Roxy’s Best Of…Duck, North Carolina

The Best of Duck, North Carolina and the Outer Banks, from kid stuff and beaches to restaurants to art galleries and shopping

Jul
09

Happy Birthday to the Blue Point in Duck, North Carolina

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Only one more year and you’ll be legal!

Rex and I received an e-mail invitation to join the Blue Point, one of our two favorite restaurants in Duck, North Carolina, for a glass of champagne in celebration of their 20th birthday.  We’re spending the rest of the summer between our beach house in Bay Head, New Jersey, and our year-round home in the Mendham, NJ, so we will not be able to join them.  However, if you live or vacation in or around the Outer Banks, it is definitely worth a trip to the Blue Point.  Rex, London, Maddie and I were there last October and had a delicious pre-birthday (um, quite a few years past my 20th) dinner celebration in my honor.

Here are the details on Blue Point’s 20th Birthday celebration:

When:  July 15, 2009

Where:  In the yard, rain or shine.  Anytime after 6:00pm.

Live jazz starts at 8:00pm.  Champagne and dessert is on the Blue Point… a cash bar and hors d’oeuvre menu will be available.  Inside, amazing dinners will be served as usual.

To make a reservation, please call the Blue Point at (252) 261-8090.

The Blue Point, 1240 Duck Road, Duck, North Carolina.  27949

Oct
12

Roxy’s Birthday Dinner at Elizabeth’s Café and Winery in Duck, North Carolina

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We’re here for our third night in Duck, North Carolina, and have enjoyed all of our three very different dinners. On Thursday night, we went to the Blue Point. Last night, we went a bit more casual with four dozen steamed clams for my Jedi clam-eaters at the Sunset Grille, another two dozen steamed “middlenecks” for me, and five different appetizers for Rex and me to share. And tonight, in honor of my birthday, we planned and enjoyed the most elegant evening of our trip at Elizabeth’s Café and Winery.

On Friday morning, when we were at the Scarborough Faire for sticky buns at Tullio’s Bakery, we picked up a sample menu from Elizabeth’s, so we had the perfect birthday dinner for four planned out by the time we arrived for our 6:30pm seating. Since I started my back-to-school fitness program a little over a month ago, I have not only lost weight but have experienced the incredible shrinking appetite. I’ve also found in the past year or two that I enjoy little tapas-style tastings of many dishes, so we called ahead to assure that I could nibble on a couple of perfect appetizers while Rex went all out (and shared with me) the Six Course Wine Dinner ($125/person including wine, $90/person without wine).

I’ll start by saying that my two appetizer meal was made up of simple yet extraordinary bites. I chose to start with Elizabeth’s Original Scallop and Brie Bisque with Granny Smith Apples ($11), and selected the Pecan Crusted Sweet Onion Torte drizzled with an aged balsamic reduction ($10) as my mini-entrée. When I gave him a taste, Rex captured the onion torte as “old-fashioned and delicious.” London and Maddie shared the Grilled New Zealand Lamb Rack with (on the side, not touching of course!) a Pinot Noir barrel made molasses reduction served with roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed vegetables ($37). When the two girls devoured every bite of the eight lamb “lollipops,” and started to dispute who might have had five vs. three of them, Rex and I realized that we may have to order two full racks of lamb the next time the four of us dine out for a special occasion. Now, the amazing Six Course Wine Dinner that Rex and I shared:

Initial Sparkling & Appetizer

Extra jumbo shrimp (brushed with Bar-B-Que Sauce then flame grilled), lump crab meat, and lobster cocktail. It’s not often that Rex and I have chilled shrimp, but next time we do, we’re definitely going to try to replicate Elizabeth’s Bar-B-Que sauce instead of using the traditional tomato and horseradish-based cocktail sauce.

Wine selection: Perrier Jouet Grand Brut Champagne. Rex and the girls toasted me (”clink! clink!” all around) and lavished me with birthday wishes. Cheers!

Salad

Mixed Napa Greens – fresh and dried fruit with a pecan White Burgundy Chardonnay Wine dressing… “a symphonic blend of selected greens and fruit with a wine friendly dressing”

Wine selection: Columbelle 2007 Vin de pays des cotes de Gascogne. A bit of a grassy nose, not fruit forward in flavor, the perfect pairing with the fruity, nutty salad. Our lovely and friendly hostess, shown serving the Columbelle in the photo [on the right], poured generously and kept our shared glasses ready with the proper pairing for every course.

Fish Course

Pan seared sesame crusted tuna with a soy ginger beurre blanc and an Asian Seaweed cucumber salad

Two wine selections (half pour each): Dierberg 2005 Santa Maria Valley Santa Ynez California Chardonnay and Saint Gregory 2006 Mendocino Pinot Noir

Intermezzo

Chef’s Selection of Palate Cleanser Sorbet with a splash of Sparkling

Entrée Selection

Prime Angus Beef Tenderloin Medallion Au Poivre with Porcini Mushroom sauce (I considered myself lucky that this was the only taste of Satan served at our table, and I let Rex share his steak with our hungry girls) accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes and sautéed vegetables.

