Posts Tagged ‘Events in Cape Charles’

“Festive Friday” In Cape Charles, VA”

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

DSC_7598Happily, there is still one more chance to experience a “Festive Friday” in Cape Charles this season ! Still one more chance, on December 22nd, to enjoy the beautiful and cheery shop windows along Mason Avenue and down Strawberry Street, all dressed to the nines for the holidays. Maybe shop for a unique piece of art at Lemon Tree or Ellen Moore Gallery, enjoy a savory gourmet dinner at Hook-U-Up or a steaming cup of hot chocolate at the popular Cape Charles Coffee House, sample the smooth balsamic vinegars at Drizzles, select your New Year’s Eve champagne at Gull Hummock, visit with a friendly agent at Blue Heron Realty, browse the gift shop at the beautiful, newly re-opened Northampton Hotel, check out the international offerings from Voiajer, take a horse and carriage ride and so much, much, much more ! You might even take time to drop in at the “North Pole” to tell Santa or Mrs. Claus ( aka the ever-effervescent Trina Veber ) what you want, what you really, really want, for Christmas this year ! And so, Merry Christmas to all and to all a Goodnight !

If you’ve never, ever been to a “Festive Friday” in Cape Charles, you probably don’t realize that it is so much more than just a few merchants staying open late each FridayDSC_7503 evening between Thanksgiving and Christmas. At its heart, it is the culmination of the hopes, dreams, efforts and financial investments of a myriad of individuals, businesses and organizations who believed that Cape Charles could rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of its post-ferry, post- railroad, essentially “post-everything” economic doldrums and become, once again, the dynamic little coastal town of its yesteryear, with well cared-for homes and bustling shops, a spirit of civic pride and a sense of fun. And not to get too, too sentimental, but when you think back to the near-derelict homes throughout town and the boarded-up stores along Mason Avenue that were still in existence even 5 years ago ( farewell McCrory’s and BeLo, hello Strawberry Station), the Cape Charles transformation from down-at-heel to sparkling restoration is truly inspiring.

DSC_7510So “Festive Friday” is the actualization of those aspirations rolled into 2017, into lots of happy folks strolling down the street at 8 pm on a windy, cold December Friday evening, beautifully decorated shops serving smiling customers, clever street performers doing their entertaining thing, lively songs of the Christmas carolers, horse-drawn carriage rides, delicious gourmet dinners and free holiday movies at the Palace Theatre. And, of course, Santa and Mrs. Claus, greeting excited little kids eager to shyly whisper their Christmas wishes. “Festive Friday” is truly like a 1000 points of new light, illuminating historic downtown Cape Charles, amazing and wonderful!!

 

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The 7th Annual Grand Illumination And Golf Cart Parade In Cape Charles, VA

Friday, December 8th, 2017

DSC_7178The 2017 Annual “Grand Illumination” kicked off the official start of the holiday season in Cape Charles, VA last Saturday evening with the 7th Annual “Grand Illumination” in Central Park. This community event was originated in 2010 by Citizens for Central Park and was hosted for many years by Chris Bannon of Sea Gate BnB ( aka Mr. Cape Charles ) as its delightful Master of Ceremonies. A newish addition to these festivities, the “Golf Cart Parade”, started just a few years ago with 11 participating carts. It grew and grew into this year’s dazzling parade of 33 golf carts, all gussied up, resplendent with lights and ornaments, smiling drivers and laughing passengers. Happy to note that Blue Heron Realty’s cart participated again this year for a 2nd time – – looking good, Blue Heron guys and gals !

By tradition, Christmas carols were sung by the gathered crowd, candles were lit and held aloft by the audience in memory ofDSC_7112 loved ones, hundreds of points of light, quite beautiful piercing the darkness of Central Park. And then, with a flip of a switch by the Mayor, thousands of lights on the Gazebo and on all the Park’s trees glowed brilliantly in the dark, a very Grand Illumination ! Afterwards, a jolly Santa Claus took Christmas requests from dozens of children whose heads would soon, no doubt, be dancing with visions of sugarplums. All this made cheerier under a bright moonlit sky, almost but not quite, the vaunted Super Moon, but very special nevertheless.

