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Commentary: An inconvenient Christmas reveals true meaning of the holiday

Algenon Cash

Commentary: An inconvenient Christmas reveals true meaning of the holiday
January 06
12:23 2021

By Algenon Cash

So many words have emerged to document our 2020 experience – “change,” “pivot,” and “new reality” are just a few that come quickly to mind – but “inconvenient” may be the best choice.

It’s the perfect word to describe a holiday season where countless individuals may have not seen family, close friends, or been afforded that once-in-a-year opportunity to return home. But just as the rain is often inconvenient, it also reveals what’s beneath the surface. I firmly believe this past Christmas allowed many of us to refocus on the deeper meaning of the holiday.

A unique partnership begins quietly

Providence, a nonprofit program of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, operates a culinary training program and catering service. At one time, Providence operated two restaurants in Winston-Salem. Providence Kitchen opened in September 2018 inside the BB&T Building, an 18-story glass skyscraper located at 200 West Second Street in downtown Winston-Salem, and the restaurant offered breakfast and lunch to BB&T employees, downtown workers and residents. After BB&T merged with SunTrust, the mega bank opted to leave the building and relocate staff, so the restaurant was shuttered.

Tanglewood Park is a 1,100 acre recreation center and park in Clemmons located on the Yadkin River. It was at one time owned by William Neal Reynolds, brother of tobacco entrepreneur R.J. Reynolds. “Mr. Will” expanded the existing Manor House built in 1859 to 28 rooms. Tanglewood Park is owned by Forsyth County and is operated by the Recreation and Parks Department.

Forsyth County and Providence quietly structured a deal earlier this year for the nonprofit to assume management of the Manor House and all other related amenities and event locations. Officially it was renamed Providence Manor House at Tanglewood this past October. Jordan Keiper, son of Salem Tavern operator Rick Keiper and a well-known local chef in his own right with a deep experience launching new restaurants, has joined the Providence team with the Manor House being a key focus.

A time for reflection, a place for self-care

This year I wanted to find a place closer to home for my annual self-care routine, not to mention, we all should find ways to support the many struggling businesses in our local economy. When a consumer buys local products or services, more of that money stays in the community to help local causes.  A recent study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the city.

I booked a stay over the holidays at the Manor House after Keiper gave me a tutorial on the vast amenities offered at Tanglewood – golf, dog park, bike trails, gardens, swimming, campgrounds, horseback riding, and tennis. Tanglewood is also home to the annual “Festival of Lights,” a four-mile route with nearly 200 light displays, utilizing over a million lights.

The bed & breakfast inn offers beautiful and historic rooms that may cause you to briefly forget that you’re in Forsyth County. The wooded surroundings are enchanting and if you’re up early, you may meet a family of around 30 deer out for their daily morning walk. Breakfast kicks off at 7 a.m. and Miss Bridget prepares a tasty omelet, pancakes, and candied bacon. I’ve also been told she has a secret recipe for the best homemade sugar cake in North Carolina.
Just a heads up if you’re planning a visit to this iconic mansion – the Manor House does not serve lunch or dinner – so you’ll need to make other arrangements. Luckily you’ll have some great options nearby in Clemmons, so plan to drop by Ketchie Creek Bakery, Full Moon Oyster Bar, or Mossy’s.

I personally chose not to do any holiday cooking this season. With so many local restaurants working to survive the winter, it just felt cruel to give more sales to grocery stores. For Christmas Eve, I wandered into Three Bulls American Steakhouse, located at 1480 River Ridge Drive in Clemmons. Owner Sammy Gianopoulos has been “strongly” encouraging me to visit all year, but I’m rarely in the area. I ordered the BBQ-glazed baby back ribs, loaded salt-encrusted baked potato, and mac ‘n’ cheese. The food was good, but the service provided by general manager Kelly Sale and her squad was great.

For Christmas, I pre-ordered dinner from River Birch Lodge, located at 3324 Robinhood Road in Winston-Salem. They offered a Christmas plate for $18.95 – apple cider glazed ham with cinnamon apples, smashed sweet potatoes with walnut streusel, gouda mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon, Harker’s Island lightnin’ bread, green bean and mushroom veloute. Surprisingly, this meal held up very well after being nuked in an onsite microwave.

For the day after Christmas, I discovered 2520 Tavern, located at 2520 Lewisville-Clemmons Road in Clemmons. It was my first visit, so I was very unfamiliar with the menu. I opted to try calamari as a starter – excellent choice – and ordered the bourbon steak & blackened shrimp. I walked in around 8:40 p.m. to find out they closed at 9 p.m., but the bartender was understanding. Although she repeatedly encouraged me to dine in, ultimately I decided it was best to carryout.

A time for gratitude

The holidays are a special moment when we can slow down, which means we don’t have to be consumed with the hustle and bustle of airports and shopping centers. It’s a season that calls on us to give more than we receive and take notice of the less fortunate so we may share our light. More importantly, we should demonstrate gratitude for the natural beauty that we often take for granted throughout the year.


Algenon Cash is a nationally recognized speaker and the managing director of Wharton Gladden & Company, a consulting firm. Reach him at acash@nullwhartongladden.com.

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