for Pinehurst; but stop for Ice Cream along the way
For this food-centric itinerary, the fun starts at The Berry Patch in Ellerbe, NC. Stop for the best evahhh homemade ice cream with 20 + flavors to choose from.
And don’t forget photo ops in front of the World’s Largest Strawberry.
Then, if you wander around to the side of the building you’ll also see what is probably the world’s largest watermelon! This is a cleverly painted oil tank, admittedly, not quite as picturesque as the building shaped and painted like a strawberry, but it goes along with the produce stand theme and it is fun to see.
Look for an incredible selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, dried locally grown peas and beans, delicious homemade pimento cheese from Conrad & Hinkle in Lexington, NC; and one of my new favorites, North Carolina Carolina Gold Rice from Tidewater Grain Company, in Oriental, NC.
But that’s not all – they even have local green peanuts for those of you who still want to try your hand at boiling your own! Remember this post?
You’ll find all this plus the World’s Largest Strawberry just a 90 minute drive away from Charlotte or Raleigh and a little bit closer to Greensboro! Open every day 8 am to 5:30 pm, its all in Ellerbe, NC at The Berry Patch !!!
Pro- tip here – Bring a cooler. Plan to pick up lots of local produce and product. Don’t miss the locally made Conrad & Hinkle pimento cheese, oh my!
First Coffee, Then Everything Else!
The village of Pinehurst is a great place for walking with restaurants, shops, charming neighborhoods and the Pinehurst Resort all within an easy stroll. We got into town between meals and decided to explore. A stop for coffee at The Roast Office provided just the Pick-me-Up we needed. This cute little coffee shop located at 95 Cherokee Road at the sight of the old Pinehurst Post Office is doing it right, with marked social distancing and patio seating. Upon arrival expect to have a temperature check. but even that is fun as its done electronically via an iPad all before you can enter the shop. Once you are there, enjoy a splash of local dairy in your go-to cup-o-Joe.
Historic Inns, always have a story to share
Our home away from home for our September getaway was The Magnolia Inn in Pinehurst. The stately mansion features guest rooms upstairs and an Italian restaurant downstairs. A serve-yourself muffin and juice bar is available for guests in the morning. The charming porch is perfect for rocking and people watching during the day, until it transforms into a much requested alfresco dining seating during the evening hours.
Like every historic inn in the city, The Magnolia has lots of stories to tell. The third oldest inn in the village, it was originally built as a four-floor boarding house in 1896 by James Walker Tufts, the American entreprenuer who designed and built the village of Pinehurst.
But, not everything always goes according to the plan. Several years later, when the Carolina Hotel opened in 1900, Tufts who set up living quarters in an apartment at the Carolina, was disturbed that the Magnolia Inn obscured his view of his developing village. To rectify the situation, he promptly cut off the top floor of the Magnolia. Now with three levels for lodging, guests can still meander up the “stairway to nowhere” which originally provided access to the fourth floor.
Cheesy Does It in West End, NC at Paradox Farm Creamery
Who among you loves cheese? If you were one of the millions who just raised their hands, pair that fact with an opportunity to visit with sweet goats, a cute trio of pigs, chickens, sheep and several farm dogs; and you’ve got the perfect reason to plan a morning or afternoon at Paradox, a goat cheese dairy in West End, NC.
We simply loved meeting Cheesemaker and farmer Sue Stovall at Paradox Creamery in West End, NC. Like a lot of other farmers this year, the financial constrictions related with the COVID-19 pandemic hit her farm hard. But, she’s made some adjustments and has discovered a new way to make it all work. And, through it all, she continues to keep her keen sense of humor, making delicious and creatively crafted aged and fresh goat cheeses all long the way!
Take A Tour, Taste The Cheese
While the property is a working farm, the lay of the land is beautiful and is available to book as a wedding and event venue, as that makes sense again. For now, you can book group or family tours buy purchasing tickets in advance. Your private tour time includes 60-90 minutes on the farm; hanging with the goats, feeding the chickens and pigs, visiting with the new herd of sheep and possibly a few little lambs! There are still open tour/tasting dates from now till the end of November 2020. Stay tuned for info on future tours after Thanksgiving and on into 2021.
