Southern Recipes: Enjoy the Carolina Inn's Arugula and Beet Salad at Home Plus a Chat with New Chef Jeremy Blankenship

I know there have to be some beet lovers out there. I find you're either a lover or a hater, and there are few people who fall in between. But I believe the right beet recipe can turn a hater into a lover.  Chapel Hill's Carolina Inn is steeped with Southern tradition. It's been serving guests in North Carolina's quaint college town for 95 years.

Leading the culinary scene at the Inn's Crossroads Chapel Hill restaurant is Hillsborough native Jeremy Blankenship. One salad plate at a time, Chef Blankenship hopes to turn every Tarheel in town into a glorified beet lover with his Arugula and Beet Salad Appetizer with Toasted Walnuts, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, and Citrus Gel. 

Carolina Inn's Arugula and Beet Salad Recipe
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

I met with Chef Blankenship in March to get a feel for his culinary influence. He is no stranger to the Carolina Inn. In fact, the Inn and past North Carolina prestigious Southern chefs have been a huge part of his own culinary training. From an internship and Sous Chef training at the Carolina Inn to being hired as Chef de Cuisine at Crossroads in 2005 following his tenure with the well-known, Magnolia Grill, located in Durham NC.

Leigh Powell Hines and Chef Jeremy Blankenship
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

It was at the Southern icon Magnolia Grill, under the ownership of Ben and Karen Barker who both were James Bearn Award-winning chefs that he really developed the food philosophy that he uses daily. It was quite evident during our chat at the Inn, this was a special time in his and in truly molded him into the talented chef he is today.

Blankenship told me he doesn't label himself as a Southern cook, but rather he takes Southern ingredients and uses worldly techniques in the kitchen that embraces seasonality and regionalism.

“It’s not just about farm-to-table, it’s an exchange of ideas, it’s a relationship, it’s about integrity in the entire process of food preparation from finding and sourcing ingredients to educating the team that works with you every day about how to be creative with what is set before you," stated Blankenship.

Blankenship pays homage to his past mentor with a special Karen Barker inspired dessert that will soon debut on the Carolina Inn menu.

Carolina Inn Desserts
Photo by OutaboutNC  Contributor Tatiana Amador 

Just as with anyone who builds a career, Blankenship left the Inn for higher culinary roles and returned finally returned back to the Carolina Inn in 2016 to serve as Executive Sous Chef. He was in that role until his appointment of Executive Chef this year.

Chef Jeremy Blankenship of the Carolina Inn Speaks with NC Blogger Leigh Powell Hines
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

Being an Executive Chef of a hotel always comes with many challenges because unlike a regular restaurant, the kitchen is rarely closed because guests are with you 24-hours a day. The Carolina Inn offers breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, and a bar menu. All items are different and all are what you would expect at a luxury hotel. It sounds exhausting, but Blankenship loves the culinary challenge. The Carolina Inn is one of North Carolina's largest event and wedding venues as well.

The Carolina Inn for Southern Afternoon Tea 

The classic Carolina Inn is one of my favorite places in North Carolina for afternoon tea. They have delicious scones. The tea service is traditional and does not steer too far away from its British roots.

Not as many chefs are in love with hotel afternoon tea service as much as the guests because I got the feeling it can be kind of mundane.  Chefs can't mix it up too much because people like me expect a scone, a smoked salmon and a cucumber sandwich a certain way as a UNC-Chapel alumnus want. Sometimes, even the scones are piped in Carolina blue.

Afternoon Tea  Service at The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

Chef Blankenship may not love afternoon tea as much as me, but he knows his guests expect the best and he'll deliver. Carolina Inn offers special teas throughout the year, and tea reservations must be made 48-hours in advance.

He joked with me, "We're not going to change up your cucumber sandwich and scones. So don't worry!"

Traditional Tea at the Carolina Inn
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

Busy days are ahead for Blankenship and his culinary team. Spring in a University town is one of the busiest. He has Easter, Mother's Day and UNC Graduation within weeks of each of other. When he's off, he has busy kids at home, but he loves to hop on his motorcycle and enjoy other's culinary talents.

Since beets are still at the markets right now, he is sharing with me the exact recipe he has on the dinner menu currently.  I took one look at it and immediately said, "I love it, but how can we do shortcuts?"

