When Tasia Malakasis walked into a gourmet food shop in New York City, she unexpectedly found herself face to face with her future. It was cheese?specifically, Belle Chevre, a French-style goat cheese made by hand in her home state of Alabama. It wasn't long before she was journeying down south to study the art of cheese-making. She became a genuine protege, and eventually, when the company's owner retired, she took over. Since 1989, the company has racked up numerous awards and accolades for its fine cheese, which include a pimento chevre, a Montrachet-style goat cheese, and a mint julep-inspired Southen Belle goat cheese. Their rustic creamery, housed in the old town cotton warehouse, offers both guided and self-guided tours, samples at the tasting bar, and a chance to meet the goats that help make the cheese by wrapping it up with their dexterous hooves.
Violet vidalia onions tumble into deep wooden bins alongside brown bulbs of sweet potatoes, heads of lettuce, bell peppers, and tomatoes still wet with dew. Owner and general manager Margaret Wood fills The Grove Farmers Market & Bistro with a locally sourced spread of produce, but her mission to support Alabama farmers goes beyond retail. Wood has embraced European food concepts by putting a market and farm-fresh bistro under one roof and topping that roof with a satin beret. Head chef Thad Gerrell sifts through the same organic produce brought in daily to create rustic dishes seasoned with gourmet olive oil, grapeseed oil, sea salts, and raw sugars. Seasonally fresh herbs elevate traditional gyros, souvlaki, and cholesterol-free pastas, many of which are available as take 'n' bake for home preparation.
GNC's opulent aisles display a wide variety of vitamin and mineral and herbal supplements, as well as sports nutrition, diet, energy, bodycare, and other health products. The Mega Men Sport multivitamin ($19.99 for 90 caplets) supports muscle recovery and energy levels and aids speedy male metabolisms without dangling steaks in front of their treadmills. Fuel feats of female strength with the Women's Ultra Mega Active multivitamin ($19.99 for 90 caplets). Two pounds of Pro Performance 100% whey protein ($28.99) distract taste buds with the flavor of chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry and smuggle 20 grams of high-quality protein into the body in each scoop. Promote healthy bones with a calcium supplement, such as coral calcium ($19.99 for 180 capsules) sustainably harvested from the Okinawa sea to provide a healthy two-to-one ratio of calcium and magnesium.
Kernels excavated from the finest stalks in North Alabama transform into gourmet flavored popcorn at What's Popp'N's old-fashioned snack shop. Sample more than 50 flavors varying from original to bacon and cheese to red cinnamon, then opt for a larger helping in sizes sold by the ounce or in three sizes ranging from teaser to large. Premium savory varieties ($0.90–$6) pair the popped corn with the zesty taste of pizza, loaded baked potato, or ranch, and candied flavors ($1.15–$6.25) such as spicy chocolate, green apple, and banana make for a snack as sweet and airy as Willy Wonka's best throw pillows. Football fans can also assemble flavor combinations by using the colored popcorn to represent their favorite pro or college team, or pick amongst preassembled team blends such as orange and blueberry (Auburn Tigers) or cinnamon and sweet corn (Alabama Crimson Tide).
The town of Brookside owns Five Mile Creek Canoe & Company, which works from a philosophy that nature is a splendor to be shared by all people. Five Mile not only grants access to a bonanza of camping and canoeing activities—such as bench pressing a canoe—it gives patrons the opportunity to control their own adventures. The campground presents enough activity opportunities to keep patrons busy throughout the day, including a playground, a 2-mile walking track, and a swimming hole.
When patrons want to set out on watery expeditions, they carry their own boats down to the creek and steer their vessels from beginning to end. After pushing past the shallow waters, canoes paddlers can traverse up to 26 miles of gently flowing creek lined on either side by a row of trees. These leaf havens obscure guests from the curious eyes of civilization, chipmunks, and Bigfoot's cousin, Steve. Before they hit the water, helpful staff members can give demonstrations to those with little paddling experience. They can also organize group floats for social paddlers.
Whether retooling the body's hormone levels or removing tiny impurities from its pores, there's no treatment too big or small for the staff at Solutions Wellness. On the spa side of things, hair-removal expert and aesthetician Cassee Young uses wax to eradicate unwanted fuzz and save her clients from the burden of regular shaving. For solutions of a more medical nature, advanced practice nurse Cristina Moore helms a clinical team that specializes in bioequivalent-hormone replacement therapy and medical weight-loss strategies.
While awaiting treatment, guests can relax and enjoy a warm or cool beverage in the welcoming reception area, whose golden walls are accented by red- and orange-toned prints and bright-red leather chairs.