Archive for the ‘Fine and Casual Dining’ Category

Celebrating the Fourth of July, 2017 In Cape Charles, Virginia

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

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On July 3, 1776, John Adams told his wife Abigail that when Independence Day came, it should be celebrated with ” pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports… and Illuminations.” Then, voila’, on July 4,1776, the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and as a country, we’ve never looked back ! Now, in 2017, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the historic little coastal town of Cape Charles, VA celebrated America’s 241st Independence Day with the very same traditions John Adams wished for… and more ! This year, the festivities kicked off at 10am with the traditional Parade, the best ever in my book, led by the Color Guard from the US Coast Guard Station Cape Charles.

 

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The Cape Charles Parade is always a marvelous combination of local pageantry, floats, banners, fire company trucks with air horns blasting a loud ” howdy”, antique tractors and cars, horses, kids on bikes, motorcycles, decorated golf carts, etc., from local organizations, clubs and individuals. They march enthusiastically down Bay and Mason Avenues, tossing candy, beads and even a few yellow rubber duckies to the appreciative spectators lining the streets cheering them on ! This year, however, the parade within the parade, the Golf Cart Parade, was truly amazing ! Golf cart entries were dressed to the nines, red, whites and blues galore, flags, balloons, Pom-poms, streamers, banners, signs, Uncle Sam top hats, creativity shone everywhere. Since they are street-legal in Cape Charles, many residents own electric golf carts and a little friendly competition among neighbors resulted in dozens and dozens of fantastic cart entries this year, all the better to enjoy the Parade !

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After the Parade, it was on to the arts and crafts tents and food vendors out on Bay Avenue by the beach. Lots of fun stuff to see and buy. Business was brisk at the Italian Ice stand and yummy aromas wafted from the taco tent and the shrimp po boy tent, with nearby hot dog and burger venders ladling on mustard and ketchup at a fast pace too. Down at the Gazebo, Mistress of Ceremonies, perennial favorite Trina Veber, announced all the Parade winners, including best golf cart float which celebrated the now-extinct Cape Charles ferry and best Novelty entry, awarded to Reid Diggs, who drove his boat-into-a-car conversion in the Parade.

 

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Next up on the events schedule, the “Guppie Challenge”, a fishing tourney for kids, held out on the Cape Charles Fun Pier and sponsored by New Roots. Seemed to be lots of entries, excited kids milling around the LOVE sign, waiting for parents to finish the sign ups. And right next door, the medical assistance tent in case anyone got hooked by their hook… or whatever ! Teams were registering for beach volleyball and the corn hole contest. ( If you’ve never seen Corn Hole played, it’s a pretty simple set-up, a wide tilted board with round holes cut through it, hence the name corn hole ). The object of the game is to toss little bean bags through the not-much-bigger-than-the-bean-bag holes. One of those things that sounds easy but in practice is complicated, no doubt a metaphor for life in these days. ) Out on the Gazebo, live music all day and into the evening, keeping everybody rocking and rolling through sunset and last light.

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My young great-grandkids love the fireworks on the 4th of July best of all. As soon as darkness starts to fall, it’s like a road trip — but instead of “are we almost there ?”, it’s “are they going to start soon? ” Meantime, I’m still fooling with camera settings, hoping to get a few good shots of the fireworks, which seems always to be a challenge. Suddenly, the first loud booms and the crackly sizzles of lacy sparklers. Then oohs and ahhs, the squeals of sheer delight, wide young eyes staring at the sky with amazement as brilliant colors and shapes streak upwards, illuminating the darkness, then fading, softly falling back towards earth. Each seemingly more beautiful than the one before, going on and on and on, until the spectacular Grand Finale, the always perfect conclusion to a marvelous 4th, a Cape Charles 4th !!

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The New Cape Charles Farmer’s Market– Fun And Delicious

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Farmers Mkt. BBQ StandOn the Eastern Shore of Virginia this summer, Tuesday afternoons  from 4 to 6:30 pm are  a special time in the little coastal town of Cape Charles, Virginia — particularly for foodies and farm-to-table enthusiasts.  It’s a time slot  that lots of locals  ( and visitors too ) have set aside for a visit to the brand new Cape Charles Farmer’s Market.   Located on the spacious grounds of the Cape Charles Museum on Stone Road,  the Market takes good advantage of the Museum’s huge grassy front yard so there is plenty of room for venders to set up little tents to display their yummy wares.  Wicker basket in hand, I traipsed from the parking lot over to the vendor area, not exactly sure just what to expect in the way of  variety so I was  pleasantly surprised  to see so many beautiful fruits and veggies on display, some local artwork too, including some new designs from Mama Girl and tantalizing home baked goodies from Cape Charles Confectionery.  But my first stop was at Shore Beef and BBQ, where owner Ron had smoky good aromas wafting from a sizable portable smoker grill hitched to his pickup truck, folks already in line, buying sandwiches and BBQ by the quart, pulled pork, beef brisket plus cooked-to-perfection ribs.

Farmers market peopleMy plan was to make a big circle, check out all the vendors and circle back around again to make my purchases.   And that would have been a good plan if I had brought a bigger  basket and if I had not stopped to talk to a few friends along the way and ended up having a detailed conversation comparing southern style creamed corn recipes.   Who knew that “with or without bacon drippings” could be a major creamed corn issue– but trust me, it is !   ( And for those like myself, not originally from Virginia, south of the Mason-Dixon Line “creamed corn” does not contain a drop of cream, that is to say, dairy cream. Instead, creamed corn is made by cutting the kernels off the cob and then carefully scraping the corn’s own juices, the cream, from the cob with the dull edge of a sturdy table knife into a waiting bowl.  This can be a pretty messy job, best done with the bowl in the sink to avoid corn splatters all over the counter. Now comes the contentious part, cooking the creamy mixture.  Diehard Southerners almost always insist that sautéing in a generous amount of bacon dripping is the only true method. But transplants like myself often prefer olive oil with a bit of butter added at the end when seasoning with salt and pepper.  And so it goes, where it stops nobody knows, the new vs. the traditional.

