29.9.16

Weekending At Duke

When people think of Duke University, basketball is what often comes to mind. To others, a top ten university or they link it with the hospital, which is a world-renowned academic medical center. I am not sure how many would actually consider it to be a destination of choice for a weekend getaway, as staying on a college campus is probably not the first idea that pops into people's mind when planning a respite. I am hoping to change that thought process.  Plus, If you are local to the area, these are all spots you can visit throughout the year. 

 If I am honest,  I am somewhat biased in my opinion of all things Duke. I've worked part time in athletics for fourteen years. My husband holds a master's degree from the Pratt School of Engineering. He has worked on the campus for the past thirteen years and there is the small detail of getting engaged at half court in Cameron. So yes, I have a connection to Duke and hold it in high esteem but lest you think I am simply trying to sway you...


You should probably know my allegiance is to The University of Virginia;) "Wahoowa"

With that said, let's start on why you should start thinking of a stay at Duke for you next weekend getaway,  staycation, or if you are a parent coming in to visit your kids who are students at Duke...there is a lot more to do on campus than just watch a game of hoops.

For our 13th anniversary, we were able to snag a room at the luxurious and award-winning Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club located right on campus and this year was voted the top college hotel.  The inn sits on 300 beautiful acres and the rooms are elegant and welcoming. The staff is top notch and goes above and beyond to ensure you have a lovely stay. Washington Duke Inn has received the prestigious AAA Four Diamond award for sixteen consecutive years and their restaurant, Fairview Dining Room is one of only two in the state of North Carolina that boasts AAA Four Diamond award. I cannot recommend a stay at this fabulous inn enough. 





For your trip, I am including multiple Duke sights and a few eateries that may not be on campus, but they are very close and delicious!


Possible Weekend Itinerary


4pm: Check In

5pm 
Order libations at Bull Durham Bar. If the weather is still nice, slip onto the veranda and sip your cocktails with a view of the stunning golf course.

6pm 

You can head down to 9th street. If you want a steak dinner; check out Metro 8 Steakhouse. It is an intimate Argentian steakhouse. I love their chimichurri steak but my favorite thing on their menu is their Proveleta. Grilled provolone topped with tomatoes, oil, and spices.



if you are looking for something a little more casual but without losing a thing on service or taste, hop across the street and check out Juju. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Durham. Amazing cocktails and entrees but you must save room for dessert because their chocolate mousse peanut cup is divine!




730 pm
Catch a production at the Duke University theater or if nothing is showing while you are on your visit, head over to Bright Leaf Square and walk around, perhaps stop into Satisfaction and grab a cocktail.

Sat morning

7 am
Golf on the grand course or if you are not a golfer, stroll around campus enjoying the gorgeous buildings. Or, if you are like me, find yourself watching some tv and being lackadaisical in the comfy beds.

10:30 am 
Start your day off in the Fairview Dining Room and enjoy their spectacular brunch. I am a lover of french toast and they serve up one of the best versions I have ever had the opportunity to indulge in: Challah Bread dredged in crushed cornflakes served with an SC peach compote and your choice of bacon or sausage. I am finding myself drooling just thinking about how scrumptious it was. I have it on authority ( just trust me;) that the eggs benedict (prosciutto, tomato, asparagus, and local goat cheese) will also have your mouth watering.





1:00 pm
Duke's Nasher Museum of Art 
The Museum is located on campus and houses more than 13,000 works of art. The collection contains more than 3,000 Pre-Columbian pieces.

3:00 pm
Monuts. Located on 9th street, Monuts is home to some of the most delectable donuts you will ever have the pleasure to eat. The donuts change every day but they usually offer around 8 varieties. This is the perfect afternoon snack and break before heading back to campus.



4 pm 
Sarah P Duke Gardens One of my favorite places on campus ( and actually one of my favorite in all of The Triangle) The flowers are so lovely and a visit to these enchanting gardens are a must. The gardens are approximately 55 acres and are divided into four areas. 




730pm
Dinner. Once you have stopped back at the hotel to freshen up, enjoy dinner in the Fairview Dining Room or pop back over to 9th St/Main St and have dinner at the delicious Parazide. Their food is excellent, but I am partial to their cocktails and dessert. 



