Sweet Scent The aroma of eucalyptus and rosemary calm Lisa Joyner as she gathers flowers into a bouquet for a local nurse’s wedding. The fragrant stems help Joyner stay focused
The aroma of eucalyptus and rosemary calm Lisa Joyner as she gathers flowers into a bouquet for a local nurse’s wedding. The fragrant stems help Joyner stay focused as she expertly arranges herbs, pale yellow dahlias, bold magenta zinnias, wispy bunny tails, and other florals. “Being rooted and centered and reverent for nature is so easy when you’re presented with a bouquet,” Joyner says. “It’s a celebration of nature.”
Today is the big day, the culmination of a process that began nearly a year ago when Joyner sat down with the bride at Fireside Farm, the flower farm she owns with her husband, Randall Williams. Before a seed goes in the ground or a bud sprouts, she plans which floral varieties to plant based on brides’ color schemes and favorite flowers. Her brides are excited to have such beautiful arrangements grown by a couple that cares deeply about sourcing locally.
Joyner and Williams met while teaching at the Duke Young Writers Program in 2004. Three years later, they bought a small farm off a winding gravel road in Efland to pursue their passion for homesteading, sustainability, nature, and, eventually, flowers. They have big plans to create community spaces on the farm for folks to gather and stop to smell the roses. — Katie Kane
More to explore: Fill your bucket with a bouquet of spring blooms at pick-your-own flower farms across the state. To see our list visit ourstate.com/flower-farms.
Barbara McKenzie was shocked. In a second-floor waterfront room of the Inlet Inn, surrounded by chocolates, champagne, and the glow of candlelight, Jay Tervo asked her, “Will you marry me?” Speechless, she froze. “Well, will you?” he prompted.
“He was so chill, he was so relaxed; he never gave anything away,” McKenzie says with a laugh, recalling the day of her engagement in December 1993.
At the Inlet Inn, over a table in the third-floor lounge, the pair exchange knowing smiles — a look that only 27 years of marriage can bring. The morning sun peeks through the lounge’s windows, illuminating local artwork on the walls and an H. Schöenbach baby grand piano in the corner — McKenzie is a concert pianist. Nearly three years ago, the couple became the owners — or, as they prefer to say, caretakers — of the inn. “We don’t really own it because you don’t own the spirit here,” McKenzie says.
That calm, friendly, restorative spirit is what drew McKenzie and Tervo back to the inn and to Beaufort, the town where they met, after closing the chapter on their decades-long careers in Wilmington. Now, their thoughtful touches can be found throughout the 36-room inn: refillable glass soap and lotion dispensers created by Sea Oats Candle Company to cut down on plastic waste, framed vintage postcards from the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library, and dark chocolate sea-salt bars supplied by Cru Wine Bar & Coffee Shop, a block away.
On a serendipitous day, from the patio of his or her room, a guest might spot wild horses roaming the Rachel Carson Reserve and dolphins swimming through Taylor’s Creek. It’s no wonder that McKenzie and Tervo fell in love. — Chloe Klingstedt
Bouquets of buttercream flowers, petite rose-flecked madeleines, and delicately hand-painted macarons that you’d swear came from the finest patisserie in Paris: Every confection that Asheville baker Sara Fields Bridges creates for Queen Nana’s Bakery is a work of art that’s almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Bridges wasn’t much of a baker prior to the pandemic. “I never even made a cupcake,” she says. The Asheville native had spent her professional career thus far in marketing and events, including running a wedding planning business. She’d always enjoyed baking but never had the time until 2020, when she learned that the health condition of her beloved grandmother, Queen Nana, had turned terminal. In response to the news, Bridges decided to bake Queen Nana’s favorite dessert, scones.
Over the next five months, Bridges baked something special every week for Queen Nana, who encouraged her to start a bakery. At the time, Bridges deemed the idea ridiculous. Yet the day her grandmother died, to process her grief, Bridges baked macarons, batch after batch until she got them right. “That’s when it clicked,” she says, then laughs. “All of this baking that I thought was too hard for me is really accessible.”