See where and how Sue and her small but talented staff make cheese and age the cheese wheels for yourself. Pose for a photo-ops with your new farm friends or on or beside the still working antique tractor like I did. When you are a food-centric travel writer, everything is a photo op. Glad that Tom was able to snap this shot of me with Sue.
Then, finish your visit with personal cheese tasting. The fresh and aged cheeses here are delicious, so you’ll want to try and buy them all. Remember that cooler I told you to bring along at the beginning of this post? You’re going to be glad you have it in the car.
So many options here I wish I could list them all. In this post, I will highlight a few of our favorites stops.
And then, I’ll just have to plan another trip and another blog post to continue the delicious journey and tell you more.
Make plans to drive into Southern Pines to enjoy great chef-driven cuisine from the outstanding take-out at Grinders & Gravy, to the locally inspired dinners at Ashtens. From great ways to eat local at Scott’s Table to the crafted cocktails and small plates at The Leadmine. Each of these places offers outdoor seating. You may also opt to eat indoors at Ashtens, Scott’s Table and The Leadmine. Reservations at each of these establishments are recommended.
Grinders & Gravy – Chef Curt Shelvey
My long time friend, chef Curt Shelvey in Southern Pines, NC successfully made the COVID pivot with his restaurant with a complete 180. He went from a fine dining Italian Restaurant originally called Curt’s Cucina, to a cute little take-out spot called Grinders & Gravy in Southern Pines, NC .
Now, instead of going inside, there is a walk up, take-out window with lots of outdoor seating. The picnic tables are locally made by a company that is veteran-owned, just like Grinders & Gravy is. All of the to-go packaging is compostable which makes you feel better as paper and plastic are often tossed away. The vibe and the menu are family friendly and the food is outstanding. Curt and his team are certainly doing it right.
What to order at Grinders & Gravy
Here is the link to the website and online menu. When you go, take my lead, and order The Porkalicious; but, go hungry, cause you’ve also got to order the fried calamari – on their own – just ask for them Cucina-Style – or piled high on a grinder with Curt’s homemade Sunday Gravy. You can also buy quarts of the gravy to take home,… is your cooler full yet?
Grinders & Gravy is located at 515 SE Broad St, Southern Pines, NC; 910-725-1868
Scott’s Table in Southern Pines, NC
Scott’s Table in Southern Pines is a place I’ve heard about for some time, so I was anxious to check it out. Owned my husband and wife team of Scott and Karen Margolis, both of whom are front and center, interacting with customers and making a meal at Scott’s Table a very personal experience. The food and the friendly welcoming staff at this casual family dining spot did not disappoint.
Its all about local here, so you know I loved that.
Look for the big North Carolina map on the wall with pinpoints indicating home for each of the restaurants local vendors.
We tasted a lot at Scott’s including an outrageously delicious vegetarian offering of Roasted Carrot Polenta with Wild Mushroom Ragout. I have photos, but honestly they don’t do this magnificent culinary creation justice. You’ll just have to take my word and go to order it for yourself. You know I wouldn’t steer you wrong.
In the photo above, you’ll see the apple cheddar pecan salad we enjoyed; and perhaps the best crabcake sandwich we’ve ever had. It must be said that we also loved that this sandwich and others on the menu comes with a pile of fresh fried homemade chips, yes, please!
Scott’s Table is located at 311 SE Broad Street, Southern Pines, NC; 910-684-8126
The Leadmine in Southern Pines for Cocktails & Small Plates
When I reached out to people to ask for opinions on where to eat and drink in Southern Pines, The Leadmine was on everyone’s list. Now I am happy to share it on my list of must try places as well.
The small bar and tasting room has the happy luxury of being flanked by a large gorgeous patio; so even with tight quarters inside, there is still plenty of room to socially distance. Craft cocktails are the name of the game here. Bourbons and whiskeys are the specialty.
Tom ordered a gin cocktail made with a lavender simply syrup while I very much enjoyed a smoky Old Fashion. I learned a lot about the preparation as I filmed mixologist Chad stirring and shaking things up.
