A Little Black Dress Worthy Dinner: Easy Baked Pork Tenderloin with a Dressy Salad Wedge Side

When entertaining, you want to serve a classic meal that fits perfectly with your little black dress hanging in your closet. Am I right?  You seek sophistication and elegance. You want your food to be as appealing as your elegant LBD. But, unless you are Martha Stewart or have all the time in the world to slave away in the kitchen, you need some serious shortcuts. I know I do. 

Enter stage right is the Little Black Dressing Company, #GotToBeNC made-product out of High Point, North Carolina. This company's homemade dressings will have you looking like a culinary superstar with little effort. I love them. 

Little Black Dressing Company has delicious NC Made Salad Dressings that are great for salads and recipes

North Carolina Bloggers throughout North Carolina were paired tin 2017 with North Carolina food products to help promote the annual Got to Be NC Festival, held in May. I was paired with Little Black Dressing Company to learn more about them. 

Founder Kissie Stroup said that her grandmother, now 94 and who is affectionally called, "Nana" made all of her own dressings from vegetables and herbs in her garden. Kissie said that their family would have some type of salad nightly with a fresh dressing on it. One of her grandmother's specialty dressing was a creamy vinegarette. 

Kissie Stroup, CEO and Founder of Little Black Dressing Company
Little Black Dressing Co CEO and Founder, Kissie Stroup

"Every time I made Nana's salad dressings, my friends would always want to know how to make it, " stated Stoup. "It got to the point that I was making it in my basement and people would come with their own jars to take some home." 

Her husband encouraged her to start a business making these dressings. She asked a friend to help her come up with a name for her dressing. They both agreed that her product was classic and elegant just like the little black dress, and in 2010, the classic Creamy Dreamy Vinegarette was bottled. 

It is excellent served with a salad, as a veggie dip or drizzled over cucumbers and tomatoes. Honestly, this is my favorite dressing, and in the privacy of my home, I'm not too proud to admit that I slurped the bowl after my salad was gone. It's that good, folks. 

Creamy Dreamy Vinagarette is delicious over tomatoes and cucumbers

Little Black Dressing Co later expanded its flavor wardrobe to include It Takes Three to Tango, a mixture of Blue Cheese crumbles, 1000 Island, and Ranch Dressing, Honey, It's Dijon Dill, and Far East Flair, a combination of orange juice, peanut butter, and zesty ginger. 

Each dressing is fresh with no preservatives, additives, or gluten. It can be found in the refrigerated section in Lowes Foods and Fresh Market. These dressings are so versatile and can be used for lots of recipes. 

As you know, I'm a storyteller and not a food stylist, but I made two recipes with the dressings and then used the dressings for salads until they were all gone. 

You cannot get any easier than with these two menu items. I found that pork is great to use with a honey dijon base so for this recipe, I paired it with Kissie's Honey, It's Dijon Dill dressing, but you could use another type of honey dijon dressing, but I encourage you to seek out this homemade dijon salad dressing. It can be bought in the U.S now in several states

Easy Baked Pork Tenderloin and a Dressy Salad Wedge Recipe for Pinterest Graphic

Easy Baked Pork Tenderloin served with a Dressy Salad Wedge

Easy Baked Pork Tenderloin 
2 Pound Pork Tenderloin
Salt and Pepper
One bottle of Honey, It's Dijon Dill Dressing or any Honey Dijon Dressing of your choice

Season tenderloin with salt, pepper, and garlic. Pour half a bottle of the salad dressing over the pork. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour. The temperature needs to reach 160 degrees. 

Easy Baked Tenderloin Recipe

I used Honey, it's Dijon Dill Dressing and served it with rice and spicy collards.

Dressy Salad Wedge

Iceberg lettuce
Salt and Pepper
Extra blue cheese crumbles, optional 
It Takes Three to Tango Salad Dressing

Cut lettuce into a wedge, top with bacon pieces, salt, pepper and drizzle with the salad dressing.  Simple and delicious.

It Take Three to Tango Dressing is Perfect for a Lettuce Wedge with Bacon

I served the pork tenderloin with rice and farm-fresh spiced collards. 

I made these dishes on a busy weeknight for my family, but these salad dressings make every meal at your home little black dress worthy. 

 Other Recipes: Got to be NC Blogger Recipes for #HomeGrownFare17

Updated: September 2019
2017 FTC Disclosure: Sponsored by NCDA &CA. Opinions about whether or not to slurp your salad dressing bowl to get the last taste are not up for debate. When you taste the dressing, I promise you, all table manners are forgotten. You will want every last drop of that Creamy Dreamy Vinegarette. I believe it when Kissy said people showed up with gallon jugs. The dressing is $4.99 a bottle. 

