Healthy eating for the new year

Georgia Trend Magazine. January 2022.

During the first few days of the new year, many of us strive to change our eating habits. But a few weeks into our resolution, we realize that following a specific diet is not conducive to our lifestyles. We still occasionally need to go out for date nights, office lunches and celebrations with friends and family. Our society comes together over food; we draw comfort and joy through food. So, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves about eating right all the time. Instead, be more mindful and follow these easy tips that will help you keep your health in shape when dining out. The New York Times’ Michael Pollan’s seven-word manifesto still holds: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Pick healthier restaurants

Raw Hummus Photo By R Thomas

Eating out doesn’t mean your options are limited to smoothie joints, soup cafes and salad bars. Many good restaurants focus on vegan, vegetarian, Mediterranean and Keto-based menus. Look for dishes that include fresh ingredients, whole grains and grilled meats. Longstanding landmark R. Thomas’ Deluxe Grill in Atlanta, offers healthy dining 24 hours a day. Try the raw hummus, cashew cheese, sloppy veggie Joe, quinoa and tempeh Thai bowls.

Make better choices

When dining out at ethnic restaurants, you can choose entrees that include leaner proteins, more vegetables and fewer starches. At a Chinese restaurant, select steamed dumplings instead of egg rolls and plain brown rice instead of fried rice.

Choose soft whole wheat or corn tortillas and ask for sour cream on the side at a Mexican restaurant. And when eating Italian, fill up on a hearty salad and avoid dishes with too much cheese and creamy sauces.

Eating spicy food speeds up metabolism and satisfies cravings. Head to Namaste Savannah Nepali restaurant for the whole red snapper, tandoor chicken and mixed grilled platter.

Pack your bags

Often, it is large portion sizes that throw our diets off, and taking doggie bags back to the office is not always an option. Order the smallest available steaks and seafood, or split an entrée with your fellow diner. You can also ask your server to pack half of your dish in a to-go box when you order.

The National Power Lunch Credit Erin Wilsonpeg

During Athens Restaurant Week in summer, The National offers diners an option to share two-course power lunches and three-course dinners that include a roasted flavorful carrot salad, zaatar roasted chicken breast and sweet corn gelato, among others.

Choose drinks with low sugar

Drinks translate to liquid calories. Try to eliminate regular soda and sweet drinks from your diet. Instead of ice tea, try sparkling flavored water, nonalcoholic beer and herbal tea. Southbound Brewing Company in Savannah has a light lager beer that is a great choice for a low-calorie and low-carbohydrate beer (especially for Keto dieters) that doesn’t sacrifice flavor. Cut back on alcohol to a few times a week. And when selecting an alcoholic beverage, opt for red wine or tequila and avoid the mixers that tend to add more sugar to cocktails.

Skip the desserts

It’s best to skip this section of the menu entirely, but an occasional treat is justified. Order a low-fat dessert that comes in smaller portions and share it with other diners at the table. Atlanta’s LottaFrutta is the perfect spot to go out for a funky pint-sized fresh fruit cup topped with dairy-free creams, honey, granola, fresh lime and spicy chile.

No matter what your new year’s food resolutions are, remember to eat slowly and savor every bite.

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine.

10 Incredible Outdoor Adventures Unique To Hilton Head Island

Travel+Leisure. January 2022.

When you picture an “idyllic getaway,” you’re almost always imagining an island, and America’s Favorite Island® makes it abundantly clear why:

Hilton Head Island is an outdoor paradise, with miles of unspoiled beaches, championship golf courses, luxurious resorts, and unique family-friendly adventures. Year-round sunshine and mild subtropical climate allow for a variety of land and water activities around the island; you can discover local birds and wildlife by walking or kayaking through the marshes and sea waters, bike on miles of charming hard-packed pristine beaches, play a round of golf with friends, and gather around the fire pit for s’mores under star-studded clear skies. 

Plus, with Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV) a mere 45 minutes away, you can get there in no time—on any major airline. Here are the best ways to enjoy your time outdoors on your next visit. Continue reading on Travel+Leisure

French with a Southern Accent

Georgia Trend Magazine. January 2022 print edition.