A Recipe for Arugula and Beet Salad at Home
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 
He told me that the beet confit could be served as a side alone. They are time-consuming due to the time of being in the over, but that is really it.  He firmly believes that beets pair best with Arugula so no substitute there, but if you do not have time to make a citrus gel then he told me to toss in some sliced oranges.  During our conversation, he admitted that about ten years ago, the salad would have been on the menu with orange slices, but menus have evolved into even more creativity.

Beets are still plentiful at your local farmer's market so pick some up and try this sensational recipe at home.

Carolina Inn's Arugula and Beet Salad
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

Arugula & Beet Salad 

Toasted Walnuts, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Citrus Gel

1 each large red confit beet, peeled and ½ inch dice
1 each large yellow confit beet, peeled and ½ inch dice
1 cup toasted walnuts
½ cup citrus fluid gel  (See recipe below for gel)
4 oz Point Reyes Blue Cheese crumbled
8 oz fresh Arugula
½ cup vinaigrette  (See recipe below for vinaigrette)
¼ cup toasted walnut oil
Salt to taste

Method of Preparation
Place your diced beets in a mixing bowl and season with salt and a splash of the vinaigrette and toss to coat

In a separate bowl add your arugula  and season with salt and enough vinaigrette to coat and toss to coat

Evenly distribute the seasoned beats between 4 plates.

Between the beets add dollops of the citrus gel

Add your toasted walnuts between the beets and gel

Place your seasoned arugula on top of the beet salad making sure to not cover up everything

Drizzle the walnut oil over the salad and serve

Serves 4

Carolina Inn Chef Jeremy Blankenship
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

How to make the Confit Beets

5 Each Medium sized beets
1 Each Shallots peeled
1 Each Zest of orange
1 Each Rosemary sprig
Oil to cover the beets

Place first 4 items in a pot and cover with oil
Place on the stove top and heat until the oil is warm
Cover with foil and place in the oven at 275 degrees for 1.5 hours
Check to make sure they are tender
Uncover and cool in the oil

Note: Store these beets in the fridge in the oil. That is the key. 

How to Make the Orange Citrus Gel 

     4 cups of Fresh squeezed OJ Strained
     3 teaspoons of Agar Agar
     1 teaspoon salt

Bring the orange juice to a simmer and add the salt
Whisk in the agar really well while still simmering
Let it simmer for 10 more seconds
Strain through a chinois into a hotel pan and cool in the fridge
Once cold and set up cut into tiny square and blend in the vita prep until super smooth
Push through a fine strainer
Store in airtight containers in the fridge

How to Make Toasted Walnuts

     4 Cups Walnuts
      Blended oil to coat
      Salt to taste
Place the walnuts in a mixing bowl and add enough oil to coat. Toss in the oil and season with salt
Place the walnuts on a sheet pan and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes until toasted.
Let cool and store in airtight containers.

How to Make Vinaigrette

YIELD:  6.5 cups

     2       T Red Wine Vinegar
     2       T Sherry Vinegar
     ½     T Cider Vinegar
     1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Fresh Black Pepper to taste
Mix all of the tablespoons of vinegar together
Whisk in the EVO and season

Bon appetite

NC Blogger Leigh Powell Hines
Photo by Curious Notions Photo in Chapel Hill 

Recipe: Nothin' Could be Finer than a Tarheel Cupcake

This post originally ran the first year I stared the HinesSightBlog in 2011. When you own a blog, it's amazing to see how quickly your children will grow. My son is now 13 and he never wants to bake in the kitchen now. This post was updated in March of 2019. I also think these cupcakes would be good with blue buttercream cupcakes. 

North Carolina is certainly a foodie state, but we have some darn good basketball teams in the state, too. This recipe for "Tarheel" cupcakes is perfect for Carolina fans for March Madness gatherings. If you are a Duke fan then just swallow your pride and make them anyway. 

North Carolina is certainly a foodie state, but we have some great college basketball teams, too which give my home state a national presence.  This recipe for "Tarheel" cupcakes is perfect for Carolina fans for March Madness gatherings. #desserts #cupcakes #entertaining

North Carolina always has a great presence in March Madness during the NCAA final dance, and a lot of people get to know North Carolina through its University sports programs.

