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the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

What I Ate During My Summer Vacation (Part II)

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I planned one true vacation this year, and that was to join 4 of my best friends and their families at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. If you’ve never been to the Outer Banks (or OBX for short), you’re really missing out: pristine beaches with water that’s warm, but not too warm and waves that are big, but not too big. We paid in advance for a luxurious, semi-oceanfront house with an elevator (!) and a home theater. So what happens on the eve of my one, true vacation?

Satellite photos of Hurricane Irene (taken at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum)

A humongous hurricane named Irene happened, that’s what, and headed straight for landfall at Cape Lookout, the southernmost point of OBX. I know, I know, this is one of those first world problems, but it was hard not to be bummed out about it. We tried to stay chipper by enjoying quality time with my sister and her family, playing games, watching Netflix, and working out with P90X.

After the storm passed the metro DC area with almost no power outages and barely any rain (so much for all of the media hype), we had to wait and see if our little area of OBX was affected. Luckily, my friend AC’s family, who own two condos in Ocean City, MD, graciously offered the condos to us until we got the “all clear” from our OBX rental company. Normally, Ocean City is super crowded with a, uh…let’s just say, “Jersey Shore”-lite vibe. But thanks to Hurricane Irene, the beaches were serene and quite pleasant.

On RC’s recommendation, we got hoagies from Primo. This place is the real deal. They have, like, a hundred different sandwiches and the”whole” size hoagie is 2 feet long. I got the (small) Napolitano hoagie, which was the first time I had ever had sopressata, a salami-like cured meat. It also contained prosciutto and sharp provolone, topped with lettuce, thinly sliced onions, lettuce, oil, salt, and pepper. Definitely one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. TC ordered a Turkey Schwartzie, which came with turkey breast, Swiss cheese, cole slaw, and Russian dressing. Apparently, cole slaw and turkey is a winning combo — who knew?! Also, the Pal Joey, with your choice of hot or sweet sopressata and fresh mozzarella, was a crowd favorite.

The Napolitano from Primo Hoagies

The Turkey Schwartzie

Next on my path of culinary education was Dogfish Head Brewery. I hadn’t realized that Dogfish Head beer was brewed in Delaware, and we were only 10 miles from the Maryland-Delaware border. (Actually the brewery is in Milton, DE but we ate at the restaurant in Rehoboth Beach.) Both the service and the food here were very uneven. On one hand, the hostess was awesome and went out of her way so that we could all sit together. On the other, our server was inattentive and didn’t think to bring the kids’ meals out first, even though we had requested it. For the food, the buffalo wings, crab cake sandwich, and fish tacos were great, but the calamari, chowder, rockfish, and brownies (served with the kids’ meal) were subpar to gross. (Which brings me to a point: how in the world do you screw up brownies?!) The thing about eating at a brew pub, though, is that if you get a little tipsy from the beer, you don’t care as much about the food or the service… and that’s definitely how I felt by the end of dinner. We had tried several beers, including the 90-minute IPA and the Raison d’être. I’m not sure which one I liked better, but I was pretty happy with both. (Apologies for the poor quality of the photos below — something about taking my big ol’ camera out to dinner while I was on a beach vacation just didn’t appeal to me, so these were taken with my iPhone, with flashlight courtesy of AC.)

My crabcake sandwich -- pretty decent and a good value too!

Dogfish tacos. Real good.

Luckily, our rental had been spared, so we were able to salvage part of our OBX vacation. All was not lost; hooray! What better way to celebrate than with some North Carolina BBQ?! For dinner one night, we ordered take-out from Corolla Village BBQ, featuring NC pulled pork, pork ribs, cole slaw, potato salad, beans, and cornbread. The meats were good but the sides were awesome.

One of things I looked forward to: NC BBQ! (Also: there's cole slaw under that heap of pulled pork.)

Originally, we were all going to take turns cooking, but since our vacation was abbreviated, we only managed one home cooked meal. AC, LS, and DS did most of the work, making us a magnificent dinner of linguine with roasted cherry tomatoes, breaded chicken cutlets, and salad. I supervised TT as she made the parmesan garlic bread to ensure that each piece had the proper amount of olive oil and garlic. It’s very important, you know!

Scrumptious!

Before we left OBX, TC and I had lunch at Awful Arthur’s. Maybe I had overinflated expectations, but I thought the food was good but not great. I got the oyster sandwich, while TC had the shrimp sandwich. We shared an order of the hush puppies, which were disappointingly dry. On the other hand, the sweet tea, another thing I miss about the South, was just right.

Sweet tea + hush puppies = the real NC

My fried oyster sandwich. The oysters were good but the bread was lacking. Should've doused it in hot sauce and cocktail sauce.

TC enjoying his shrimp sandwich.

All in all, a great beach vacation despite the drama with Hurricane Irene. It was a nice, relaxing time with old friends, which I will always remember fondly.

