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Welcome to Your Carolina Inn. We wanted to give you a place to share your favorite Carolina Inn memory or experience in Chapel Hill. Read, post, share and become part of the community.


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December 07, 2011 | 03:25 PM

Spiked Pumpkin Milkshake & Peppermint Patty Hot Chocolate Recipes

This year break out of your culinary holiday rut and branch out with these decadent seasonal beverages! Try out our holiday drink recipes:

Spiked Pumpkin Milkshake Recipe

1/3 c. Pumpkin ~ Fresh or Canned
¼ – ½ c. Milk
1/4 tsp. Vanilla
½ tsp. Cinnamon
1/16 tsp. Cloves ~ Use a pinch or an 1/8 tsp. measuring spoon and fill it half way.
1/16 tsp. Nutmeg
3 Tbsp. Pure Maple Syrup
2 c. Vanilla Ice Cream
2 oz. Premium Dark Spiced Rum
1 oz. Crushed Candied Pecans

1. It doesn’t get any easier than this. Pour a ¼ c. of milk and the remaining ingredients in a blender and purée.
2. Slowly add more milk as needed.

Peppermint Patty Hot Chocolate Recipe

Hot Chocolate Ingredients
1/3 c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
¾ c.  White Sugar
1 Pinch of Salt
1/3 c. Boiling Water
3 ½ c. Milk
¾ tsp. Vanilla Extract
½ c. Half-and-Half Cream

1. Combine the cocoa, sugar and salt in a saucepan.
2. Add the boiling water.
3. Bring this mixture to an easy boil while you stir.
4. Simmer and stir for about 2 minutes. Be careful not to scorch the mixture.
5. Stir in 3 ½ c. of milk and heat until very hot, but do not boil! Remove from heat and add vanilla.
6. Divide hot chocolate between 4 mugs.
7. Add cream.

Pepperming Patty Hot Chocolate Ingredients
1 oz. Peppermint Schnapps
½ oz. Vanilla Vodka
1 tsp. Créme de Menthe
10 oz. Hot Chocolate
Approximately1 oz. Whipped Cream
Shaved Chocolate

1. Pour Vanilla Vodka and Crème de Menthe into a glass mug.
2. Fill mug with hot chocolate and top with whipped cream.
3. Garnish with chocolate shavings.


November 22, 2011 | 11:43 AM

Cranberry and White Chocolate Bread Pudding Recipe

Looking for a last minute dessert to wow your guests this Thanksgiving? Executive Chef Jimmy Reale of Carolina Crossroads Restaurant has a simple recipe for a sweet finish to your holiday meal. Prepare Chef’s Cranberry and White Chocolate Bread Pudding this season; it will certainly be added to the list of traditional favorite’s year-after-year!

½ c. Dried Cranberries ~ Reconstitute in warm water then discard water
½ c. White Chocolate Chips
8 Eggs
1 ½ c. Granulated Sugar
½ qt. Heavy Cream
1 tsp. Cinnamon Ground
1 tsp. Nutmeg ~ Whole or Ground
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
4 c. Day Old Croissants ~ Cubed

1. Place dried cranberries and white chocolate chips in food processor. Pulse 4-5 times enough to break into pieces.
2. In a large bowl cream together eggs and sugar.
3. Incorporate the cranberry and white chocolate mix with the remaining ingredients.
4. Let mixture sit 30-45 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed.
5. Place into greased muffin pans and cook at 325 degrees until set, approximately 30-40 minutes.

Bon Appétit!

November 01, 2011 | 08:13 PM

House-Made Lamb Sausage & Sweet Potato Hash Recipe

Have you always wanted to prepare a lamb dish, but didn’t know how? Executive Chef Jimmy Reale from The Carolina Inn walks you through each step to prepare this flavorful appetizer in no time.

Lamb Sausage
1 lb Ground Lamb
2 Tbsp. Minced Onions
1 Tbsp. Ground Cumin
1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
2 tsp. Allspice
1 Tbsp. Minced Garlic
1 Tbsp. Fennel Seed
1 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Fresh Egg
To Taste Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

1. Place ground lamb in mixing bowl.
2. Incorporate remaining ingredients and mix well.
3. Set in refrigerator overnight to develop flavors.

Sweet Potato Hash
½ c. Diced Red Onions
½ c. Red and Green Peppers
1 ½ c. Sweet Potatoes, Peeled, Diced and Blanched
1 Tbsp. Butter
4 Small Pita Bread or English Muffin

Pink Peppercorn Maple Syrup
1 c. Pure Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Pink Peppercorns

1. Warm syrup and peppercorns in pan just before ladling the syrup on the dish.

Bacon Jam
½ c. Red Onion ~ Diced
½ lb. Smoked Bacon
½ c. Brown Sugar

1. Chop bacon into small pieces.
2. Render bacon until crispy then remove from pan.
3. Sauté onions in bacon fat until caramelized.
4. Add brown sugar and bacon.
5. Bring to a low simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.
6. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cold.

