September 2018

“Oh, you’re from North Carolina. Have you eaten at The Chef & the Farmer? I just love that show,” exclaimed our dinner companion as we cruised the Erie Canal in July. Her question and the ensuing conversation about the PBS show “A Chef’s Life”  confirms Edward Felsenthal’s recent Time Magazine editorial, in which he stated, “Distinctive Southern music, food and to borrow from Julia Reed, a certain ‘never met a stranger’ civility, are also alive and well…the South has become a net exporter of culture –  and a net importer of people.”

How does one define culture in the 21st
century? When writing about the difference between a “tourist” and a “traveler” earlier this year, I noted that while the “tourist” sees, the “traveler” experiences. Experiencing the cultural food scene of a place opens up a whole new world of tastes, smells and glimpses not only into local cuisines, but into the lives of its residents.

Have you ever thought about the questions we ask when talking to someone who recently returned from a trip? Invariably, “Where did you eat?” comes up. Food helps define a locale’s culture. According to Kristy Tolley, writing for “…a recent AAA travel survey that revealed 75% of Americans believe food and dining are an important part of their travel experiences…”  And her colleague Sarah Hersall, VP of AAA Carolina's Travel & Branch Operations, adds, “Culinary travel is one of the fastest growing travel trends today.

So what are the cuisines of North Carolina that have influenced its culture? There are many answers to that question. And, of course, it depends on who you ask. Here in North Carolina, the food scene has never been more vibrant than it is today. Vivian Howard and Ashley Christensen have elevated the food conversation in our state over the past 10 years, receiving numerous awards and accolades within the industry and beyond. These two women were the recipients of the News & Observer's “Tarheel of the Year” award in 2018. This honor highlighted their contributions not only to the world of fine food, but also their economic impact on their communities. Vivian and Ashley are two of many award-winning chefs across North Carolina, from the mountains to the coast.
Favorite Food Memories

Conde Nast Traveler recently spotlighted each state’s favorite food and where to find it, naming barbeque pulled pork with vinegar sauce as North Carolina’s most famous dish. For me, the foods that top my favorites list include what I refer to as “the taste of summer” – heirloom tomatoes, succulent corn, butterbeans, Dixie Lee peas and peaches. And, like Conde Nast Traveler's writer, Eastern North Carolina barbecue with its tangy vinegar-based sauce, is at the top of my list in the meat category.

While living in Philadelphia, my husband and I would time our trips up and down I-95 to visit his parents in Fayetteville so that we could eat at Parker’s Barbecue in Wilson. Today, multicultural culinary delights abound across the state. With approximately 50 percent of residents born outside the state’s borders, North Carolina exemplifies Mr. Felsenthal’s observation that “the South has become a net importer of people.” Mexican, Asian, Greek, Indian, Thai and many more ethnic restaurants can be found across the state’s landscape. Agriculture and agribusiness lead North Carolina’s economy. Organic farms, producing fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products, are no longer an anomaly. Discriminating “foodies” will find culinary tours in cities throughout the state. In Asheville, one can even take a tour to go “wild food foraging” to discover exotic, edible mushrooms that local restaurants will prepare for your evening meal! Food unites us, inviting us to share our culture with others.

No discussion of food in North Carolina would be complete without including the ever-expanding craft beer and wine industries. Prior to Prohibition, North Carolina was the nation’s leading wine producing state. Today, North Carolina’s wine industry continues to evolve, playing a significant role in the state’s tourism growth.

So, you see, the next time you’re traveling, think about ways to explore the culture of your destination through its local culinary scene. It will connect you to the people and the place in unexpected - and delicious - ways.
Also, I hope you'll take some time on September 28th - National North Carolina Day - to celebrate our state's wonderful history and culture.

(919) 302-0574

North Carolina's State Symbols

In 1955, the North Carolina General Assembly designated the sweet potato as the official state vegetable. Today, North Carolina is the leading producer of these large, starchy, sweet-tasting tuberous roots, harvesting more than 60 percent of the nation’s supply of sweet potatoes in 2016. High in vitamins A and C and low in fat, the sweet potato can be prepared in a variety of ways including baked, candied and French-fried. Make sure you visit us on our Facebook page and share your favorite sweet potato recipe with us!

(Photo courtesy of Natalie Maynor on Flickr)

Upcoming Trip to Pinehurst

This October, join us as we discovery the beauty and the history of Pinehurst. Our first stop is the Tufts Archives where the curator will introduce us to the businessman who started it all. With our guide, we'll meander this walkable village, designed by the renowned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, experiencing a slower pace and quaintness that have turned Pinehurst into the world-class resort destination it is today. Learn more and sign up here.

Also, be on the lookout for details about a special Raleigh tour we are planning for October 25th! For more information, call us at 919-302-0574.

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Have you visited our Facebook page? There you'll find photos, travel tips, articles and other posts about all there is to discover in North Carolina. We might have some fun giveaways to come! Make sure to connect with us here:
What Our Guests are Saying About Us

"The trip to the North Carolina High Country provided an opportunity for us to learn about the Ben Long frescoes, Grandfather Mountain beauty, Elliott Daingerfield art and Eseeola Lodge’s history. Mary Esther’s planning and attention to detail provided us an incredible experience."

"I am a frequent traveler with Mary Esther and Visit NC Concierge. Each trip is well planned, very organized and provides experiences I could never create on my own. I highly recommend Visit NC Concierge if you seek to experience, learn and have all the planning done for you while visiting sites in North Carolina."

"Mary Esther is always available to answer any questions you may have and with great patience. She also is very willing to help solve any problem you may have. She is an excellent planner, director and tour guide. Her trips have been super!"

"Just a short note to tell you how much we enjoyed our curated trip to the Georgia O'Keeffe exhibit yesterday. It was truly first class ... It was our first trip with you and certainly will not be our last."

"We were very well educated as to what we would be doing and what we needed to do to make it all happen. Everything flowed as expected."

"We loved the carriage tour through the historic district. The homes and buildings were beautiful. We loved everything we did and thought each stop was delightful. Exceeded expectations."

"What I appreciate is that you provide guests an opportunity to learn and experience a part of NC while you take care of all the logistics and details!"

Contact us to book your tour today! 
visit NC concierge is a premier hospitality company dedicated to providing the discriminating traveler unique experiences savoring North Carolina’s history, geography, and culture at a leisurely travel pace while enjoying the state’s finest sites, cuisine, and lodgings. Itineraries are subject to change at the discretion of the company. Group size: minimum 10; maximum 30. Registration for each tour closes 30 days prior to tour start date. For more information, visit us at
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