Plan a trip to The Leadmine soon. Its a great place to spend the evening, or kick off the evening when next you are in Southern Pines. The Leadmine is located at 132 W Pennsylvania Ave, Southern Pines, NC; 910-684-8703
Ashten’s in Southern Pines, NC
Ashten’s is another restaurant I’ve been wanting to go to for years. Not sure what took me so long, but this first visit won’t be my last. Executive Chef Matt Hannon and restaurant owner Ashley Van Camp are doing it right every step of the way with a mostly local menu that supports dozens of local farms and producers throughout the year.
Matthew is actually who made me aware of Paradox Creamery. When you eat at Ashten’s the chances are good, you’ll see at least one dish featuring Paradox cheeses. We enjoyed a peach and tomato caprese salad with a Paradox’s Hickory Creek – a brie style cheese that wowed us big time. The peach and tomato caprese season has passed now, but that’s the beauty of eating at Ashten’s, its always, different, always in season and always delicious.
New things to come
While I was in town, I stopped in at Ashten’s during the day and Matt gave us a little tour of things to come at the restaurant. During the COVID downtime, Matt and Ashley decided to do a bit of clean up in the basement of the historic building and made an amazing discovery. A hand painted mural underneath years of old wallpaper. Here is a snippet of what it looks like…
They are gradually and carefully uncovering the historic art and are slowly but surely having it restored by a local artist. In 2021, look for the opening of a speakeasy sort of bar in the Ashten’s basement. The “new” old murals, served as the inspiration. Stay tuned for details after the first of the year.
Ashten’s is located at 140 E New Hampshire Ave, Southern Pines, NC ; 910-246-3510.
Next on to Aberdeen, NC for Trains and a Train Wreck of a Breakfast (in a good way)
In Arberdeen, it’s all about the railroad, antiques and a great not-to-be-missed spot for breakfast called Mason’s.
This little historic town is still developing but even with the pandemic, construction is underway and new businesses are getting on track. Among them, this charming little breakfast and lunch spot. Mason’s, open for less than a year and named for owners Brian and Alison Hainley’s son, Mason; is already becoming well-known across Moore County.
Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery is open for breakfast and lunch as well as Saturday and Sunday brunch. Grocery shelves stocked with an ever growing assortment of local retail product line the back wall.
At the table, the square-shaped from scratch biscuits here are bigger than your hand, and the orange juice is fresh squeezed. I feel sure everything is good, including a scrambled egg dish called Birdie’s Hot Mess, named for the Hainley’s daughter; but take my advice. Its the advice that was given to me – order the Train Wreck. You’ll love it and I will be very impressed if you can eat it all.
Mason’s is located at 111 N Sycamore St, Aberdeen, NC; 910-757-0155
Before or after your meal at Mason’s walk the city and do a bit of exploring. there is an old railcar there for photo ops as well as a small by-appointment train museum in addition to several great little antique stores and a host of other locally owned storefronts.
One more stop before we head home
Before you leave, or on your way to Pinehurst and surrounds, be sure to take time to stop in Cameron NC to enjoy the award winning heirloom apple hard cider from James Creek Ciderhouse.
This fabulous hard apple cider is a longtime favorite of mine. The fact that owners Ann Marie and David Thorton pick heritage breed apples from their own Moore County orchard to press, blend, and age for each bottle says a lot.
Ann Marie and David, pictured above, have been picking and pressing Southern heirloom apples from their home orchard for their award winning ciders since 2016. With over 65 different varieties of heirloom and heritage apples on site, the flavors in their cider are well blended and distinctive in taste and aroma. I love them because they lean more to wine than beer; but, as I have said before, these ciders are honestly in a beverage category all their own.
You’ll find James Creek ciders all across the Sandhills region. The Thorton’s are slowly working on getting distribution across the state, but if you can’t find James Creek in your favorite bottle shop or restaurant bar, know you can order it direct here.
Cider Tastings and Tours
When you go to the cider house in Cameron, you can order a glass or a flight on tap; and buy bottles to enjoy onsite or take home. at the ciderhouse, James Creek offers order ahead contactless curbside pick-up; and are glad to do the same at the Carrboro, NC farmers market, just outside of Chapel Hill.
They often hold fun family friendly socially distanced events in collaboration with area restaurants, chefs and food trucks. And, they frequently co-host Cider and Slider nights Ashten’s.
