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.
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.
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.
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.
Anyone else have jalapenos growing like weeds this summer? Me too and daaaaang they are spicy ones. Thankfully, Joey and I are best friends with the creeping heat of a jalapeno. He prefers them dipped in salt, followed by a shot of tequila on a Friday afternoon. I will take them any way I can get them.
For example, in this Jalapeno Feta Beer bread, brimming with salty, cheesy goodness, sweetness from honey, and punctuated with little bursts of spicy heat. Not to mention, the beer adds a nice tang.
Costco strikes again, convincing me that stocking 5 lb bags of things in my pantry is how I should be living my life. Is it because everything is large and excessive at Costco and it messes with your perspective? I don’t know but I can say that a 40-pack of sparkling water is a fine idea. A 5 lb bag of candy, in June, without a trick-or-treater in sight and only 2 people living in our household … just stop it. I mean, it’s whatever, I have self control. It’s just like, what are you even doing here, mini Snickers and Milky Ways? Get a life, I don’t need you around every day.
Buuuuut, turns out leftover/excessive candy is pretty incredible folded into peanut butter cookie dough. So, let’s just focus on that.
These start with a basic peanut butter cookie recipe (delicious on it’s own, too), chopped up candy bars stirred in, and topped with a sprinkle of sea salt. The good stuff. Bonjour, guys.
P.S. I used a combo of mini Snickers, Milky Ways, and Baby Ruths and the cookies leaked out a little caramel in baking. I find that 100% acceptable because it caramelizes and gets extra delicious (see pic below). If you don’t like those lacy, caramely edges (huh?), choose candy without caramel.
Chopped up candy bars, folded into peanut butter cookie dough, and topped with sea salt – an easy, dreamy snack and a great use for leftover candy.
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:10 minutes
Total Time:25 minutes
Yield:48 cookies 1x
3/4 C crunchy peanut butter
1 stick (1/2 C) salted butter
1 1/4 C light brown sugar, packed
3 T whole milk
1 T vanilla
1 3/4 C all purpose flour
3/4 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
22 mini candy bars, or about 3 full size, chopped (about 1 1/2 C)
flaky sea salt, for finishing
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine peanut butter, butter, brown sugar, milk, vanilla, and egg in a large bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Turn mixer to low speed and gradually add flour mixture to peanut butter mixture, beating until just combined. Add chopped candy bars and continue to mix for just a couple seconds, or stir in by hand. Drop rounded tablespoons (I used a #50 cookie scoop) of dough, 2 inches apart, onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Bake for 10-11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, sprinkle with flaky salt, and transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
I used a combo of mini Snickers, Milky Ways, and Baby Ruths and the cookies leaked out a little caramel in baking. I find that 100% acceptable because it caramelizes and gets extra delicious (see pic below). If you don’t like those lacy, caramely edges (huh?), choose candy without caramel.
My coming to know Joey Russo of Russo’s Bistro & Bar in Kitty Hawk occurred in three parts. Part One was an entertaining discussion honoring the OBX chef world, folks that local and visiting food lovers consider celebrities. Praise flowed easily from Joey in his fast-talking Italian cadence, recounting success stories and lessons learned over the years from Outer Banks restaurant legends requiring no last name: Mike, Bob, Randolph, Amanda, Tony, Dan, Wes, Pok and many others. Russo brushes off the notion of celebrity chef-dom, though, making it clear he, they, are just like the rest of us, walking the earth and applying passion and intense hard work to a specific art. But there’s no doubt we all feel a little special and flattered when we get Joey’s attention and a kind word during his customary visit to our table at Russo’s. That’s all part of the experience here.
Sitting in a comfortable corner booth at Thyme & Tide Café, I couldn’t help but smile at the giggles coming from the tiny kitchen where Kareen Spruill and her granddaughter, Jackie Vesley, prepared one of their special Café Samplers for me. It’s just what I was craving: a platter of fresh fruit, grilled pita bread, sliced cheeses, pimento cheese, and shrimp salad, although you could also choose tuna or chicken salad if you prefer.
This is the way I always imagine eating in the summer, light and fresh bits of things here and there, best enjoyed at sunset with a glass of wine. The Café Sampler plate and The Sanctuary Sampler plate (overflowing with gourmet cheeses, shaved prosciutto and salami, olives and other savory, grabable things) are made for doing just that – eating seated among the tall pine trees on the grounds of The Cotton Gin and Sanctuary Vineyards, maybe sipping wine and swaying along to live music during their Acoustic Sunset events on Thursday evenings.
Kill Devil Hills, our little town, home to great people, pretty beaches, and the best pizza in the state of North Carolina! TripAdvisor has compiled a list of the top pizza spots in every state based on user reviews and Slice Pizzeria in Kill Devil Hills won the honor for North Carolina!
What do we talk about when we leave reviews on a site like TripAdvisor? The food, of course. The atmosphere, maybe. How we were treated, for sure. The hard-working staff and owners of Slice have had us covered since 2008. The pizza dough and sauce are made from scratch, topped with the highest quality Grande cheese, the freshest ingredients, and baked in stone ovens. The space inside their building at the corner of Baum Street and 158 is clean and welcoming and the staff is friendly, fast, and efficient. The online reviews reflect all of this but there’s even more to Slice Pizzeria than the reviews describe. Owners Rick Amodei, Jeremiah Stewart, and Elizabeth Cubler give back. They are proud supporters of our local schools and athletics, the Wounded Warrior Project, the Beach Food Pantry, and the SPCA. Slice Pizzeria is a charitably spirited part of our community and a warm and inviting place to get a great meal.
It’s June! The sun is shining and the water is warm, it’s prime time to enjoy OBX life to the fullest. Blow a kiss goodbye to your hot kitchen, get out of the house, and have a good meal somewhere. At the top of my list this week is Two Roads Tavern, located between the highways in Kill Devil Hills.
Their menu has my heart for many reasons, most of all because of their Carolina Pickle Brine Sandwich – a fried chicken breast that’s been soaked in pickle brine and hot sauce for a good long time, long enough to let that salty, sour, spicy juice soak in and render the chicken completely plump and tender. The flour the chicken is coated in is the trick, according to Kyle Forbes, the owner of Two Roads. A chef buddy of his developed it a few years ago. It’s not just flour and it’s definitely not breadcrumbs or cornmeal; there’s a sugary, sweet, unknown component that makes it the very best.