Chef Dan Lewis: giving us the where, the why, and the how of it all

Any encounter with Dan Lewis, chef, sommelier, and owner of Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar and Wine Cafe, leaves you feeling enticed and curious, wondering what was left unsaid or unseen. You get a sense there’s more he can tell you, more he can feed you, more he can teach you. It’s not that he’s holding back, it’s that the depths of Dan’s knowledge, experience, and skill open pockets of perspective and flavor that keep you wanting… more.

Everything is interesting and layered – the food and where it came from, the wine and what it goes with, us and our collective impact on our town, our waters, our planet. When Dan and business partner Scott Foster opened Coastal Provisions in 2006, it began as a gourmet market and evolved over time to a full-service restaurant and oyster bar. Dan’s understanding of oysters runs deep- not just how to prepare them (there’s a raw oyster topped with spicy ginger shaved ice and salty pearls of soy sauce that’s still floating around in my head from a dinner I had here two years ago), but Dan also understands and preaches the oyster’s massive role in cleaning our waters and supporting our ecosystem. More than just a chef, somm, and owner of this Café, Dan is also now a partner in a local oyster farming operation, helping to further educate and share the sustainability of these tasty bivalves with us.

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A Feast for the Senses at Masala Bay Grill

Dining at Masala Bay Grill is an immersive, sensory experience. The traditional Northern Indian food they create always leaves me with a comfortable, full, glowy feeling that I suspect has to do with all the spices, flush with nourishing antioxidants, good for your body and mind. The curries, vindaloos, and tikka masalas are warming and comforting and enticing; each dish inherently rich in flavor and nuance. The bewitching accompaniment to dinner at Masala Bay is the sunset view that’s almost too pretty to post on your Instagram. The setting, the food, and the kindness of the staff blends together for a tranquil, inviting afternoon or evening meal unlike any other on the beach.

view of a sunset over the Currituck Sound
The sunset view from our table on the deck at Masala Bay Grill
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Fresh Butterbean Hummus

The most important thing to note about this creamy, earthy, garlicky Fresh Butterbean Hummus recipe is… WE GOT A PUPPY!

English Mastiff puppy napping on the floor

OMG, we got an English Mastiff puppy and his name is Bear, in honor of our sweet Caesar Bear we said goodbye to in April. He is our cute little butterbean and we are crazy about him💕.

Back to food. Let’s discuss other wonderful things, like how this hummus takes about 2 seconds to make, all in the food processor. This is the one I love because it has everything (big ‘ol work bowl and cheese grating/veggie-shredding blade? yep!) and it’s easy to use and clean. Here, it’s giving you a lush hummus, with a whipped-like texture, full of lemony-garlic flavor, and punched up with earthy spices and a bite from half a jalapeno (optional, but delicious).

ingredients for Fresh Butterbean Hummus in the bowl of a food processor.
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Gourmet Finds at Bacchus Wine & Beer Bistro

There’s a singular thrill about slipping away from a busy workday here on the beach, or maybe sneaking out of a noisy afternoon at your vacation house, and kicking back with a great glass of wine in one hand and a delicious sandwich in the other. My husband and I happily sank into that comfort zone at Bacchus Wine & Beer Bistro in Corolla this week, enjoying a late lunch, cold drinks, and a little shopping in preparation for a get-together with friends.

The Tencza family owns this gourmet retail store where the focus is on high quality, interesting finds that folks won’t see everywhere else. While I talked with Jessica Tencza about their unique wine selection, more than one person came through in search of a Bacon Pepper Dip which Jessica praises as one of their most sought-after products. It’s a staple in the 100-plus welcome gift baskets they deliver to vacation rental homes each week and is the thing that brings guests into the store on Monday mornings, in search of more. Of course I grabbed a jar to share with friends for our upcoming festivities. One whiff of the roasty, smoky spread and I understood the Bacon Pepper Dip fever.

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Living the Good Life at Blue Moon Beach Grill

At 8pm on a hazy summer night in Nags Head, you may find the bartenders and servers at Blue Moon Beach Grill swaying along to Gladys Knight and The Pips as they fill drinks and pick up orders from the window. Enjoying the casual, lively vibe, my husband and I shimmied into our seats at the crowded bar for dinner. We sat perusing the menu and my attention gradually turned to the hustle and controlled enthusiasm in the open kitchen. Watching Chef Nate Robinson and his crew in constant motion, artfully plating the night’s seafood specials and other fare, sending it on its way to a packed dining room, I had the distinct feeling that there are no wrong choices on the menu at this place. And no better place to relax and have a good time.

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Arugula Salsa Verde

Arugula Salsa Verde: for when you’re living the grilling life of meats and veggies and need to punch them up with something bright and summery. This is muy muy perfect. It’s tangy, spicy, citrusy, and packed with green things to do your body good. You won’t see me sitting down to eat 4 cups of arugula and a bunch of parsley but I will crush this salsa verde, no problem.

We’ve Arugula Salsa Verde’d (it’s a verb, right?) grilled chicken, steak, grilled cauliflower, cauliflower rice, regular rice, baked potatoes… the list could go on and on. This is a summer go-to, great on everything, everyday sauce. And, BTW, the hardest part of this recipe is hauling out the food processor. (This is the one I just got/took from my mom’s house and I love it – the BEST for making quick work of sauces, marinades, cheese-grating, etc.). I’m not even saying to cut the parsley off the stems, just throw them in. Be as lazy as you want, but do take the time to drain those capers because… salty, salty, salty.

ingredients for arugula salsa verde in a food processor, all green and fresh
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A Taste of Authenticity at Vilai Thai Kitchen

Tucked into the shopping center where the Beach Road begins at milepost 2 in Kitty Hawk, Vilai Thai Kitchen has an intimate and special feeling, a little exotic even, with orchids lining the window sills and fresh flowers on each table. It’s a family owned and operated restaurant with Vilai Hammock and her son-in-law, Eric, commanding the woks, along with Yip, a friend from Thailand helping out in the kitchen occasionally. Vilai’s husband, Mel, her daughter, Malissa, and a friend named Linda welcome guests in and serve dish after dish of Thai classics, curries, noodles, and specials. With only 3 woks in the kitchen, the speed of service is impressive. In the moments it took me to tap a few notes into my phone, and to snicker at Mel cheerfully encouraging a table nearby to try the “spicy stuff” contained in a set of tiny blue and white pots he’d just delivered, Linda was already delivering plates of food I’d just ordered.

Vilai and Yip cooking over 3 large woks in the kitchen
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