Eco-tourism gets edible with the Ritz Carlton, Charlotte’s, giant green gingerbread house

giant gingerbread house The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, in North Carolina, is taking their eco-friendly hospitality to a whole new level. From Thanksgiving Day through December 28, 2011, the hotel will showcase a life-sized “edible eco-manor”, designed by architects and made by pastry chefs using all-natural and organic ingredients. The structure will be 12 feet high by 14 feet wide by 10 feet deep and will also feature LED lights and a green “moss” eco-roof.

So what goes into making a giant eco-friendly gingerbread house?

  • 350 pounds of organic white, brown and confectioner’s sugar
  • 70 pounds of organic egg whites
  • 300 pounds of organic bread flour
  • 100 organic eggs
  • 24 pounds of molasses
  • Four pounds of salt
  • Four pounds of baking soda
  • 120 pounds of shortening
  • 24 ounces of cinnamon
  • Two gallons of organic milk
  • Eight ounces each of nutmeg, allspice and cloves
  • Nine ounces of ginger

This unique exhibit complements The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte’s, already eco-friendly programming. The property is LEED-certified, meaning that the hotel’s construction and design follows the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design guidelines. Some sustainable practices of the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, include building materials that use 30% less energy than most hotels, reduced water usage by 35%, a green, vegetated rooftop, recycling more than 80% of construction waste, and having bicycles as available transportation for guests, among other initiatives.

For more information on the hotel’s green programming, click here.

10 days, 10 states: Drum circles and Hogzilla in North Carolina’s “cess pool of sin”

“A cess pool of sin” -North Carolina State Senator James Forrester, in reference to the city of Asheville-

On a cold autumn evening in downtown Asheville’s Pritchard Park, I find myself in the company of an inebriated man doing his best to imitate a silverback mountain gorilla. With his arms hovering just above ankle level, the bearded, shirtless gentleman plows his way through the forest of people collectively losing themselves in the rhythms of the Friday night Asheville drum circle.

Much as I encountered during my stay in Austin, Texas, Asheville is a progressive bubble of free-thought and cultural diversity in an otherwise conservative surrounding. Nestled at an elevation of 2,200 ft. in the Appalachian Mountains, Asheville is the final stop on my “10 days, 10 states, 10 great American sights” road trip, and I couldn’t be happier to be here.

Though I consider Asheville to be one of my favorite towns in all of the 50 states, not everyone is as accepting of the drum circle dancing, microbrew swilling, buy local promoting mentality that’s so alive and well.

In much publicized comments made by State Senator James Forrester, the Senator vehemently championed the notion that the city of Asheville was a “cess pool of sin”. Unfazed by the verbal bullet, the cheeky citizens of Asheville have instead latched on to the catchy alliteration and have begun selling t-shirts, bumper stickers, and mountain themed memorabilia that glorify their supposedly sinful existence.

Sipping on a pint of Wee Heavy-er Scotch Ale in the city’s lively downtown district, I write the sinful activity off as research towards familiarizing myself with the city’s well known microbrewery culture. Though Asheville boasts a modest population of just over 80,000 people, no less than 9 breweries operate within the immediate region. Thrice garnering the title of “Beer City USA”, Asheville also made the list of Gadling’s official “24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer”.

%Gallery-140241%Though the corner stool of a dimly lit brewpub is as good a place as any for quaffing local stout, in a quirky town such as Asheville, there are far more creative options for enjoying your succulent brew.

Options such as inside of the purple painted LaZoom comedy tour bus.

Notorious amongst locals as being a slow moving historical tour that strangely enough involves an angry, bicycle-riding nun, the tour is also famous for having a license allowing history buffs to drink beers while on board. Genuinely funny and staffed by energetic Asheville locals, it’s the history class you’ve always dreamed of.

Drinking on a moving bus? Definitely sinful.

So where else can I find this supposed sin in this supposed cess pool of a town that I just happen to love so much? Well, if gluttony is a sin, then a trip down to 12 Bones Smokehouse is probably the first place I would look. With a work week that would make even the French envious, 12 Bones is so popular for their southern style BBQ they’re only open for business five hours a day, five days a week, all of which have a line stretching deep into the parking lot. In well documented photos adorning the walls, even President Obama isn’t immune from racing down to 12 Bones for a lunchtime BBQ fix.

My 12 Bones item of choice? A “Hogzilla” sandwich that consists of pulled pork, a whole sausage, multiple strips of sugar bacon, and melted pepper jack cheese on a hoagie bun. Add in a side of baked beans and collard greens, pay a meager $7.50 for the privilege of calling it your own, and partake in a gluttonous feast so good it might even be in the neighborhood of sin.

Good BBQ. Good beer. Beautiful mountains. Quirky locals. Fresh mountain air. Asheville, North Carolina is decidedly my kind of town, and if this is the definition of sin, then throw me deep into the cess pool.

Kicked back in a lounge chair on the banks of the French Broad River, the third oldest river in the world, I breathe a deep, 3,600 mile sigh that’s half contentment, half exhaustion. Over the last 10 days I’ve bathed beneath waterfalls in Umpqua, Oregon, and stood outside of the oldest house in America in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve hiked the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon, Utah, and trekked deep into the foliage of Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge.

The result? Affirming the notion that of all the countries in the world to set off on a road trip, there are few better places to start than right here in our own backyard.

This is the final stop on Kyle’s “10 days, 10 states, 10 great American sights” series, but by no means the end of the adventures. Stay tuned to Gadling for where he might pop up next.

