Posts Tagged ‘Harvest Festival on Eastern Shore Virginia’

Even More Delicious Regional Foods and Wine At The 2011 Harvest Festival On Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

A week before the 19th Annual Harvest Festival, an Eastern Shore of Virginia annual festival celebrating our regional foods and wines,  held just south of Cape Charles, VA,  I decided it was time to start getting ready…. by that, I mean cutting down on a few calories all week  so as not to feel guilty about definitely tucking in on “the day.”   Tucking in at the Harvest Festival  is part of the fun,  sampling everything at least once and one’s favorites twice,  truth be told, maybe even thrice.   And there are so many favorites to choose from, where to even start ?

Eastern Shore Harvest Fest On The Sparkling Sand Shores Of The Chesapeake Bay

As you hand in your admission ticket  you’re handed back a broad yellow tray,  the better to stack and tote the little plates of  scrumptious goodies you are going to choose.  Sort of  like a tapas bar concept except that you stroll through several acres of  grounds which overlook the Chesapeake Bay and beach and  feature  dozens of  tents,  each preparing one particular and delicious food.   Sponsored by the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce,  the original concept of the Harvest Fest at its debut 15 years ago was that it would be held at harvest time (duh) and would feature  traditional Southern and Eastern Shore  dishes.  Remaining  true to its mission,  held the first Wednesday of October each year from noon to 4pm,  showcasing   the delicious seafood and other regional foods popular on the Eastern Shore, Harvest Fest is always a sold-out event,  the  3000 tickets offered first to Chamber members and then to the general public.  The Chamber always has tons of  folks calling the week  before,  requesting tickets, which of course are already sold.  Their advice and mine– get your tickets early !

Juicy And Crisp- Delicious Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches With Tarter Sauce

Yellow trays  in hand, we set off on a leisurely stroll to survey this year’s offerings, “we”  being moi, hubby, Eldest Daughter,  Middle Daughter and friend.  I always like to make a circuit,  peek at everything and then start making my choices.  Not everyone likes to do that– the sight of a couple of  plump soft shell crabs nestled on a bun, just waiting for a big dollop of tarter sauce,  slowed some of our group down to a halt,  the better to swoop up a plate of these crustacean delicacies.  (For those not familiar with eating  “soft shells”, when a crab molts,  for a few hours until its new shell hardens, it is a “soft shell”, plucked out of the water so that the shell hardening process is suspended and ready to be battered, friend and eaten whole , legs and all,  accompanied by a squeeze of  lemon or tarter sauce.  For the watermen who process “busters”,  those with cracks in their shell and about to molt,  it is a process of constant vigilance  because the newly molted crab has to be plucked out of the water virtually immediately or else the shell will get hard or  the other crabs will eat it themselves,  not being shy about cannibalism.  The intensive labor to produce them explains why soft shells are not commonly on menus and why they are expensive when they are.)

Standing In Line For The Ever Popular And Totally Scrumptious Shrimp

So we proceeded on, the day sunny and bright, soft  breezes wafting in from the Chesapeake Bay, temperatures in the mid-70’s, a perfect Indian Summer’s day.  After completing one full circuit,  pausing at the Holly Grove Winery station,( one of our three excellent local wineries ),  to pick up a refreshing  glass of  cold chardonnay,  I headed around to the shrimp station while my husband headed across the green for the crabcake tent.  I am pretty picky about fried shrimp-  they need to be dipped in a very light, silky tempura type batter which clings as a diaphanous coating to the shrimp so that when they are fried the result is a thin, crispy crust encasing a juicy, plump shrimp. (  Highly recommend the soft shell crab batter recipe in John Schield’s  excellent cookbook, “Chesapeake Bay Cooking”  as a great  batter for shrimp.)   I’m delighted to say that these were delicious–  sweet,  pink,  juicy mouthfuls of succulent  shrimp served with an excellent homemade tarter sauce.  And fortunately the french- fry and corn-on-the-cob tents were  almost adjacent !   With my trusty yellow tray loaded with a hefty  helping of shrimp  plus fries, corn plus a cup of Eastern Shore style clam chowder,  I headed back to our chairs.  ( Harvest Fest is a  “bring your own lawn chair”  event unless you want to stand for 3 or 4 hours. )   There I found the rest of the group enjoying crabcakes, softshells and flounder, piping  hot and savory.


Johnny Mo, The Eastern Shore’s Singing Chef, With His Luscious Spicy Pork BBQ

Nothing Says Autumn Like Sweet Potato Pie

After savoring my last shrimp,  I decided to sample something from the landlubber side, BBQ, the great Southern favorite.  This year there were two different  BBQ stations,  Mallard Restaurant’s and private caterer Bruce Richardson’s, each quite different, both very flavorful.  Mallard’s  (  in Onancock and home of Johnny Mo, known locally as the “Singing Chef” ) served their well-seasoned chopped pork BBQ  atop a sweet potato biscuit half, topped with a dollop of a delicious, spicy aoli– different and delicious.  I ate two on the theory that two halves equal a whole, right ?   But by then the important thing was to save room for a little slice of pie– sweet potato pie, that old Southern standby, like pumpkin but according to my husband,  much better.  So we did it,  thin slices  of  sweet potato pie, honeyed, toothsome, topped with a generous spoonful of fluffy whipped cream.  And then, like Bugs Bunny, my stomach said, That’s all folks !

Art Work By Well Known Painter, Thelma Peterson

Besides the food, the other fun aspect of Harvest Fest is running into people you know but haven’t seen for a while, maybe even since last Harvest Fest,  and it’s fun to catch up.  And the Artist’s  Tent is always great,  lots of talented  local artisans and artists, a number of mediums presented.  Among the many exhibitors this year was Thelma Peterson, (  ), a very well known local painter showing  mostly her watercolours,  and  Al “Buck” Doughty, ( )  his exquisite bronze castings beautifully reflected on the display mirrors  as well as several destinctive decoy carvers.

Dana Simpson, ( ) , multi-talented, a writer and  illustrator was there with her children’s books, Eldest Daughter ended up with  her  charming  book entitled “Moon Goes Fishing” , a birthday gift for her neice .  There is always a last minute rush at the Artist Tent about 3:30,  folks making selections or picking up packages on hold for them until closing.


And then all too soon,  it’s 4pm,  time to go, food stations closing,  time having passed on winged feet.   Except for the band.   Yep, down at the beach there was  a band and a lot of folks sitting in lawn chairs amongst the shade trees,  settling in for a few more hours of fun.  Although my music tastes are broad, running  the  gamut  from Mosart  to  Tommy Dorsey, Dave Brubeck to  Sarah Brightman,  MoTown to Willie  Nelson,  Elvis to  Aaron Copeland,  Josh Groban  to Gilbert & Sullivan, etc., etc.,  nevertheless,  I usually can’t tolerate  the mostly overwhelming ear splitting noise that currently  passes for music with most of these bands.  So,  no musical interlude under the oaks for us,  just  a smile for an afternoon well-enjoyed and heading for home,  time to burn up a few calories walking our lively Newfie dogs,  Honey and Pumpkin(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)