For 25 years and counting, the Outer Banks Taste of the Beach (The Taste) has evolved over the years to now support an abacus straining 30+ events. Spread over 4 days The Taste entices the imaginations of chefs as well as the flavor buds of attendees. OBX restaurant Association President Ben Sproul provided a ticket count late Sunday evening, "rough estimate is over 2500 tickets sold this year with exceptional growth. Across the board the numbers have been increasing". The Taste has become a successful, annual event by offering carefully prepared food, cooking/drinking classes, and of course fresh ingredients caught just a hop-skip-and jump across Croatan Hwy in the Atlantic. Even if the pocket book is a little thin, it is very easy to get a "taste" of The Taste by picking out a few events...from the many. The most difficult part is deciding which ones to attend.
OBX Chowder Cook Off:
Much like The Taste itself, the chowder cook off has been growing each year since its inception in 2007. This year 15 chowders were registered and more than 400 attendees were required to "clam up" and let their votes be heard to crown the best chowder of the Outer Banks. According to Chef Dan Lewis of Coastal Provisions Market, "the only requirement is a seafood element…everything else is left to the interpretation of the word chowder". Prior to this event I once thought Campbell’s soup made a mean clam chowder. Needless to say, the variety of chowders went beyond the grocery shop pop-tops and included a wide variety of fresh ingredients. Between bites of shrimp here and spicy chowders there, acoustic guitars and beach drums helped to keep the mood light and enjoyable. Of course, not everyone was relaxed, of the 15 chowders, only two would be named the best chowder and people’s choice. Below are a couple things observed during the afternoon at the cook off: Pictures
-I never thought I’d try conk in general. Let alone in a chowder
-That crunch? That’s not sand, it’s just the oyster saying "I’m fresh!"
-Mooshew the dog’s vote went to any chowder that made contact with the ground
-15 empty cups stacked together = appetizer, 20 cups = about time to vote, 35 cups = had your fill and showed the Leaning Tower of Pisa's architects who’s boss.
Through thick and thin (broths) only two chowders could come out on top:
Judges Chowder: 1st: Metropolis, Corolla & $1000
People's Choice: Cafe Lachine, Wanchese
Wine, Dessert, and Belgian Chocolate Sensation:
I’ve heard the term "foodie" thrown around a couple times, most notably by Anthony Bourdain, but I never came close to considering myself a connoisseur of sophisticated treats. In fact, I don’t think I will ever take on such a title. But Chef Debra Sinkage of Argyles invited open conversations regarding her truffles and the wine tasting only encouraged deep analysis of the inch and a half sized Belgian bites. Even before the door closed on a final attendee, highbrow imagery was being tossed around faster than chowder tasters were tossing out empty cups. Argyles was dimly lit, but certainly had a sense of class. As conversations started to fill the room, one foodie nugget caught my attention, "You breathe in and its like tasting a pistachio, then you breathe out and wham, your chocolaty friend who stopped to tie his shoe, hurries to catch up". That was in response to a pistachio flavored chocolate. As someone who doesn't cook, but loves to consume, the simple yet flavorful offerings were just enough to make anyone feel sophisticated and yet, still grounded. Whether it was the endorphins released from the chocolate pear or the effects from a glass of Warres Warrior Port, everyone left very satisfied and in touch with their Belgian roots. After a taste of what Argyles has to offer, it would be worth another visit down the road. I'll just have to remember a thesaurus.
Not enough? The 4 day Taste culminates to a fantastic display of local culinary and entertainment come Sunday night. The Grand Tasting hosted by Pamlico Jack's Pirate Hideaway brought together more than 20 restaurants and their 20 best dishes/desserts. A Jazz band, fine drink, and bite size dishes helped to give anyone a "Grand" overview of the many Outer Banks restaurants. If you are looking for a more in depth experience it would be best to pick a couple events from early in the week. Alternatively, if you wanted a "taste" of The Taste, then the Grand Tasting is your best option. In all, a ticket to the Grand Taste will not go to waste, thus, purchase one for next year... post-haste :-)
A full listing of the Grand Taste winners can be found at the link below:
Grand Taste Winners: http://on.fb.me/igSyKE