Southern Chat: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes at The Public Kitchen and Bar in Savannah

When I return from my travels, I have stories that I am required to write because I am on assignment and then there are stories that I write just because I want to write them. Those stories are the ones that I write about first because they are easy and fun. No one is expecting my best work in a review. In fact, no one is expecting one thing from me.

While in Savannah, I didn't expect to find the most delicious stewed okra and tomatoes that I've ever tasted in my life.

No one knew when I was dining at The Public Kitchen and Bar in Savannah, Georgia a week ago today that I owned this blog, and that I was passing through town as a guest of Savannah Lodging on my way to JekyIl Island for a "Pack Your Bags" feature, and to get information and photography for a future article in the next Skimbaco Lifestyle Magazine.  No one knew that stewed okra and tomatoes would be the first thing I wanted to write about once I got home.I had asked the sales and marketing manager from Savannah Lodging to put together a list of local favorites for me. I wanted to experience the real Savannah, and not the touristy Savannah.

The Public Kitchen and Bar on Liberty Street was a restaurant on my list, handpicked for me.

We stumbled upon the restaurant during our walks, and I saw that it was on my list. We decided to get out of the heat, and try it.  I am so glad we did.

I cannot tell you how much I loved this dish. Both chefs from the restaurant are from North Carolina. That's an interesting little twist. Stewed okra and tomatoes are rarely found on menus in Raleigh so I never eat it.

I may have to ask them if they will share their recipe with all of us. I've looked online, and there are a lot of versions of this dish. I will say that this restaurant's version was both spicy and sweet, which leads me to believe that it could be most similar to the stewed orka and tomatoes recipe on the Deep South Dish cooking blog.. I tasted sugar and a lot of freshness. It was served with jasmine rice.

This dish was so good that I wanted to lick my plate.

The kid's menu is limited, but both of my children ate pasta and loved it.

If in Savannah, dine at The Public Kitchen and Bar. You'll be glad you did.

In other news, we still have about a month of summer vacation so until school starts full-time, my posting will be less on the blog because I'm too busy being out and about, and keeping these kids. Be sure to follow me on social media so you don't miss a trip.

Photo of the Week: Savannah, Georgia #IGTRAVELThursday

For #IGTRAVELThursday, I'm sharing a photo from Savannah, Georgia that was taken from the Instagram account of Old City Walks/Tours.  This is a beautiful account to follow. Savannah is stunning. The company also hosts a smartphone photography walk tour at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tour leaders say that is the best time for the light so keep that in mind when you are traveling.

Savannah, Georgia

I have never been to Savannah, and I'm so excited to visit I'm stopping there on my way to Jekyll Island. I am a guest of  Savannah Lodging, and we'll be staying at The Holiday Inn Express in the Historic District. In a blind poll on my Facebook page, this particular property received the most votes for a family-travel stay they would most like to hear about from me. This hotel is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence winner, and is a consistent top-ranked property in Savannah, Georgia. I don't think this is going to be an ordinary cookie-cutter chain at all. Staff have already given me a long list of things to see, and places to dine. In preps for my visit, the hotel started its Instagram account today so you can start following them @savannahlodging

If you have been to Savannah, leave a comment with your favorite things to see, do and eat because I would love to hear from you. My whole family is with me. We are really only going to be there for a full day and half. I am sure time will fly.

Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram at @HinesSightBlog and @LeighPHines. Our final vacation destination will be the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, my next "Pack Your Bags" feature.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel in Jekyll Island

Be sure to check out my latest "Pack Your Bags" on the Fearrington House Inn and Spa in Pittsboro, N.C.

An InLinkz Link-up

A Luxury Stay at The Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

As you ride down U.S. 15-501 in rural Chatham County in North Carolina, it may be hard for you to believe that one of the top five-star hotels in the U.S. calls this part of the rural South home.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

When you come upon the entrance of Fearrington Village and spot some adorable and rare Belted Galloway cows and goats in the pasture, you may wonder: What am I going to do out here? 

Well, I’ve got news for you. Once you check into the Fearrington House Inn in Fearrington Village, you relax and soak up all that this sophisticated country inn has to offer and you may never want to leave.  

Fearrington House Inn is only eight miles from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is only four miles from the historic town of Pittsboro with quaint shops.  So, in reality, you really aren’t far from anywhere when you check in here. It’s just that this inn makes you feel as if you have escaped to life at a slower pace.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

With its quaint gardens and beautiful interiors, Fearrington House Inn is part of the well-respected Relais&Chateaux membership, with its strict standards on hospitality and gourmet cuisine. 