 

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The 15th Annual Eastern Shore of Virginia Artisan’s Guild Holiday Tour. A Real Pleasure, Always !

Friday, December 1st, 2017

DSC_6979If an event has been on going for 15 years and counting, it’s a pretty sure bet that its been very successful and is back yearly by popular demand. Such is clearly the case for the traditional Eastern Shore of Virginia Artisan’s Guild Holiday Tour held annually on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year was another delight and a terrific opportunity to shop for unique gifts, large or small, for those special people in your life.

From little items like the adorably cute “mismatched” sox from Ten Good Sheep or a bottle of luscious Chardonnay from Chatham Winery to strikingDSC_7004 handcrafted furniture at Windsor Chair to gorgeous paintings and jewelry at Lemon Tree Gallery, plus lots of creative offerings from artists too numerous to mention at the many other venues, Tour 2017 shone with the multi-talents of our many Eastern Shore artists. ( Including that so-cute and so-silky herd from By The Bay Alpacas who gave their wool that others might purchase hand- woven super- soft scarves and more ! )

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And, even though not on the official Tour and time was short, we took a moment, after a quick lunch at the always- delicious Janet’s Cafe in Onancock, to drop in at the gallery of Danny Doughty. We love to check out his latest work and his always elegantly decorated Christmas tree. Wrapped up our day in Cape Charles at Lemon Tree Gallery which has a most impressive collection, showing variety of work from artists all over the Shore. By then, nearly sunset, can’t help myself, it was down to the beach for yet another shot of the ever- photogenic LOVE sign before heading home. Tour 2017 over – – but there is always next year !

 

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Looking In The Rear View Mirror, It’s Goodbye Eastern Shore Summer 2017

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

Golf carts sunset.brighter croppedDefinitely past time to bid farewell to that sweetest season of sun, sand and fun here on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Summer. We clung tightly, reveling in the extra gift of many lovely days of Indian Summer we had this year. But now it’s time to just face it – – summer’s over ! The colorful vibrancy of Autumn is now upon us, with some chilly days in winter soon to follow. But not to worry, just close the eyes and memories of those lazy, hazy, glorious days of Summer 2017 shall ever sweetly spring to mind….  Goodbye Summer….

 

 

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4th ANNUAL “ART ROCKS THE INNS” IN CAPE CHARLES, VA WAS A BIG SUCCESS

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

Bay Haven 1This past weekend, art lovers on Virginia’s Eastern Shore were treated to the 4th Annual “Art Rocks” walking tour to discover the many creative treasures to be found on the gracious porches and grounds of the 5 Bed & Breakfast inns in Cape Charles. Part of the annual Cape Charles, VA “Harbor For The Arts” Festival, “Art Rocks The Inns” featured numerous local artists showcasing their work on the porches at Alyssa House B&B, Bay Haven Inn of Cape Charles, Cape Charles House B&B, Fig Street Inn and Sea Gate B&B. Attendees traveled between venues not just by car but by bike, golf cart and shank’s mare, and lots of oohs and aahs could be heard over the beautiful art pieces being shown at every Inn. Even Foster, the brown dog mascot of the famous Brown Dog Ice Cream, winner of many awards, came to support the arts.

Lots of art mediums were represented— from painters, potters and photographers to weavers, jewelers and Fig Street 4carvers, plus lots of other artisan types, including copper working and garden art. A myriad of beautiful original creations were on display and available for purchase at each venue. Food “art” was available from Parisian Sweets, which makes gorgeous and delicious handmade macaroons and Bay Haven’s famously colorful homemade chow-chows were on display, along with some juicy looking heirloom tomatoes. Thanks to innkeepers Kathy Glaser, Tammy and Jim Holloway, Bruce and Carole Evans, Donna and Greg Kohler and Chris Bannon for hosting this charming annual event and to the many accomplished artists who participated, it was definitely a delightful afternoon and many who attended when home with a new treasure!

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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 !

 

” 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.

