The Best of 2013: From Hotel Stays to Great Eats

I just returned from my 45th birthday lunch. I'll be starting 2014 older, wiser, a few pounds heavier, but very happy. We had a wonderful Christmas with family. I hope you did, too.  As we say goodbye to 2013, I thought it would be fun for me to put together a list of my favorites for the year.

Food and Spirits

Yellow Dog scones are my absolute favorite. 

Yellow Dog Bread Company: You are likely to find me at Yellow Dog in the Mordecai area of Downtown Raleigh grabbing a scone and coffee after I drop my son off to school. The scones here are the best anywhere I've had in my lifetime. And I eat a lot of scones. They don't serve cream and jam so I eat them plain here, and they still are fabulous even without the extras. 

Homemade Bloody Mary with TOPO vodka

TOPO Distillery: I'm just going to go ahead and shout it off the rooftop. I love TOPO, which is located in Chapel Hill, N.C. I toured the distillery earlier this year, and was certainly impressed by the operation. However, it's the taste of its distilled spirits that really won me over, and had me craving my own gin and tonics at home. I bought my husband the vodka for Christmas, but I was the first one to make a Bloody Mary. 

Capital Club 16: I have only eaten dinner here once, but it was enough to make me want to come back sooner rather than later. I love this little downtown Raleigh spot with a very eclectic and casual menu. The menu is American with European influences. I think it may be my go-to spot in 2014. 

Trophy Pizza. 

Trophy Brewing and Pizza Company: What can I say? Trophy does beer and pizza well. Really well. It's a small brew pub in Downtown Raleigh, located on W. Morgan Street.  Seating is limited, but it is worth the wait to have some of the best pizza, fresh salads, and beer in Raleigh. Their homemade beers keep me going back for seconds, thirds, and fourths. 

Sola Coffee Cafe

Sola Coffee Cafe: I don't get to this North Raleigh spot often because it's not anywhere near my home, but I think it's one of the best coffee cafes in the Triangle. It's home to the hot mini which will melt in your mouth. It's delicious. The coffee cafe also serves dinner, and probably has one of the smallest kitchens in the Raleigh area, but everything that comes out of the kitchen is top-notch on freshness and taste.  I'm also big on the cute little red mugs they use for coffee. 

The Fairview Dining Room at the Washington Duke Inn:  I think one of the best luxury bargains in the Triangle is the Washington Duke Inn's Dinner at Dusk menu. From 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm, you can have a three-course menu for $35 per person. The menu  is not limited on choices at all.  It's a smaller version of the dining room's main menu, but in my opinion, Chef Jason Cunningham is showcasing some of his best dishes on the Dinner at Dusk menu. The Fairview Dining room is elegant, and a great place for fine dining. 

Taziki's Mediterranean Salad

Taziki's Mediterranean Cafe is a favorite go-to lunch spot for me in Cary, N.C. I love it's take on healthy cuisine, and am a huge fan of the Mediterranean salad. At $6.29 it is a bargain for the freshness and quality. 

The Umstead Hotel and Spa

The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, N.C. is a place I recommend to have a drink, and take in the unique artwork in the rotating art gallery. Sure, this luxury hotel has a fantastic five-star restaurant, but I like to experience the simpler side of this luxury property as a local resident.  As soon as I walk into this hotel, I feel my blood pressure drop to a tranquil bliss. This luxury hotel interweaves nature with an urban, contemporary decor. Drinks on the patio in spring, summer, fall make the perfect Triangle evening.  Also, for a perfect organized event, take advantage of the Umstead's uncorked series which is the last Thursday of each month. Sommelier Hai Tran leads this informative wine tasting for an hour in the Lobby Lounge. 

Favorite Luxury Hotel in 2013

Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, NC 

Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands, North Carolina wins top honors for me the best hotel in 2013. We traveled to some wonderful places this year, and stayed in great hotels so it's definitely hard to choose a favorite. I really loved every place we stayed.  All were unique, different and special. I loved something about each property I visited. 

Madison's Signature Cocktails during the Holidays. This photo got me with an eggnog martini. Yes, please!

However, I took everything into account to declare a 2013 winner. I reviewed the charm of the property, the look of the hotel rooms, the ambiance, the cuisine, and the charm of the travel destination.  Highlands is not close to Raleigh at all so it's not a quick getaway, but once you arrive, you never want to leave. 

The bathroom in the new Falls Cottages

Old Edwards Inn and Spa has European charm with a luxurious flair.  The rooms are absolutely gorgeous. The bathrooms steal the show with its heated marble floor,spacious tubs, and heated towel racks. The complimentary Dove bars in the butler's pantry make you feel right at home. 

The Living Room in the  new Falls Cottages

I plan to write a travel recap, and perhaps even a recipe recap for the blog, but if I don't get back on here until January. Have a very Happy New Year!!


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