Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A trip through the Nantahala Gorge on our way to visit friends and have lunch at Zink American Kitchen, a popular uptown eatery in Charlotte, NC

Last week old friends that we’d met when they were cruising on their sailboat in the islands near our home in Abaco invited us to visit them in Charlotte, NC. As we left our home in western North Carolina, the fog was just lifting in the mountains of Cherokee County.



Traveling about thirty minutes east on Highway 19/74, we entered into the Nantahala National Forest. The highway is a serpentine, narrow two-lane road that was once part of the Native American Indian Trail of Tears and winds it way beside the Nantahala River. The river begins high in the mountains and then flows through the Nantahala Gorge, which is narrow and steep. The word Nantahala comes from the Cherokee Indians and means land of the noonday sun. In some areas along the gorge, the sun reaches the ground only when it’s directly overhead. The Nantahala is one of the most popular rivers in the world for whitewater rafting and kayaking.






We arrived in Charlotte around lunch time. Charlotte is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city and a banking capital with the home offices of Bank of American and Wachovia as well as the hub for Continental Airlines. Our friends live in the city so they suggested we walk to Zink American Kitchen, a popular uptown restaurant. As we entered the restaurant we couldn’t help but be impressed with the thirty foot long zinc bar and the deep crimson décor. They told us on the walk over that the chef likes to take traditional American comfort food and reinvent it.

I knew I was at home when I picked up their extensive menu and noticed that they had a Grits Bar. They offer two grits selections as side dishes, or grits du jour as the French would say. I’m from the deep south, so how was I to pass up today’s grits with pimento cheese and ham? It was pure heaven for this little southern girl.

Inspired by Greg at Sippity Sup who does fabulous job with his different food series, such as tomato mania and burgers, I decided right then and there that I would do a series on grits.




My (current) favorite grits recipe comes from Southern Living magazine. It’s a Cheddar Cheese Grits Casserole that always gathers rave reviews. We recently served it for breakfast along with herbed scrambled eggs on wheat toast when we were visiting our family in Florida. Our nephew’s five year old daughter said when she returned to the kitchen with her empty plate, “that’s the best breakfast I’ve ever had.”


I cooked my grits in a soufflé dish, but Southern Living used an 11 x 7 casserole which would allow you to cut squares for serving. Sometimes I add fresh herbs, such as parsley and basil, to the grits mixture for flavor and color. I highly recommend letting the grits sit for a  few minutes after you take them out of the oven before serving. Their texture seems to improve.


Join me next time as I prepare one of my very favorite dishes – Shrimp and Grits.

21 comments:

  1. Lovely photos...very nice and soothing. In regards to the cheese grits looks yummie!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Gorgeous pictures of Nantahala river! A Grits bar sounds super cool and I am very excited about your grits series - love grits! The cheddar cheese grits casserole sounds good!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lovely pictures of that river!

    Your plate of fine food looks scrumptious! yum!

    ReplyDelete
  4. NC is so beautiful I love it here also great review of Zinc always wanted to go there Rebecca oh M5 near South park is great

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's 95 degrees today here and I could really go for some rafting right about now!

    The grits sound terrific too!

    ReplyDelete
  6. The food sounds lovely and your pictures are wonderful -- what a pretty place! And thanks for the grits recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  7. A lovely trip - when I was growing up, we used to to camp in Pisgah Forest - your photos of the river remind me of "Sliding Rock" which my brothers and I thought was so much fun!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love grits! Your pictures make me remember how much I loved NC. I make a grits casserole with artichoke hearts that I just love to serve for brunches.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Sam, I enjoyed this trip through the Nantahala Gorge, especially photos of the river, and enjoyed lunch in Charlotte. Your food --so inviting.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Gorgeous photos, Sam! And mmmmm, grits! These sound delicious...casserole...I don't think I've had them anywhich way but straight up or with cheese! Can't wait to see more grits recipes :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Beautiful photos! Can't wait to see what all you do with grits!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I can almost heat the water, Sam. They are lovely photos and really do convey tranquility. Your grits recipe sounds wonderful. Have a wonderful holiday. Blessings...Mary

    ReplyDelete
  13. Love the name of the trailand the serenity of the river is undeniable. Simply beautiful. I have had grits before and enjoyed them, but have yet to make them. Looking forward to the shrimp and grits recipe.

    ReplyDelete
  14. The food looks great, and the scenery pictures are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
  15. You make me so envious when you travel. You just have the ability to capture the beauty of these places and it makes me want to visit those places!!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I loved the pics of the park .. it's so hot in Paris tehse days and it felt cooler when looking at the freshness of the water and the trees ... oh, thank you for this break.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Your photos of the Nantahala river looks SO inviting...I'll have to bookmark it for white river rafting some day...and of course, then drop in at that reataurant in charlotte!
    ronelle

    ReplyDelete
  18. Aww looks like a great trip! Michael's family went rafting this weekend too. We live in charlotte and I've never been to Zinc, we're gonna have to check it out!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Great pictures. Sounds like you had a great time.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Beautiful pictures of our part of the world! I love it here. Looking forward to your grits recipes. If you ever get to Chapel Hill have the shrimp and grits at Crooks Corner. Sublime.

    ReplyDelete

I enjoy reading each and every comment. I appreciate your taking the time to visit my blog and I hope you'll return again soon.
Sam