1. In a hot sauté pan brown a ½ cup of lamb sausage.
2. Add onions, peppers and sweet potatoes. Continue to cook for 5 minutes.
3. Add butter and season with salt and freshly ground pepper as desired
4. Place sausage hash on plate.
5. Ladle desired amount of maple syrup over hash.
6. Place warm pita bread on top of hash and spoon a tablespoon of bacon jam on top.
7. Fry an egg sunny side up and place on top of pita.

Serves 6-8

Bon Appétit!

September 28, 2011 | 08:40 PM

Fried Green Tomato Salad Recipe

Fried Green Tomato Salad, Carolina Crossroads style! Watch as Executive Chef Jimmy Reale shows you step-by-step how to create this flavorful salad -an excellent accompaniment to any lunch or dinner.

3 Green Tomatoes ~ Sliced ½" Thick
1½ c. Buttermilk
1 c. Flour
1 c. Corn Meal
4 c. Oil
1 c. Arugula
1 ear Smoked Corn or Corn Cut Off the Cob and Lightly Sautéed
¼ c. Toasted Pecans
3 oz. Local Farmers Cheese or Feta Cheese
1 Lemon
To Taste Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Chipotle Buttermilk Dressing
1 Tbs.  Chipotle ~ Puree
1 c. Buttermilk
1 Tbs. Champagne Vinegar
½ c. Sour Cream

1. Place shucked corn on outside grill and smoke using your favorite wood chips.
2. Cool. Cut corn off the cob and set aside.
3. In a heavy duty sauté pan or cast iron pan, heat oil over medium heat to 350 degrees.
4. Place tomatoes in buttermilk then dredge in flour and cornmeal.
5. Fry tomatoes in small batches. Do not overcrowd the pan.
6. Fry tomatoes until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side.
7. Remove tomatoes from oil and season with salt and pepper.
8. To make salad, place arugula, smoked corn, pecans, cheese and approximately three tablespoons of the chipotle dressing in a mixing bowl.
9. Season with salt and pepper and toss; lightly coat the salad with dressing.
10. Place four fried green tomatoes on a plate. Top with salad and fresh lemon zest.

Serves 4

Bon Appétit!

September 06, 2011 | 03:43 PM

Fantastic staff at Carolina Inn

Thank you for a wonderful Sunday night stay. Everyone on staff, from the front desk to the housekeepers to the valet attendants, was pleasant, helpful and genuinely caring. Phillip in the Crossroads Bar was amazing. He gave us a short course about every beer on tap, including a taste profile and a well known equivalent for each of the microbrews on tap. After handing him my VISA to purchase an early evening beer, we returned three hours later from dinner and he greeted me by name from memory! The room and bathroom were very clean and perfectly quiet (despite a rocking wedding going on downstairs), and the bed was super-comfortable and cozy. The complimentary coffee in the morning was rich and delicious. Excellent job all around!!
September 06, 2011 | 02:04 PM

Summer Watermelon Salad Recipe from The Carolina Inn

Executive Chef Jimmy from The Carolina Inn is delighted to share with you his flavorful Watermelon Salad recipe which includes fresh local ingredients purchased from the Carrboro Farmer's Market such as Red Watermelons, Frisée and Jalapeños.

2 c.  Seedless Watermelon ~ Diced Medium
1 c.  Frisée
12  Pickled Cucumber Slices (See Recipe Below)
1 tsp.  Jalapeño Peppers ~ Diced Small
1  Red Radish ~ Sliced Thin
3 Tbs.  Citrus Vanilla Vinaigrette (See recipe Below)
4 oz.  Ashe County Juusto Cheese or Halloumi Cut Into 4-1oz Portions
Watermelon Gelée Cut into triangles (See Recipe Below)
To Taste Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Pickled Cucumbers
1 Cucumber Sliced
1 c. Sugar
1 c. Water
1 c. Champagne Vinegar
1 c. White Wine
2 tsp. salt

1. Place all ingredients in small pot except cucumbers.
2. Bring to a simmer. Stir occasionally.
3. Place sliced cucumbers in heat resistant container.
4. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers, cover and place in refrigerator.
5. Wait 2 hours before removing cover. Serve cold.

Citrus Vanilla Vinaigrette
1 Juiced Orange
1 Juiced Lime
1 Juiced Lemon
½ Vanilla Bean ~ Scrape Seeds
½ tsp. Chopped Garlic
1 tsp. Chopped Shallots
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 Tbs. Honey
½ c. Corn Oil
To Taste Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

1. Place all ingredients in bowl except oil.
2. While whisking ingredients together, slowly drizzle oil until emulsified.
3. Taste for proper seasonings.

Watermelon Gelée
1 Quarts Pureed Watermelon
1 oz. Gelatin Powder
1/2 c. Cold Water

1. Heat watermelon liquid.
2. Dissolve gelatin in cold water.
3. When watermelon becomes hot add gelatin.
4. Quickly pour evenly on tray and cool.
5. Cut into squares, then triangles.

