Monday, January 19, 2009
I finally arrive in the the small burg of Siler City, NC, after a harrowing trip from the airport, which was made harrowing by the fact that Jane the GPS would not acquire signal for miles and miles, leaving me to my own devices about which road to take out of Greensboro. Many thanks to the KimKim, who did a much better job than Jane the TomTom, for talking me out of the city, and Dave for tech support on troubleshooting why the damn thing would not grab a satellite signal...beating it against the seat, i.e., "percussive maintenance," was not an option he found, but it felt good.
I drive a couple of miles outside of Siler City and turn off Highway 64 on to a curvy country lane, complete with the requisite country church posting a sign exhorting me to "Fireproof my life...Jesus insures," on my way to my temporary home for the next 3 nights--the Inn at Celebrity Dairy.
I've been excited about this particular trip from the first time I Googled my options for "lodging in Siler City," and the Inn at Celebrity Dairy popped up on the radar. It's a B&B at a goat dairy. (Yeah, I said "goat dairy.") Goats! B&B! Home Cooked Breakfast! What's not to be excited about, I ask you?
Goats fascinate me...especially the little bitty ones. It probably dates back to all those Popeye and Looney Tunes cartoons I watched, and in every single one that featured a goat, the goat always ate a tin can AND would butt you in the rear if you turned your back to him. I never really stopped to think "why would a goat eat a tin can or have an obsession with rear ends?" Maybe, it was because I had already accepted that rabbits spoke with a Bronx accent, ducks were amazingly greedy when it came to treasure, and coyotes had a secret mail order catalog for all sorts of better mousetrap (or road runner) contraptions, so goats eating cans were fairly easy to believe.
If you Google "do goats eat tin cans," you'll be amazed at the number of FAQs and trivia Q&As that abound about this question. In reading through a few of these tidbits of wisdom, it seems that goats were probably a) trying to get the last bits of something out of a can, or b) eating the paper label and/or the glue that holds the labels on the can, and this behavior is what gave rise to the idea that goats would eat anything. Heck, they might as well be Labrador retrievers, who probably can and do eat tin cans, along with sofa cushions and siding from houses.
There was an automotive recycling center (junkyard) on what used to be the outskirts of the Rocket City that I had visited in another life that involved a hobby of old German sports cars. The guy who owned the junkyard kept goats in the yard, and they would wander around the property among the piles of various automotive effluvia and rusting car bodies, doing goatly things. Invariably, one would always be on top of an old car body surveying its domain and giving the stink eye to interloping humans. And, these goats were large...like super mutant goats, so I was always a bit wary of them and never presented my backside...just in case those old cartoons were onto something.
Back to the Celebrity Inn and Dairy...The Dairy is a working dairy, and guests are encouraged to watch the milking process, which occurs twice daily. Unfortunately for me, all the goats are pregnant and aren't letting down milk during my visit. I did visit the goat barn, or "Goat Hilton" as they call it, and saw the flock, who were lounging around and peacefully chewing cud and communing with the chickens and barn cats. There is a peacock named Rupert, who hangs around the barn as well. (And, I forgot my darn camera when I went to see the goats, so no goat pictures for me!)
The rooms at the inn are homey and comfy in a lived-in way...not the antiseptic look of the traditional business hotel, more of the "shabby chic" look. Most of them have private baths, and some share baths and could be used as suites if you were visiting with your family. I'm in Benjamin's Room, which has a queen-size bed and a private bath, which is basically what I get at the Hampton Inn. What I don't get at any business hotel is a home-cooked breakfast every morning that features Celebrity's award winning chevre.
Breakfast is served family style, and you sit down with the innkeepers and the farm/inn staffers. Everyone is talkative and friendly, and it feels like they really are glad to have you there. They were very accommodating to my request to have breakfast a little earlier than the normal 8:30 am, because I needed to be heading to the site at that time. The innkeepers, Britt and Fleming, have been in the goat dairy business for about 20 years and innkeepers for the last 10. They got into goats because Fleming is allergic to dairy products, and she was searching for a source of calcium and someone suggest goat milk. They studied with a French cheesemaker on how to make chevre, and they do a fine job of it. Britt is a retired engineer, and he works on restoring the farm house and outbuildings. He's also got a dream of doing culinary school, which we talked about during breakfast.
At my first breakfast, we had a humongous 12-egg family omelet made from eggs gathered from the chickens that wander around the farm, along with homemade strawberry and fig preserves, butter, and chevre, biscuits, country ham, and fresh fruit. Day 2's morning feast was fresh grapefruit, baked eggs with chevre, fruit, and what looked and tasted like a whole grain cornbread. Day 3 started with a bowl of granola with homemade yogurt drizzled on top, along with fruit, biscuits, and curry flavored goat cheese that went well with fig preserves, and something I never ever get outside of Scottish festivals: Scotch eggs.
Scotch eggs are pretty damned decadent, in my book. It's a hardboiled egg, removed from the shell, then wrapped in sausage and coated in bread crumbs and deep-fried...seriously. According to the entry in Wikipedia, they aren't really Scottish, but I've only had them at Scottish festivals before this. These were drizzled with a little honey-dijon mustard and cut into quarters, which made it seem less bad for you somehow. Ah, my brain--a wonderous player of tricks!
The Inn also hosts Sunday lunch on every third Sunday, and they also do special events with local chefs. Wednesday afternoon, when I came in from the site visit, someone was poaching pears in red wine with cinnamon and allspice and white wine with vanilla and ginger for an event on Thursday evening, and the aroma was divine.
One evening, I drove 20 minutes or so to Pittsboro for dinner at The General Store Cafe, and was rewarded for my efforts with a lovely dish of Shrimp and Grits and a very nice Berry Cobbler, which was more of a Berry Crumble in my opinion, but delicious no matter what you called it.
The Celebrity Inn is not a fancyschmancy spa kind of place--no day spa with a goat milk bath and goat cheese facial masque--it's a bit rustic, clean, and comfortable, and sort of feels like you're staying the night with some long-lost relatives that you haven't seen since Cousin LuLu's wedding to that bluegrass singer...who happen to have high-speed internet. (That is a big concern when traveling for business and going off the corporate hotel beaten path.) I think I've slept better here, because of the homey feel, than I've slept in any hotel in the last few months. (There are amenities like massages to be had with appointment, and you could probably get a little goat cheese to smear on your face if you really wanted..but why wear it, when you can eat it?!.)
As the economy is swirling around in the toilet, I worry about places like the Celebrity Inn and how they will survive this downturn. Personally, I think folks should really look at these little local getaways as viable options for vacations...where you might have cruised off to the Carribean for a week before and spent a couple thousand bucks, you could have 3 or so little mini-vacations or long weekends that are in driving distance of and probably some interesting places that just aren't on the big radar. Yeah, rural NC is not as exciting as going to Las Vegas, etc., but it's cheaper and more relaxing. I was envious every day as the Inn staff got up to go about the business of making cheese, preparing for guests, taking care of the animals, etc. It seemed rather peaceful and idyllic, and somehow had more purpose. I know, that's just a rose-colored view, but it never hurts to dream a little dream, now does it? Naaah!