4.29.2018

Five Fantastic Foods You Cannot Miss at the Ham and Yam Festival in Smithfield, NC

Foodies rejoice yearly when Smithfield, North Carolina hosts its Ham and Yam Festival. This is one of the southern towns biggest spring traditions. It's a day filled with food, bands, and games for the kids. You need to wear your fat pants and go hungry.



This festival started 34 years ago between the town of Smithfield and Smithfield, Virginia over the bragging rights of who had the best ham. Smithfield, NC got the top honor for two years in a row, and on the third that Virginia town with the same name decided not to head south for another ham-whooping.

Smithfield, North Carolina kept on with the tradition of hosting a festival the first Saturday in May.  .

Most of the food sold at the festival is made regionally in North Carolina or in Johnston County.

1. Kiwanis' Ham Biscuits


Country Ham  Biscuits is a staple in Johnston County


The Kiwanis start making ham biscuits early that morning and the booth typically has a line most of the day. It's a great combination of salty-savory country ham on a fluffy biscuit. It's one of the most popular foods at the event.

2. Sweet Potato Lemonade

I've never heard of such a drink before, but sweet potatoes are quite versatile. Sweet Potatoes are commonly found in beer and liquor so why not lemonade. The sweet potato lemonade is made by Wrights Sisters Concessions in Mt. Olive, N.C. It's an item created just for the ham and yam festival.

3. Sweet Potato Souffle Ice Cream

This delicious ice cream is made by Smitty's Homemade Ice Cream. They have storefronts in Burlington,  Graham, and Elon. They make the journey to Smithfield for the festival. Getting their ice cream is well worth any wait in line.


4. Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie


Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie is a hybrid between a sweet potato pie and a cheesecake.


This decadent pie is a favorite dessert item in the Ham and Yam Festival. In fact, it's the star attraction for the pie-eating contest. It's made locally in Smithfield and it's a hybrid between cheesecake and sweet potato pie. Watch as I tasted this heavenly pie live this year.

5. Sweet Potato Smoothies 

Long-time vendor Sam Sawaya created the sweet potato smoothie just for the festival. It may sound a little unusual, but people are loving it over his delicious strawberry, banana and pina coladas. Well, the health benefits of drinking a yam a day are certainly no scam. Sweet Potatoes are filled with Vitamins A and C. This dish, the baked sweet potatoes, and the sweet potato chips are probably the healthiest items served at the festival, but no one counts calories at Southern food festivals.

Other Finds

Funnel Cake Served at the Smithfield Ham and Yam Festival

Make sure you go hungry and try the following: Funnel Cakes with Ham and Yam Toppings, Baked Ham Sandwiches, Yam Cotton Candy, Sweet Potato Cupcakes and Sweet Potato French Fries. All food vendors at the festival have to showcase an item with either ham or sweet potatoes.

Study this map so you will know where to park.  Also, the Simple Twist Taproom and Bottle Shop will be open to serve craft beer and alcoholic beverages.

Smithfield, North Carolina hosts the Ham and Yam Festival the First Saturday in May. Foods containing #sweetpotatoes and #Ham are the stars. The highlight is the Sweet Potato Cheesecake Pie.



FTC Disclosure: This post is sponsored by VisitJoCo Tourism as part of an OutaboutNC tourism campaign. This curated post was written by Leigh Powell Hines as a tourism marketing partner. 

4.20.2018

The Top Outstanding Reason Why the Renaissance Asheville Hotel is Good for Families

Asheville's Renaissance Hotel has some history in the city. It was one of Asheville's first modern skyrise hotels, built decades ago. Even though it's not historic, it is located next to the historic Thomas Wolfe House and is within walking distance to all that downtown Asheville offers travelers. 



We all know that a hotel or its staff can't do anything about its location, but the good news for the Renaissance is that this property is prime when it comes to downtown real estate. It's a great location for travelers to get to restaurants and shops on foot. Once you park for free in the hotel parking lot (another perk), you never have to move your car.  No doubt. This hotel has a great location, but this Marriott branded property has more than just its location that makes it shine.

Here are five other reasons that will make you, especially those traveling with children, want to stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Asheville.