Located in one of Savannah’s oldest buildings that dates back to the 1890s, St. Neo’s Brasserie is not your typical hotel restaurant. For starters, the interior is a dream come true for decorators and makeover enthusiasts. What was an eyesore of an abandoned building that once housed American Trust and Bank in Savannah’s Historic District is now the ultra-chic Drayton Hotel featuring St. Neo’s, a Southern-inspired seafood restaurant and raw bar.

The restaurant’s backdrop of distressed glass bar and blue velvet walls invites guests to experience nostalgia with a twist of modernity. The décor combines elements of classy French brassieres with fun retro American diners: There are wicker backed chairs, warm globe lights, cozy wood floors and colorful tiles. Inside the dining room, a large mural painted by artist Bob Christian depicts Spanish moss, oak trees and dreamy clouds to remind you of your current surroundings – the Lowcountry.

In summer, the seasonally inspired cocktail menu reimagines agreeable classics with gentler spins. The Tuscan Gaze is a sweeter version of an Old Fashioned, with a hint of grapefruit and Italian amaro. The pucker of kiwi contrasts with coconut liquor and pisco in a drink named Most Beautiful Girl in the Room – a beauty that hits your tastebuds at the right spots. Pear cordial, lemongrass vermouth and a splash of salt bring out a sweet and sour exchange in the John Dorian cocktail, a take on the Appletini. There’s also a full bar and an innovative wine list featuring handpicked biodynamic wine selections – produced without chemicals and using natural materials – from Spain, Italy, France, Austria and the U.S.

The dinner menu is curated daily using sustainably sourced seafood and local ingredients. (St. Neo’s is named after the patron saint of fish, Saint Neot.) It offers a fine selection of sharable seafood tapas and several wholesome entrees. Only the freshest oysters are flown in (today’s came from Massachusetts, the server informs us) and land on a generously portioned raw-bar tower. You can add lobster, shrimp, crudo (raw fish) and crab.

If you bring a group, share a grazing platter of charred rustic homemade sourdough bread with smoked trout and celery salad, salmon mousse, deviled eggs and pickled okra. A side of crisp, beer-battered fried seasonal vegetables with lemon tahini dipping sauce is also good for nibbling.

St. Neo’s version of a jumbo lump crab cake uses spiced lemon chips instead of the usual breading. The fresh and light meat is served inside a beautiful blue crab shell sitting on top of a grilled lemon made to look like a rock.

Crispy thin prosciutto chips reveal two perfectly seared diver scallops, with a sweet apple butter sauce. A light and pleasing dish for all the senses.

The main attraction is a blackened shrimp entrée that hones in on Southern cooking influences. The acidity of heirloom tomatoes contrasts against the sweetness of a moist corn spoonbread with a peppery kick from blackened and grilled South Carolina shrimp.

While the patron saint blessed this kitchen with an abundance of sea creatures, there are locally sourced meat and poultry, too. Filet mignon carpaccio is served with a crispy poached egg, and the ribeye with potatoes, Brussels sprouts and mushrooms is a crowd pleaser. Seasonally inspired desserts change daily. In the fall, an interplay of graham cracker-crusted pumpkin tart with fresh figs and candied pistachios with chili will remind you of the changing weather of the South. There’s also the chef’s selection of petit fours for indecisive diners.

After a flavorful, unpretentious dinner, head down to the speakeasy lounge in the basement of the hotel or upstairs to the rooftop bar for a view of the Savannah River.

This article appears in the January 2022 issue of Georgia Trend.

8 Books That Let Kids Travel the World Through Stories

The Expedition. January 2022.

There are ways to travel besides getting on a plane or into a car. Thank goodness, given the constraints of school schedules—not to mention the limitations of the pandemic. Books can take children on journeys to different places and times. And books by diverse authors encourage kids to identify and empathize with different cultures and perspectives. 

We chose several books that can let kids travel through their pages. They can learn about language, food, music, animals, attractions and more, whether they’re toddlers, grade-schoolers or on the cusp of adolescence. Try these vibrant volumes to bring armchair adventures into your home. 