For those of you who are not familiar with North Carolina, our state has the nickname of the Tarheel State.  There are several legends on how North Carolina became known as the Tarheel state, all relating to tar and its by-products produced in massive amounts from the abundant pine forests covering the state.  My alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, uses the nickname "Tarheel" for its team name.

This Tarheel Cupcake recipe can be found in the Raleigh Junior League's "You're Invited" cookbook which was first published in 1998.   It's a great cookbook, and I have many favorite recipes from this book.  There are very few of these books left to purchase if any at all, however, The Junior League has now published a second cookbook which I can't wait to get in my collection called  "You're Invited Back."


I don't make that many desserts, probably because of my laziness for sifting,  but the recipe looked easy enough to do with my son.  I also thought the recipe's name could spark a lot of conversation with him about our state's history plus we could eat these sweet delights while cheering on the North Carolina Tarheels in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.

I thought the cupcakes were good.  They are different, and not your traditional cupcake with icing, but the chocolate mixed with cream cheese wowed me.   The recipe makes about sixteen cupcakes.  \  I probably filled a couple too full because the recipe says it will make about eighteen.   My husband and son preferred the cupcakes plain and without the almond sugar topping on top.  I think the next time we bake these, we'll leave the almond/sugar mixture out.

Tarheel Cupcakes

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 egg
1 cup (about 6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa
1 cup of water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees
*Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, and egg.  Mix well.  Stir in chocolate chips. Set aside
*Combine almonds and 2 Tablespoons sugar.  Set aside.
*Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, 1 cup sugar, and cocoa.  Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat for 2 minutes with mixer at medium speed.
*Fill paper-lined muffin cups 1/2 full with batter.  Top each cupcake with 1 tablespoon cream cheese mixture.  Sprinkle almond-sugar mixture evenly over cream cheese mixture.
*Bake in center of the oven for 30 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is light golden brown.
*Cool in pan for 15 minutes.  Remove to wire rack and cool completely.

My thanks to J's Golf Carts Sales and Service located in Durham, N.C for sponsoring my blog and keeping me at my desk writing and updating content. 

North Carolina's Museum of Art Beautifies Trash for Annual Art in Bloom Flower Festival

Let's talk trash in North Carolina.

In the South, we have a way of making even our trash look pretty. Mid-March is a great time to see Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill get beautified in a very unusual way.

Flower Display in a Trash Can in Raleigh, NC

It's not every day that you see ordinary trash bins become a canvas for beautiful blooms. But, it happens every single March in North Carolina to promote the NC Museum of Art's popular Art in Bloom flower festival.

Floral  Boutiques to Promote Art in Bloom Decorate the City of Raleigh

The vibrant floral trash displays are available a good ten days of public viewing before the festival opens. The 2019 Art in Bloom Event at the NC Museum is scheduled for Thursday, March 21-Sunday, March 24. Art in Bloom is a special museum fundraiser where more than 50 floral designers design floral installations based on works in the NCMA's art collection. Last year, more than 18,000 visitors came to the art museum to see Art in Bloom.

Designers create floral displays to work with pieces of art in the NCMA in Raleigh
2018 Floral Display

The four-day floral fundraiser is packed with floral workshops, lectures, and daily trunk shows in the Museum Store. The Museum will have special extended hours and expanded food options

Art in Bloom in Raleigh NC at NCMA
2108 Floral Display

We love our ice cream in the South, too. Also to celebrate Art in Bloom, Raleigh ice cream company Two Roosters will debut a custom floral ice cream flavor in its storefront this week.  The flavor will also be featured on the menus of the Museum’s Iris restaurant, Sip Café, and Blue Ridge Café during Art in Bloom.

Admission to the NCMA 
During the four days of Art in Bloom, tickets are required for admission to the permanent collection in the Museum’s West Building. East Building and Museum Park will remain open and free to visitors. 

$13 Members
$18 Nonmembers        
Free for children 6 and under
Tickets available at or (919) 715-5923

Related events are ticketed separately. Additional fees are charged for select workshops, presentations, and other events (schedule below).

Hours for 2019 Art in Bloom Festival Thursday, March 21, 9 am–5 pm; last entry 4 pm Friday, March 22, 9 am–9 pm; last entry 8 pm Saturday, March 23, 9 am–9 pm; last entry 8 pm Sunday, March 24, 9 am–5 pm; last entry 4 pm
During the four days of Art in Bloom, the Museum’s West Building opens at 9 am, an hour earlier than usual. East Building galleries open at 10 am, as usual.