Asheville’s Biltmore Estate is a Must-See for “Downton Abbey” Fans (New Exhibition will Run Nov.8-April 7, 2020)

I was a big fan of the PBS show "Downton Abbey."  I've not yet seen the movie that debuted this September in theaters, but I'm certainly going to put the new "Downton Abbey" exhibit on my travel wish list to see in Asheville, North Carolina.

Opening on November 8 and running through April 7, 2020, Downton Abbey The Exhibition will feature set recreations, costumes, and exclusive multimedia elements, providing guests with a chance to step inside the world of Carnival Films’ global television phenomenon and feature film

At Biltmore’s Amherst near Deerpark, never-before-seen multimedia elements and the series’ most recognizable sets and artifacts will immerse guests in the social history, culture and memorable moments from the show. At Biltmore Legacy in Antler Village, guests will get an up-close look at more than 50 of the show’s costumes that were worn by their favorite actors including Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, and Dame Maggie Smith.

The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. is America's "Downton Abbey."

Once I immersed myself in the "Downton Abbey" series, it made me even more captivated by the Biltmore Estate, I grew up visiting as a child. 

George Vanderbilt and his family lived on this estate during the same time period as the Crawley family portrayed in “Downton Abbey.”  As I went through the house, I could imagine the inner workings of the house just like I see on TV with the popular series.

George and Edith Vanderbilt welcomed guests from all over the world to their home, Biltmore.  Set on 8,000 acres and situated on the bank of Asheville’s meandering French Broad River, the 250-room French chateau is magnificent.  It would take guests one hour by carriage as soon as they went through the Estate’s gate to reach the front door.

Biltmore's main entrance

Can’t you imagine all the servants coming out to welcome guests on arrival just like on “Downton Abbey”?

George Vanderbilt provided a resort-like atmosphere for his guests.   There was horseback riding, shooting, bowling alleys, and even a 70,000-gallon, heated indoor swimming pool with underwater lighting. Guests could ring the servants for a pool-time snack.

The Biltmore's indoor swimming pool

Tea was served around 4 p.m., and a formal, white-tie dinner was served promptly at 8 p.m. in the banquet hall.  It was not uncommon for there to be nine to ten courses served each evening.  They were small portions, of course, but still, I cannot even imagine a dinner so formal today.  The Vanderbilts would have a family breakfast in this lovely room. It is one of my favorite places in the home. 

The Breakfast Room in the Biltmore House. I love the fireplace.

And get this. It was not uncommon for the Vanderbilts and their guests to change 10 times a day.  I’m serious.  There was an outfit for breakfast, riding, shooting, tennis, croquet, tea, swimming, fishing, boating, bowling, and dinner. No wonder they needed a valet. 

The servants were certainly kept busy. 

The Biltmore kitchen.  The Biltmore Estate did not have a Mrs. Patmore though. The main chef was male. His room was
near the bowling alley, and if guests kept him up late because of their bowling, then they would know it the next morning by the mediocre breakfast they were served.

Biltmore offers special guided tours that take guests unrestored rooms and mechanical areas to see how the house functioned daily. Guests also learn about the work of the domestic servants who worked for the Vanderbilts.

The Vanderbilts provided living quarters for their staff.  Females stayed in the house, while male employees stayed in rooms above the stable. At Biltmore, each servant had a comfortably furnished, heated private room, and that was most uncommon for the time period.  As many as 30-35 servants had three meals a day in the servants’ dining room.

The servant's dining room.  Imagine the gossip.

They were allowed two hours off daily, but still on call. They received one afternoon and one evening off per week, and a half-day every other Sunday.

I imagine George Vanderbilt to have been kind like Lord Grantham is portrayed on the series.  On the audio tour, it said that a girl in a role similar to Daisy on the series had to go up to the dining room, and she was so nervous that she dropped the dish on the floor.  It was revealed that Mr. Vanderbilt got up and helped her clean the mess off the floor. 

The Servant’s Domain area is a very interesting part of the house tour. 

Mr.  Vanderbilt's bedroom.  Today, the  Inn on the estate uses burgundy as an accent color in the rooms.


This year, the Christmas season at Biltmore will also feature the "Downton Abbey" exhibit. 

Visit the Biltmore Estate and Explore Asheville for your vacation planning tips. 

The  Biltmore Estate In Asheville, NC can be compared to "Downton Abbey"

Other posts on Asheville, NC that you may enjoy:

My thanks to Turnkey Photographer in Raleigh, NC, for being a September blog sponsor. My sponsors keep me at my desk writing and #OutaboutNC promoting travel and tourism. 