 

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Farmers Mkt.ProduceContinuing on with my circle, I was captivated by a lovely display of cut flowers– nothing like a gorgeous bouquet to brighten any room, especially at the great farmer’s market prices, finally settled on the cheery sunny faces of a colorful bunch of long stemmed sunflowers.  Further down the line found some local honey, so great on my Mother’s excellent recipe for fresh buttermilk cornbread, eaten warm from the oven and slathered with butter, then honey.  Saunders Orchard cantaloupes looked great, and so low cal as well as delicious.  At Mattawoman Farms, a local CSA,  some vibrant and crisp Swiss chard caught my eye, a rainbow of colors ready to sauté with chopped onion in …..you guessed it,  a little bacon dripping, finished with a little cider vinegar. Yum.  They also had some good looking kolorabi. I have never actually cooked kolorabi, I’ve looked at it, considered it, but never taken the plunge.  This time was no exception, still haven’t worked up to it, next time maybe.  But their Zebra tomatoes were keepers, small red orbs with golden stripes and so were the really ripe small tomatoes from Copper Cricket Farm, displayed in a sizeable bin and priced at ” select a bunch of them  for $3.00″. By that time my little basket was about full but I headed back to the bread tent for a loaf of sour dough, hoping to try a recipe for an Italian tomato and bread salad, panzanella, that I had seen recently in the Washington Post. Doesn’t sound that great but I’m imagining that fresh artisan bread, lovely ripe tomatoes wedges combined with finely chopped garlic and fresh basil chiffonade, everything tossed in a delicate vinaigrette is going to be worth trying, we shall see.  At any rate, when I got there the cupboard was bare and so the poor cook got none.  But there is always next Tuesday and all the other Tuesday’s until October, so sooner or later a loaf of sour dough shall be available and a panzanella shall be made !

 

4 Great Places In Cape Charles, VA To Take Your Sweetie To Dinner On Valentine’s Day

Thursday, February 13th, 2014

Happy Valentines DayIf you’re looking for a great place to enjoy a romantic Valentine’s  dinner,  you definitely couldn’t go wrong by trying one of these 4 terrific restaurants  located in or around the quaint Victorian town of  Cape Charles, VA.   Menu info and phone numbers for reservations are included.  So pick your favorite, make a reservation and take your Sweetie to Valentine’s dinner in this lovely little beachfront town by the  Chesapeake Bay.

 

 

Aqua 1.Aqua Cape Charles’ only  fine dining bayfront restaurant,  Aqua overlooks the majestic Chesapeake Bay. Dinner here at sunset is a sensational choice. Unfortunately, sunset comes a little early in February but Aqua is lovely after dark as well.  In addition to  its elegant decor,  starched white linens and superb service,  for Valentine’s Weekend , Aqua is offering several special entrees including a luscious sounding Stuffed Lobster,  slow baked Prime Rib and  Chicken Piccata.  And one of the succulent appetizers, Southern Oysters and Grits, sounds like a mouthwatering version of one of my  personal favorite’s,  shrimp and grits.  Chef Shelly Cusamina  has been the head chef at Aqua for a number of years and prides herself on featuring fine food with the freshest of ingredients, locally procured when possible.  Especially for Valentine’s evening,  a live jazz band will be playing.  Located at 900 Marina Village Circle near the King’s Creek Marina. Call 757-331-8660 for reservations.

Hook Up Gourmet 2.Hook-U-Up Gourmet– Located at 227   Mason Avenue right  in the heart of the Cape Charles,  Hook-U-Up is quite the eclectic restaurant.  By day, a purveyor of savory pizza and gourmet sandwiches.  By night, on Tuesdays, it is a Bistro serving elegant and delicious food, a  bit of a continental flair  right  in the Cape Charles Historic District.   And once a month, a special Wine Dinner, offering, as a friend who attended one recently told me,  “some of the best food I’ve ever eaten”.  High praise indeed and well-deserved for talented  Chef and owner, Tim Brown,  who is going all out on Valentine’s  Week-end  with both a prix-fixe and an  a la carte menu available.  The prix-fixe sounds tantalizing, Artichokes stuffed with Lump Crab or Baked Brie in Phylo with Orange Preserves among his appetizers, an Arugula and Watercress salad,  Chateaubriand with Black Truffle and  Béarnaise sauces for the entree’.  The sweet for your sweetie is  almond and black cherry tart with espresso ice cream, ambrosial no doubt.  Highlights of the a la carte menu include  Beef Wellington,  a “Surf and Turf” consisting of a  Petite Filet+ Lobster Tail+ Lump Crab  and  a  Flounder Meuniere.  For reservations, call 757-331-2275.

Kings Creek Inn 3.  King’s Creek Inn– With its long views down King’s Creek and out to the Chesapeake Bay beyond, King’s Creek Inn is another beautiful location for dinner.  Offering their “Fireside Feasts” on Friday and Saturday evenings all winter long,  they are cooking up something special indeed for Valentine’s Day week-end.   Dining by a crackling fireplace is always romantic, in addition, all the ladies will be receiving a long-stemmed rose to help celebrate the evening.  Entrees will include Filet of Sole stuffed with Lump Crab, a Surf and Turf,  Lamb Shanks slow roasted in wine and Chicken stuffed with Brie and Cranberry.  Dessert sounds delightful, their signature Chocolate Mousse Cake or a Truffle Cheesecake, yummy.  Located at 3018 Bowden Landing just outside town. Call 757-678-6355 for reservations.

 

Kelly's Pub Cape Charles 4.  Kelly’s Gingernut Pub– Offering great food in a unique and casual atmosphere. Located at  133  Mason Avenue in the center of Cape Charles, in what was once a historic brick bank building, now lovingly renovated by owner Gene Kelly.  Try the cozy seating section called “The Vault”,  located in what was once, duh,  the bank’s vault.   Kelly’s combines  a fun atmosphere with excellent pub-style food plus some excellent chef’s specials for dinner on week-ends.  For Valentine’s Day, among other offerings,  Kelly’s will present  Oysters Rockefeller, Crab Claw & Shrimp Cocktail,  Three Cheese Ravioli in a Crab and Cream sauce, Surf and Turf as well as a Grilled Rib- eye Steak with Portobello Mushrooms.  Cheesecake with Berries for dessert.  Call for more info at 757-331-3222

 

” A Victorian Winter Wedding” Was The Theme Of The 18th Annual Cape Charles VA Holiday Progressive Dinner

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

18th Annual Holiday Progressive Dinner Tour brochure Sponsored for the 18th year by the Northampton County Chamber of Commerce, and chaired this year by Blue Heron Realty Co. client, Tammy Holloway, owner of  the gorgeous Bay Haven B&B,  the annual Cape Charles  Holiday Progressive Dinner is always a fun event, homes dressed to the nines, holiday lights blazing, food, wine  and lots of good cheer. But what sets the Cape Charles event apart from progressive dinners all across the South (where they are very popular)  is its wonderful entertainment. Due largely to the influence of the Arts Enter ! theatre group sponsored by the historic Palace Theatre,  the Cape Charles Progressive Dinners always feature a special theme and offer entertainment, usually consisting of  numerous vignettes produced by the theatre group, with each home on the Tour playing  its part  in  the  theme. This year’s theme was ” A Victorian Winter Wedding“.  Like the town itself, it is set at the turn of the century,  and  revolves  around the elaborate preparations for the wedding ( fictional) of the Mayor of Cape Charles to the son of a well-liked local  businessman.  The wedding theme was embellished at every stop on the Tour, as each home offered a glimpse of a particular aspect of the extensive preparations for the wedding.  To better set the mood, at each stop the home’s owner,  host and greeters were elaborately costumed in elegant period fashion.  ( One  of the  really clever aspects was that the Mayor’s daughter was marrying the son of one of the town’s foremost businessmen, the builder W. H. Lambertson,  and two of the homes on this year’s Progressive Dinner were  actually built by W.H. Lambertson in the early 1900’s.)

