Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Part I – Culinary Festivals

Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Part I – Culinary Festivals

Virginia’s Eastern Shore: Culinary Festivals?

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is probably not the first place that comes to mind as a culinary destination, even for Delmarva locals. However, if you drive to the southern end of our peninsula, you will find an area that is brimming with opportunities for foodies to enjoy. Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism arranged for me to spend a weekend wining and dining there.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much there was to do!

The Island House Oyster Roast

We received tickets to the Island House Oyster Roast, an annual event held in Wachapreague, Virginia, to benefit the Navy Seal Foundation.  This was the Oyster Roast’s sixth year, and from what I could gather, it is something that the locals really look forward to.  In fact, tickets to the event sold out in advance! It’s the first of at least six oyster roasts on Virginia’s Eastern Shore just in the month of November.

The Island House is a waterfront restaurant, and the Oyster Roast is held on its grounds/in its parking lot.  When we arrived, the first thing we noticed was the massive roasting operation taking place to the side.

The men dump a hundred or two oysters onto a big metal tray and spread them out over a fire. Then they take a burlap sack that has soaked in water and lay it on top of the oysters.  The water and the fire combine to steam cook the oysters.  When the shells start to open, they’re done. Then the guys dump them into a basket and carry them to the oyster-eating tables nearby:

virginia's eastern shore culinary festivalsisland house oyster roast wachapreague

Yeah.  Eating oysters can be kind of messy.  But the Oyster Roast had more than just roasted oysters.  Guests had the options of raw oysters, clams, and pulled pork as well.

virginia's eastern shore culinary festivals island house oyster roast clams

It was delicious!  And although the food was a big draw, there were other great aspects of this festival.

First, the proceeds go to the Navy Seal Foundation.  The foundation provides “a comprehensive set of programs specifically designed to improve health and welfare, build and enhance resiliency, empower and educate families and provide critical support during times of illness, injury, loss and transition.” At one point in the evening, the widow of a Navy Seal took the stage. She spoke about the day that officers came to her door to notify her that her husband had been killed in action. Her appeal for the support of these brave men and their families was touching.

Second, and on a much lighter note, was the music! A band called The Deloreans played and they were so much fun to listen to! They played nothing but music from the 1980s, with all of the costumes and accessories to take you back in time to that wonderful decade.  They played Prince, Cyndi Lauper, Twisted Sister, Billy Idol, Michael Jackson, and so many others.  If you live in or visit the Virginia Beach area and they’re playing, go see them – they are the best!

virginia's eastern shore culinary festivals island house oyster roast wachapreague deloreans bank 80s music

In addition to the tickets that raised money for the foundation, there were some live and silent auction items also.  There were stunning art photographs, hand carved decoys, jewelry, and more.

virginia's eastern shore culinary festivals island house oyster roast wachapreague auction items benefit navy seal foundation

But my favorite had to be this jaw-dropping fire pit:

virginia's eastern shore culinary festivals island house oyster roast wachapreague mine fire pit

All in all, it was a great evening, with good food, good music, and a good cause.  What more could you ask for?

How about a good night’s sleep?

The Inn at Onancock

When we left the oyster roast, we made our obligatory stop at Walmart to buy the necessities that I had forgotten to pack.  Seems like there is always something.  Thank goodness for Walmart and Dollar Tree! Then we were off to our overnight lodging at the Inn at Onancock.

The Inn at Onancock’s slogan is “Arrive as Guests, Leave as Friends.” I would have thought that kind of hokey if it weren’t for the fact that we met a couple about breakfast who said they have stayed at the inn several times and always come back because they feel so welcomed there. Some extenuating circumstances prevented us from getting to interact much with the innkeepers. A family emergency had called Kim away, so we only met Matt, who was very friendly and hospitable.

virginia's eastern shore culinary festivals

The rooms are gorgeously appointed in different themes (Provence, Tuscany, Far East, etc.).  We stayed in the Far East room and found the bed very comfortable. That may not sound like much, but I am like the Princess and the Pea when it comes to sleeping in a strange bed. It isn’t very often that I can say another bed was comfortable.

The innkeepers anticipated any need that their guests might have.  The hallway outside the guest rooms contained a mini fridge stocked with cold beverages along with a Keurig coffee station. In the morning, the innkeepers set up a tray outside our door with our morning beverages of choice (coffee for Hubs and diet Coke for me). I cannot over-emphasize how much I appreciated the opportunity to get some caffeine in my system before I had to go downstairs and make small talk with strangers over breakfast.  Life saver.

We missed it because we were at the oyster roast, but every evening at the Inn, they have a “Wine Down” hour – an opportunity for guests to socialize and enjoy a glass of wine together. The breakfast is delicious and filling

The Inn has received rave reviews and awards, which were proudly displayed in the foyer. My only complaint about the accommodation was that the walls seemed very thin and we heard a lot of noises.  I would recommend using either earplugs or a white noise machine to help keep it quiet while you rest.

The Island House Oyster Roast takes place at the Island House restaurant in Wachapreague, Virginia every year. If you’re thinking about going, try to get your tickets early as they do tend to sell out.  Also, tickets are only available for sale at the Island House, so you will need to visit the Island House in person to purchase them.

The Inn at Onancock is open year-round, with a total of five bedrooms with private baths.  One of the rooms (The Maine Room) is pet-friendly, so that’s the one to book if you are traveling with four-legged family members.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism bureau provided me with tickets to the event and accommodations at no cost to me. However, all opinions expressed here are my own.

For Part II of our weekend adventure on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, click here.

virginia's eastern shore culinary festivals

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