Create an Elegant, but Easy Cheese and Meat Board in Minutes

updated September 2019

My neighbor loves Halloween so much that she coordinated a progressive fall-inspired dinner party for our street. I volunteered to host appetizers. My goal was to keep it simple and look to Italy and Spain for inspiration on an elegant, but easy cheese and meat board that could be put together in minutes. 

In 2015, I went on a press trip to a winery in the Marche region of Italy. The event set-up was simple, elegant, and perfect for tapas before a meal. I decided to do something similar with my own spin for this neighborhood get-together. 

Italian appetizer spread at Marche Winery

Liza loves Disney's Descendants movies.  Last year, she knew she wanted to be the character, Mal, for Halloween. In my house, the song, "Ways to Be Wicked" is continuously played.  I decided to have a little fun with a "Ways to be Wicked" song. The lyrics say, 

"Apple, apple dip, dip
Wanna try it?

Tick, tick

Take a bite, c'mon, be bold
Change the way the story's told."

Descendants. Apples. Villians. Evil Queen. It all fell into place.

Evil Queen Costume with apples as the star of the party.

I used fresh apples for my centerpiece decorations, and the fall fruit is in season right now. An apple, from tart to sweet, goes wonderfully with an Italian-inspired meat and cheese board.

Put together meat and cheese boards within minutes

I ordered apples from my Papa Spud's produce box delivery service. Apples were in abundance and cost-effective. I purchased everything else from Trader Joe's in less than an hour. 

Here's what I bought at Trader Joe's for my "Ways to Be Wicked" Inspired Party
Sparkling Apple Cider (non-alcoholic)
Draft Apple Cider
White wine
Bread Sticks
Several types of crackers
Goat Cheese with Herbs
A Spanish Cheese sampler with Manchego, Iberico, and Cabra Al Vino
Sliced Aged Cheddar Cheese
Two varieties of pears (One sweet and one standard pear)
Several cartons of the store's seasonal Greek Yogurt called, "Trader Joe's Apple-Caramel Whole Milk Greek Yogurt." 
Dried Apricots
Organic Trek Mix with Cashews, Almonds and dried Cranberries
Italian Hard Salami 
Two appetizer snack packs with Genoa salami cut like apple shapes and provolone slices. 
Red Grapes

I have two cheese boards that are simple and look like cutting boards. I also used three small glass dishes to hold olives, nuts in trek mix, and dried apricots. 

Add sweet and salty to your cheese boards

I placed the four kinds of cheese on the cheese first. I used the goat cheese on another platter separately with crackers, pears, and apples. For my hard cheese platter, I placed my nut bowl and my dried apricot bowl on the board. I put a few sliced apples on the tray, crackers, and red grapes for garnish. Presto. The cheese board was filled in no-time. 

On a round cheese board, I placed olives in a bowl in the middle. I then surrounded the olives with crackers, cheese, genoa salami, and hard salami slices. 

For my third platter, I took the olive oil appetizer breadsticks and wrapped Prosciutto around each one. I used apples and grapes for garnish. 

Italian prosciutto wrapped around breadsticks can be put together within minutes for party

I was amazed at how quickly I was able to create these elegant but a simple cheese and meat tray for this party in minutes. I think the total time may have been 15 minutes for all the three trays. 

I used the Apple-Caramel Grek yogurt dip with and apple slices. 

I really thought this was a no-fuss party idea and I will do it again. It did not take a lot of work, but yet, it looked like it did.  The hit of the night was the yogurt dip and the soft goat cheese. It all worked well because I had meat-eaters and vegetarians in attendance. 

Another neighbor served lasagna after my get-together, and my other neighbor served a homemade limoncello cake. It was a great night.

Quick and Easy Meat and Cheese appetizer trays that can be put together within minutes. #Appetizers #Easy #Cheese #Antipasti

Pin for a future Halloween Party Idea 

Ways to be Wicked Inspired Halloween Party with apples as the star. Evil Queen is the host. #Halloween #apples #Easy #Appetizers

A Traveler’s Look at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in Toronto

First published 2013/Updated September 2019

I’ve got one word for you: staff.

The staff at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square in the heart of downtown Toronto makes a stay there extra special.  As soon as you check-in, you feel as if you are staying with family.  

And they are even known for leaving familiar family photos on the nightstand for regular guests when they check-in.

Yeah. They are that good at their jobs.  But they are genuine in how they do it, and that is what sticks with you after your stay at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square, the Germain Hotels’ newest 167-room boutique property.