5. The Perks of a Full-Service Property 

The Renaissance Asheville Hotel is a full-service property. What does that mean? It means someone will help you with your luggage if you want. If you're a traveling family, you typically have a lot of it with you. Families usually have multiple bags, electronic devices, pool toys, drinks, snacks, and lots of stuffed animals.


Families travel with a lot of luggage and things. The Renaissance Asheville is a full-service property



It also means room-service is available to you at full-service properties.  What? You mean your kid didn't eat his dinner at 5 pm and all the sudden he's famished at 9:30 pm.  Yeah, that! As parents, we've all been there. Room service can be a nice luxury perk. Full-service also means concierge services, outstanding housekeeping services, and a full-service restaurant.

4. Modern Updated Rooms

The rooms in this Marriott branded hotel are modern and fresh. Staff was quick to respond to any need. I'm a Mom. I always have many needs when I'm staying in a hotel such as band-aids, extra towels and extra coffee cream and sugar packets.


Double Queen Room in Renaissance Asheville Hotel


The bathrooms in this property are updated with marble and subway tile, but it is on the smaller side due to the age of the hotel. A family will manage just fine though.

Leigh Powell Hines is a travel writer that tells a hotel's story just right.


3. Top-Notch Food 


Delicious Black Bean Burger and Fries at the Renaissance Asheville Writer's Bistro Restaurant.

The food at Renaissance Asheville Hotel restaurant, The Writer's Bistro, is farm-to-table delicious with plenty of options for the pickiest child. My family originally ventured to the West Asheville neighborhood by car one day to get brunch/lunch during our stay, but after finding no parking, seeing tons of people standing outside restaurants in the area, and experiencing the biggest family feud of our lives, we drove our irritated behinds right back to the Renaissance Hotel and had lunch at the Writer's Bistro. It was very good. It was our saving grace for the day. We kicked ourselves for not just going downstairs to this restaurant in the first place.

But, I know. It's fun to try different local restaurants and soak up that atmosphere. I want you to do that, too, but when you stay at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, it is nice to know that you do not settle for mediocre when you dine at this property. It's a good solid, first choice and you (not just guests) should come in and try the restaurant when in town.

2. You can bring your Family Dog


The Hines newly adopted dog, Andy. He's ready for the family vacay.

The Renaissance Asheville Hotel is also pet-friendly. I've not experienced that aspect as a guest because we had not yet adopted Andy when we there.  Asheville is supposed to be one of the most pet-friendly places in North Carolina so he's barking to go with us. I did see some happy dogs in the lobby until they had to go on the elevator. Yeah, I don't blame them. I don't really like elevators either. But, with 12 hotel floors, dogs and people need to take the elevator. If you want to take your family dog, the pet fee is $75. Dogs are allowed in the lobby, but not in the restaurant.

1. The Best Hotel Feature: The Indoor Pool 


The saltwater indoor pool is an outstanding feature for families to enjoy at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel in North Carolina.



It's time to reveal the top reason families will keep staying at the Renaissance Asheville year after year. The indoor pool is my number one reason why I think this hotel is perfect for families. The salt water, indoor pool is a huge drawing card for families. It's a good size. It has a resort feel and it does not smell like an indoor pool.

It is spectacular and perfect for all four seasons in the North Carolina mountains. Sometimes, summer can be cool so with an indoor facility then families can splash around year-round.

In 2018, the hotel conducted public spaces renovations so the pool and fitness area were closed, but it should have been back in operation by April 17, 2018. I've been waiting since December to do this post because I wanted the pool back open before publishing.  My best advice though if you are booking this property, be sure to call the hotel to make sure renovations are complete and all amenities I've mentioned are available.

There are many great features about the Renaissance Asheville Hotel in the North Carolina mountains, but the saltwater indoor pool is the top reason that families will enjoying staying at this mountain hotel in the heart of downtown Asheville. #OutaboutNC #Travel #Hotels

FTC Required Disclosure: I was hosted by the Renaissance and also stayed on special rates not available to the public during my stay in prime travel season for the hotel. I spent a total of six nights at the property which is the longest I've stayed at a hotel since starting this blog. I really felt that by staying at the same property twice on my Asheville visits really enabled to get a true feel for the property. My thanks to the Renaissance for working with me during one of their peak occupancy rate times. This blog is also an affiliate with Marriott and income could be generated. 


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