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A Rollicking Street Festival In Cape Charles For “Benefit by the Bay” 2013

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

DSC_0965Every year one of the Eastern Shore’s primary arts groups, Arts Enter Cape Charles,  holds a major  dinner-dance-auction benefit to raise  funds to pay the mortgage on the Palace Theatre for another year and float  many of its other expenses.  It’s the major fundraiser for this important community arts group and a lot of time and effort goes into planning this event so it will be not only  fun for guests but profitable for the organization. This year’s benefit was  a Street Festival, a Strawberry  Street in Cape Charles, VA festival to be exact.  And  festivals in general are so fun and colorful, the hum of  voices and music blending,  rising, floating above the street, surely they are  the perfect occasions  to get together with family and friends to hang out, let the vibes flow, just have a merry old time.

DSC_0959Guests entered through the front doors of the theatre, which was all decked out for the evening with fragrant  floral arrangements placed in eye-catching corners, then  slipped out the side doors, down a long red carpet and  into the street.  Voila’, overnight a magnificent  transformation of  the first block of Strawberry Street from the usual  blacktop pavement and concrete sidewalks busy with cars and pedestrians into a gorgeous plaza !  Decorated with  leafy  trees in huge,  beautiful pots bedecked with strands of  tiny burnished gold lights,  flower arrangements sporting  a thousand brilliant blossoms, gurgling fountains and dozens upon dozens of  circular tables covered with eye-catching deep rose and teal cloths, the street had become a virtual fairyland of colors, shapes, sounds, textures.

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We arrived about 7 pm, the sun already throwing long shadows and deliciously cool evening breezes were gently blowing off the Chesapeake Bay just 3 blocks away.  Before stepping through to the street, we took a quick whirl  through the Silent Auction site set up in the Stage Gallery, just checking on the  donated artwork there, lots of promising items to review in-depth later in the evening. But now, time to visit with friends over a glass of  chilled Chardonnay and sample from the appetizer table.  I had to check out some of my favorites more than once, including the ice-cold jumbo shrimp served with a very tangy red cocktail sauce.  The cheese tray was also very popular with wine drinkers and beer fans alike, being well stocked with a variety of both soft and hard cheeses and plenty of crunchy multigrain crackers. Dinner was served buffet style on the southern end of the plaza, with a number of grazing stations set up, offering a variety wide enough to satisfy even picky eaters. 

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My husband headed for the cold salmon station, the fish prepared by talented local chef  Tim Brown, beautifully decorated with wafer thin slices of cucumber,  served with a dill creme’ fraiche, and accompanied by a colorful cold pasta salad and skewers  of antipasto anchored by chilled asparagus, all very, very nice.  I, on the other hand, elected to head first to the Land & Sea station and the savory plump grilled  chicken breasts and succulent crabcakes awaiting there. One thing about grilled chicken– it’s so easy to end up with something dry and tough !  But this was really excellent,  very tender, great flavor and texture, done about as perfectly as any BBQ chicken I’ve had, with plenty of spicy sauce on the side.  Tossed green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, roasted potatoes and an elaborate fruit tray were offered as sides,  all in all, a tasty summery meal.  For those looking for local seafood, a raw bar station offered  fresh tender little clams and salty oysters from the Broadwater Oyster Co. of Willis Wharf, both served  on the half shell atop deep beds of ice.  Raw seafood is not my thing but this was a very popular station, keeping several servers busy  just popping open the clam and oyster shells. for the ever-present line of aficionados.

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As twilight morphed into darkness, we headed inside for another view of the Silent Auction items in the Stage Door Gallery. Lots of good stuff to bid on– several original paintings including a dramatic oil by Clalia Sheppard, lots of original jewelry, some great autographed items, a number of very collectible records, some dramatic  framed photography including a very striking photo of a blue heron. ( And as it turned out, for which we were the successful bidder.)  As I  had an early meeting the following day,  it was about time for us to call it a night.  Too bad,  as we were leaving the band was starting to really get into its groove and the dance floor was filling up.  Another year, another great Benefit By The Bay. Keep ’em coming Arts Enter, time soon to start planning Benefit 2014 !

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