OBX crew in the hizzy! (Photo courtesy of LS.)

Author: Jen

Howdy! My name is Jen and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

3 thoughts on “What I Ate During My Summer Vacation (Part II)

  1. I don’t know where you were staying in relation to the DC metro area, but I would guess you were north and mostly west. Where I live, about 12 or so miles outside the beltway in Charles County, Irene dumped 8 inches of rain on us accompanied by 60 mph winds. Further south and east in St. Marys and Calvert Counties, more than 12 inches of rain fell and it was 6 days before power was restored to everyone. Damage is so extensive that the three Southern Maryland Counties and all of the Eastern Shore Counties have been declared a National Disaster Area.

    I last visited the Outer Banks about 10 years ago. It was the first time I had been back since I left the Norfolk area in the mid 60’s. I was disappointed. It appeared to me that a serious attempt had been made to constrain the development to retain some of the character of the OBX and that was minimally successful. But, especially south of Oregon Inlet on Hatteras Island, the OBX was one of the wild places, one of the primitive places of a stark and ever changing beauty that cannot be duplicated and now it’s not.

    I first went to the OBX in 1957. At that time, the bridge across Currituck Sound from Point Harbor to Bodine I. was a 2 lane wood structure with timbers attached to the cross beams to define the wheel track you were to drive in. The whole structure was almost black. I think it had been painted with creosote and on a moonless night, illuminated with 50’s era headlights, driving over that bridge (keeping your wheels in that ill defined track) could be somewhat daunting.

    Usually, when I went to the OBX, I went with 3 friends to fish in the surf on Hatteras Island which meant crossing Oregon Inlet. In the late 50’s early 60’s that meant a ride on a 10 or 12 car open ferry. Now, of course, there is a bridge which they have been saving from falling into the inlet ever since they built it in the early 60’s.

    The ferry only ran in daylight hours and the trip across the inlet was only about 30 minutes depending on the direction and force of the tide. We always viewed this little sea voyage as the beginning of our trip. The trip never seemed quite the same after the bridge was built – just didn’t have the same feel. Of course, one of the benefits of the ferry trip was that if you had the proper connections you could go to the wheel house, identify yourself, and purchase a brown paper bag containing a quart Mason jar filled with one of the finest libations produced in North Carolina. That always seemed to add something extra to the trip. If we also caught fish that was even better still.

    Most of the time, we went to the OBX early Saturday morning and started back home around 2 or so on Sunday afternoon. There were times when we stayed 5 or 6 days. Now, if peeing behind a tree or bush (if you could find one) or sleeping on the beach or in the dunes or in your car (if it was raining) or lunch was a piece of baloney on stale bread sandwich washed down with warm beer would cause you to shriek in horror, then the Hatteras we loved wasn’t for you. There were a couple of small stores along the island, but they were pretty far apart and it always seemed to us that whatever we needed or wanted, they didn’t have. There was always the option of going back to the civilization of Kill Devil Hills and Nags Head but that would require a dire emergency like a shortage of that magic Carolina elixir that could only be obtained on the ferry.

    On the other hand, as the sun was setting, there would be fillets of just caught Sea Trout or Croaker cooking in the 18 inch cast iron skillet on a grate over a driftwood fire. Maybe one or two of the guys had caught some crabs and we would use the melt water from the coolers with our ever present pot to steam a batch. If corn was in season, un-husked ears along with potatoes would be cooking in the coals. We would eat and then eat some more and just before we grabbed a patch of sand for the night a sip or 3 of ‘shine would put an exclamation point on the day.

    Now, of course, the dunes are all gone except for that one big dune near Kill Devil Hills. You can no longer camp on the beach or sleep in your car at the pull offs. I am not even sure you can have a fire on the beach to roast marshmallows any more or if anybody even does that now.

    • Thanks for your wonderful recollections, James. The OBX that I knew as a graduate student was also very wild and untamed. Every Memorial Day weekend, a group of us would ride out to Cape Lookout on my friend’s oft-broken fishing boat and set up camp out on the spit. There were no facilities, no shade, and no fresh water. It was beautiful and rough, and I loved it. Where we were just now (Corolla) was a lot less developed than Kill Devil Hills or Nags Head, but much more built up than the southern OBX (e.g., Ocracoke). It was still very beautiful, and now that I live on the West Coast, with its frigid waters, I was grateful to swim once again in the warm Atlantic Ocean.

      I’m sorry to hear about the devastation to your part of Maryland — I didn’t mean to belittle the effect of Irene, just that we didn’t experience the brunt of it. Seems that where we were (Montgomery County) was spared.

  2. I didn’t take your comments as a slight. I figured from your description you were somewhat west of I-95. That seemed to be the line of demarcation between good and not so good. And the further east you traveled the more it went from not so good to really pretty bad.

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