My Little Cities: London by Jennifer Adams

3-5 years

My Little Cities London Cover

Continue reading on The Expedition

The Best Family-friendly Restaurants on Hilton Head Island

Travel+Leisure. January 2022.

Pristine beaches, miles of biking paths, plenty of outdoor sporting activities, and friendly southern atmosphere attract families to vacation on Hilton Head Island year-round. The island also has a great dining scene, with a focus on fresh sustainable seafood and Lowcountry cuisine. You can find casual footwear-optional beachfront cafes, restaurants with live music, and lots of open-air patio dining with natural spaces that let the little ones spread out. If you are looking to have a night out with the family, or to grab a quick bite after a day at the beach, there is something to please the pickiest and most adventurous diners. 

Here are some of the best family-friendly restaurants on Hilton Head Island serving everything from delectable French pastries to Lowcountry boils. 

Continue reading on Travel+Leisure….

Best Private Boat Charters on Hilton Head Island

Travel+Leisure. January 2022.

Mild climate and calm waters around Hilton Head Island‘s flats, bays, and ocean make it idyllic to go on a private boat tour any time of the year. You can explore the coastline, watch the local wildlife, wave at animated dolphins, and soak in a glorious sunset. 

Sail along Calibogue Sound, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Intracoastal Waterway, and enjoy views of some of Hilton Head’s landmarks, such as Harbour Town Lighthouse, South Beach area, Daufuskie Island, and Baratara Island. Spend a few hours swimming, fishing, or simply relaxing on floating platform lounge chairs as you feel the slow pace of the Lowcountry. 

Renting a private boat charter allows you the flexibility to imagine your own itinerary, selection of activities, and dining stops along the way. Create new memorable experiences with one of these locally owned private boat charters on Hilton Head Island.

Continue reading on Travel+Leisure

Unique Diwali party ideas to light up your celebration

Paperless Post. December 2021.

For Hindus all around the world, Diwali (Divali or Deepavali) is the biggest festival on the calendar each year. During the days leading up to Diwali, friends and coworkers exchange gifts of dry fruits, sweets and precious metals. Children enjoy the festive atmosphere and anticipate spending quality time with cousins and extended family. On Diwali day, families wear their finest new clothes, illuminate their homes with lights, eat elaborate meals, and perform religious rituals. Others choose to celebrate Diwali by partying with neighbors and friends with music, dancing, and games. 

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably looking to light up your celebration with new tips and tricks that dispel darkness and bring on the fun. With our ideas, recipes, and, of course, our handmade Diwali invitations, you’ll throw the most memorable Diwali party ever.

Continue reading on Paperless Post’s blog…

Christmas Day dining

Georgia Trend Magazine. December 2021.

The holidays are a time to come together with family, create new memories and be grateful for the years past. But it’s easy to get stressed by the thought of planning the perfect meal that meets every dietary need. We leaf through cookbooks and magazines that show beautiful dinner spreads and try to emulate them, before realizing holiday magic is not going to turn us into Martha Stewart.

So give yourself a gift: Check shopping, cooking and cleaning off your list and leave it to the professionals, who can bring joy to your table. Many hotels, resorts and restaurants are offering special Christmas-day menus, buffets and to-go meal kits. Here are a few to consider.

Lunch at Callaway Gardens

Settle down with your loved ones at the Piedmont Dining Room inside The Lodge and Spa at Pine Mountain, for a scrumptious lunch buffet that will satisfy all ages. The menu includes gourmet salads, imported cheeses, chilled seafood bar, carving station, hot entrees and a selection of holiday desserts. There’s even a children’s (free for age 5 and under) table with their own helpings of chicken fingers, tater tots, and macaroni and cheese.

Afterwards, drive through the seven-mile-long Fantasy in Lights Enchanted Forest and take a stroll through the new Callaway Christmas Village. And if you don’t feel like driving home after all the food and fun, you can stay overnight and make it a Christmas getaway.