 

DSC_0434The evening  kicked off  at the striking, art-deco style Palace Theatre, built-in 1941 and now fully refurbished, thanks to the fund-raising efforts of Art’s Enter.  We were in the early group, started at 3:20, ended about 6:00 pm.  In general, organizers have it  arranged so that  ticket holders consist of groups of about 25 and departures staggered about 20 minutes apart.  At the theatre, setting the evening’s theme, we were treated to a short play starring the irrepressible Trina Veber, veteran of many Progressive Dinner vignettes, in the key role of the Mayor’s wife, mother of the bride, anxious to uphold her position as a pillar of Cape Charles society.  Here we learn that although the Mayor is cheap, famous for pinching pennies, his wife has arranged to have the wedding dress purchased and fitted by the most prestigious dress shop in town, whose owner has recently made a buying trip to New York City to secure a variety of lovely but expensive dresses for this high society wedding.  We also learn that so many guests are expected that both the Cape Charles Inn ( in real life also an inn, the Chesapeake  B&B) and the famous ( in real life as well) Miss Mollie’s Boarding House, (where the portrait painter for the official wedding portrait will be staying ), both will be filled with VIP wedding guests.  As the little play ends,  the audience is  left wondering if Daddy isn’t  going to throw a conniption fit when he gets the bill for all the grand wedding preparations. But we shall find out before our evening ends.  While the action is proceeding on stage, Dinner ticket holders are enjoying a  High Tea–  tender tea sandwiches, cucumber dill and  liver mousse with red onion, prepared by Hook-U-Up restaurant’s  fine chef, Tim Brown,  as well as a fluffy, orange-iced cranberry orange scone baked by the Cape Charles Coffee House, served with sweet orange tea.

DSC_0527Off then to the second stop,  a  classic American four square home, one of the many examples in Cape Charles, which the playbill proclaims as home to the Lambertson family whose son is to marry the Mayor’s daughter.  From the owner’s speech before entering the house, we learn that when she purchased the property in 2009, this now-lovely house was in serious disrepair and served primarily as the abode for a large flock of pigeons !  As we walk through and see it now,  the house has been beautifully restored and is a real credit to the efforts of its new owners.  In the theme of the wedding, this house serves as  the elegant dress shop. In an upstairs bedroom several mannequins are dressed with beautiful bridal attire in various stages of being fitted.  ( Kudos to all the efforts of Arts Enter volunteers  in securing the gorgeous period costumes– it must have been a real labor of love.  In fact, it’s  the numerous participants, volunteers all, over 150 of them, that make the Dinner possible. Without them it just couldn’t be pulled off  ! )  Food here was prepared by The Shanty,  a fun new seafood restaurant located right on the Cape Charles Harbor, and featured Oysters Rockefeller and Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque.  Unfortunately, although I live in one of the finest oyster producing regions in the entire country, I’m not an oyster person so didn’t have any— but Hubby and Eldest Daughter assured me they were succulent.  However, I can personally attest that the bisque was absolutely delicious– smooth, creamy with a hint of  char at the finish.  Actually, it was my favorite dish of the entire dinner, especially as I am a devotee’ of butternut squash bisque. Wine accompaniment was  Church Creek Steel Chardonnay by Chatham Vineyard, a fine local vineyard and winery.

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Mayer home 2From there, we were off to the Inn, a walk of a few short blocks. In the Dinner’s theme, the Inn was to provide  accommodations and hospitality for many of the out-of-town guests expected for the wedding and is elaborately decorated for the occasion.. In real life,  the Inn really is an inn, the Chesapeake B&B.  Listed for sale by Blue  Heron Realty Co., it is a gorgeous 2 story historic brick Colonial Revival home which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Charles’ soft sand beach.  One of its most stunning features is the arcaded 5 bay brick front porch. For the Dinner,  the owners  had decorated both porch and shrubbery with a stunning display of bright holiday lights, total eye candy.  ( For more information on the features of this extensively renovated property, visit http://www.blueheronva.com/property.php?propid=1516 . )  Our group arrived just as the sun was beginning to set, the sky was streaked with soft pinks and violets, absolutely stunning. Prepared by the historic Eastville Inn  in Eastville, VA, the offering here was a rich Rockfish Chowder.  Rockfish is probably the Eastern Shore’s most prized late season fish, mild and firm flesh, perfect for a chowder.  This particular dish is the signature fall-winter dish of the Eastville Inn and includes corn and asparagus, is seasoned with applewood smoked bacon and a touch of garlic and thyme,  served with sweet potato rolls spread with a brown-sugar cinnamon butter.  Yum !

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DSC_0511Next stop, in my opinion, one of the most charming homes in all of Cape Charles, with one of  the indisputably most beautiful front porches in town, curved, graceful  and full house length. Built in 1912 for Cape Charles’ first banker by W.H. Lambertson, whose son ( in the play) is to marry the Mayor’s daughter, this home continues the evening’s  theme as being the home of the bride’s best friend. It is at this gorgeous home  that the bridesmaids and friends will gather to make  decorations and guest favors for the wedding.  The tools and materials for same are seen as ticket holders tour the bedrooms at this house. Food served here was prepared by   Aqua Restaurant, offering fine and casual dining right on the shores of  Chesapeake Bay  at King’s Creek Marina .  A modern update of  a traditional Waldorf salad and a lightly curried chicken salad in a small brioche roll, very tasty, were served, complemented by Italian white wine selected for the occasion by the Gull Hummock Wine and Cheese shop in Cape Charles.