Wine selection: Clark Claudon 2003 Tenth Anniversary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The menu says to “ask Alice about a featured to go bottle price for this wine” and it was so good that we did… we have a bottle all packed up to take home with us on when we head back to the Roxiticus Valley on Monday morning.

Desserts and Elizabeth’s Fresh Roasted Coffee

We let Elizabeth’s surprise us with a very special dessert, which turned out to be an ultra-rich chocolate pot de crème. Maddie and London shared another chocolate dessert, a chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream. Raves all around!

One of my proudest moments of the evening came when an older couple stopped by our table to compliment all of us on London and Maddie’s exceptional manners. Another highlight of the perfect birthday evening was meeting the owner, Leonard Logan, who also stopped by to compliment London and Maddie on both their lovely dresses and their terrific manners.  As parents, Rex and I find it so rewarding to be able to take our daughters out for steamed clams on checkered tablecloths one night and for a six course dinner at the finest place in town the next, and to know that all four of us enjoy the experiences at both ends of the gourmet spectrum. The girls signed the Elizabeth’s guest book as follows: “Maddie really enjoys dining at fancy restaurants… and London does, too!” I hope our new friends at Elizabeth’s will smile when they see the girls’ note.

Oct
09

Don’t Miss the Point… the Blue Point in Duck, North Carolina, That Is…

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Rex, London, Maddie and I just finished an amazing dinner at the Blue Point in Duck, North Carolina.  I am too exhausted from driving all day to write all about it and to upload my photos of the beautiful food, but trust me that it is terrific and that I will tell all within the next week.

So far our trip is off to a great start and I look forward to telling you all about it.  Tomorrow, we’re hoping to just kick back, relax, and check out the beach at the Sanderling Resort & Spa.

Oct
06

Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Me Away: Back Country Wild Horse Safari in Corolla, North Carolina

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Blogging is truly an amazing way to communicate.  Over on my Roxiticus Desperate Housewives blog, I trade comments back and forth with other bloggers from all around the world.  Today, on Roxy’s Best Of… Duck, NC, I posted about our upcoming trip to the Outer Banks and wondered aloud whether I should try North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar in Corolla, North Carolina.  Within an hour or so, Jan Riggs, who has lived there for 19 years, stopped by with a comment convincing me to have dinner at North Banks on Sunday night.

Jan also recommended that Rex, London, Maddie and I make time to explore the back country on an off-road SUV adventure to see the Wild Spanish Mustangs on the Northern Outer Banks.  Since we’re driving down from New Jersey and staying over in Assateague, there’s a good chance we’ll have met our quota of wild horses before we reach North Carolina, but then again, maybe wild horse safaries are like the car game…London gets the blue cars, Maddie and Rex work together on red cars, Roxy drives and gets the yellow cars, and we start over when someone reaches 100 or 500.

The Wild Horse Safari promises to be an exciting and informative journey by 4 wheel drive that will carry our family along pristine beaches, through windswept sea oak, hilly sand trails and miles of ocean, dune and maritime forest in search of sturdy Mustangs. We would be eye to eye with wildlife, the fragile Outer Banks ecology, and local folklore and history. Along the way we’ll visit a unique petrified forest, a giant sand dune called Penny’s Hill, and the century old lifesaving station and watch tower… it sure sounds like a lot of fun!

The two-hour+ tours start at 9am and run throughout the day. The “in-season” (June 1st to September 1st) rate for adults (age 12+) is $46.00, children 4 to 11 yrs are $23.00 each, 3’s and under are $10.00 and we should ask about group and off-season discounts.

Back Country Outfitters & Guides also do kayak and Segway tours.

Back Country Outfitters & Guides, 107-C Corolla Light Town Center, Corolla, NC.  Phone: (252) 453-0877

Oct
06

Sunday Evening at the North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar in Corolla, North Carolina

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Rex has been good about making all of our dinner reservations according to the recommendations I’ve posted here, but we’ve got one more night for dinner in the Outer Banks.  Brent’s friend Stacy has offered up the North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar in Corolla, North Carolina, for fresh local fish, whole Maine lobster, steamed seafood combos and more… we just might give it a try on Sunday evening.

Locals promise that everything is soooo good, so we won’t have any trouble finding something for my Jedi clam eaters.  North Banks doesn’t take reservations, so we’re lucky we’re traveling in the “off seaon” to avoid a line of hungry people around the block. Even so, we’ll be arriving around five and lookin’ for the early bird special!