Plating the Watermelon Salad
1. In mixing bowl place watermelon, greens, jalapeño and radish.
2. Pour in dressing, season with salt and pepper then gently toss.
3. Lay watermelon gelée and pickled cucumbers on plate.
4. Add watermelon salad to plate.
5. Pan fry Juusto cheese on both sides to warm and add to top of salad.

Serves 4

Bon Appétit!

September 01, 2011 | 04:07 PM

The South's Best College Towns

Southern Living writes about "The South's Best College Towns." It's no surprise that UNC Chapel Hill is among the best, and The Carolina Inn is highlighted as the place stay when visiting Chapel Hill. 

You don't have to be a backpack-slinging coed to love these collegiate classics. Read the complete Southern Living article here.

August 09, 2011 | 11:37 AM

Best wedding ever!

My husband and I were recently married at The Carolina Inn, and it was the most wonderful weekend of our lives. Our wedding coordinator, Devon Schwartz, and the rest of the Inn staff could not have been more friendly and helpful. They ensured that every detail was perfect, so we were able to enjoy our special day totally stress-free. I cannot imagine a more perfect setting for our marriage. We are definitely planning to come back for many anniversaries :) Thank you!!!! Sarah & Dan Chang

July 27, 2011 | 08:46 PM

The Carolina Inn Unveils Top 10 Wedding Trends

As the region’s weddings capital, The Carolina Inn reveals today’s hottest trends. The historic hotel on the UNC Chapel Hill campus has been hosting weddings for the past 87 years and hosts more than 125 weddings annually.

1. A Favored Cause. Brides and grooms are opting for a donation to their favorite charity -- breast cancer awareness, SPCA, UNICEF and Disaster Relief in lieu of providing their guests with favors.

2. Photo Booths.  Nothing better than a vintage tradition than allowing the guests to take a minute and capture the fun they had on this special day.

3. Lighting.  From custom-cut gobos of monograms and graphics to projected wallpaper, weddings are taking advantage of lighting to add a whole new dimension to their décor.

4. Originality.  Brides want a variety of locations within their venues where they can create different moods and experiences for their guests. Gone are the days of being stuck in your chair for two hours. 

5. The Food Truck.  The idea of having something special at the end. Weddings are taking it to a whole new level by having a coffee truck or Krispy Kreme show up to top off the party.

6. Comfort.  It’s less about trying to impress and more about having fun. Parties are choosing flip flops over high heels.

7. Lounges.  Comfortable seating is not just for high-end receptions anymore.

8. Feasting Tables.  Perfect for family-style service … another hot trend.

9. Don’t Take the Cake.  Brides are opting for wedding cake alternatives such as cookies, gelato bars, cupcakes, whoopee pies and French macaroons.

10.  Go Green.  All items have a sustainability factor as brides want to be environmentally responsible.

“It’s all about telling your story” said Heidi Werner, director of catering at The Carolina Inn. “Brides and grooms really want to showcase who they are as a couple and are creating their wedding receptions based on their lifestyles and interests. Wedding rules are out the door and replaced with trends of comfort and community. A whole new generation has ushered in limitless options of originality and here at The Carolina Inn we have our hand in the cookie jar of hot ideas to customize a couple’s perfect day.” 

The Carolina Inn has a long-standing tradition of helping brides and grooms fulfill their most cherished wedding dreams. From the exquisitely beautiful to the elegant and romantic, The Carolina Inn has been transforming wedding fantasies into memories that live forever for more than eight decades. Providing an atmosphere of warmth and grace, the Inn’s intimate parlors, secluded courtyards and expansive ballrooms are perfect for wedding receptions or the exchanging of vows.

From the stylish Old Well Room, with its evocative Art Deco décor, especially popular for weddings, to the elegant John Sprunt Hill Ballroom, neoclassical in design, The Carolina Inn has been making wedding dreams come true since 1924. With a tradition of hosting memorable bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, champagne brunches, wedding receptions and banquets, it devotes equal care to events for ten guests or five hundred.

For many alumni and others with a fondness for the charm of historic Chapel Hill and The University of North Carolina, wedding events at The Carolina Inn are a family tradition.

Contact The Carolina Inn today at 919.918.2749, or visit

June 27, 2011 | 11:00 AM

The Carolina Inn Serves Up Summer

On Friday night, I had the good fortune of being invited to The Carolina Inn for a preview of Carolina CrossRoads' summer menu.

Our group of 10 – which included the inn's new Director of Sales and Marketing Jack Schmidt and Moreton Neal, co-founder of La Residence – did not leave hungry.

Chef Jimmy Reale presented to us an amuse bouche and petite plates of four appetizers, three entrees and a dessert sampler that featured four creations by pastry chef Suzanne Menius.

Chapel Hill Magazine

June 03, 2011 | 11:23 AM

Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, RTP, The Triangle, Research Triangle Park…How Many Names Can One Place Have?

