I’ve been dieting for about a week in anticipation of the annual Virginia’s Eastern Shore Harvest Festival held each year in early October. Where else can you find such an exciting array of traditional seafood dishes ( plus some land lubber foods as well) in an open air beachfront setting with music, an artist’s pavilion and inevitably, politicians. No where that I know of except at the Sunset Beach Resort located on the Chesapeake Bay near Cape Charles, Virginia , the traditional home of the Harvest Festival, held there on the first Wednesday in October since 1992.
Entering the Festival grounds, it’s always fun to see all the little food tents with a few business tents interspersed. ( We used to have a tent to give out business cards and catalogues but everybody on staff really wanted to be out and about with friends and food so a few years ago we decided to consider the Harvest Festival strictly as a “Food and Friends” event and forget about a more formal business approach.) Once inside, my daughters usually head straight for the soft shell crab sandwich tent and my husband maneuvers towards the crabcake tent. But I head straight for the devils-on-horseback. ( If you’ve never had a “devil-on-horseback”, it is a shucked, seasoned oyster wrapped in bacon and roasted to pure perfection. Topped with a little hot sauce it is more like angel- on- horseback.) Harvest Fest is all about the various foods from our pristine Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean saltwaters including fish, shrimp and clams as well as oysters and crab. A perennial favorite is the “Eastern Shore style” clam chowder, made in huge kettles and thick with clams, onions, potatoes and salt pork, all cooked in a clear broth, served up steaming and fragrant. It’s quite different than the more traditional cream- based New England clam chowder or the tomato-based Manhattan clam chowder– very simple yet delicious.
Land-lubbers enjoy the country ham served on traditional sweet potato biscuits or thinly sliced roast beef on yeast rolls. And who can resist Sting Ray’s famous spicy chili, lots of heat and not too many beans. And those who are “all hat and no cattle” with regard to spicyness join in the stampede for the Buffalo but mild chicken wings. Add in the Carolina- style shredded BBQ and we-all have got us-all a really fine southern-style feast ! Last but not least is the scrumptious sweet potato pie from Kate’s Kupboard Bakery– it’s the best ever, with a just a hint of lemon and a little coconut, served with or without some smooth whipped cream, just melts in your mouth. So now it’s easy to see why it’s necessary for me to diet for a week before the Harvest Festival— too much great food to resist and too many calories to ignore. So — it’s rice cakes and cottage cheese for lunch on Thursday !