Relais&Chateaux, founded in Europe, represents 520 charming properties in 60 countries. Inns in this membership tend to be small, luxurious, and family-owned and make you feel as if you are staying in someone’s home.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

These properties are top of the line. With inn rooms at the Fearrington House Inn starting at $325 and suites starting at $545, stays are not inexpensive, but this inn is certainly worthy of special occasions for those who like to splurge now and then on travels. All rates include a gourmet breakfast and afternoon tea.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

It’s not the type of property where valets and a doorman swoop down on you upon arrival. That’s what I love about it. It is more understated, European elegance, but first-class all the way.  There is not a big hotel lobby, but rather small living rooms for guests to relax and have a cup of complimentary coffee.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

Check-in is in a small office with a simple sign. Your host will walk you to your room, or if you are in one of the annex buildings, as we were, you will follow the host in your car while he rides in his golf cart.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

Our Suite

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

There are 32 rooms and suites at Fearrington House Inn, all individually decorated. The inn recently went through a room renovation with new bedding and fabric updates. It was lovely before with a more French provincial look, but I like this new look even more. 

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

Now, let’s talk special occasion. It’s the little things where this hotel completely shines. Will and I stayed here for his birthday and our anniversary, which are about a month apart from each other.  

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

With kids, it’s hard for us to get away without them so we came in between the two events for two nights.  Every staff member we encountered wished Will a “Happy Birthday.” We had champagne on arrival in our living room, courtesy of the general manager and some culinary treats made by Chef Colin Bedford and his staff.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

The bathroom in our suite was divine. There were robes, heated towels, luxurious bath amenities, basically all the amenities you would expect in a five-star property.

The inn provides turn-down with slippers, truffles and port. I think it’s the perfect way to end an evening before slipping into luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

Afternoon Tea

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

Complimentary afternoon tea is served in the main farmhouse each afternoon for inn guests only. It’s quite gourmet and very good. My only complaint is that each tray has only one item of each tea cuisine, so it’s hard for those individuals like me who don’t like to share. It’s perfect, though, for that afternoon pick-me-up.

Gourmet Breakfast

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

The inn offers room service for its guests at a price per entrée, but a gourmet breakfast in the Farmhouse dining room is included as part of your stay. This breakfast is amazing, and you have a full menu to choose from daily.

It is a formal setting, but you don’t have to be formal in the morning. Staff at the Fearrington House Inn wants you to relax and enjoy your vacation. It’s OK to go to breakfast in resort casual attire with little makeup and your wet hair in a clip.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

You are so full from breakfast that you will want to skip lunch, but you shouldn’t. The Fearrington Village offers great lunch options at the Goat, a cafe, coffee and wine shop, and the Granary, an upscale, casual eatery with farm-to-table cuisine.

The Fearrington House Restaurant

You cannot stay at the inn and not have dinner at the main restaurant. It is the only AAA Five Diamond restaurant in the U.S. to be Green-Certified and to have been ranked a top 10 restaurant in America.

The menu changes seasonally, and once a dish leaves the menu, it never comes back, as Chef Colin Bedford and his team are constantly creating new entrees.

It is impressive, and restaurants like this are why the Relais&Chateaux properties have such culinary accolades. Whether you are spending the night at the inn or not, you must dine at the Fearrington House Restaurant. It has remained a favorite of mine since its opening while I was in college.

The Spa at Fearrington

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

The spa in Fearrington Village is a day spa. It has a very shabby-chic vibe about it with pedicures taking place in a tin foot tub. The spa uses Elemis, a leading British luxury spa and skin-care company, for its products.  Nail colors are provided by Essie.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

I had a classic pedicure and a massage during my stay. I loved the spa, and it was the best pedicure I have ever experienced. I will certainly drive back over to the Fearrington spa to have another one. The spa is located about 45 minutes from Raleigh, so if you have lunch in the village and a spa treatment, then, in my opinion, that makes a great day excursion.

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

There are also some adorable shops in the village, so Fearrington Village is a great place to explore.

Other Hotel Amenities

HinesSight Blog: A Luxury Stay at Fearrington House Inn in Pittsboro, N.C.

Fearrington Village also has bike and walking trails. The inn offers complimentary bicycles for guests to use during their stay.  Guests can also have access to a fitness center and the use of an outdoor swimming pool at the Fearrington Swim and Croquet Club. Guests just have to present a room key to use the facilities.   

Fearrington House Inn is pet and kid-friendly; however, I think it is best suited for romantic giveaways since it's so close to my hometown. 

Want to Go:
Fearrington House Inn 
Pittsboro, N.C. 

Disclosure: Opinions about my hotel stays are my own.

Photo of the Week: A Killer View in Asheville, N.C. from Hotel Indigo

I finally kicked my kids off my computer long enough to get a very quick post together for #IGTRAVELThursday. With my kids home with me 24 hours a day, I'm having a hard time meeting any writing deadlines. At first, I wasn't even sure if I would post today, but I spotted this great photo in my Instagram feed from @VisitAsheville and @HotelIndigo this week and couldn't wait to share it with you.