Before I came to North Carolina I thought of this area as Raleigh. As time and years have taught me, there are as many names for this “part of heaven” as there are types of BBQ!  I'm bringing this up to Meeting and Travel Professionals because, depending on how you search for hotels  or venues in "the Triangle" you might be missing large portions of this area.

In researching this topic I found that originally this region was defined by the three major Universities in the area: Duke University, North Carolina State University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Then in the 1950’s, the Triangle took on new meaning with the creation of Research Triangle Park. Research Triangle Park or RTP is a 7,000 acre Pine Forrest that has now become home to some of the most predominant high-tech research and development companies in the world. To sum it up, RTP is a triangle inside the original triangle, formed by the Universities.

• Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh are each in separate counties. Keep in mind they each have a separate CVB which represents them. 

• Raleigh - Durham International Airport (RDU) is at the center of the Triangle for easy and quick access to all points in this area.

• The Triad is another area of North Carolina which is right next to the Triangle, however, it is comprised of completely different cities.

• Warning! If visiting this area during March Madness, be prepared to pick a side; College Basketball is SERIOUS business around here.

The message of my blog – Don’t be a SQUARE and come meet in The Triangle!

May 04, 2011 | 02:23 PM

A Light on the Hill

Imagine the places that touch your heart. Is it your childhood home? The tree in your best friend's yard? A high school theater stage or performance hall? What gives you “a sense of place?” For me, it’s The Carolina Inn.

When I was 4 years old, I declared that one day I would live in a house with a black and white checkerboard floor just like the ballroom in The Carolina Inn. When I was 12, my sophisticated friend Sarah and I organized a trip by ourselves to the beauty parlor followed by lunch at The Carolina Inn. We ordered hot dogs, and then hastily added a side of carrots. Isn't that what grown-ups do? When I turned 40, and had just completed almost a year of cancer treatments, my dear parents hosted an amazing birthday party for me – yep, at The Carolina Inn.

Years later, as the parent of high school students, I traveled to visit colleges across the United States. I came home, time after time, grateful that in Chapel Hill and for our University, we have a beautiful and treasured place to stay right on campus.

It’s really no surprise that The Carolina Inn is called “the University’s living room.”  Meetings, memorial services, weddings, celebrations, fundraisers, reunions, seminars and more happen at the Inn on a daily basis.

We have the experience and vision of John Sprunt Hill, UNC Class of 1889, and an extraordinary convergence of events to thank for the creation of The Carolina Inn.

• During Hill’s college years, the first Carolina football game was played in 1888 against Wake Forest. Our biggest rival in those early years was the University of Virginia. Trainloads of alumni and supporters started filling the town on football Saturdays. Townsfolk festooned porch railings in their houses along Franklin Street with blue and white bunting for the football weekend.  Hotel rooms in town were scarce.

• In 1889, to coincide with Hill’s graduation festivities, the University organized an invitation to alumni to return to campus for the Centennial Celebration.

• On University business in 1921, Hill spent the night at the Eagle Hotel (where Graham Memorial is now). He couldn’t sleep that night, as luck would have it.  Supposedly, the racket of rats rustling in the corner of his room was the final straw. He dressed and walked out into the night across campus. A full moon lit the way. He stopped at Mrs. Graves Boarding House, on the corner of Cameron and (now known as) South Columbia Street.

Hill bought Mrs. Graves’ house. He hired Arthur Nash, the architect developing Polk Place, to design The Carolina Inn to blend into the style of the campus. Nash’s design for the Inn was inspired by Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.

Hill and his family gave The Carolina Inn to the University in 1935 with the stipulation that profits go to the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library, which continues today. An engraved brass plaque from 1941 now hangs at the front desk of The Carolina Inn: “This generous gift affords a cheerful inn for visitors, a town hall for the state and a home for returning sons and daughters of alma mater.”

Historian Kenneth Zogry writes in his book, The University’s Living Room: A History of the Carolina Inn, “…the story of this place is complex; sometimes joyful and sometimes sorrowful, sometimes proud and sometimes embarrassing. But these contradictions are just what make the place, and its history, so compelling.”

Oh my, if the Inn’s walls could talk! And, now, they almost do. Have you walked the halls lately? History has indeed been brought to life in photos and memorabilia, all lining the halls. Peek inside the new gym for guests. Of course, a guest can change the wrap on the punching bag to, shall we say, “neighboring schools.” This is Chapel Hill, after all!  

“Fridays on the Front Porch,” gets into full swing in the month of May. Every Friday, 5 pm – 9 pm, a live bluegrass band plays on the front lawn of the Inn, with food and drinks available. Most special of all is the mix of folks sittin’ and enjoying the music, the start of the weekend, and each other. A true experience of this Southern Part of Heaven. See you there!