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DSC_0529The final home on the tour was Miss Mollie’s  boarding house which was, in real life, Miss Mollie’s Boarding House. Apparently Miss Mollie ran the boarding house for many years after her husband’s death and was known Shore-wide for her famous pound cake. At the house,  a video interview of Miss Mollie, done many years ago for a special Cape Charles history event,  was playing on the VCR– fascinating, a real highlight and I took a quick pic for this blog post.  Miss Mollie died at 101 and in the TV interview I’m guessing she was somewhere in her nineties but still sharp as a tack because when the interviewer, long-time local pharmacist, George Savage, apparently asked a particular question for a 2nd time, he received a  quick retort,  ” Why you already asked me that !”   When George inquired how many of her famous pound cakes she thought she had baked over her lifetime, she guessed she had baked plenty more than a thousand–  which is a heck of a lot of   home baking !  Food served here was prepared by Kelly’s Gingernut Pub, a fun place with  good food located on Mason Avenue in Cape Charles and included a delicious roast beef-Yorkshire pudding canape plus a roastedvegetable tort served in individual tart shells topped with a creamy, buttery sauce.  The piece de resistance’ was a little slice of Miss Mollie’s cake, a rich vanilla pound cake, prepared by Heritage Hall in Nassawadox, baked according to Miss Mollie’s very own recipe.  As party favors,  printed copies of Miss Mollie’s recipe were available for guests to take with them if desired– I took one and intend to try it out for myself.

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DSC_0543Leaving Miss Mollie’s,  it was just a short walk to the Cape Charles Town Library where the theme and the Dinner concluded,  with the penny-pinching Mayor was scheduled to see his daughter modeling her gorgeous, albeit expensive,  bridal gown for the very first time.  Suddenly he forgets the expense of the wedding and realizes that his baby girl is going to be gone, about to get married and move from his home, that it is family, not fortune,  he should be thinking about now.  Thus endeth  the play and also the Dinner,  after  the dessert course, naturally.  A  collaboration between Heritage Hall and Brown Dog Ice Cream in Cape Charles,  dessert was a delectable ginger snap cookie “sandwich” filled with Brown Dog’s heavenly ice cream,  Caramelized Fig and Mascarpone Cheese flavor, easy to hold, delicious to eat. It was the sweet end to a sweet day.  But one more treat to come– Pheiffer Stables, whose farm is  located on the outskirts of  Cape Charles, had brought a holiday-light decorated carriage into town, pulled by Rosie, a lovely patient horse. Horse and driver  stood ready outside the Library,  prepared to ferry  weary Tour members  back to the Theatre.  So aboard Hubby and I hopped,  not  spring chickens any more,  nice to get off our feet after several hours walking  town. So with sleighbells bells ringing,  off we rode to our car,  a perfect end to a  great evening.

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The 21st Annual Eastern Shore of Virginia Harvest An Unqualified Success

Friday, October 18th, 2013
Harvest Fest on Virginia's Eastern Shore

Harvest Fest On The Eastern Shore of Virginia

When you live on  the Eastern Shore of Virginia, as the first week of October rolls around, you can look forward to a few traditional  pleasures– mums start to bloom gloriously, pumpkins appear in riotous hues of orange at roadside farm markets but, best of all, it’s time for the annual Virginia Eastern Shore Harvest Festival,  sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.  Ticket sales are limited to about 2500 each year and there is no better hangout for an entire afternoon of food, fun, hospitality and some old-fashioned  “howdy-I’m-so-and-so-and-our-candidate-would-appreciate-your-vote”  state and local politics. Ground Zero is the Sunset Beach hotel’s spacious beachfront acreage at the beautiful southern tip of the Eastern Shore , right at the edge of  the mighty  Chesapeake Bay. 

Harvest Fest food tents

So Little Time, So Many Seafood Goodies

Although there is always lots of  great local art for sale, the seafood, of course,  is the big drawing card, a veritable cornucopia of Eastern Shore delicacies from the deep,  plus a few harmless veggies ( i.e., French fries and corn-on- the-cob, although this year there was also a salad station,  which mysteriously I somehow managed to miss ).  And for the landlubbers, fresh, local BBQ  and  the ever-popular Southern-style chicken wings do the honors.  First off, the trick is to start out by making a big circle around the entire venue, checking out exactly what’s on offer and then setting one’s eating strategy.  To dive enthusiastically into one’s favorites or to go with  the conventional appetizer/entrée’/dessert  strategy, that is the question.   Personally, I think most folks just dive into their favorite seafoods right off the bat in this all-you-can-eat heaven but almost everybody in our little group went with an “appetizer first” strategy, meaning that first up were the steamed little nicks,  everyone picking up baskets heaped with the ever- so- tender, half-dollar sized beauties, accompanied by melted butter.  And for those who love ice-cold oysters on the half shell,  an army of volunteers was kept busy popping opening these glistening beauties, enticingly  displayed on deep beds of crushed ice. 

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Harvest Fest Winery Tent

Snagging A Nice Cool Glass of Local Chardonnay Wine, Perfect To Accompany An Afternoon Of Munching On Luscious Local Seafood

But, heresy of heresies, here in the land of  prolific clam and oyster aquaculture, I don’t like either clams or oysters!  So, while others were busy smacking lips over the bi-valves, I was moseying on over to the other side of the grounds to scoff up on a nice cold glass of Chardonnay to enjoy with my seafood. On the Eastern Shore we are fortunate to have three great local wineries, Chatham Vineyard, Holly Grove Winery and Bloxom Vineyard.   We’re  not Napa Valley but still, it’s great to be able to brag about having our own wine appellation, the Eastern Virginia Appellation.  And from there I headed straight into the arms of the Shrimp Station tent.  Now I really love shrimp, they are my personal seafood favorite,  but I am very particular about shrimp preparation. Be they steamed, fried or scampied, what reader of  this blog has not suffered through  rubbery, what-the-heck-are-these, grossly over-cooked shrimp ?  I must congratulate the charge’ d’affaires  of  the Shrimp Station  for a job really, really done well.  It’s hard to even imagine the challenges of  on-site cooking for literally hundreds upon hundreds of people,  in an open air tent, with portable equipment,  grappling with the logistics of  assuring that  every single ingredient is on hand, in the correct amount, definitely no possibility of just stepping into the pantry for more.  But to do this with shrimp, which are so easy to ruin with a too-thick, greasy coating or by over-cooking, is even more of a challenge.  But these were excellent,  tender, succulent, crisp in a light, crunchy tempura style batter, congrats to the whole Team Shrimp !   And did I  mention the accompanying sauce, a smooth, mayo- based sauce, delicately seasoned with tangy horseradish, a few spices and a bit of mustard, offering just enough bite  to contrast with the sweetness of the shrimp, absolutely delightful.

Harvest Fest Toadfish Tent

Toads By Any Other Name Would Be More Delicious

After a couple of turns with the whole shrimp thing,  it was off to Toads–fried toads. Not the jumps-out-from-behind-the-flower-pot kind of toad but rather a toadfish toad.  When cooked, they’re just  tiny things, about three inches long and about an inch or a bit more across.  But despite the off-putting name, they are delicious, with a delicate white meat, not fishy at all,  This was the first time that I can recall toads being served at Harvest Fest but they seemed to be very popular and I certainly enjoyed them, several helpings worth.  From there, it was off to the Flounder Station. Flounder is a fav fish of mine,  I especially like it served a la Sting Ray Restaurant’s  style, topped with a  rich Crab Imperial and finished under the broiler until smoking hot and crispy brown.  Totally yum !   Sadly, but of course, the Fest Flounder wasn’t topped with crab,  but it was still very good, tender, with a crisp seasoned coating, very nice.  

