Looking back — Did you know? — Top 5 columns of 2016
As I write this column looking back on 2016, I know many of you feel as I do — we need to put this year in the rear view mirror, and move on.
From the deaths of so many of Rock-and-Roll royalty to the most contentious presidential election in American history — from wildfires to drought — there is so much about 2016 to put behind us. But the new year brings hope, and for me, another 50-some new DYK columns.
That being said, let’s reprise the top five DYK’s — those with the most page-views on The Mountaineer Web site.
#5 — Jan. 13, 2016 — “A pairing whose time has come — beer and fine chocolates” — 2,689 views
This is a celebration of my two favorite food groups, and a pairing of both old and new Sylva businesses — Heinzelmännchen Breweryand Baxley’s Chocolates.
HZM is a beer pioneer — the first N.C. craft brewery west of Asheville, and I wrote about it shortly after moving to the area.
That was nine years ago, and I have been trying to keep up with ‘What’s brewing’ ever since.
From the beginning, HZM has long positioned touted as a beer that goes well with food, so it’s no surprise that for the past five years has hosted a craft beer/craft chocolate pairing event.
In 2016, HZM shared the stage/event with Baxley’s Chocolate — a brand new family business in Sylva. My mouth is still watering from that wonderful pairing.
I you find yourself in Sylva, stop by Baxley’s and take a few hand-crafted chocolates to Heinzelmännchen. You’ll have a Wunderbar time.
#4 — March 9, 2016 — “The end of an era — a fond farewell to the gas station gallery” — 2,723 views.
This was a sad goodbye to Walker Service — the iconic corner gas-turned service station on the corner of Branner Avenue and Depot Street in downtown Waynesville, that served community so well for 88 years.
Clayton Walker was the third generation “mechanic and chief” of Walker service for the past 42 years, and since 1997, hosted an artist in residence — his wife and renowned metal sculptor, Grace Cathey.
The Catheys have retired so that both can relax more and enjoy life. We wish them well.
Meanwhile, the Walker service building has remained idle for the past nine months, but Grace Cathey’s downtown Sculpture Garden continues to get rave reviews from both residents and visitors alike.
Walker Service is too good a location to stand empty, and soon it will be home to a new business.
What kind of business? — Did you know? I haven’t a clue.
#3 — Oct. 19, 2016 — “Be still my heart – Elevated Mountain Distilling is coming soon” — 2,884 views
Truth be known, my first exposure to anything alcoholic in Haywood County, was a cherry soaked in Popcorn Sutton’s legendary ‘likker.’ I was about to interview this legendary character when he the ‘revenuers’ caught him, the courts convicted him and rather than go to jail, Popcorn took his own life.
I covered Popcorn’s funeral for The Mountaineer, and moved on to writing about craft beer.
Now, I am happy to report that corn liquor and legal moonshine will soon be made in Maggie Valley, and on much bigger and safer equipment.
Yes, Elevated Mountain Distilling has installed the biggest and most beautiful still I have ever seen, and is currently awaiting their license. Its first legal ‘likker’ will available by spring.
The gift shop at Elevated Mountain Distilling is open, with a good view of gleaming chrome and copper — It will be still your heart, too.
#2 — April 13, 2016 — “50 years of service to the community — The story of Joey’s Pancake House” — 5,885 views
When Joey and Brenda O’Keefe moved to Maggie Valley in 1966 to visit friends, they fell in love with the area and opened a restaurant. Who could have guessed that Joey’s Pancake house would become the most iconic restaurant in Haywood County — even though it’s closed during the winter months.
The Joey’s formula was good food, great service and the professional/personal touch of both Joey and Brenda. Sadly, Joey passed away in 2001, but Brenda has pressed on — surpassing 50 years in business. Like clockwork, Joey’s will open for business in 2017 — for its 51st season.
#1 — June 29, 2016 — “Canton’s new Southern Porch Kitchen and Drink” — 9,960 views
As the expression goes, “And the winner is — Canton’s Southern Porch.” This is the newest restaurant to occupy Canton’s historic Imperial Hotel building, but judging by the number of page views of the column, Southern Porch will be a fixture in Canton for years to come.
Congratulations to owners, Nathan Lowe, Michaela Blanton Lowe, Dave Grant and Cindi Layman — who have managed to combine the winning combination of creative Southern cuisine in a laid-back setting, an attentive staff and perhaps the most interesting, rotating selection of craft beer on tap in Haywood County. Y’all come to Canton for some ‘Southern Porch sittin.’
Writer’s Choice Award — “I hear the Mountains Calling me Home” — The story of Balsam Range
My favorite column of the year was also my most labor intensive. It’s the ‘backstories’ of the five talented Bluegrass musicians that came together to form Balsam Range, and gifted us with their amazing ‘Art of Music’ Festival in early December.
It was my privilege to sit down with each the Balsam Range members, listen to their stories and understand how bluegrass music is woven into the fabric of the mountains.
In case you missed the column-turned-feature, you can read it in its entirety — Just visit: www.themountaineer.villagesoup.com/p/i-hear-the-mountains-calling-me-home/1594478.
BTW, Happy New Year.