Buffet in Savannah

If you want to savor the flavors of the Lowcountry, head over to the 700 Drayton restaurant located inside the Mansion on Forsyth Park. The special buffet features a “Savannah Experience” showcasing a southern take on classic Christmas dishes. Chef Daniel Herget prepares fresh food using locally sourced ingredients. Also included are bottomless mimosas and live music. Before dinner, explore the historic Victorian Romanesque mansion, Hidden Carriage Wine Cellar and the extensive art gallery on site.

Bake it at Sea Island

Sea Island, the Golden Isles’ favorite resort, offers several options to dine-in or take home a special Christmas dinner. The Market’s Take-‘n’-Bake menu features customizable family-style a la carte options to bake at home. Pick up seasoned and ready to cook cider-brined whole turkey and herb roasted prime rib, along with all the fixings, such as traditional Sea Island Southern collard greens, cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes and Southern mini bacon corn muffins. Don’t forget dessert – gingerbread cheesecake or a chocolate chess pie to enjoy by the fireplace.

Or have the chefs at Sea Island’s Dining and Catering Services do it for you – you can place an order for an artfully prepared Christmas dinner and pick it up between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Christmas Day. Choose from three featured menus, with a minimum order for four guests.

Brunch at The Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

The opulent Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta has an annual Christmas day brunch featuring individually prepared delicacies as part of live-action cooking presentations. Twelve curated serving stations offer everything from caviar and lobster ravioli to smoked roasted duck with sour cherry glaze and salt-brined prime rib with port wine sauce.

The star attraction is the vast dessert spread hand-crafted by executive pastry Chef Erica Lee. You can get a preview of her tempting yule logs, Christmas tree cupcakes and candy cane cake pops by following her Instagram page.

Happy holiday dining!

~ Written for and published by Georgia Trend Magazine. All rights reserved.

Kwame Onwuachi On Fighting Food Insecurity In The Bronx

Zagat. December 2021.

Kwame Onwuachi is a chef, author, and TV personality. After closing his last restaurant, Kith/Kin in Washington DC, the James Beard Award-winning chef is judging Food Network’s Top Chefand Chopped, producing Food & Wine magazine and a film based on his memoir, and releasing his third book. Onwuachi co-chairs a National Advisory Committee on Food Insecurity and is on a mission to end food insecurity in the Bronx.

Growing up in the Bronx, I experienced food insecurity firsthand. Often, my only meal of the day was the free lunch provided at school. As a child, I worried about where I would eat when I was not at school. In the summer, we, as a family, were able to eat at a free lunch program offered by a public school that helped feed individuals like us. People don’t understand … a lot of kids eat only at the school, and I was one of those kids.

I am tired of people thinking of food as a luxury. It is a basic right for everyone. While growing up, my mother made just enough money to be ineligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), while she struggled to put food on the table. We utilized the free meal program in the Bronx, but we still need more programs like that.

Continue reading on Zagat

Weekend Getaways From Atlanta

Khabar. Dec 2021 cover story.

During the holidays this winter, many people may not be ready for long distance travel. But short-distance trips are different. There are few hassles, and you don’t have to spend much for a good time with family and friends. These six fun destinations are not far from Atlanta, and they all have a lot to offer for both day trippers and overnighters.

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In March 2020, the world’s borders shut down and the travel industry came to a standstill. All domestic and international trips, conferences and events were indefinitely canceled. I had just ticked off an item on my bucket list—a trip to Antarctica, which had been my 7th continent to travel to—and was about to reach my goal of visiting 100 countries. But as months went by, traveling outside the country started to look less probable.

That’s when I turned to explore more of the South, both for personal and professional reasons. Like many of us who were cooped up at home during the pandemic, I was having restless feet. My husband and I ventured on day trips around Atlanta, gradually exploring farther and staying overnight. This is when I rediscovered Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas—beyond the big cities and touristy destinations.

As we surveyed more, we saw common trends emerging in some of the smaller, previously unknown towns. More Americans were escaping big cities, seeking open spaces, leaner crowds, and friendlier communities. Families were choosing to work and attend virtual school out of their vacation homes, and thus emerged a new wave of entrepreneurs. What were once sleepy desolate towns now had renovated boutique hotels and restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs, and fun festivals to entertain all ages.