 

Eastern Shore Harvest Fest Crabcake Tent

Waiting In Line For Some Savory Crabcakes

While strolling around, scooping up shrimp, toads and flounder, I had also been keeping my eye on the Crabcake Station which been sporting a pretty long  line all afternoon.  However, when you’ve got seafood on the brain and there are savory crabcakes to be had, well, trust me, like the Sirens tempting Ulysses,  those  crab cakes call out,  long line or not.  So, hey girl, better just get in line with the dozens of other folks looking for their crabcake fix.  Presented this year by the well-known Exmore Diner,  prepared on a sizzling grill instead of deep-fried, I did wonder at the outset if these would be worth the wait.  But reaching the end of the line and picking up my prize, a plate of two aromatic crabcakes, made from the famously flavorful Chesapeake Bay blue crab, subtly spiced, with a pinch of parsley added,  delectably rich,  melt-in-your-mouth, I had to say, oh yes, they were worth the wait !

Harvest Fest - Virginia Eastern Shore art tents

Surveying The Local Art Talent

By then, totally sated, I was ready to move on to the Arts and Crafts tents and check out all the  paintings, carvings, sculpture, etc.  Harvest Fest always has always included great variety of local artisans displaying their creative works.  Among this year’s group were  Billy Crockett, a well-respected local carver,  Mary Onley, known affectionately as “Mama Girl“, whose whimsical paper-mache’  figures have become quite famous locally and Copper Creations, well-known for their Nature based copper art figures as well as garden art.  It’s  always fun to browse through, taking in all the beautiful things on display, especially as I have no talent whatever along those lines . I’m  always amazed to see how many really gifted artists we have here on the Eastern Shore and  I love wrapping up the annual Harvest Fest with a stroll through the art tents, a real feast for the eyes after such a delightful feast for the tum-tum.

Harvest fest 2013 069 Harvest fest 2013 068 Harvest fest 2013 004   Harvest fest 2013 074

A GLORIOUS FOURTH OF JULY 2013 IN CAPE CHARLES, VIRGINIA

Friday, July 19th, 2013
 Cape Charles Beach July 4, 2013

Sun And Fun On The Cape Charles Beach

We spent a few days over the 4th of July at   a charming Victorian home  overlooking  the  Chesapeake Bay and sparkling sand beach on Bay Avenue in the quaint  historic town of Cape Charles, VA.   The plan was to have a couple of grandkids for a sleepover on Wednesday night, then a big family  gathering to watch the fireworks on Thursday night and finally  for Hubby and I to grab a well-deserved day of peace and quiet on Friday.  For once, things went some what according to plan.  We rolled into town just after  a kid-friendly lunch at Mickey D’s,  intent on getting  all cold items unpacked and stuffed into the refrigerator at the house before heading out to the Wednesday Aftenoon Chess Club at the new public  library on Mason Avenue.  I say “new”  library not in the sense of the building, which is a grand bank building built in the early 1900’s, most lately inhabited by Bank of America, ( and now owned by the Town thanks to the very affordable terms offered by BOA ),  but in the sense that it just become the library.  Space to be able to offer chess for kids is just one of the perks of making the building a public building rather than just another retail business as some had hoped.  I personally think time will prove that this expenditure by the Town was a brilliant decision.

 Brown Dog Ice Cream Shop In Cape Charles VA

To Try It Is To Love It— Brown Dog Ice Cream !

But  what is located conveniently adjacent to the library, beloved by young and old alike, the perfect after-chess treat ?   The Brown Dog Ice Cream Shop, of course,  home of made-on-the-premises, good as Haagen Dazs,  6 or more  rotating flavors everyday, served in a cup, sugar cone or crunchy waffle cone, delightfully cold, deliciously creamy ice cream.  I tried the for- adults-only lemoncello which hit the spot on a warm summer’s day but I must say that Hubby’s coffee ice cream made with the Eastern Shore Roasting Company’s coffee was absolutely wonderful and I don’t even particularly like coffee ice cream !  The kids all had the Simply Berries, full of raspberries, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, the yummy way to sneak in extra antioxidants.  From there it was off to the pool for a couple hours of pure splashing, jumping, laughing fun for the kids and a little relaxation  in the shade for us.

 Cape Charles Fishing Pier at Sunset 4th of July

Cape Charles Fishing Pier On A Soft Summer’s Eve

Back to the house  for a fast, kid- friendly dinner of grilled hamburgers, corn on the cob and salad plus plenty of  watermelon for dessert. I think that no fruit says summer better than sweet and juicy chunks of deep red, crisp,  ice cold watermelon — unless it’s a tree-ripened, dripping with juice, sweet-as-sugar peach, plucked at the peak of perfection from a tenderly cared for tree at the Nottingham Farms orchard just south of Cape Charles.  Anyway, we wanted to get in a walk at sunset and headed for  the lighted fishing pier just down from the house. It’s a wonderful facility, stretching out into the Chesapeake Bay quite a ways, protected by a jetty,  perfect for a relaxing after-dinner meander, no hurry,  enjoying the sights and sounds, watching folks still sitting on the beach or wading in tide pools,  just savoring the last few minutes of daylight, boats drifting back into the harbor, sated with a day of fishing, lights on the channel markers blinking red and green, a peaceful end to a busy day.  Once back at the house, early lights-out for all in anticipation of a busy morning on the 4th, grandparents definitely tuckered out, grandkids not so much, which I guess proves we’re not  spring chickens anymore.

 Vendor Tents Cape Charles Beach July 4th

Getting Ready For A Busy Day

Awoke on the 4th to stiffled giggles downstairs, where the kids were trying hard  (and almost succeeding) to keep the sound levels to a low roar.  A dash for the coffee pot,  zip-zip for a breakfast of yogurt and sausage & egg biscuits, then out the door for adventures down the street as the artist’s  tents and  the bouncy house folks were being set up for what they hoped would be a profitable day.   Food vendors were already bustling about, the Italian sausage guys busy slicing up mounds of onions and bell peppers to grill,  delicious aromas starting to waft across the sidewalk even at that early hour.  We poked our noses into everything, easy to do because we were more or less  the first visitors on the scene.  The kids got fixated on the possibility of a funnel cake later, I bought a  light-weight hat with an amazingly wide brim and the biggest flap down the neck I ever saw,  perfect for extra sunburn avoidance.  We took a moment to say hi to Billie Crocket, a terrific local carver,  and then back to the big front porch to settle down with a tall glass of  lemonade  awaiting  the parade.