9pm
 Relax back at the hotel or see if you can catch a movie at the Carolina Theater, completed in 1926. They may also have a theater production going on. We were lucky enough to catch Aziz Anzari doing stand up a few years ago.

Sunday
930 am
On Central Campus, you can grab some chicken & waffles at Dames Express. They're almost famous;) Or, if the line is too busy, head over to Elmo's Diner off of 9th street, just be prepared for a wait at either place. 

noon: Check out of Washington Duke Inn

1 pm 
The Duke Lemur Center is a must. The DLC is an 85-acre sanctuary for Prosimian Primates and is the largest of its kind in the world. They offer daily tours and each tour lasts approximately an hour. The current colony consists of between 250-300 primates, representing 25 species. The tour is very informative although I do suggest that you purchase the bug repellent wipes they offer! This was a very neat experience and one I fully endorse checking out.



3pm
Head back over and meander your way around West Campus. Check out the newly renovated Wallace Wade Stadium where the football team plays before making your way to the famed Cameron Indoor Stadium. Take a few photos out front and walk around to Krzyzewskiville where the students tent before games.



4pm
Tour Duke Chapel or stay for one of their musical performances. This is one of the most impressive sites on campus and is the center of West Campus. The Chapel is in collegiate gothic style and stands 210 feet high. It was completed in 1935 and was restored last year before reopening in May. There are three pipe organs, one consisting of more than 5,000 pipes! 

There truly is so much to do and see on your visit to Duke!

31.8.16

Strawberry Cheesecake Cannolis

I have mentioned before but when it comes to traditional cannolis, I am just not the biggest fan. Sweetened ricotta just isn't my thing. My last name is Baldassari so I realize this is a big no-no but I make mine with either cream cheese or mascarpone cheese and I just love them. Makes it seem more like a cheesecake stuffed cannoli and I am all for anything cheesecake style. If you wanted to stay with ricotta you could, just use more strawberries and a little vanilla and about 2 to 3 tbsp of sugar. 

I somewhat cheat on these as I buy my shells already made from the bakery next door but look, I know what my strengths are and making cannoli shells ain't it;) However, if you want to make this recipe from scratch, here is a fabulous recipe for cannoli shells and then you would just dip them in dark chocolate and let rest for about an hour or so. Cannoli Shells 

Now we will take this recipe from completed cannoli shells.

Strawberry Cheesecake Cannolis
12 large Cannoli shells or 24 mini shells
8 oz strawberry cream cheese
1/4 lb chopped strawberries
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

In a large bowl, whip the cream cheese until smooth, add in the strawberries and whip on low, just until combined. Add in the whipping cream and whip on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Place in ziplock bag or piping bag. Fill each cannoli, making sure to fill from both sides. 


You can enoy them now but I believe they taste much better after about an hour in the fridge. 

29.8.16

Hawks Nest & New River Gorge, WV

This weekend I was able to head to the gorgeous area of Hawks Nest State Park and New River Gorge in "Wild and Wonderful" West Virginia. We left from Durham on Friday night and it was about a 5-hour drive. Jean had asked me to join her for a very meaningful and important task and I was quite honored to go.   Our drive was just gorgeous...or, I am sure it was but it was pitch black outside so we weren't able to tell until waking up Saturday;)

We had a little GPS snafu but after stopping for directions found the lodge located in the state park. We were slightly nervous we may be sharing a bed and as we got off the elevator and saw a men's room and a women's room, we readied for the mindset of shared bathrooms. Once Jean opened the door to our room she quipped "good news. Two beds and our own bathroom!!"

The lodge was built in the 70's and it shows but the rooms were nice and clean and the beds were super comfy. I noticed we had a balcony and wondered if we would have a great view. Once we woke up, I was not disappointed and was greeted with a majestic view of the gorge.



We got breakfast and whatever you do...skip the lodge restaurant. Blech isn't even a strong enough word.

After we checked out we realized that the tram to the bottom of the gorge and base of the river was actually located on the lower level of the lodge. Doesn't get any more convenient than that! It is $25 for both the tram ride and the half hour river boat tour. We really enjoyed both. We were able to see the train trestle and the dam/tunnel and then he took us back to the real highlight of the New River, the bridge. It is the 3rd largest single span bridge in the world and the 4th tallest in the US at 876 feet. The bridge is quite the show stopper and my pictures cannot truly do it justice.







