What a difference a couple of weeks make. Not all that long ago, Keith and I had just departed the spectacularly tranquil and sunlit locale of Lewisburg, WV to embark on a clear, colorful and scenic Autumn drive to coastal Virginia where after several hours we would kick back and chill before getting some much-needed R and R for a couple of days. Who would guess (other than trained meteorologists) that a week-and-a-half later Lewisburg would be under a blizzard warning and Virginia Beach would be battening down the hatches in preparation for an approaching Frankenstorm 2012?
Said superstorm did approach of course, and do lasting and historic damage to New York City, New Jersey and many other areas. The mountains of my home state West Virginia were buried under several feet of snow including some of the areas we had driven through but a couple of weeks prior. I'm glad my hometown was spared the power outages after the exhausting post-storm issues they had dealt with earlier in the year. Newport News, Virginia, where we were staying, would end up experiencing heavy rain and flooding. We certainly wish everyone well with the cleanup efforts and our thoughts are with so many who weathered this brutal weather.artichokes that weren't yet known to the general public, but were demanded to have in stock by the wealthier citizens in those days. The various signage for food and beverage establishments and inns were unique and as charming as the restored buildings themselves. Lunch involved some supremely flavorful noshes from the Cheese Shop, a boisterous gourmet shop, sandwich eatery and paean to all things cheese. This place was packed with tourists and William and Mary students alike and with good reason. I am, undoubtedly, a great fan of gourmet foods and it is not unusual to see me perusing the actual order guides from friends' shops. Thinking myself fairly knowledgeable regarding various food lines, the Cheese Shop reminded me that I clearly had no idea at all. Amongst the seemingly endless shelves of bountiful gourmet food lines, I recognized only one: Stonewall Kitchen. Of course, this realization is completely exciting to me....so much more to try! As for those sandwiches, well, its no wonder they've been written about from the New York Times to Frommer's. These sandwiches are made from the freshest of meats, cheeses and ingredients and the breads are baked daily. The taste indeed told the tale: mine was a creamy chicken salad with Applewood bacon on fresh rye bread and Keith's was the veggie with edam on delicious foccaccia bread and we swooned over both. Paired with Joe's salt and vinegar chips and frosty root beer from local historic Chowning's Tavern, it was a fabulous lunch to launch us through the rest of our day. We did miss what I would later find to be the Cheese Shop's specialty ....a Dijonnaise-style house dressing eaten with bread ends that is famous among William and Mary alumni. We finished off the afternoon at the wonderful Spice and Tea Exchange where we would pick up a sugar sampler, their signature spice blend and hazelnut-cookie tea.
Later that evening, we sought out the one thing I was most desiring since going coastal: fresh seafood. After an exhaustive Yelp search, we chose a local crab shack by the name of Harpoon Larry's Oyster Bar. Yelp is greatly helpful for many reasons and here was one big one...if you pull by this divey little joint, you might think it a fun place to kick back with a frosty brew, but fresh seafood? Hmmmm. Fully sold by the giant lobster atop the beater van in the parking lot, we ventured inside and divey it sure was. In fact, as we sat down I would see it was voted one of the best seafood dives in the nation according to a framed write-up on the wall and soon, we would see why. The service was casual and friendly and that first chilled glass of Chesapeake Pale Ale set the tone. K is not an oyster fan but I sure am and was sure I'd be getting some on the half-shell though as I was reading the menu offerings of Rockefeller-style (butter sauce and bread crumbs) and Casino-style (bacon, green onion and cayenne) and was pondering those options when I overheard a local conversation where a patron said Harpoon Larry's was one of the few spots that fried oysters were the "bomb". What the hell then, and so I got them fried with a blackened crab cake, hush puppies, and cole slaw. The meal arrived quickly and wow, was it worth the wait. The slaw was perfectly crisp and tasty and those big Hog Island oysters were lightly pan-fried and delicious but that crab cake...lightly blackened and filled with crabmeat was one of the best crab cakes Keith and I either one had ever had. I wanted to descend on that limb and say it was THE best, but I seem to remember that this one in Annapolis, Maryland was crazy-damn tasty so I held off. All in all, we were sold and how -all hail Harpoon Larry's and never will I underestimate the seafood dives again!
We closed our day out with a drive to the coast and watched the night sky descend over the water as military helicopters and spy planes flew out from nearby Langley Air Force Base. A perfect end to a damn-near perfect day in then-peaceful Virginia Beach.
Then, as I mentioned before, Hurricane Sandy of course descended and havoc ensued up and down the coast. Also, as I mentioned before, our thoughts are with those in the Northeast who have suffered so much, including one of our favorite cities, New York. Click here to learn how to help those in need.