Mark your calendars, the next one is going to be on Saturday November 21 from 1 to 9pm . Follow their social media on Facebook and Instagram and go to the James Creek website to subscribe to their newsletter for all the details.
On Sunday, November 15 from 1 to 6 pm. Plan to join the team at James Creek for HarvestFest at the tasting room. Attendees can watch Socially-Distanced Demonstrations of Apple Pressing and make reservations for Tours of the Cidery at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30 time slots; or Tours of the Orchards at 2:30 & 4:30.
Once you get back home with your cider – or have it delivered to your door. Try your hand at crafting these two delicious seasonal cocktails featuring two of the popular James Creek ciders.
Crafting Seasonal Cocktails
In addition to sipping them as they come from the bottle, I also enjoy using them to craft seasonal cocktails. Here are a pair of recipes Ann Marie and I conceptualized for a private team building class. I’ve shared them once before, but I thought it would be nice for you to be able to save all the info on James Creek all in one place.
To craft these two cocktails, other than the cider, you’ll need local honey ( I used Cloister Honey’s arbol infused honey) from Charlotte ( also available to order online here) , cinnamon and sugar and cinnamon sticks from the Savory Spice Shop, an orange, an apple, ice and your choice of bourbon, rum, vodka or gin. Enjoy!
James Creek’s Stone Fence Cocktail
A delicious craft cocktail featuring cinnamon, sugar and apples along with your favorite Bourbon of rum and splash of James Creek Stargazer Shooting Star cider.
- 3 Tbsp. , each orange juice and a mix of cinnamon and sugar to coat the rim
- 4 oz your favorite bourbon, rye or rum. I love keeping it NC local and enjoy this cocktail with TOPO Distillery Eight Oak Whiskey or Muddy River Distillery’s Queen Charlotte rum
- 2 Tbsp. (more or less to taste) of Saigon Cinnamon and organic sugar available at the Savory Spice Shop
- ice cubes
- James Creek Ciderhouse Stargazer Shooting Star cider, to taste
- apple slices and a cinnamon stick, for garnish
- Begin by dipping the rim of your glass first into the OJ and then into a bit of the cinnamon/sugar mix. Do not twist the glass as you dip. Simply dip in straight in and lift it straight out for a perfect cinnamon and sugar rim.
- Pour bourbon and sugar/cinnamon mix into the glass; carefully stir till the sugar melts into the bourbon.
- Add ice to the glass; top with the James Creek Stargazer Shooting Star cider.
- Garnish with slices of apple and a cinnamon stick to finish. Cheers!
James Creek Orange Harvest Moon
A refreshing blend of spicy honey and orange mixed with vodka and gin and a splash of James Creek cider
- 4 oz your favorite vodka or gin. My local North Carolina go-to’s for this one are TOPO Distillery Vodka, Chemist Spirits Navy style Gin, or Sutler’s Distillery Gin
- 2 oz orange juice
- 3 Tbsp. Cloister Honey arbol infused honey
- 2 slices fresh orange, seeds removed
- 2 slices fresh apple, seeds removed
- Pour vodka, OJ and honey into the glass; stir till the sugar or honey melt.
- Add orange and apple slices to the glass. Top with ice
- Pour James Creek Cider House Harvest Moon cider to the top of the glass.
- Garnish with a spring or fresh mint. Cheers!
None of this would have been possibly with the kindness and cooperation of all of these establishments and my friends at the Home of American Golf, the visitors bureau for the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen area.
Thanks so much to everyone for their help in letting me explore and helping me share the story about all there is to see do, see and eat and drink in Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen, West End and Cameron, NC.
Plan your next visit now. In addition to all the details I have shared here. You’ll find more info at the Visitors Bureau website.
I can’t wait till our next trip to the area, stay tuned. And as always, when you go to visit, be sure to #TellThemHeidiSentYou
Before we part ways today, I’d also like to point out that nearly all of these businesses mentioned here are participating in the Count On Me NC COVID safety program that is a partnership between Visit NC and the NCRLA. I’m proud to say I’ve also made the pledge and you should too.
Together, we can all get through these times keeping each other safe and still be able to travel, while supporting local businesses, restaurants and retailers along the way.