Thank you to Vicky Neer whose photographic contributions to this post made the story come alive.
I was born a left-coaster. Frolicking among the vast yellow beaches as a child, soaking in the warm sun, and feeling the icy surf as it crashed upon me in giant waves, I thought I had experienced the ocean in its entirety. Certainly there is no way to enjoy the horizon at sunset without seeing the curvature of the Pacific at its zenith, right? And vegetation is only coastal when it is thick, and succulent, growing along a shoreline that is conspicuously bereft of trees that might interfere with the sting of salty breezes. Oceans are loud, and foamy, and abrupt....
But then, everything changed the first time I found myself at the threshold of the Atlantic. Hmmm. Maybe this is the "right" coast after all?
I am approaching my eleventh anniversary as a Carolinian and during that time I have, without reservation, fallen in love with every inch of jagged shoreline marking the beginning of the 'other' sea. From Massachusetts to Miami, (I have yet to venture farther north,) the edge of our continent is a menagerie of landscapes and colors.
Sometimes it shows up as a thin strip of land protecting a teeming sound, whose dunes are covered with tall Sea Oats sprouting like a neglected beard upon fragile hills. Later it spreads out into a gradient of marsh and sea birds as the kayakers navigate ribbons of watery canals like so many children hunting for the exit to a corn maze. And then there is the familiar expanse of white, undulating, crustacean-ridden sand that welcomes warm, humid breezes, receding with low tide to reveal ancient shoals crowded with black Mussels. And with few exceptions, the sea simply laps upon the shores like a new born foal, with no hint of the violence that is the hallmark of California beaches.
Then there is Hilton Head Island, SC, whose perimeter folds endlessly into a combination of elements that surprise and delight. Bluffs appear magically beyond thickets of Saw Palm, Loblolly Pine and the ever present Live Oak. Gray-white sea-walls plummet into dark inlets, beckoning shark and bass to pass just under her mirrored tides. And all of it is framed by those beautiful, dancing tresses of Spanish moss.
As the lucky guests of our friends the Neers, we spent the holiday weekend with plenty of time to be both poet and enthusiast. Mornings were spent walking on the bluff, afternoons exploring a shopper's paradise. And the evening? Well of course, was spent cooking.
As I regale this weekend's culinary tales, I must begin by thanking three people. Richard, who was brave enough to let me be totally creative and not rebuff me for rejecting the usual holiday-grilling fare. Vicky, whose artistic eye behind the camera helped capture every angle of my mixing, fixing and baking, and made me feel like a true Food Network star. And finally to my blonde sous chef, the Neer's beautiful golden retriever, Duncan. Slobber and all, this is who you want at your side.
Lest I lose sight of all things wonderful, I will also thank my husband Ron, who is happy to be royal-taster and ever my relentless fan.
Sounds like a perfect holiday to me.
We joked throughout the weekend that all we did was eat, talk about what we'd eat next, and then talk about what we just ate. I'm not sure that's bad, but it certainly brought a chuckle to every activity. One of our favorite haunts was the Skull Creek Boathouse, where I enjoyed a bevy of flavors such as this beautiful seafood salad.
Nearly every place we visited begged for us to take dozens of photos. It just seems you can't take a bad picture of Hilton Head Island, or Ron for that matter. And in fact one of our favorite pass-times was just hanging with hosts and that great puppy, Duncan.
Not surprisingly I had been thinking for weeks about a menu that would befit our surroundings, and still be a take on the usual Memorial Day Burger. After walking the aisles of Publix I finally settled on making SWEET AND SAVORY ROSEMARY CHICKEN BURGERS IN A CHERRY BALSAMIC CABERNET REDUCTION, WITH MEDITERRANEAN SPICED RICE AND ROASTED PEPPERS AND ASPARAGUS. Soon the wine was opened, the music initiated, and pans were everywhere. For dessert I created a simple dish of RUM BOURBON CARAMELIZED BANANAS OVER POUND CAKE WITH VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM. Take a look and click the titles to download the recipes, or go to "browse my recipes" above.
All I can say is, it's a good thing I run 12-15 miles a week. Otherwise they would have to levy a toll to haul my extra weight back over the causeway. But that is what is so amazing about island life. You are literally moving around all the time. Recreating even when you don't know it. Smiling even in your sleep.
Which brings us to breakfast the next day. Rise and shine with my PERSONAL VEGGIE EGG SOUFFLES! (A new name for the Personal Holiday Omelets I posted over the Christmas holiday.) Serve it alongside the amazing Wolferman's English Muffins, and you can't do much better at any restaurant. (Like their Facebook page if you're a fan! @wolfermans)
I guess all that's left to say is that after reading this post you find you're not hungry, or curious about Hilton Head, you probably need some counseling. Your head isn't working right. And we have the perfect solution for that.
It's called the screened porch. And it is certainly the sanctuary of the Southeast; a place for contemplation and joviality. Where everything that is magic about the south can be pondered bug free while sipping a little sweet tea...or one of Ron's lemon drops.
Either way, thank you for coasting through this journey with us!
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style is one of combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.