If you are seeking a relaxing time, an exciting road trip, or a new place to share with friends and family, these close-to-home destinations are worth a visit.

Chattanooga, Tennessee

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My first trip after businesses reopened, in May 2020, was to Chattanooga on the border of Georgia and Tennessee. I had already seen the well-known attractions— Ruby Falls and Tennessee Aquarium. This time, I wanted to keep the social distance and be outdoors. We stayed at a cozy bed-and-breakfast overlooking the city, called the RiverView Inn, and drove to Lookout Mountain, the highest point in the area, to breathe fresh air.

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The entrance fee to Rock City’s famous geological gardens had been reduced and advance reservations meant that we could walk through the narrow rock formations and suspended bridges without having to rub shoulders with other tourists. It was also refreshing to have the scenic viewpoints all to ourselves— we could freely look across seven states and take as many photos as we wanted with waterfall backdrops without feeling that we were blocking space. The animated characters, along with sound and lights, at the Fairyland Caverns and Mother Goose Village located at Rock City are sure to please little ones, though I was equally excited to relive the storybooks I had read as a child. Rock City’s Enchanted Garden of Lights is put up until January 2nd every year when it features a winter wonderland with one of the world’s tallest Christmas trees, twinkling lights and holiday shopping.

Downtown Chattanooga had also changed since my last visit there. The opento- pedestrians Walnut Street Bridge and waterfront areas were scattered with street artists, live musicians and food trucks to entertain joggers, bikers and walkers. Now surrounding the historic hotel, The Chattanooga Choo Choo, are a number of new bars and restaurants with outdoor seating.

Though there’s a marathon, concert, market or festival taking place practically every weekend, there’s a Holiday Market during the first three weekends in December. At the Chattanooga Convention Center, you will find over 200 local vendors selling unique holiday gifts, crafts and food.

Macon, Georgia

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I had driven past Macon on I-75 South, generally heading to the beaches of Georgia and Florida. But this time around, I made a pitstop to learn about Macon.

Downtown Macon once was one of the most important cities in the South, established by famous artists, socialites and politicians. There are over 6,000 historic buildings across 15 historic districts, each telling a story about ghosts, music, people and culture. A walking tour with Rock Candy Tours oriented me to the first African American-owned Douglass Theatre, Broadway musicals at The Grand Opera House, and the tunes of Macon Symphony Orchestra— all of which are still operational. CocerStory_13_12_21.jpg

Though I wasn’t exposed to Southern rock and soul music before, I enjoyed learning about famous bands such as The Allman Brothers Band, Otis Redding and Little Richard, who all recorded their albums in Macon. Funded by Mercer University, the newly renovated Capricorn Records highlights Macon’s music history and memorabilia in a modern multi-use space.

Another must-see landmark in Macon is the Tubman Museum, the largest museum dedicated to African American history, art and culture in the Southeast, named after the American Civil War activist Harriet Tubman.

The best time to visit Macon is in March, during the annual International Cherry Blossom Festival. Over 350,000 blooming pink and white flowering Yoshino cherry trees make you feel like you traveled to Tokyo. There are also lots of performances, galas and family-friendly events during this time, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Aiken, South Carolina

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Named the best small town in America by Southern Living magazine, Aiken is an elegant destination known for its arts, sporting facilities, nature and equine pursuits. The once “winter colony” of the active and restless privileged Northerners now attracts authors, artists, retirees and horse lovers from all over the country. Even the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai had his horses trained here. Plan your visit to see the spring steeplechase in March, derby matches in May, Christmas crafts markets in November, and Festival of Trees held through the month of December.

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Spring is the best time to bike through one of America’s largest urban oak forests, Hitchcock Woods, and stroll through the scenic Hopeland Gardens. Stay and dine at the historic Willcox Hotel, where the esteemed guest list includes Winston Churchill and Harold Vanderbilt. I, for one, was fully enchanted by the lovely streets lined with magnolia and oak trees, the romantic alleys, and the leisurely pace.

