The story below is an excerpt from our Sept./Oct. 2015 issue. For the rest of this story and more like it subscribe today, view our digital edition or download our FREE iOS app!
After the winding mountain drive to Boone, North Carolina, via the Blue Ridge Parkway, I’m thirsty and more than a little puckish, so my first stop is Lost Province Brewing Co., which is both aptly named and serves up the right mix of craft beer and wood-fired pizza to refresh what needs refreshing. Lost Province is one of the new breed of mountain breweries and eateries helping redefine towns like Boone and is exactly why it’s time to discover, or rediscover, this oft-overlooked patch of the Blue Ridge where North Carolina and Tennessee rub their mountainous shoulders.
Is autumn the perfect season for a visit to Boone, Blowing Rock, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Tennessee side of these hills? Yes, and so’s winter, when the ski resorts open and a little snow makes the mountains that much more beautiful. And so’s spring, with its wildflowers and budding branches. And so is summer, when the mountains are emerald green and fade to a hazy sapphire-blue in the distance.
But autumn is the right time for a visit. Crisp evenings, broad, starry skies overhead and the spreading stain of fall color on the mountainsides make it an ideal time to make a pilgrimage.
Friday: Finding the Lost Province
When you pull into Boone, make your first stop the same as mine: Lost Province Brewing Co. Order a tasting flight for a sample of some of the best beer brewed in Boone, then make a quick study of the menu. The Fried Chicken Sandwich is an excellent choice, as is the pizza, the wood-fired mac and cheese, the cheeseburger and just about everything else they serve. The food and beer make a perfect pair here thanks to the collaboration between the kitchen and brewery, where brothers act as chef and brewmaster.
Head to nearby Blowing Rock and check into your room at the Blowing Rock Inn, a charming little motorcourt just off downtown, then cruise south along the Blue Ridge Parkway. In short order you’ll reach the lauded Linn Cove Viaduct, a suspended, “S”-shaped, elevated bit of roadway that’s breathtaking in terms of the view and the thrill of driving its length. This was the final piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway, connecting the northern and southern stretches of the drive in 1987.
The Linn Cove Viaduct follows the contours of Grandfather Mountain, your next stop. From the top, you’ll have a tremendous view of the sun setting over the Blue Ridge; just be sure to get there by 5:30 so you can get a spot on the summit and watch evening overtake the hillsides around.
Drive back to the tiny town of Valle Crucis where dinner awaits at Over Yonder, a new restaurant from the chef at the storied Mast Farm Inn. At Over Yonder, Chef Andrew Long follows the local and seasonal flavors to create an inspired menu of Appalachian and Southern dishes. From pan-fried mountain trout to grits topped with a farm egg to traditional pimento cheese, Long’s menus do not disappoint.