April 25, 2011 | 01:29 PM

Wonderful wedding weekend

My wedding ceremony and reception were held at the Carolina Inn in March. The Inn is known for being a popular wedding spot -- and now I know exactly why. First, the hotel and grounds are gorgeous. You will have no trouble getting beautiful photos and video here. Secondly, the staff and event planners are wonderful to work with. Every single detail was taken care of and I didn?t have to worry about a thing. I planned my wedding by myself, but felt like I had the benefit of a wedding planner when working with Devon at the Inn. I enjoyed every experience, from the menu tasting, January wedding show, and details meeting, to the entire wedding weekend. Many of our guests stayed at the Inn and everyone was thrilled with the beautiful and luxurious accommodations. My ceremony was held in the Bryan Courtyard and it was a romantic, intimate setting. The reception was in the Old Well Room, which is a gorgeous, elegant room. I can?t compliment the Inn enough on its customer service, attention to detail, beautiful accommodations and delicious food. Take a look at my video and you?ll see how fabulous it was!

April 19, 2011 | 11:12 AM

Wedding Weekend

The Carolina Inn staff were awesome this past weekend during the events of my daughter's wedding. The weather was less than cooperative but the staff made adjustments seamlessly. Devon was absolutely wonderful in helping us plan the event and Sarah made sure the reception went smoothly. Sarah was very helpful in making sure items from the reception were taken to the appropriate rooms. The food was excellent as well. I would highly recommend the Carolina Inn for any event.

April 01, 2011 | 11:57 AM

Enjoy a Gourmet Getaway with a Chapel Hill Dining Package from The Carolina Inn

The Carolina Crossroads Restaurant & Bar has received numerous awards, including a AAA Four Diamond Award, Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and Forbes Four-Star Service Award as well as recognition by the James Beard Foundation of New York. Executive Chef Jimmy Reale offers prix fixe menus complemented by the perfect wine pairing. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this Chapel Hill restaurant features contemporary menus of classic Southern cuisine. The seasonal menus emphasize local organic and sustainable ingredients from Chapel Hill and the surrounding area.

Enjoy fine dining at this restaurant in Chapel Hill with the Gourmet Getaway vacation package offered by The Carolina Inn. This vacation package includes a well-appointed guestroom as well as a $100 food and beverage gift card to use at Carolina Crossroads Restaurant & Bar. Rates start at $210 and the special package is based on availability.

March 22, 2011 | 04:20 PM

Would You Shave Your Attendees’ Heads At Your Next Conference?

Would you shave your attendees’ heads at your next conference? Learn from Sarah Purcell of AmWINS Group, Inc. why you just might want to consider it!

I had the pleasure of first speaking with Sarah a few months back when I stumbled across a webpage that was talking about a recent event for AmWINS. It is one of those stories that just pulled me in to want to learn more and more about it – to the point where I had to call Sarah to learn more. My hopes are that you will find the enjoyment and inspiration that I did! Please enjoy an interview that I conducted with Sarah, and I dare you not to click on the link at the end of the story to see the photos – it will be impossible for you to resist!

To start at the beginning, I first want to set the scene for you. AmWINS Group, Inc. (“AmWINS”)  is a specialty insurance distribution firm with more than 2,000 employees across the globe. As the company’s event planner, Sarah works on an annual event for AmWINS called the Producer Conference. Imagine a few hundred of their top salespeople all together at a five-star resort to kick off the New Year and instill excitement and camaraderie in the attendees. “Our company is an amalgamation of 25+ acquisitions over the course of ten years,” explained Sarah. “The Producer Conference is a critical time for networking and internal bonding among the employees that have come from so many different companies.”

The next important item you need to know, so that you can appreciate the outcome, is probably the keystone to the entire event – the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraising program for childhood cancer research. “St. Baldrick’s is a great organization with roots in the insurance industry. After meeting with the St. Baldrick’s team and learning more about all they do to find a cure for kids’ cancer; it was a perfect fit for us,” explained Sarah when I asked her about how they selected this charity to be part of the event. AmWINS’ had actually officially partnered with St. Baldrick’s in October of 2010, when they used a customer appreciation event to raise more than $10,000 for the Foundation. But they had their sights on bigger fundraising efforts. With a solid start to their relationship with St. Baldrick’s, and the need to integrate the partnership into the agenda for the Producer Conference, the AmWINS team came up with the idea to challenge five of their producers to raise money for St. Baldrick’s. The only catch: whoever raised the most money would shave their head on the final night of the Producer Conference. Not exactly your typical fundraiser.

This was the point in the story where I got really interested… you?

So the challenge had been set to the five “shavees” (as they are now known) to see who could raise the most for St. Baldrick’s. Each shavee had their own fundraising webpage where they could collect donations. AmWINS kept their employees constantly informed on where all the shavees stood in the race, encouraging friendly competition amongst peers and building excitement around the big event. Colleagues of the shavees would conduct their own campaigns to encourage business partners to “vote with their dollars”, and in the two short months before the Producer Conference, the shavees collected an amazing $80,000 between the five of them. 