Cape Charles fire truck  Golf cart parade  Shark car  Lady Liberty

 Cape Charles July 4th Parade 2013

And Where Are The Clowns ? Send In The Clowns…

What I have always loved best about the Cape Charles 4th of July Parade is the active participation of so many folks in the Parade itself as well as a great turnout of spectators to cheer them on.  Led by the Color Guard from the Cape Charles Coast Guard Station, followed by our first responders– fire truck after tanker truck after ladder truck after ambulance, full of  volunteers from Fire and EMT Stations all over Northampton County, giving we  the served a chance to cheer and wave to these folks who risk life and limb to help us everyday. And then the long procession,  a whole array of organizations from Veterans to the Girl Scouts to the ESO Clown Troupe, followed by the Golf Cart Parade, this year with at least 30 gaily decorated golf carts full of waving people throwing candy to the crowd,  followed by the Kid’s Bicycle Parade,  with the Horse Parade bringing up the rear.  So much participation, so much spirit, a joy to see, no apathy here, we love the Parade and the esprit de corps,  it beats slick commercial floats a ten times over.

5a Cape Charles Parade July 4th   5b Cape Charles July 4th Parade  5c Cape Charles July 4th Parade  5d Cape Charles July 4th Parade

 Tall ship at sunset in the Cape Charles VA Harbor on July 4th, 2013

Cape Charles Harbor At Sunset

After the Parade, a stroll down Bay Avenue, flowing with the crowd, snagging some of those aromatic grilled sausage/onion/bell pepper sandwiches, just generally enjoying the day until time for more  splashing & laughing at the pool where one of the mothers took over kid supervision responsibilities and Hubby and I went back to the house for a well-deserved iced tea,  just chilling out in an overstuffed chair, newspaper in hand, silently singing the praises of  whatever brilliant person invented AC.  Evening brought a spectacular sunset and some great “people watching” as still-decorated golf carts cruised merrily up and down the avenue, folks arrived to watch the fireworks from the beach, bikes and joggers silhouetted against  a glowing  sky of deep pinks and reds. Down at the harbor, white masts contrasted with  the midnight blue sky. It was lovely, a truly wonderful day.  Yet to come,  the fireworks, this year a 30 minute display of grand explosions,  a profusion of  blazing flower patterns, brilliant petals glowing in bright  reds, greens, golds, white.  It was awesome !   The kids loved it, we loved it, the crowd loved it, a colorful and exciting end to another great 4th of July in Cape Charles, VA.

6a Surfer golf cart  6c Bikers at Cape Charles Beach July 4th  6d harbor at sunset  6b Cape Charles 4th of July Sunset

 

 

 

May Is Barbeque Month On Eastern Shore Virginia – Make Way For Savory & Delicious

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

Actually, May is BBQ Month nationally but I like to think we really do it up brown ( pun intended )  here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.   For  such a slender little  peninsula as ours, I think we’re lucky to have several luscious BBQ  places here on the Shore, ( a  special shout-out here to StingRays ), plus  easy  access to several more in nearby Virginia Beach, Whitner’s BBQ being my personal favorite in Tidewater.  And  a really well-known place, Pierce’s BBQ near Williamsburg, try to stop there to bring some carryout whenever we visit  the historic area, at least 2 or 3 times a year. But some of the most delicious BBQ might be the homemade stuff, slathered with the family ” secret sauce”, ( the South being legendary for its love of BBQ and just about everyone has their special sauces and methods of cooking ), and served with time-honored  favorite side dishes.

The flavor of the  very first BBQ  sandwich I ever had in Virginia surprised me completely, being used to what I now  think of as typical Kansas City type tomato based sauces.  Anyway, shortly after we moved to Virginia  I was at  a business meeting in Richmond where many of  the other attendees were  locals.  When lunch break rolled around, they suggested what was described as  a ” great BBQ place” nearby,  which sounded good to me. At first bite  I was surprised, not  because it  was so  tasty,  because I’d had many tasty  BBQ  sandwiches,  but because it  appeared to have no sauce, a “special sauce”  being the holy grail  of  good BBQ.  But , as promised by the group, it was really delicious,  chopped pork,  tender, moist, very flavorful. I told  our server that I really liked it but wondered why it didn’t have any sauce.  Honey, you aren’t  from Richmond are you, said she, well, not only was I not from Richmond,  I was brand-new  to Virginia.  Which is no doubt why  I failed to recognize the premier BBQ  sauce of Richmond, VA, boiled vinegar Sooey Sauce.  Consisting  of just vinegar, salt, a smidgen of sugar, black pepper and red pepper flakes gently simmered together for about 15 minutes and left  to rest for at least  5-6  hours before tossing into fork tender pork which has been slow cooked in a smoker or covered grill and then coarsely chopped.  As one can likely guess,  this is now one of  my very favorite BBQ sauces for chopped pork. Ribs, of course,  are a different matter entirely and we’ll deal with ribs shortly.

So to make sure we are observing BBQ Month properly, very important indeed,  we are going to turn a combo Mother’s Day/Dad’s  B-Day party into a  little cook off/pot luck,  complete with whipping up several new and different sauces to  evaluate.  I am planning to try two great sounding sauces from amazingribs.com, the Chris Lilly Spiced Apricot Sauce and the  Tennessee Holler Whiskey Sauce, both rib sauces.  The plan is to grill the ribs, mopping them with the vinegar sauce to keep them moist on the grill, then  glazing each rack of ribs  with a different finishing sauce. Of course, a great BBQ isn’t just about the ribs, it’s about the accompanying side dishes. In fact, as  I’m writing this little post,  I have one ear tuned to NPR’s  Sunday afternoon show,  America ‘s Test Kitchen, and Chris Kimball is discussing the history of cornbread and the differences between Southern and Northern styles of cornbread.  No question in my mind which is better,  Southern style wins hands down. Made with almost no sugar and very little flour,  just good ole yellow stone-ground cornmeal, eggs and buttermilk, it’s something you can sink your teeth into.  Topped  with a smear of butter and an ample drizzle of honey,  now that’s a cornbread so delicious I don’t even feel guilty about abandoning my Northern roots to declare it the winner. And you must have cornbread at a  BBQ, wouldn’t seem right without it, plus crunchy coleslaw, baked beans, potato salad with plenty of celery seed, fried apples and, of course, creamy, gooey mac and cheese.  And at our house, either green beans or collards to help  balance out all that starch !  So, we’re  planning to do our part to  celebrate BBQ Month 2013,  hope everyone else is ready to enjoy this savory and delicious outdoor food.  (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed agent with Blue  Heron Realty Co, 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )

A New Cape Charles Vacation Rental Home, Introducing “Beach Villa”

Thursday, April 25th, 2013
Sand beach at "Beach Villa", a Cape Charles VA vacation rental home

Relax on the soft sand beach at “Beach Villa” on Eastern Shore Virginia

We get a lot of calls  here at Blue Heron Realty Co. for a vacation rental home with lots of seclusion but with lots of amenities too and that’s usually  a hard order to fill.  However, we  have just acquired  “Beach Villa”  as a Cape Charles VA area vacation rental.  This exquisite villa style home,  sleeping 10, offers  water views galore plus old world charm and the use of its  37 acres with beautiful Virginia Eastern Shore  Chesapeake Bay waterfront.  Best of all,   Beach Villa offers a gorgeous  sand beach, private to the owners and their rental guests, offering wide soft, soft  sands, glittering in the golden sun, perfect for relaxing under a beach umbrella, book in hand, some sweet Southern-style  ice cold tea in the cooler.  And as you wade from the beach into the Bay, the salty Chesapeake  waters start out quite shallow but  gradually reach swimming depth so bring your mask and snorkel to check everything out.   Surrounded on two sides by a pristine little freshwater lake,  imagine waking up  in the serene environment of this home  to the calls of  seabirds overhead  and  waterfowl out on the lake.  Love jogging ? Imagine the pleasure of making lazy circuits around 37 acres surrounded by such natural beauty.  Surely this is a  vacation opportunity extraordinaire.

Aerial view of "Beach Villa", a beachfront home near Cape Charles VA

“Beach Villa” offers old world charm on 37 acres near Cape Charles VA

With 3 bedrooms and 3 and a half baths plus a day bed in the sunroom, there is plenty of room to catch up on some sleep  in this nearly 4000 sq. ft. home. Large great room with living and dining room groupings plus a   gourmet kitchen make conversation with your group a breeze. The gas log fireplace in the living area is perfect for cool fall evenings.  Sliding glass doors lead from the great room to the spacious fieldstone patio overlooking  beautiful flower beds, the lake and the Bay, the perfect spot for a steaming cup of morning coffee.   Paneled den and enclosed sunroom provide additional space for just relaxing, letting the mind and body unwind in this gorgeous setting.  First floor master suite, so convenient, with a master bath which includes jacuzzi tub with marble surround.   Everything about this home is top of the line, you will not be disappointed by selecting this home for your vacation.

Witcher living room CG              Witcher master CG               Witcher kitchen

Aqua Restaurant at Cape Charles offers fine and casual dining on the Chesapeake Bay

Be Sure To Try The Delicious Seafood At Aqua Restaurant During Your Stay

Nearby amenities include Kiptopeake State Park, Eastern Shore Wildlife Refuge and the Rails to Trails jogging/biking trail. The historic little Victorian town of Cape Charles is less than 10 minutes away and offers restaurants, shops, art galleries, marinas,boat ramps, train rides,  special events, holiday parades, etc.,  as well as Palmer and Nicklaus Signature 18 hole golf courses.   The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a terrific spot for a relaxing, low-key vacation, for what we like to call ” Simply Relaxing The Shore Way“.  From A for Artist Galleries to Z for Zesty clam dip,  there is nearly an endless list of things to do and see here on the Eastern Shore.   Savour sunset strolls on the beach,  kayak to our unique off-shore Barrier Islands, charter a deep sea fishing trip, treasure hunt in our antique shops,  attend a live performance at the Palace Theatre, ride horseback along waterfront trails, explore our little coastal towns, visit a local winery,  get wet clamming, enjoy a superb seafood meal at Aqua Restaurant,  see the artifacts of yesteryear at the Barrier Island Museum.  ( By the way, the Tall Ships Cape Charles Festival will be held this year the weekend of June 14-16,  an exciting event for adults and kids alike. Three tall sailing ships will be in port offering open deck tours and day sails, the Navy’s USS  Tornado will also offer tours, individual owners will be there with their sailboats, skipjacks and antique “buy boats”, the harbor will be bursting with great stuff.  Plus loads of other activities  are part of this Festival, it’s a really fun-filled event. )  But whatever you do, memories of your Simply Relaxing  Eastern Shore Vacation  will stay with you forever.  To reserve your week at Beach Villa, email us at easternshorevacations@blueheronva.com or call 757-678-5277.           (Posted  by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Antares Rocket Launch On Wallops Island VA Scrubbed But We Had A Great Time Anyway

Thursday, April 18th, 2013
NASA photo of aerial view wallops island va launch pad

NASA Photo of Rocket Launch Pad At Wallops Island VA

It’s still hard for me to believe that the Eastern Shore of Virginia has entered the Space Age in an important way at Wallops Island, located at the extreme northern portion of the  Virginia Eastern Shore just a few miles from the Maryland state line, nearly an hour and a half from  our stomping grounds in Cape Charles VA.  Wallops Island has long been home to what I have generally thought of as a rather remote NASA outpost for launching weather satellites, etc.,  but no longer, its entered the big time.   Now named the Mid Atlantic Regional Spaceport and an important part of a NASA program to commercialize space efforts, Wallops is about to begin a whole new life as the re-supply location  for the USA team’s efforts on the International Space Station. For reasons which I don’t entirely understand – it is rocket science after all –  the physical aspects of Wallops, latitude, longitude, something, make it one of the few places in the US perfect for launching  satelites and launching rockets with payloads into orbit  destined for the Space Station.  So now a  company by the name of Orbital Sciences Corporation  has  a contract with NASA to  fly 8 resupply missions to the Space  Station  from little ole Wallops Island and is in the process of test flights of  its Antares rocket and its companion  Cygnus cargo spacecraft there.  ( The Orbital Sciences story is pretty interesting in and of itself because it was the brainchild of  the folks behind Pay Pal.  Who could have guessed that all those little Pay Pal fees would be enough to launch a brand new space enterprise ? )

People leaving after Antares rocket launch scrubbed at Wallops Island June 17, 2013

Leaving after Antares rocket launch at Wallops Island scrubbed 4/17/13

Which brings us to  yesterday.  My husband,  who loves the concept of flying in outer space,  thought it would be interesting  for us to go watch the launch of  the Antares rocket and educational for the young  grandkids to see it too. Unfortunately, one was out of town, one was home  with a fever,  which left just one able to go with us.  So off we went,  Hubby, 11 year old grandson who is in the Rocket Club at school, and moi, a little bit on the late side,  surprise, surprise,  but we made good time, remembered to slow down at Temperanceville so as not to get caught in their 45 mph speed trap,  ( still looking for temperance in Temperanceville, which by the way is only a short distance from Modest town) .  We took a back road to a little neighborhood which we knew overlooked one of the small bays between the mainland and Wallops which we thought would offer a great view and not be too crowded, arriving a mere 10 minutes before launch time. No sooner had we pulled into the only parking spot left on the whole road and begun walking  across the grass to where about  50 other folks had lined up folding chairs to watch the event, when somebody shouted out, Mission Scrubbed  and everyone began to leave.  We waited around a bit,  from our vantage point we could see everything perfectly,  the rocket standing tall on the launch pad and then puff, a huge cloud  of smoke, apparently from oxygen being released because of mission  cancellation,  still exciting to witness even without the liftoff.

