Fall has arrived here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia – which means, oyster harvests are in full swing in the waters surrounding our little peninsula. From the salts on the seaside, to the sweeter guys harvested out of the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers on the western shore – we have such an amazing variety of oysters in Virginia.

A couple of weeks ago the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce hosted it’s 45th Annual Chincoteague Oyster Festival – an event that’s anticipated all year long. Fried oysters, steamed oysters, raw oysters…a true celebration of the briny bivalve.

I was running around taking photos to earn my keep, in exchange for my ticket. But, I managed to tote over my little portable grill and snag a few oysters to throw on it, to get some photos to share of this super easy way to prepare them with you guys.

Oysters on the half, brushed with a simple garlic-herb butter while on the grill. Couldn’t get easier, delicious, or more impressive. If shucking isn’t your thing, you can steam them until they pop open, and then pry off the top shell – the garlic butter will still keep them plump and juicy.

If you’re really lucky, like I was on this particular day, you may find a tiny friend lurking inside your oyster. Pea crabs are considered a delicacy by many around here, tender yet slightly crunchy little crustacean parasites that like to set up shop inside our oysters. We eat them, but if it’s not your thing – by all means, serve them their final eviction notice before enjoying.

A few minutes on the grill is all you need, just until you see the butter start to sizzle. A little squeeze of fresh lemon juice to finish.  Enjoy them hot, and be prepared to reload the grill. You can’t eat just one!

Living on the Eastern Shore, and Chincoteague in particular, we spend alot of time out on the boat in the summertime. It’s not flashy or fancy, a 23-foot Carolina Skiff – but the vessel we’ve dubbed the “Flat Bottomed Girl” always gets us where we need to go safely. We usually keep to the waters around the island – either hanging at Little Beach (the locals spot on Assateague Island, only accessible by boat), fishing a few miles offshore (bagging some keeper flounder), or finding a new secluded beach for some beachcombing (#teamchesapeake for life). Needless to say, it’s been a great summer for our family!

This past weekend we hooked up the boat, and trailered her over to the Chesapeake Bay side of the shore to drop in for a day of exploration on the bayside. Our destination? Tangier Island. A tiny dot on the map, smack dab in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. I’ve lived here 20 years now, and growing up reading books like “Beautiful Swimmers” by William Warner, and it’s always been at the top of my list. So, my heart was so full to finally make the voyage across the Pocomoke Sound!

We docked in town at the ferry dock to try to figure out where we could tie up to disembark on the island. Next time we’ll go to Parks Marina and dock there  – $5 buys you a slip all day. But the gentleman who were with the Steven Thomas, (the ferry that departs Crisfield to Tangier daily) and  own the dock we tied to, were so friendly and told us to just stay docked right where we were. We took them up on their offer. Good people, I tell you!

We walked around town for a bit. The island is 3 miles long, by 2 miles wide. A good amount of that space is taken up by vast, lush green marshlands. You’ll find narrow alleyways adorned with tiny coastal cottages, little shops, a local history museum, and large pathways cutting through the heart of the marsh that connect the three main clusters of communities to each other.

And of course crab houses and workboats, as far as the eye can see. Canals also connect parts of the town, lots of folks were zipping around in little skiffs and jonboats. The Venice of the Chesapeake!

We went into a couple of the little shops (I’m always a sucker for a local cookbook), treated ourselves to slushies and ice cream at Four Brothers Crabhouse – a great spot to grab a quick bite,   and moseyed around town soaking it all in. Next time dinner and sunset are definitely on the agenda. I’d also like to take a tour by golf cart. Lots of locals offer this service right when you get off the ferry. It’s a great way to see the town and learn some local history from those who know it best!

Speaking of those locals, they speak a form of Old English dialect. Many of the settlers came from the Cornwall region of England hundreds of years ago, and since the island is so isolated – the accent has remained. I couldn’t help but listen to conversations, just to hear them “cut up” in their native tongue. I love to hear an old Chincoteaguer talk, but a Tanigerman? Could listen to words, quirky sayings and  their legendary “backtalk” all day long…

Afterwards we hopped back in the boat to head home, but not before we did a little bit more exploring. Went a bit to the north and anchored off of Uppards, the northernmost portion of the island. It was once inhabited 50 years ago, but erosion has taken it’s toll. Now it’s nothing but sandy beach and marshland.