By the final night of the conference, there was much anticipation around who would be shaving their head and a clear winner had emerged – the one woman in the competition with 15” of hair. The agenda for that night was fairly straightforward - dinner, guest speaker, CEO speech, head shave. But some last-minute logistical changes meant that their guest speaker, a 14-year old cancer survivor, would actually address the crowd as they started dinner. “At the time, I was concerned about changing things so last-minute, but there was so much excitement in the air that we just had to go with it,” explained Sarah. Little did she know that such a minor agenda adjustment would set forth a wave of momentum for the once-in-a-lifetime night. 

After the guest speaker moved the crowd with her amazing tale of survival, AmWINS’ CEO placed a silver bucket on stage and encouraged people to continue to donate throughout the night. Immediately, lines formed around the bucket as conference attendees dropped generous pledges and cash donations into it. “To say we had to think on our feet is an understatement,” said Sarah. Within 90 minutes, more than $103,000 in cash donations and pledges were raised, bringing the two-month fundraising competition total to nearly $200,000 raised for childhood cancer research! The moment they realized what had been accomplished, they decided that “one shave was not enough” and that all five competitors would lose their locks that night. Sarah sums up the emotion from that night, “It was an unbelievable moment that everyone present will never forget. That event, that moment, changed our company.”

I tried to get a feel from Sarah if prior to arriving at the conference she had any indication that this year’s event would be any different from the previous three Producer Conferences she had executed. “I can tell you I had NO idea that final night, when we shaved the winner’s head, would result the way it did. No one could have predicted it and we were all in disbelief of the amazing experience it created,” said Sarah.

Maybe you will think I am crazy for this…but I was dying to know what her post event surveys said! I loved her answer – she said they commented on how proud they were to work for the company. Also, they have seen a real change in the culture at AmWINS after this event. Sounds like magic certainly happened that night for this company!

So I asked Sarah to give one hint to other planners trying something like this.  “I think it’s important for other planners to understand the good in people and that life matters outside of our meetings and events. People want to get involved but sometimes they just don’t know how. So if you give them an organized means to give back, they will be more than happy to participate.”  

Are you like me and dying to see what the 5 “shavees” looked like before and after? Well, here is the link to the AmWINS webpage and read more about the event and see all the fun photos and videos. A big thank you to Sarah for sharing this story with our group and I hope this inspires a discussion of some other similar experiences and maybe even serves as an inspirational tale for planners looking to make a difference!

Click here to see short video clips of all the head-shavings.

March 02, 2011 | 11:32 AM

Destination Launches Kids Healthy Recipe Contest

Today Destination Hotels & Resorts launched its inaugural Kids Healthy Recipe Contest in support of National Nutrition Month. Anyone who submits a kid-friendly healthy recipe has an opportunity to win a trip for four - including airfare - to any full-service Destination Hotels & Resorts property.

Destination Hotels & Resorts' inaugural Kids Healthy Recipe Contest encourages consumers to submit their favorite healthy recipe that children enjoy eating. The winning recipe will be featured on the company’s Kids Café healthy menu selections for a year, and the chef who submits the top entry also wins a trip for a family of four to any full-service Destination Hotels & Resorts property.

To enter, visit and submit a healthy recipe that kids enjoy eating – this can be a recipe for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack or healthy beverage. Consumers are encouraged to “like” various recipes that catch their eye. The top three recipes with the most “likes” will be prepared and tasted by a group of Destination Hotels & Resorts food and beverage professionals along with a children’s panel of judges.

The winning recipe will be featured on the Destination Kids Café menu for a year. And, the person who submits the winning recipe will win a three-night stay for four people at any full services hotel or resort in the Destination collection. The grand prize also includes airfare for a family of and a specially prepared multi-course dinner at the hotel, featuring their Kids Café winning menu item prepared by the property’s executive chef. A Destination Hotels & Resorts executive chef also will visit the classroom of the winner's child to do a healthy cooking/eating demonstration and presentation.

Second and third place winners will have their recipe posted on the Destination Hotels & Resorts Web site under the Kids Café section for a year.

“As a parent and as an executive in a company that serves thousands of meals each day, I realized that Destination Hotels & Resorts has a special opportunity and responsibility to take a leadership role in educating parents and kids about healthy menu selections, which combined with exercise can make a positive contribution to overall wellness” said Mark Hickey, senior vice president of hotel operations for Destination Hotels & Resorts, as well as the creative force behind the company’s Kids Café program.

The father of two young daughters, Hickey was inspired to tackle healthy eating from personal family experience and focused on, one hotel at a time. His vision became a reality when the company launched its Kids Café healthy menu selections last summer at Destination’s annual Food and Beverage Conference, attended by the company’s executive chefs and food and beverage directors. The menu selections were created in an “Iron Chef” event by executive chefs from the company’s more than 30 restaurants and judged by six children who rated the menu selections from 1 (Gross) to 4 (Delicious). Menu favorites that are offered through Kids Café include Melon Fries with Strawberry Ketchup, Build Your Own Fruit Taco, Fruit Shots, Watermelon Fizz and Squidword Breaded Fish Sticks.