Americus, Georgia

Rarely do you expect to dine next to billionaires and past presidents while on vacation, but in Americus you never know who is sitting around the corner. Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter lives a few miles down the road (in Plains, Georgia) and is often seen dining at Rosemary and Thyme Restaurant, located at the 125-yearold Victorian-style Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel in downtown Americus. The opulent hotel has changed hands several times and undergone millions of dollars in renovations, establishing itself as an iconic model for a downtown that’s being slowly restored.

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The owners, Sharad Patel and his family, have hosted the Carters too. After reopening, Patel named his best oval suite after the most famous local resident—the Carter suite. He has added the Indianspiced cilantro grouper to the menu and will happily create spicy dishes (his signature is lamb) upon request.

Nearby in Plains, you can visit Jimmy Carter Boyhood Farm, his former campaign headquarters, and Plains High School. In the evening, watch The Nutcracker ballet at the Rylander Theatre, or simply “porch” with a glass of 13th Colony Southern Bourbon at Floyd’s Pub overlooking Lamar Street. The Windsor often hosts New Year’s eve gala dinners, overnight holiday packages, and murder-mystery dinner theaters.

For a fun ride, board the 1949 vintage cars on the historic SAM Shortline Railroad. This exciting journey stops at Archery, Plains, Americus, Leslie, Georgia Veterans State Park and Cordele. Holiday-themed trains include onboard gifts, hot chocolate and cookies with Santa.


Greenville, South Carolina

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Greenville has lately become one of the fastest growing cities in the South. Having heard highly of the celebrated multi-day food and music festival event, I attended Euphoria Greenville only in its 16th year in September 2021. The annual festival gave me an opportunity to taste a variety of locally made foods and drinks and to meet a number of recently transplanted residents. The small town has attracted big name chefs and creative folks to open New American and eclectic dining establishments, and now there are well over 1000 to choose from! If you’re craving flavors of home during your visit, there are vegetarian, North and South Indian options at Saffron, Handi, India Palace, Swad, and Persis Biryani Indian Grill. Recent accolades for Greenville include “#1 Under-the-Radar Southern Food Destination” by Zagat, the “Next Big Food City of the South” by Esquire, and one of “The South’s Tastiest Towns” by Southern Living.

The revitalized downtown Greenville looks like a miniature version of a walkable big city, with urban parks, boutiques and a variety of restaurants. The Fall Park on the Reedy, with its bridge and waterfall, is small yet scenic. While strolling along the three blocks of Main Street during a weekend, you will come across families (complete with four-legged members) shopping at the morning farmers market, admiring over 100 public art displays, and listening to live music at one of the outdoor venues.

There are a number of branded hotels in downtown Greenville, including The Westin Poinsett, AC Hotel by Marriott, Hyatt Regency. But if you want to experience a Tuscanstyle getaway amidst mountains and vineyards, head to Hotel Domestique in neighboring Travelers Rest. A perfect place to stay, there’s also a 22-mile-long Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail nearby that has won awards for its biking paths.

Cashiers, North Carolina

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One of the most scenic drives of my life happened to be just two hours north of Atlanta! The windy roads on Highways 64 and 107—via Highlands, Cashiers and Sylva— took me through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains, dense forests, striking waterfalls, and along trout-rich Nantahala River. In October- November, the 5,000 feet high western North Carolina mountains are covered in hues of red, orange, yellow and green, making it an ideal place to go “leaf peeping.” My favorite way to enjoy the fall colors was via an easy hiking trail on Whiteside Mountain, though there are plenty of golfing, biking, fishing and boating options as well.

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From the Rhodes Big View Overlook, on a clear sunny evening, I got to see a rare natural phenomenon that takes place only during two weeks in a year (in spring and fall) when the sun’s shadows cast on Cashier Valley create interesting animal shapes—turtle, mouse, dog and, eventually, a “Shadow of the Bear.”

With easy access to Lake Glenville, Gorges State Park and Panthertown Valley (called Yosemite of the East), the mountain town of Cashiers is designed for outdoor enthusiasts. But there are lovely renovated hotels—High Hampton Resort, Hotel Cashiers, The Wells Hotel Cashiers—that make for warm and luxurious basecamps.

Grab a print copy of Khabar Magazine or read it online here.