Getting to the museum

Parking is available on the NCMA campus. During this popular event, visitors are encouraged to carpool or take public transportation via the GoRaleigh bus route 27 to the NCMA. Information about the bus is available on GoRaleigh’s website. The NCMA is also home to a Citrix Cycles bike station. For visitors who need assistance, marked shuttle vans will circle the parking lots during Art in Bloom.

Pin for Future Travel in North Carolina 

NC Travel. Art in Bloom Pops up at the NCMA every March.

All photos were supplied by the NC Museum of Art for publication.  However, I will be having a private tour of Art in Bloom on Wednesday before the event is open to the public so be sure to follow me on social media. 

My thanks to Wells Family Dental Group with a new dental office on Leesville Road in Raleigh, for sponsoring my blog and writing. Thank you for keeping me at my desk writing. 

Easy Irish Potato Soup that will Please Little Leprechauns for a Quick Weeknight Meal

This post was originally written in 2011, but updated in 2019.  This soup recipe is also part of an All Things Irish post with Chapter Two Collective, check out their story for other St. Patrick's Day related recipes, decor and travel ideas. 

Easy Irish Potato Soup Recipe Perfect for St. Patricks Day #Recipes #Soups  #EasyDinners

I have very fond memories of a trip I took to Ennis, Ireland in 1998 with my college roommate. We stayed at the Old Ground Hotel in Ennis and toured the area for a week. It was an alumni trip with UNC-Chapel Hill and it was spectacular. This getaway was way before social media and cell phone photography. My photos are in an album stored away.

After a quick web update almost thirty-one years later, The hotel still welcomes guests in this Irish town, looks totally refurbished and I would stay there in a heartbeat again. This little town was perfect in every way. It was walkable. It was small. The entire experience was probably one of the best trips I've taken on a tour.

Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, Ireland
Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, Ireland
The Old Ground Hotel is located about 20 minutes away from Shannon International Airport and 40 minutes away from the Cliffs of Moher. I also dined at Durty Nelly's, a four-hundred-year-old pub in Bunratty, adjacent to the castle and I had some of the best carrot soup I think I've ever tasted.

We traveled to County Clare in October, and it was quite cold. I still remember the wonderful soups I had on this trip. I've always been a fan of potato soup so I started making it some upon my return.

I adapted a recipe published in Southern Living in 1999.

Easy Potato Soup Recipe
Photo Credit: Ralph Anderson

Easy Irish Potato Soup

1/2 cup unsalted butter.
3 leeks, sliced ( I used frozen from Trader Joes, and I didn't know the amount that three leeks would produce so I used almost two cups of frozen.  I may have used too much, but we liked the soup.)
5 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. (I think my potatoes were on the smaller side so if you have smaller baking potatoes, I would recommend adding one or two more potatoes.  The original recipe called for only three).
3 (14 1/2 ounces) cans of chicken broth
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Toppings: shredded cheddar, crumbled cooked bacon (I used no nitrates added turkey bacon), chopped fresh chives.

Irish Potato Soup in less than Hour on Stove. Instant Pot even less time

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat; stir in onion and leek.  Cover and cook 20 minutes.  Stir in potatoes; cover and cook 15 minutes.  Stir in broth, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Remove from heat, and cool slightly.

The original recipe says to put the soup in batches in the blender.  Instead, I took a mixer and pureed the soup in the pot.  My suggestion is to let the soup cool though.  I got a little splatter from a very hot potato! Reheat the soup over medium heat until heated.  Serve with desired toppings.

*Budget Note:  The soup cost less than $10 to make, and that includes all the toppings.  You will have enough for several meals.

I made this soup decades before an Instant pot, but this recipe can easily be adapted for the Instant Pot.  Other recipes I've read online also use red potatoes instead of baking potatoes.

I really hope to go back to Ireland one day with my family, especially to this area.   This photo taken on the trip is a favorite of mine.  I would have loved to have brought the sign home with me.  For more information on this tourism area in Ireland, visit

Leprechaun Crossing in Ireland.

And a little throwback photo from when this post was originally written. My son was five.

This post is made possible by Sims Orthodontics, the best Orthodontist in Pensacola Florida  My thanks to my sponsors for keeping me at my desk writing and updating conent. 

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