Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pepper Palace & Kyle Carver Orchard

  It has been a jam-packed weekend in my neck of the woods. Friday night, after work, I went to the National Storytelling Festival- as I told you last week. Saturday, my hubby and I got up and a drive up to Gatlinburg in the heart of the Smokies. We took the back way in, driving the roads through Cosby that sinuously wind through the mountains like a snake. It was a beautiful drive that will become even more stunning in the coming weeks as the leaves change. And the trip wasn't just eye candy - we experience a couple of places that must be shared with the masses, the Pepper Palace and Kyle Carver Orchard.

  The Pepper Palace - what can I say?  It lives up to its name.  The scent of pepper beckons you as you pass the store front in the Mountain Mall- not heat, but the pure essence of pepper that is utterly inviting.  On the left as you enter, you'll find numerous trophies and ribbons for many of their award-winning sauces and salsas - several you'll find on this list.  Not only do they carry their own house brands, but any kind of hot sauce you could want.  Curious about the heat level?  Check the shelf. The sauces are rated for your taste buds.  There are sample bars to try many of the sauces, and samples using their products.  I walked out with my favorite, Southern Peach and Vidalia Onion, slightly sweet and of medium heat, and my hubby's pick - Autumn in the Smokies, a good, solid medium heat sauce that screams buffalo wings.  But if you aren't a chile head or a hot sauce connoisseur, don't despair.  The Pepper Palace has tons of BBQ sauces, marinades, rubs, salsas, and dip mixes.  But what impressed me the most was the fact you could tell the folks that worked there loved what they did.  They were extremely friendly, encouraging customers to try samples and assisting them in the floor with their impressive product knowledge.

  On the way home, we stopped at Kyle Carver Orchard, or as locals refer to it - Carver's.  A sprawling orchard that grows apples, peaches, grapes, and vegetables, Carver's has a candy store, barn market, and the Applehouse Restaurant.  This was my first time eating at the Applehouse, but it will not be my last.  We were greeted by a very professional hostess, who was 9 at most (filling in for the busy hostess, she did not want to see us waiting), but undoubtly the next generation to run the orchard.  She promptly requested us to follow her, and seated us next to one of the windows that looked out over the apple trees, heavy with fruit. 
The meals were served with a small glass of apple cider, a basket of apple fritters - hush puppy-like critters with finely diced apples, and apple butter. butter.  I can't think of a thing that wouldn't be better dunked in that apple butter.  As you can see, I came home with a jar.  After a wonderful meal, we headed over to the barn where I snagged the apple butter and honey.  Boy, the apple cider was tempting to get, but I needed a reason to go back soon.  Curiously, among the many items they had made from the things they grow there, there was a hot sauce made with peaches and Vidalia onions, like I picked up from the Pepper Palace.  I just might have to do a comparison between the two sometime.

Notes:  Need some place to feed your hot sauce needs?  You can find the Pepper Palace at or on Facebook.  Carver's doesn't have a website, but they, too, have a Facebook page.

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