Bridges launched Queen Nana’s Bakery in the summer of 2021. Because each custom treat takes hours to make, she currently only fulfills small orders through her Instagram page. Down the road, she says, online baking classes, a blog, a cookbook, and maybe even a storefront could be in her future. For now, she’s enjoying the creative process of baking, and it shows in each sweet bite. — Melissa Reardon
To learn more about Queen Nana’s Bakery, visit instagram.com/queennanasbakery.
Here’s a challenge: Say, “Sweet potatoes, well shut my mouth” without a twang. Even if you aren’t from around here, you may have fooled yourself for a second. From the name to the menu to the smooth jazz that ushers folks into the beloved Winston-Salem restaurant, Sweet Potatoes (Well Shut My Mouth!!) is all about Southern culture. “It was important that people felt comfortable and that the food was representative of who we are and where we come from,” co-owner Vivián Joiner says. Joiner’s partner, co-owner and Chef Stephanie Tyson, runs the kitchen and plans the menu, which is full of traditional dishes with creative twists. Try the sweet potato cornbread served with honey-ginger butter, the Miss Ginny martini with gin and house-made sweet potato simple syrup, or a homemade sweet potato muffin that’s served with Miss O’s fish plate — a fried fish platter that Miss Ora, Tyson’s grandmother and culinary inspiration, used to make. Miss Ora cooked for white families around Winston-Salem in the ’50s and ’60s. She couldn’t read or write, so Tyson became her kitchen shadow, absorbing as much as she could to eventually become a chef in her own right, and to bring the same flavor-filled joy to the city as her grandmother. — Katie Kane
Dani Noto holds a clear, 16-ounce cup of chilled, unsweetened premium black tea and carefully tops it off with a scoop of strawberry sorbet. As soon as the sorbet splashes into the tea and begins to dissolve, Noto caps the cup with a plastic dome lid, making it look like a snow globe.
Noto, the owner of Uptown Tea Shop in Waxhaw, hands the sweet tea float to a customer, instructing them to mash the sorbet with a straw to diffuse the flavor. The result is a mildly sweet, dairy-free treat that gets better with each sip. She uses black raspberry, cherry, dragon fruit, lemon, mango, or strawberry sorbet in the floats, depending on what’s in stock.
Noto began serving the floats soon after opening Uptown Tea six years ago in The Shops of Eight Legs Gallery. Located in a turn-of-the-century mill house, the shop offers more than 160 kinds of loose-leaf tea, plus tea accessories, and greetings from Phoebe, Noto’s golden retriever. “There’s nothing that I don’t love about tea,” Noto says. “Tea builds relationships.” — Lori K. Tate
Let’s play word association: I say sweet, and you say … tea. But hold up. Sure, in North Carolina we have our sweet corn and sweet potatoes and sugar-glazed everything. But sweet doesn’t always mean food, sugar pie.
Sweetness is there in the honeyed drawl of y’all, and Ker’lina instead of Carolina. Sweetness wafts through summer air in the scents of gardenia and honeysuckle. Sweetness is the basis of our famous friendliness and at-the-ready hospitality.
Even sensations are sweet: bare feet on freshly mowed grass. Wet sand at the beach. You surely know that rehabbed pickup is a sweet ride, and where the sweet spot is on a baseball bat. And sights might be sweetest of all: a child in a graduation gown, a swath of highway wildflowers. In North Carolina, smelling, feeling, eating, and being sweet starts early.
Common usage: “I need a hug and a kiss.” Also, the routine response when a grandchild asks, “Did you bring me a surprise?”
Not exactly a scientific fact. Often uttered as an admonition to behave politely in order to achieve a goal. See also: Kill ’em with kindness.
Compliment on anything particularly pleasing to the eye, whether a peach-hued sunset, a three-layer coconut cake, or a handmade boat.
A casual, usually flip remark about the simplicity of a task or undertaking, from learning to ski to growing tomatoes. Easy? Well, it depends on the kind of pie being concocted. — Susan Stafford Kelly