Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Shore vineyards’

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.

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