For more information or to view complete contest rules, please visit

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the American Dietetic Association. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.


March 01, 2011 | 08:24 AM

Celebrate the Launch of the INFINity Team Blog - A Conversation with Karen Knox, CMP, CMM

Welcome Everyone! Today marks the birth of our INFINity blog – thank you for taking the time to join us and I hope you find value from our team. INFINity Team is short for INsurance and FINance Affinity Team, and is a group of about 20 individuals that focus their efforts on Insurance and Finance Meetings.

My name is Darby Gyscek and I am so lucky to be located at the picturesque Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. My time on the INFINity team has been short so far as I just started with Destination Hotels & Resorts this July – but I have really found a warm and welcoming team (which you will soon find out for yourself). Having worked in the industry for almost 13 years I hope to share some of my experiences with you and learn some things too! I grew up in Rochester, NY but spent my high school years in Massachusetts. For the last nine years I have been a vegetarian so I am always happy to help with suggestions for those groups – as I know we are tough to plan for at times.

As you regularly visit our blog you will find great content put together by our team. Today I wanted to share an interview with you of a local Insurance planner that is near and dear to us!

Karen Knox, CMP, CMM is the Senior Corporate Meeting Planner at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and I had the opportunity to sit down with her and have a lovely chat over lunch. I hope you find value in some of the highlights from our discussion.

I often joke that I am the “one person” that actually uses the degree I went to school for in my everyday work, but today I found out that Karen’s degree is also in Hospitality Management. She recounted that fateful day of sitting on the quad flipping through her course catalog and making the decision to go into meeting planning. “This industry gives you so much opportunity” she said as I heard stories of her first positions in the Association and then Incentive markets.

When I asked Karen if she ever found value in reaching out to the event planner community she put the question right back to me “How could you ever do your job in isolation?” She often uses other planners as a sounding board and as a resource. I personally loved hearing that the 8 people that were in her CMP study group 10 years ago are some of her closest sources and friends!

It is not news to anyone reading this blog that there have been major changes in our industry after the financial crisis. I asked Karen to tell me about the advice she would give to others and even herself if she could travel back in time to the beginning of all the change. “Don’t sell yourself short”, Karen said, and went on to list the numerous tasks that planners take on including budgeting, negotiating, administrative, etc. and it is easy to get labeled “just a meeting planner” and start to devalue your true worth.

Essential tips she wanted to share for any planner providing a case for their ROI:

• Expand your knowledge base (don’t allow yourself to be pigeonholed)
• Understand what your roles are and how your skill sets help the company to achieve their goals
• Know what you bring to the table
• Remember the importance of partnering with internal clients – don’t get territorial
• Develop and embrace collaboration

The final tip Karen had for planners was in response to my question on emotions. I had asked her about the emotional process of making the case, and while she noted that yes it can be very emotional to remember, it is all about business “Work is work, but it is not all you are”.

February 24, 2011 | 12:40 PM

Chapel Hill Receives Bicycle Friendly Community National Designation Celebration

Chapel Hill is already known as a bike-friendly town. Now, the League of American Bicyclists has designated the town as a bronze-level “Bicycle Friendly Community.”

A special event to celebrate the designation of Chapel Hill as a Bicycle Friendly Community will take place at University Mall on the stage in front of Dillard's.

Read More Here

February 02, 2011 | 03:10 PM

Scenes from The Carolina Inn Bridal Showcase

With this weekend's delightful winter heat wave came a welcomed reminder that spring is just around the corner. And with spring will come wedding season -- a fact that was very evident at yesterday's Bridal Showcase at The Carolina Inn.

Chapel Hill Magazine 

January 27, 2011 | 04:10 PM

The Carolina Inn Bridal Showcase 2011

I have planned weddings for many years now and it is an incredible task to scribe every detail into existence.  I have spent hours imagining where each table should be placed, how each napkin should be folded, and how each bride will feel when they enter the magic of their wonderland.  There is always that one moment when I can see the black and white notes that are buried somewhere in my office burst into life.   I felt that way yesterday as I watched Classic Party Rentals constructing our tent for the Bridal Showcase on Sunday.   It was cold, it was raining, and it was certainly muddy… but the masterpiece that awaits the brides on Sunday is outstanding.  I couldn’t help but track my muddy feet into the middle of the courtyard underneath the glass chandeliers and the strands of mini lights and look up through the clear ceiling to watch the rain pour down.  I was left with feeling sheer anticipation  about the most elegant event that we have planned for our brides.  We are joined by the finest vendors in the area and together we can’t wait for you to see all we have put together for you to enjoy.    The Carolina Inn Bridal Showcase is just waiting to burst into life.  Don’t miss the party.


