Five things we learned from Travel Geeks North Carolina – mountains, moonshine and barbecue
On 9 March, National Geographic Traveller teamed up with Visit North Carolina to host Travel Geeks – mountains, moonshine and barbecue, an event bringing together an expert panel to discuss all things North Carolina. Writer and musician Emma John, bloggers Carl Hedinger and Christina Riley of NC Tripping, chef, restaurant owner and musician Cheetie Kumar, and PR consultant for Visit North Carolina Margo Knight Metzger joined National Geographic Traveller contributing editor Jo Fletcher-Cross to talk about subjects as diverse as bluegrass music, wild horses, family adventures, farm-to-table eating and craft beer. More than 650 people registered for the event; here are some of the key things we learned:
1 The barbecue is incredible
There’s hot competition for the best barbecue in North Carolina — and styles vary (Eastern is usually whole hog with a thin sauce made of vinegar and spices; Western, also known as Piedmont or Lexington, uses pork shoulder and a vinegar-based sauce with tomato). “On a barbecue trail, we ate our way round historic pits, and at The Skylight Inn, in Ayden, I had one of the best bites I’ve ever had, said Christina Riley. “It was a whole hog barbecue, chopped so that the skin was perfectly crispy. I’ll never forget it.”
2 It’s all about fresh ingredients
“The cuisine of North Carolina isn’t about caricatures like mac ’n’ cheese or coleslaw,” said Cheetie Kumar, explaining why she uses so many seasonal, local ingredients at her restaurant, Garland, in Raleigh. “It’s about grown produce. It’s important to remember that it’s an agricultural place — there are farmers and fishermen, there’s hog-raising and poultry.” Farm-to-table eating is really popular throughout the state, as it’s the natural way to use all the great produce that’s available.
3 Beer can be part of an adventure
Asked to choose just one place to visit in the state, Margo Metzger went for the mountain town of Brevard. “It’s home to hundreds of waterfalls; it’s an outdoor adventurers paradise. The town is really cool, there’s a great vibe and it’s also a great beer town,” she said. “It’s home to some of the most storied breweries in the south.” In the Zoom chatroom, many of our attendees also chimed in with recommendations for craft breweries to visit, including TwoBoros Brewery in Wilkesboro, Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem and the Beericana Craft Beer & Music Festival in Holly Springs, which takes place in September. Christina and Carl also pointed out that most craft beer places are really family-friendly, too.
4 It’s super friendly
“Travelling as a single person, there’s nowhere better than North Carolina,” said Emma John. “It’s an easy place to make friends. There’s nothing strange about eating alone — in fact, you’ll probably be invited onto another table. There’s friendly conversation everywhere.”
5 It has music at its heart.
All our panellists were passionate about North Carolina’s musical heritage. “I grew up listening to bluegrass,” said Margo. “As an adult, my dreams came true when the IBMA World of Bluegrass festival came to Raleigh. It’s become the biggest festival there – a time when the city is awash with music.” Emma suggested visiting Asheville for music, too. “It’s a music city,” she said. “It has the most incredible live music scene, spanning everything from folk to bluegrass and old-time to rock and pop. It has these great venues, like The Grey Eagle and The Orange Peel.” The way to get into local music, she said, was to “be a bit brave — go to things like fiddlers’ conventions and music festivals. During the summer, there’s music in every town at every weekend. Go to the local festivals — even if there’s only a dozen people watching, the musicians on stage are as good as anything you’d see in the Royal Albert Hall. They are at the absolute top of their game”.
Watch the full discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=340576360706034
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