The annual Outer Banks Taste of the Beach 4-day culinary event is a beloved favorite by us here at Coastal Virginia Magazine and many folks that call Coastal Virginia home. Well familiar with the beautiful beaches of the Outer Banks in the summertime, many Coastal Virginia residents make the journey each March to be a part of this crazy culinary festival which features more than a few days of back to back (to back) foodie experiences. Of course there are wine tastings and brunches, but there are also some fun original events like tapas crawls (where you visit three or four different restaurants in the span of an evening to enjoy a small plate and drink) and pop-up beach home dinners—a new category added just last year and growing in popularity.
The 2018 weekend features three of these pop-ups, two at a gorgeous oceanfront home and one at a quaint, soundfront vacation home in Kitty Hawk. These dinners provide the experience of a multi-course, gourmet chef-crafted dinner in an atmosphere unique to the Outer Banks, and what many visitors love about the area—the beautiful homes available to rent for vacation.
Photos by Audra Krieg
“These homes are often available in the off-season, so last year we had an idea to utilize some of them to create a different experience for guests of Taste of the Beach,” says Event Coordinator Audrey Webster. “By having a smaller, or out of the way restaurant, host a pop-up at one of these locations, it gives them a chance to highlight their skills to an elite audience of guests that are looking for a one-of-a-kind experience. And that is really what they get. How else would you ever get the chance to enjoy an exquisite, seven-course, chef-prepared meal in the comfortable and inspiring setting of a luxury beach home, with the Atlantic Ocean as your backdrop?” asks Webster. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get to do this. It’s also a great way to socialize with other guests as you share this experience over a large family table, make new friends and swap stories of the fabulous meals you’ve had all weekend,” Webster adds.
Photo by Elizabeth Neal
Also noting some changes this year is the annual BBQ & Wings Cookoff event, held on Friday afternoon of the extended March weekend. Newly located this year at the beautiful Pointe Golf Club just 2 miles over the Wright Memorial Bridge, you probably pass right by it on your way to the beach. The Pointe will host the event along with new title sponsor, Sysco Foods. It will feature over 15 area restaurants and barbecue eateries giving out tastings of their pulled pork barbecue, tender ribs and zesty chicken wings. Along with craft beers, wine and soft drinks, the event will remain a one price, all-inclusive ticket. “This new setting will give us an opportunity to maintain the event comfortably,” says Weber. “We also have full access to The Pointe facilities like ice machines, electricity and a full expansive grassy area for parking—so much parking. I think it’s a great fit for our event, and I’m really excited to have it at The Pointe this year.”
Each year the Outer Banks Restaurant Association coordinates with their member restaurants to invent and create new events to keep things fresh and fun, and this year is no exception. It feels like this year they have more new events than ever before. There is a terrific learning experience for budding photographers—Brooke Mayo is hosting a food photography class at Sanctuary Vineyards where you will be taught by a master of her trade how to compose and take beautiful food photography. And maybe the best part is that you get to eat and drink the props! Or maybe you want to take a break from multi-course, pant-splitting meals and simply explore some great cocktails? No problem—you can do a tequila tasting at Chilli Peppers with owner and charismatic tequila connoisseur Jim Douglas. Or head up to Corolla for the Metropolis Martini Meltdown where you will have a chance at four courses of small plates with paired mini martinis. Not necessarily a light meal but not a heavy experience either.
Photo by Elizabeth Neal
A new venue for the Grand Tasting event, the climax of the weekend on Sunday, is also another of the changes of note. Hosted at a new location, the Kitty Hawk Hilton Garden Inn, the event will only be offered for one session—about three hours with closing featuring the annual TOB’y awards. “We have limited tickets to this event, so it will certainly sell out, but we really wanted to keep it simple and allow folks to be able to enjoy the restaurants’ and bartenders’ creations without having to check the time or feel hurried to make room for the next session of attendees,” Webster notes. “This will mean a few less folks will be able to get tickets, but ultimately those that are smart and purchase their tickets early will have a better experience.” The Grand Tasting this year will feature about 15 restaurants along with 10 bartenders serving champagne cocktail creations. “We did not get rid of the Bartenders Bubbly Bash! I don’t think we could have if we tried—folks wouldn’t allow it,” says Webster. “We love this added component to the event, and it’s a fun way for us to raise a good chunk of change for the Beach Food Pantry. It’s really a lot of fun, and on its third year we are hoping to break the last record for donations.”
Whatever it is that you’re into food and drink-wise, you’ve got an opportunity to explore it at the annual Outer Banks Taste of the Beach event this March 22–25. Beer and wine events, oyster events, exquisite pre-fix chefs dinners, cook-offs and cooking classes—there is really something for everyone and every budget at the Taste of the Beach. Events start at under $30 and all are priced individually so you can design your own culinary experience according to your tastes and budget. If you just want to come down for the $25 Chowder Cookoff, that’s fine too, but it would be well worth your time to investigate at least a couple other events to enjoy while here.
Take a moment and visit their extensive website OBXTasteOfTheBeach.com to explore all your options. Tickets to some events have already sold out although most events have tickets available but will likely sell out before the weekend begins, so it is important to do a little planning ahead.