After our river cruise ( which I definitely recommend, we went fast and saw amazing sites, plus Rick, the owner, and his wife were funny and one of my favorite parts of the weekend) we stopped at an overlook, which was splendid and awe inspiring. The most fun part was that across the street from the overlook was a covered shelter and they had a wedding reception set up. By far the nicest shelter I have ever seen, complete with a gorgeous fireplace.

After this, we headed towards the bridge to get a better view from the top. We then drove over the bridge to the adorable town of Fayetteville and this is where our food choices took an upswing and I was able to indulge in one of the better pizzas I have ever had. We stopped into Pies & Pints and what a delicious surprise. I got the white pizza with goat cheese and steak. Divine and Jean ordered the most unique pizza combo I have ever heard of: Grapes and Gorgonzola! She raved about it.







We then walked around Fayetteville a little bit, taking in the small town charm. We came upon a few more food options that looked scrumptious and were packed... so small town Fayetteville turned out to be a foodie paradise.

If you a planning a trip to this area, a stay at the lodge was fun. It was nothing fancy but the location was perfect and the beds were comfy. You will find more hotel options in a half hour radius. This area is known for kayaking, zip lining, and white water rafting. I can only imagine how gorgeous it is in the fall!

15.8.16

The Weekend We Almost Melted

This past weekend we went to Richmond to watch my nephew's baseball games and to visit Water Country USA. We stayed at an Aloft just outside of downtown and had a fabulous visit with good eats and good music, plus catching up with my family. Richmond and Williamsburg are two of my favorite spots so I most definitely recommend a trip to either place!

I will just take a moment to say that I still have not cooled off, 24 hours later. The temps were 96 degrees with a heat index of 110 and being outside in the direct sun all weekend was pretty miserable. Even being at the water park didn't help. It was so hot it that we were just pouring sweat! 

We made the most of our visit though and checked out the absolutely beautiful Lewis Ginter Botanical gardens in Henrico just outside of Richmond. This is one of the best botanical gardens in the country and aside from the oppressive heat, our visit didn't disappoint. The grounds are gorgeous and ,while I adored the impressive greenhouse with all the butterflies, my favorite was the tree house. The view through the skewed windows was fabulous and it offered a little shelter from the sun. If you are in Richmond I suggest a stop at this lovely spot! 



On Sunday we gout going early and drove the short hour to Williamsburg to check out Water Country USA. Our last visit there was about 4 years ago and ended with me having a kidney stone. It was also pouring rain. I was really pumped to get back and check it out in the sunshine. 


Note to self: Light rain never hurt anybody. Haha, it was almost miserable. We had a fabulous time and enjoyed the park but even the water rides couldn't stop it from feeling like we were sitting on the surface of the sun. We made it for about 2 and a half hours and then we caved and left!. 

Headed back to Richmond this weekend for a fun weekend at Kings Dominion so here is to hoping it stays below 90, fingers crossed!

11.8.16

Please Come To Boston

Last month we were able to take two quick, and back to back weekend trips up to Boston and we packed each one full of fun times. The first weekend we surprised my in-laws by flying up to help celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary with a view at Top of the Hub. It was a lovely dinner and the next weekend we popped up for a last minute bbq (this is what us Southerners refer to as a "cookout", it didn't qualify as a real "BBQ" ;) with Tony's family. We often miss out on so many of the gatherings up there and it was a treat to be able to see everyone and enjoy a good party!

Each trip was full of good eats, cocktails and, plenty of catching up. Tony was able to get lobster each weekend and I got to partake in some really good cider. We both came away happy. I also got to squeeze in a visit to one of my favorite blog friends, Kerry. We may have met through blogging, but we are full on real life friends as of now. 

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was taking the water taxi in from the airport to Boston. It is not that expensive, relatively fast, and the views can't be beat! If you are ever flying in and out of the city, I totally recommend this on at least one leg of your journey!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures from both weekends. Can't wait to get back up for another visit in the fall! 

The Harbor from the water Taxi



Dinner with the family and a view at Top of the Hub in Boston


That view though!

Lobstah Roll, Local Boston cider: DownEast, and Gouda & Sweet Potato Panini