January 17, 2011 | 10:06 AM

Enjoy a Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner at Carolina Crossroads

Carolina Crossroads is the perfect place for a romantic evening. Enjoy an unforgettable meal with your sweetheart this Valentine’s Day in our AAA Four Diamond and Forbes Four-Star restaurant. Our four-course menu is sure to excite your palettes and warm your hearts.

First Course
Crossroads Mixed Organic Field Lettuces, Choice of Dressings  

Organic Baby Spinach, Zinfandel Poached Pears, Maytag Blue Cheese, Spiced Walnuts, Grilled Red Onions, Red Wine Vinaigrette

Red & Yellow Beet Salad, Arugula, Truffled Goat Cheese,
Toasted Macadamia Nuts, Orange Vanilla Vinaigrette

Second Course
White Bean & Chorizo Soup, Locatelli Cheese, Marinated Artichoke & Toasted Pistachio Salad

Butternut Squash Soup, Crumbled Gingerbread & Cinnamon Crème Friache

Shrimp & Grits, Pan Seared Prawns, Old Mill of Guilford Stone Ground Yellow Grits, Benton’s Country Ham, Crispy Collards, Roasted Pepper Velouté  

Lamb Bolognese, Semolina Gnocchi, Pesto, Arugula, Shaved Ricotta Salata

Middle Eastern Black-eyed Pea Cakes, Hillsborough Feta Cheese, Pickled Beets, Lentils & Rice,
Green Beans & Cinnamon Tomato Sauce, Spiced Yogurt 

Oven Roasted NC Catfish, Shrimp Jambalaya Carolina Gold Rice, Batter Crisp Onion  

Sumac Grilled Organic Salmon, Cauliflower Purée, Crawfish, Fennel & Mint Salad, Moroccan Couscous, Heirloom Tomato Chutney  

Slow Cooked Chatham County Heirloom Chicken, Maries Tomato Sauce, Giacomo’s Italian Sausage & Blue Hominy Ragout, Wild Mushrooms, Kale

Espresso Rubbed Angus Beef Tenderloin, Potato Purée, Carrots, Asparagus, Green Beans, Toasted Chestnuts, Veal Demi-Glace

Slow Cider Braised Pork Osso Bucco, Whipped Sweet Potatoes, Collard Greens, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Bourbon Brown Sugar Apples

Chocolate Pâté, Amarena Cherries& Vanilla Sauce

Cinnamon Raspberry Streusel Cake, Brown Sugar Sour Cream Ice Cream & Raspberry Sauce

Trio of Sorbets with Seasonal Berries and Shortbread Cookies

Flourless Chocolate Hearts with Chambord “Spiked” Berries and Chocolate Sauce

Although not necessary, reservations are strongly recommended by clicking on the OpenTable link, or call us directly at 919.918.2777.

January 17, 2011 | 09:20 AM

Carolina Crossroads Participates in Triangle Restaurant Week

Carolina Crossroads Restaurant is participating in Triangle Restaurant Week, a weeklong celebration of culinary excellence. Please join us during January 24 – 30 for an exquisite 3-course dinner.

First Course
Ditalini Pasta, Venison Sausage, Fava Beans, Roasted Red Peppers, Pumpkin Seeds, Pecorino Romano Cheese & Garlic Basil Broth

White Bean & Chorizo Soup, Locatelli Cheese, Marinated Artichoke & Toasted Pistachio Salad

Second Course
Grilled Organic Salmon, Cauliflower Purée, Crawfish, Fennel & Mint Salad, Moroccan Couscous, Heirloom Tomato Chutney

Middle Eastern Black-eyed Pea Cake, Hillsborough Feta Cheese, Pickled Beets, Lentils & Rice, Green Beans & Cinnamon Tomato Sauce, Spiced Yogurt

Chocolate Waffle, Peppermint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream & Chocolate Sauce

Trio of House Made Sorbets with Seasonal Berries & Shortbread Cookies

Although not necessary, reservations are strongly recommended by clicking on the OpenTable link, or call us directly at 919.918.2777.

January 14, 2011 | 12:30 PM

Renovating the "University's Living Room" - Chapel Hill Magazine by Eleanor-Scott Davis

74 guest rooms at The Carolina Inn have been renovated, primarily in the 1924 and 1940 section of the building. In addition, two new suites have been added including the three-bedroom Chancellor's Suite. We had the privilege of taking a tour with the fascinating inn historian, Ken Zogry, whose knowledge of the history of the inn is only exceeded by his passion to preserve it.

January 14, 2011 | 12:10 PM

Carolina Crossroads Debuts Winter Menu

Executive Chef Jimmy Reale and Carolina Crossroads debuts it's winter menu.

Come inside and warm up with a hearty meal at Carolina Crossroads. Our new winter menu has a variety of meals to suit all palettes. Executive Chef Jimmy creates menu items that explode with flavor such as his most recent creation, the Espresso Rubbed Angus Beef Tenderloin.

Click here to view our winter menus.


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