Assateague wild pony standing in marsh

Chincoteague Ponies Have Distinctive Markings

With  a couple of hours of daylight left,  we decided to drive to the nearby Assateague Wildlife Refuge,  home of the well-known Chincoteague wild ponies.  The ponies, made famous by the book Misty of Chincoteague,  are part of the annual Chincoteague Pony Swim conducted in July each year by the volunteers of the Chincoteague Fire Dept. who care for this little herd of  distinctively marked wild horses, compact in size,  who live in the marshes, eating primarily salt  marsh grass and sweet hay that the firemen put out for them  in the  winter.  After swimming across the channel from Assateague to Chincoteague during the Roundup each year,  the young ponies are auctioned off,  the proceeds supporting the costs of maintaining the herd .  Pony Roundup Day is a huge tourist day, with literally hundreds of thousands of folks visiting Chincoteague for the Swim, which is the reason why  I’ve never  attended.  I just can’t imagine swiveling my neck 180 degrees around for a glimpse of a horse  with  200, 000 other folks crowded round trying to see the same thing.  But during the rest of the year it is not unusual to spot  a pony or two when driving through the Wildlife Refuge.  Didn’t see any ponies yesterday but we did decide to  stop along the oceanfront beach and watch the waves rolling in for a bit.  But even more fun was watching a fellow who was  getting into surf casting big time, three  extra fishing poles stuck in the sand  and  making some hefty casts into the rolling surf with the fourth.   Didn’t  catch anything while we were there but he seemed to be having a mighty fine time anyway.

DSC_0072By consensus,  Wright’s Seafood Restaurant just a few miles away was selected  as our dinner destination. Wright’s is located right on Watt’s  Bay and I do mean right on— the front pilings of its foundation are actually right in the water. So if you  want to enjoy  waterviews during dinner,  Wrights is a great option if  you’re near Assateague.  In business since 1971, Wright’s is famous for it’s Flounder Imperial, a  fillet of  juicy flounder layered with crab imperial and gently browned under the broiler.  The sun was low in the sky as we  pulled into Wright’s , the views were  lovely,  the three of us  had a great time discussing the rockets our grandson is helping build in his school’s Rocket Club and looking at some images from the the NASA app on the iPad while waiting for dinner to arrive.  A fine time was had by all even though the mission was scrubbed — and we still  have hopes of trying again when the launch is rescheduled.     ( Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA )

Aqua Restaurant- Still Delightful, Delicious, De-lovely

Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Aqua Restaurant in Cape Charles VA

Aqua Restaurant Easter Brunch

Having scheduled the family Easter dinner for Saturday, which came off quite well, including trying a new ( new to  me anyway) version of ham from costco which everyone loved,  an excellent Applewood smoked full length de-boned ham which had been cut in half vertically rather than horizontally,   we had decided that brunch at the “new” Aqua  would  be just the ticket for Sunday.   After a winter’s hiatus, which included a change in ownership, a bit of re-decorating and some staff changes, I was curious to see if  the beautiful Aqua Restaurant, which overlooks the Chesapeake Bay in Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore of Virginia   just re-opened on Friday, had retained its old charm. And more importantly, its fine flair for preparing regional cuisine.  I hoped for the best but feared for the worst as we walked through the door on Sunday but, happily, my fears were for naught as the answer to my first question was a resounding  “Yes, Shelly Cusmina is still the head chef.”   So,  off to a good start in its new iteration, still, as Cole Porter would say, ” Delightful, Delicious, De-lovely.”

DSC_0702Aqua is well known for its  tradition of  delectable Southern-style cuisine for holiday brunches and Sunday’s food definitely did that tradition proud.  If Paula Deen had been there she would have said that they had outdone themselves with  this luscious meal, nary a foot put wrong.  Although Aqua’s regular lunch and dinner menus  are  geared towards fine dining, emphasizing the fresh seafood from our Chesapeake Bay region, its brunches often feature some classic Southern dishes that don’t appear on the set menu, including  some of the best mac and cheese I have ever tasted,  smooth, really creamy.  And an ode should have been  written to the fried chicken, that’s how good it was, crisp  flakes of  crunchy coating, mouthwatering  tender chicken , accompanied by plenty of  spicy Crystal hot sauce. ( You might be a Southerner if you can’t really enjoy fried chicken without an ample sprinkling of  pungent hot sauce,  preferably Crystal or Texas Pete brand. ) And rounding out the “must-have” trifecta of  mac and cheese and  fried chicken is, of course, a mess of  collard greens.  Now the important thing about collards  (besides needing to be cooked until very tender )  is that they must be  “well seasoned” which is a catch-all description for the rich peppery ham flavor that proper collards are supposed to have.   Adding  little chunks of smoked country ham or smoked side meat  is the  best cooking method to give collards the  sort of sweet-salty  tangy flavor that no  holiday table in Virginia is truly complete without.  And speaking of not complete,  light as air  biscuits are also a must serve,  in Aqua’s case,  feather-light sweet potato biscuits.

DSC_0701There was, of course,  a separate omelet station stocked with choices of just about every ingredient one could wish to be added to a fluffy omelet.  I’m not really a breakfast person so brunch for me might as well just be called lunch but Hubby is just about the opposite and prefers the breakfast side of a brunch.  DSC_0676In addition to the omelet station, a huge poached salmon cleverly decorated with cucumber slice “scales” accompanied by a mellow  dill sauce,  pan-fried Yukon potatoes, mini- sausage links,  fluffy blueberry pancakes, bagels and rich  flaky pastries  were available for the breakfast foodies.  Plus  gorgeous fruit trays filled one end of a table, offering a wide selection of fruit including some very tempting strawberries, gorgeous,  vivid red with an amazing bouquet and ambrosial Hawaiian pineapple slices, literally dripping with juice, a whole array of  delights.  It was a lovely event, enjoyed in good company, proving once again that  a meal at Aqua’s is still “Delightful, Delicious, De-lovely ” !     (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7135 Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA. )