Saturday, June 12, 2010

Outer Banks Adventure

Having just returned from a two-week family vacation, there are many food adventures to share. The first half of our trip we rented a house in Avon, North Carolina, a small village on the Outer Banks toward the southern end of Hatteras Island. We rented through Surf or Sound Realty and couldn't have been happier with the house, which was very well equipped for cooking.

We enjoyed cooking every night we were there with amazingly fresh seafood from the cheekily named Risky Business Seafood. In fact, our first day on the island, we had their steamed shrimp and quickly fried up some flounder for lunch over mixed greens. The highlights from our dinners follow:

• Fried tilefish tacos — Batter the fish (cut into planks) in a beer and seafood flour mix; shallow fry. Serve on warmed corn tortillas with a spicy cabbage slaw (Combine mayo, lime juice, smooth red salsa, cilantro to form a thin dressing. Mix with shredded cabbage or cole slaw mix without carrots. Let stand for half hour.) These were inspired by the tremendous fish tacos at Bien Trucha in Geneva, Illinois. They came pretty close to the original — especially with a big margarita!

• Bay scallop and tilefish ceviche — Dice tilefish to be same size as bay scallops. Cover with lime and lemon juice. Mix half cup of finely diced red onion, two finely diced serrano chiles, and handful of chopped cilantro. Let stand, covered in the refrigerator for four to six hours. We severed this as the "surf" component of a surf and turf with grilled New York strips.

• Linguine alle vongole — Saute pound of clams (in shells) with three or four chopped garlic cloves and red pepper flakes to taste in olive oil. Add slightly less than one cup of good white wine at room temperature and cover until the clams open. Discard any that do not open. Reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid for the sauce if needed. Combine with the linguine and enjoy.

• Crabcakes — Mix pound of crab meat, two to four tablespoons mayo, dash of mustard, seasonings (I used Paul Prudhomme's seafood magic) to taste, three tablespoons finely diced red pepper, three tablespoons finely diced onion, and panko bread crumbs sufficient to bind. Shallow fry until golden.

These were the highlights along with grilling mako, panko breading red snapper and a delicious goat cheese salad for lunch our last day.

We did eat out for lunch on a few daytrips and were fortunate to have found some great food.

Full Moon Cafe and Grille, downtown Manteo on Roanoke Island — After enjoying the quaint village and a trip to the aquarium on Roanoke Island, we enjoyed an excellent lunch here. We both ordered the crab bisque to start and were not disappointed. It was full of crab and so fresh. I had the crab cake sandwich, which rivaled the best of any I've ever had. Natalie had the Roanoke Shrimp Melt. The service was attentive and the atmosphere was refined but still casual and welcoming. They also have a strong microbrew list including a number on tap. We were so impressed with the charm of Manteo and hope to come back some day.

Flying Melon Cafe, Ocracoke Island — Taking the ferry from Hatteras Village, the salt air made us hungry for lunch early. The Flying Melon is an incredibly cute restaurant as you get into Ocracoke village. The restaurant has tons of charm with folky art on the walls and a great logo for the staff t-shirts. Natalie had her first crab cake of the trip and I ordered the fried flounder sandwich. Both were simple, but perfect, and served with a side of fresh french fries. This is another place we'd like to visit again.

• Island Perks Diner and Coffee Shop, Buxton — The one place we went more than once. This friendly restaurant had standard breakfast items with out-of-this-world cinnamon rolls. The desserts looked awesome too.

• Uncle Eddy's Frozen Custard, Buxton — This was our favorite ice cream, or in this case custard, place. They have a ton of original flavors and a patient staff willing to let you taste a few to get the right one.

We also tried other ice cream shops and had lunch one day at the Dolphin Den in Avon. For non seafood foodstuffs, we mainly shopped at the Food Lion in Avon for convenience. The more enjoyable shopping experience was at Conner's in Buxton, which had great freshness and service.

We only had one fast-food meal the first half of our trip (and one Cracker Barrel dinner on the way to the OBX). Leaving the Outer Banks for the next leg of our trip, we had a really great, down home lunch at Woogie's Family Restaurant just over the river from Washington, NC in Chocowinity, NC (3609 US 17).