From the Hotel Indigo Instagram Account 
This penthouse suite at the downtown Asheville boutique hotel is just dreamy. Hotel Indigo has recently unveiled 16 new penthouse suites with floor to ceiling glass windows offering breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and downtown Asheville. Six suites feature terraces and fireplaces. 

Who's ready to go to Asheville now? 

I love Asheville, N.C. and can't wait to get back at some point. Be sure to check out my family travel guide for Biltmore Estate. Early Girl Eatery is also a great family-friendly restaurant in the downtown area. 

Join us for #IGTRAVELThursday. Have a blog link up. If not, use the hashtag #IGTravelThursday on Instagram. 

Southern Chat: Bow-Ties, SnoBalls, Mermaids, and a Family Fun Hotel Stay at Raleigh Marriott City Center

I've been doing something fun in my spare time, and I thought I would let the cat out of the bag today. Visit Raleigh saw that I was having so much fun in my own hometown that they've brought me on board as a writer for the Greater Visit Raleigh blog. I love helping promote all the activities that my hometown has to offer for visitors. I think our partnership is a great one.  

Downtown Raleigh at Sunset

And while on the tourism beat, I've discovered some great things such as the Kennedy & Grace boutique in Garner, N.C.  These bow-ties are made by a local designer. 

Locally-made bow-ties in Garner, N,C.

I also reported on Pelican's SnoBalls in Cary, N.C. We love to get these sweet icy treats. Margarita flavor for me, please. 

SnoBalls are delicious in Cary, N.C.

The City of Raleigh is about to be invaded by a singing Mermaid. NC Theatre will soon debut "Disney's Little Mermaid" in Raleigh from July 29 to August 3. This will be a regional premiere for the popular musical. I'm taking the kids to see it. 

NC Theatre will present Disney's Little Mermaid July 29-Aug. 3
Cast in the role of “Ariel” is Jessica Grové, who has played the role at Paper Mill Playhouse, Pittsburgh CLO, Kansas City Starlight, Sacramento Music Circus and Theatre Under the Stars. Her Broadway credits include A Little Night MusicSunday in the Park with GeorgeThoroughly Modern Millie, and Les Misérables, in addition to a long list of regional and national tour appearances. The production will also star Alan Mingo Jr. as “Sebastian,” a role he understudied on Broadway in 2008. In the role of “Prince Eric” is Ian Parmenter in his third production at NCT, having previously appeared as Combeferre in Les Misérables (’14), and Munkustrap in CATS (’13). 

NC Theatre is also proud to announce eighteen students from their flagship training program, the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory in North Raleigh, appearing in the production, including Joseph Gaitens in the role of “Flounder.” He has previously appeared on our stage in Les Misérables and Oliver!

It should be a great show.  For tickets to NC Theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid, visit or call Ticketmaster at 800-745-3000

We spent the 4th of July in Raleigh. We checked into the Raleigh Marriott City Center, which turned out to be in the center of all the 4th of July firework action.

The Raleigh Marriott City Center

This was my first time staying overnight in the Raleigh Marriott City Center. It is a great location, of course. It's very clean, and has very little wear and tear for a property built in 2008. The rooms have double beds rather than queen beds. The bathrooms are medium-sized and updated. The hotel has incorporated local artwork into its decor which is a nice touch. Our room had a painting of Raleigh's historic city market area. I liked that added touch to give the rooms a local flair. 

Raleigh Marriott City Center

I would definitely stay at the Raleigh Marriott City Center again, but many nights, it is priced over $300 per night with taxes and parking. Since I live here, that price is a lot for me to personally spend to stay at a downtown Marriott (And yes, I cover a lot of luxury hotels, but those hotels are in a different league and overall, the properties offer different experiences than a chain hotel like a Marriott can offer ) in my own hometown just because I want to do so for fun. This particular hotel has a good restaurant, and a Starbucks in the lobby. Children under 4 can eat at the breakfast buffet for free. All of those are great perks. 

There are very few Downtown Raleigh hotels and the area's demand for rooms keep prices on the rise. I will say that the Raleigh Marriott City Center is probably one of the best full-service hotels in  Raleigh with an indoor pool, room service and a great location. There are other nice hotels in the area, but the Marriott is one of those hotels where you can park your car in the garage underneath the hotel and not retrieve it again for several days. Restaurants and museums are all within walking distance. There are a few other downtown hotels that I would consider if I were a tourist, but I've not personally checked those out yet. 

More information on the Raleigh City Marriott can be found online.  

It was great to use as a base for Downtown Raleigh's 4th of July celebration. Fireworks went off right next to the hotel. The group rate for this spectacular event was $119 plus tax so sometimes great deals can be found. 

Fireworks in Raleigh, N.C.

Hope you had a great 4th of July. 

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