I did a little beachcombing while the Jon and the boys enjoyed some time off the boat in the water and on the beach. You may have seen Tangier in the news recently, in national media reports. But, it’s another thing to see a headstone laying in the shoreline for yourself. The folks on Tangier have always been good at making due with what they have, and not relying on help – from anyone. But, they really need help from the outside to help combat the erosion problem. It’s a serious time-sensitive issue. Hopefully all this attention in the media lately will help on that front. I want my little ones to be able to bring their little ones to this special and unique place, in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay, and share it with them one day.

Afterwards we took the 20 minute ride home across the sound. It was dinnertime, so we docked at Capt E’s Hurricane Bar & Grill in Saxis and enjoyed dinner. That’s such a fun little spot – good eats, drinks, and atmosphere. It’s also very convenient to dock and eat. Always alot of griping trying to get the boat on the trailer with hungry kiddos…

After a dinner of soft shell sandwiches (washed down by a Grapefruit Crush) we pulled the boat out and headed home.  It was a great day visiting our neighbors in the Bay, so different than my little coastal community, yet so much the same. You could say that for most of the towns here on the Eastern Shore, I guess. They all weave together to create the special fabric that is life here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. And for that, I’m so thankful that I get to call this place home!

It was only our first time, but most definitely won’t be our last. Thanks for giving the Davis family such a memorable day, Tangier! We will be back soon.

Summer is in full swing here on Chincoteague Island, officially. During the week the boys and I spend alot of time in the pool, or at the beach…but on the weekends we’re usually found on the boat. With the 4th of July weekend upon us, I thought it appropriate to share this mermaid-inspired margarita.

Mermaids happen to be crazy popular right now. But for a girl who’s had saltwater running through her veins since birth – I’ve always felt a kindship to them. Even more so now that I’ve gotten into sea-glassing and beachcombing. I can’t help but feel like those salty sirens sent up those pieces from the depths just for me to find…

Incidentally, I’ve always felt a kinship to tequila too. So, it was only natural to  combine those two things here on the blog eventually. Fresh margarita mix, combined with tequila and triple sec, and the addition of Blue Curacao to give it it’s signature blue hue. Don’t be lazy and buy the store-bought mixer, it takes all of three minutes to make your own. And once you do, you’ll never go back. Trust me.

I did a sugar-salt combination on the rim, I love the salty/sweet combo – much like the attitudes of my homegirls under the waves. Added some fresh lime zest too, loved the pop of color and flavor that it lent.

Garnished with a lime wedge skewered onto a dinglehopper , it’s a cocktail that I’d be proud to serve to any mermaid. Maybe I’ll come across one in our boat journeys this weekend…will make sure to have all the ingredients on hand, just in case one shows up.

If you’re driving down the “main drag” here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (aka Route 13), one of the best things you can do for yourself is to turn off the beaten path. All roads lead to the water eventually – seaside or bayside. It doesn’t matter. Chances are you’ll stumble on a seafood shack in your travels. And this time of year, they’re all sure to have fresh soft shell crabs. A delicacy here, as well as around the world.

My favorite spot is Martin’s Crabhouse in Saxis, VA. It’s about a 20 minute drive for me on Chincoteague, but when it comes to crabs – it’s always worth the trip. You’ll usually find two old salts sitting on the front porch of the crab shack, no doubt talking about fish tales. One of the younger guys inside will shuffle over to the peeling tables and fish out a dozen for me – wriggling as they’re pulled out of the water and placed in the box. It really doesn’t get fresher than that.

Up until last week, breading and pan-frying was my go-to prepare a soft shell crab. But, after putting them on the grill…I fear I can never go back. First off, it was easier and way less mess. Always a win! But the flavor. THE FLAVOR. Sweet, tender crab with a heady dose of smokiness from the grill. I brushed with fresh garlic herb butter while cooking, which helped them to not stick to the grill – as well as impart more wonderful flavor. A few minutes on the grill, and they plump up to pure perfection.

I wanted to pair them with pasta, so I made a quick scampi sauce using the usual suspects – butter, garlic, lemon, white wine. And, a few cherry tomatoes and basil for a little extra flair and color. Was just enough to make the pasta moist, and paired perfectly with the crab – just making it’s flavors sing a little louder.

Move over, Shrimp Scampi. There’s a new kid on the block…