Part 4 in a Series: Discovering Blowing Rock
By now, everyone should know that Blowing Rock, NC, in the state’s western mountains is the inspiration for Mitford in the Jan Karon series. It’s also home to Tweetsie Railroad, North Carolina’s oldest amusement park, and, as reported here, home to the year-old Blowing Rock Museum of Art & History Museum (BRAHM) that’s currently showcasing works by NC artists Bob Timberlake, Glenn Bolick and Max Woody.
Now is a great time to start planning your Blowing Rock getaway, especially if you want your trip to coincide with the mountains’ fall leaf season. You might want to check out the dozen or more bed-and-breakfasts in charming Blowing Rock (named Prettiest Town in North Carolina in a poll a few years back).
We’ve had the pleasure of sampling a couple of Blowing Rock’s B&Bs in the past, including Maple Lodge www.maplelodge.net at 152 Sunset Drive, and The Blowing Rock Victorian Inn www.blowingrockvictorianinn.com, 242 Ransom Street.
This trip, it was interesting to take a look inside the Inn at Ragged Gardens, a beautiful, historic property. While we didn’t overnight there (we stayed at Chetola’s Bob Timberlake Inn), we were very fortunate to sample a delicious dinner at the Ragged Gardens’ Best Cellar Restaurant. The inn and restaurant are across the street, incidentally, from Maple Lodge, which was recently bought by Ragged Gardens’ owners.
We selected two of Best Cellar’s signature dishes as our entrees: Filet Oscar and Best Cellar Tuna Marinade. Other signature dishes are Almond Encrusted NC Black Grouper with Smoked Gouda Cream Sauce; Filet au Poivre, an eight-ounce filet with brandy peppercorn cream; and a half Roast Duckling with Raspberry Sauce.
One of the nightly specials was a Spring Rack of Lamb, also recommended by our waiter along with the popular regular menu items. Other specials included Salmon Encrusted with Macadamia Nuts, a 12-ounce Veal Chop, plus Four Filet Medallions. Of course, there was also Mountain Trout available.
We started with a wonderful presentation, the Seafood Sampler of Crab Cake, Oysters Rockefeller, Shrimp Cocktail and Flash-Fried Calamari, all served with cocktail sauce, lobster butter and Cajun remoulade sauce. The oysters were delicious, topped with spinach, onion, smoked bacon, Parmesan cheese, then baked and finished with Hollandaise. Fletcher declared the oysters could stand alone without sauce. The appetizer, he said, was “a great mix of tastes and textures with traditional favorites.” The crab cake had a little punch of spicy heat that let the sweet crab linger. The shrimp were jumbo in size and taste (see all our dishes in the slideshow).
As we finished up our appetizer, enjoying the wine and background music, we bid the couple next to us a good evening. They’d just celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary, they said, explaining that they share time between Blowing Rock and New Orleans. They said their duck and rack of lamb were both great, so we are eager for our entrees but first split a nicely prepared Caesar Salad.
As one of the last tables seated for the night, we watch as diners finish up. All look happy and satisfied. Our server tells us to take our time, and we do.
The Filet Oscar arrives, an eight-ounce filet grilled and topped with Jumbo Lump Crabmeat, Asparagus and finished with Béarnaise Sauce. Kathy gives the thumbs up.
Fletcher’s Yellowfin Tuna is marinated in light soy, olive oil, lemon juice and fresh ginger, grilled and served with pickled cucumber ribbons, wasabi and fried wonton strips. He’s less enthusiastic, giving it only OK marks for presentation, the fish is set alone on the plate in a pool of the marinade, and for taste, saying some flavor was lost in the preparation.
Nevertheless, we don’t despair; the setting and the service were great, and we’re well satisfied at the course’s end.
About Best Cellar
The Best Cellar Restaurant dates to 1975 and was originally located in a basement on Main Street, where previous owners sold soups, sandwiches and new and used books. The name was derived from the fact that the restaurant sold books in a basement, hence The Best Cellar. Over the years, the menu evolved from sandwiches and soups to the current higher-end offerings. Breads, desserts and menu items are prepared on site.
For more info: Check out the Inn at Ragged Garden’s website – www.ragged-gardens.com – for a peek at the 12 guest rooms, each with different decor; most have whirlpool tubs. The Treehouse Suite has a separate steam shower and double-sided fireplace. For reservations, call 828.295.9703. The inn sponsors a popular Music on the Lawn Series in the summer.
For what to see and do in Blowing Rock, visit www.blowingrock.com or call 828.295-9099. The town’s popular Art in the Park series runs two more Saturdays: September 8 and October 6 showcasing handcrafted jewelry, pottery, fiber, glass, photography, painting and more.
If you’re going to Blowing Rock this fall, don’t miss the Tweetsie Railroad Halloween Festival on Friday and Saturday nights, Sept. 28-Oct. 27, and Tweetsie’s Ghost Train. We loved our first-ever ride aboard Tweetsie — a cherished memory for visitors of all ages.