I was lucky enough to spend the weekend after July the 4th at my cousin’s home on beautiful Lake Chatuge on the Georgia/North Carolina border. Quiet, peaceful and beautifully decorated, I cherish the times I spend with them.
We always cook and eat and eat and cook. (A pleasure of life!) Fun and plentiful farm stands abound and Hayesville, NC is blessed with an amazing Ingles grocery store. Great produce and protein selections, the nicest deli folks ever, big aisles, good wine and a walk-in beer cooler. Who knew!
On Saturday, we ventured about thirty miles away to Franklin, NC to have lunch at a local charmer! Caffe Rel. Chef Richard Earl Long (Rel) opened this quaint little eatery in 2003 after spending years working in upscale restaurants along the East Coast. The place is attached to a gas station. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Inside, the décor charms you into thinking you might be in a European bistro. (His inspiration.)
After standing in a quickly moving line outside of the door, the chef greeted us as if we were old friends. Everyone feels comfortable here. He has kept the prices very, very reasonable to keep the locals coming. He admits to not advertising and depends on word of mouth. The Yelp reviews are just tremendous; a rarity in this day and age!
The menu is mainly French with hints of Italian and New Orleans cuisine. Fun, cheeky and delicious food! The staff brings a wonderful fresh tomato relish served with slices of baguette to the table as you peruse the menu. (Just ask the chef and he will give you the recipe!) Place your order and the service is so fast. I had a turkey BLT on a delicious roll. It was warm, perfectly dressed, juicy and a most comforting lunch.
That evening, back in Hayesville, we had reservations to eat dinner at The Copper Door. Having been to this jewel of a restaurant many times before, the food is always consistently delicious and the service superb! Imagine, directly off the square of this small hamlet, next door to the Methodist church, a warm, beautiful, high-end chef driven restaurant with an amazing bar staff, thrives. (Hey, Lewisburg, TN, what up?!?!?!)
After enjoying a light and delicious Hurricane in the bar (Hey, it was the drink special and I wanted something fruity. Shut up!), I started the meal with a warm, comforting cup of a New England clam chowder. Creamy, light and full of the flavor of the sea, it was just what I was hoping it would be. Keeping with the ocean theme, I had the langoustines with pasta. Briny, buttery, savory and satisfying. After our waiter and I had to convince everyone at the table that Rose blends are trending in the wine world (actually, on the back end of a three year trend), the slight dry sweetness of our wine was the fitting compliment to the creamy pasta. Yum.
Living in Atlanta, I realize that I have the best of all culinary worlds. High “Michelin star” dining to fabulous tiny hole-in-the-wall joints, all serving fantastic food. But sometimes, exploring the fun places around the corner in other parts of the country can be just as fun. Eat, drink and be merry!