Now that I’m back in Raleigh, I miss Omar, Susan, and Mike. It’s simple for me to remember their names a month after my stay because they made an effort to make me feel welcome in a big city.  Everyone I came into contact with did.

I fell in love with this modern yet inviting and cozy boutique property.  I certainly call it a HinesSight favorite now.

And let’s talk about décor.  Hands down, it is probably the most contemporary-styled hotel I’ve stayed in thus far in my travels.  It’s the total opposite of my personal space, but yet I liked it.

It’s minimalist chic with a loft-style space.

Sexy athletes over the bed.

Chairs that resemble hockey pucks.

Yes, there is a theme you see here, and it works well for the hotel.  It’s all in the details.

Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is adjacent to the Air Canada Center, the sports arena for Toronto’s professional hockey and basketball sports teams.  The sexy photos over the bed are professional Toronto athletes. The bar is called “Play,” but let me tell you … this hotel is no gym, but rather it is a GEM.  This is a luxury hotel with great beds, rainfall showers, and luxurious Molton Brown bath products.

My absolute favorite detail is the Ovopur water filtration system, which is available on every floor.  It keeps water fresh, and at turndown, your carafe is filled and placed on your bedside table.  The first year of implementation, the hotel saved 15,000 plastic water bottles.

The rooms at Hotel Le Germain are designed really well for the use of space.  A lot of that can be credited to the owner, Christiane Germain.  She makes sure that she doesn’t have things in her hotels that bug her when she travels.  As a result, all lights can be turned off at one switch. Closets are plentiful, and there is a great space for luggage.   You can also turn on all the lights in the room with your key card.  I loved that amenity.

I, of course, took this trip solo, but Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square welcomes families.  Again, it’s all in the details.  If you have a potty-training child, they’ll put this little guy in the bathroom. Little touches like Angry Bird pillows make the room inviting for children.  They supply children’s robes, pack and plays, and baby monitors.

European continental breakfast is also included in your room rate.   Nothing says good morning like a great muffin and a cappuccino.

And if you need a snack during the day, just grab an apple. These green apples are scattered around the hotel. They imitate art, but it’s edible art.

The “Play” Lounge serves food starting at 4 p.m.  If Mike is working, ask for a margarita.  It’s his best drink.  He says he loves to make it because it tastes like the ocean.   Mike, your margaritas are much better than the ocean.

Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is located in a complex with condominiums, a few restaurants, and even a grocery store.  One of the nights I stayed, there was a small kitchen fire in the grocery store in the complex, so the fire alarms in the hotel went off at 5:30 a.m. Safety first. Those things happen, and it was taken care of very quickly, but I must admit that I had to have looked like a fool as I made my way to the street.   I grabbed my rings, my passport, and put on pants under my gown, and then put on the comfy hotel robe on top of it all. I exited quickly and didn’t even brush my teeth.

Half the crowd was fully dressed, and the other half were like me.  Some were even sans pants.  Those of us who looked as if we rolled out of bed in an emergency will be better prepared from this point forward.  Hopefully, there will NEVER be a next time, but it was certainly a learning experience.

My best coffee came at breakfast in the lounge, though, and it is indeed complimentary, as is the complimentary cappuccino machine in the second-level lounge.

Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square is an urban, sophisticated, peaceful retreat in the bustling city.  After a long day at the TBEX conference, I was happy to walk through the doors of my home away from home.

In HinesSight on my Stay

The Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square offers great Toronto location.

I would definitely stay at Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square if traveling to Toronto again.
I loved the idea of fresh carafes by the bedside table and the Ovopur water system in the common areas.

I loved the modern elements of the hotel. Getting in bed and hitting one button to turn off the lights was cool.

I like the idea of the Nespresso machine in the room, but not sure I love the idea of paying to have coffee in my room.   A lot of luxury properties I have visited lately have had a Keurig in the room to brew tea and coffee, complimentary.

I loved the complimentary wi-fi and the fact that a continental breakfast is included in your stay. That scored big points.

They also had an umbrella in the room. I should have used it. I got drenched one night leaving a party.

I had neither with me on this trip, but the staff spoils your children and your dog.  It is a pet-friendly establishment, but coming from a person who does not have a pet, there is no evidence whatsoever that a dog has been a guest in your room.  This is an immaculate, luxurious hotel. They deep clean after every visit.

Want to Stay:
Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square
75 Bremner Blvd
Toronto (Ontario), Canada

Disclosure: Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square helped sponsor my trip to TBEX by providing both a comp rate and a media rate for my duration in Toronto.  As always, opinions are my own, and I did have my personal expenses.

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