Travel in the southern United States for free with Megabus

megabus gives free transportationWho doesn’t love free travel? With a new hub in Atlanta, Georgia, Megabus is giving away 10,000 free seats to travelers using their new routes during trips taking place November 16 to December 16, 2011. The eleven cities included in the new route leaving from Atlanta include:

  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Gainesville, Florida
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Orlando, Florida

To take advantage of the offer, just enter the promo code ATL10K when reserving your seat online.

Gawker’s Worst 50 States

I’ve been following Gawker’s newest series, The Worst 50 States. I’ve been enjoying following this series. In an effort to pin down not only the best states in the US of A, but, more importantly, the worst states, Gawker compiled a Gawker-invented rating system in order to rank our fair fifty. Granted, this rating system consists solely of the viewpoints of those on staff for Gawker, so the viewpoints are just about as biased as you would deem Gawker (Which might be not at all according to you!), but there’s some interesting stuff in there. Yes, they’re focusing on the bad more than the good, those damn pessimists, but all in all, fact or fiction, the commentary on the 50 states is makes me laugh. And, I’ll just throw this in there, I’ve been to 48 of the 50 states and much of every summary they make rings true to me. They’re not done wrapping up the states yet, but check out their analysis of most of the states here.

If you’re inflamed, saddened, or curling over with laughter after reading what’s so bad about your home state, come back here and tell us in the comments how Gawker made you feel.

Study Ranks States By Individual Freedom

Staying with Friends: On the Porch in Raleigh, North Carolina

One thing you won’t find in New York City, at least at my apartment, is a screened-in porch. But in the summer in the south, the porch is the living room, kitchen, dining room and bar, a focal point of a home to rival the greatest of fireplaces. I know because I had the pleasure of enjoying a porch for a couple of days recently in Raleigh, North Carolina.


Through my friend Rob, I’d met Tim and Susan, a couple that left New York City after about fifteen years to slow down and try their hands in the south. Like our friends in the Outer Banks, they were standard bearers for North Carolina’s wonderful brand of hospitality, immediately shuffling us out to the porch, plopping us down in chairs and handing us frosty beers plucked from an ice chest. One of the greatest things in North Carolina is the beer-filled cooler that holds a prime position on porches across the state.

We talked. Rob updated his friends on news from New York and I grilled the couple on life in Raleigh and how it compares to the north, particularly because Tim will soon open his own bar near the campus of UNC. “The bottom line is, with Research Triangle Park, there is this really well-educated community and an awfully diverse community here,” he says. “My thing is that there’s a phenomenal number of ‘classic American’ bars but there aren’t really a phenomenal number of bars that have been influenced by Europe. And it’s not that I want to create a ‘European bar’ but there are a lot of things that the Europeans get right with bars,” like lighting, music, ambiance and drink selection.

Tim’s new spot should be, like his porch, a great place for gathering. The idea of televisions in pubs is repellant to the long-time bartender, a pointless intrusion on the real reasons for going out: the people and the booze and sometimes the food. Construction at his place is still underway, but he’s already found that the business of building a restaurant in Chapel Hill is, in many ways, much easier here than in New York City. Rent is cheaper, of course, but so are construction costs, contracting fees and permits. Bureaucratic headaches are nothing compared to what restaurant owners confront up north. It’s the kind of place, says Tim, where he can actually open his own business; that wasn’t a certainty in his former hometown. (He also has more room in his house for power tools now.)

Critically for the area restaurant scene-if not his place-the local products are good, says Tim: “There is some very good beer being brewed in North Carolina. I was shocked to say so when I moved but there’s some fabulous beer being brewed down here.” Lonerider’s Shotgun Betty and Foothills Pilsner from Salem, North Carolina are a couple of his favorites. 3 Cups, a Chapel Hill gourmet shop, stocks plenty of international groceries and wines, but its event program is all about local chefs and farmers. “There is good food here,” Tim says. Much of it is on view at the Raleigh Farmers Market, which has so much to offer that it’s open daily.

While his future bar is across “The Triangle” from the capital, Raleigh’s downtown alliance is encouraging development in the heart of the city, where there’s already a healthy dining and nightlife scene. Poole’s Diner is a foodie favorite occupying a restored luncheonette, bustling until the wee hours as friends finish that last bottle of wine and linger over dessert. The chef there, Ashley Christensen, is embarking on a new triple-concept restaurant, adding to the offerings in downtown with Beasley’s, Chuck’s and an as-yet-unnamed bar. It’s not just eating and drinking: The Contemporary Art Museum opened earlier this year in a converted warehouse on West Martin Street.

The nerve center of it all is Morning Times, a killer coffee shop where friends bump into friends by coincidence and everyone seems to greet the baristas by name. Tables line the street, occupied by couples reading the paper and neighbors “visiting,” that southern form of chatting that makes a conversation much more than just small talk. There are salads and sandwiches and wraps to order, sure, but the egg and cheese biscuit is what you really want for breakfast (and probably lunch too).

For all the positives, development work continues, as The Raleigh Connoisseur blog, which tracks downtown news and notes, describes in its mission statement:

Transit, urban planning, and land use are new problems that we will face as the city grows. What will downtown’s role be in all of this? I am trying to follow Raleigh’s attempts at bringing back the urban center it once had in the early 1900s.

Indeed, in this growing city and metro region, sprawl could be public enemy number one, with engineers commuting to RTP, suburbanites driving downtown for a night out or an entrepreneurial bartender living in Raleigh opening his place in Chapel Hill. All the driving makes economic sense now, but will it still as the population continues to grow-and gas prices keep rising?