North Banks Restaurant & Raw Bar
785 Sunset Boulevard
TimBuck II Shopping Center
Corolla, NC
Phone:  (252) 453-3344

Who's talking: Jan Riggs. Leave your comment
Sep
29

Quicker Than You Can Say “The Wright Brothers: First in Flight” — Kitty Hawk Is Only 20 Minutes Away from Duck, North Carolina

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Since the New York Times was only planning on 36 Hours in Duck, NC, and Cindy Price probably pictured us as a hip, childless yuppie couple, her article made no mention of Kitty Hawk, which is only 20 minutes away by car.  One of my fondest memories of a childhood vacation with my parents (second only to Billy the Lifeguard from Kiawah Island) was visiting Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC.

Since I didn’t keep much of a journal until I was in high school, and I think I was in 7th or 8th grade when I last visited the Wright Brothers National Memorial, I’m going to rely on the web site instead of my memories to plan our trip.  The visitor center includes:

  • Exhibits on the Wright brothers’ background and the development of their gliders as well as the 1903 Flyer
  • The crankcase of the original 1903 Flyer
  • A flyable 2003 replica of the 1903 Flyer
  • The Wright Brothers Bookstore operated by Eastern National
  • The Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine - established in 1966 by the First Flight Society, the shrine honors individuals and groups that have achieved significant firsts in the development of aviation.

The Centennial Pavilion:  Built in 2003, the pavilion exhibit hall houses exhibits dealing with the Outer Banks at the turn-of-the-century, the evolution of aviation, the challenges of flight, the development of the 2003 replica, and NASA-sponsored space exhibits as well as a Gift Shop. Children’s programs, special events, and films are presented in the multi-purpose auditorium.  

Living Quarters and Hangar:  A two minute stroll from the visitor center, the living quarters and hangar are reconstructed at the original locations. The living quarters is furnished with items similar to those that the Wrights used from 1900 to 1903 and the hangar replicates the building where the Wrights stored their 1903 Flyer.

Flight Line:  Located just west of the reconstructed camp buildings, a large granite boulder commemorates the take-off point for the first successful powered, controlled-flights by the Wright brothers. Four smaller stone markers chart the path of the flights.

I hope London and Maddie find Kitty Hawk and the Wright Brothers National Memorial as interesting as I did when I was a kid.  As first and second graders, they haven’t likely learned much about the Wright Brothers in school, but in the past they’ve surprised me by taking an interest in history and science.

Who's talking: Shinade. Leave your comment
Sep
29

Vinegar vs. Tomato: A Lunchtime Treat at High Cotton BBQ in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

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Cindy Price of The New York Times (36 Hours in Duck, NC, July 2005) wants to “get something straight. Barbecue is a noun in North Carolina, not a verb. More important, the sauce base in eastern North Carolina is vinegar, not tomato. Don’t use too much, though — Will Thorp, owner of High Cotton BBQ, likens the delicate balance to that in Thai food. Confused yet? Suss it out the old-fashioned way, and dig into Will’s juicy, perfectly smoked chicken-and-pork lunch combo ($6.95). On your way out, grab a bottle of brother-in-law Matt’s Pig-Pickin’ sauce ($4.95), and take a little of the South to go.”  Since we’re driving, not flying, we don’t have to worry about the liquid police, so I may just bring a few bottles back for Brent and all of you.

From the High Cotton BBQ web site:  “As Tarheel Natives, we want to share with you the flavors and aromas that are unique to Eastern North Carolina Barbeque. Consistent temperatures and long hours of smoking with hickory coals produce the characteristic pink coloring and sweet “outside brown” meat. Combine this with traditional side dishes and a glass of sweet tea and you’re in “High Cotton” - Outer Banks Barbeque at its very best!”  Owners Matt Cooper and Will Thorp invite us all to come and enjoy this North Carolina delicacy, and take note of the photographs around our dining room that document this culinary heritage. We’ll be there!

High Cotton BBQ, 5230 Virginia Dare Trail North, Kitty Hawk, NC. Phone: (252) 255-2275

Sep
28

Wastin’ Away Again in Margaritaville: Jimmy Buffett Karaoke at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar in Duck, North Carolina

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In her 36 Hours article (New York Times, July 2005), Cindy Price suggests that Rex and I rock the house with Jimmy Buffett Karaoke at the Sunset Grille & Raw Bar in Duck, North Carolina.  While London and Maddie are more likely than their parents to take over the mikes, I’ve had trouble in the past getting them into bars (like the Square Grouper in Jupiter, Florida)…probably because the usual karaoke suspects are afraid of a little competition.

The New York Times agenda had us arriving at the Sunset Grille on Friday night at 8:30pm for “a cold margarita ($6), a rickety bar stool on the outdoor deck…and a fantastic sunset [that] will make you wish that time could stand still. Take a walk down the long pier and sit in the breezy gazebo for the best view. At 10 p.m., karaoke livens up the dance floor upstairs, with happy sunburned islanders crooning Jimmy Buffett songs late into the night.”

I Googled “Sunset Grille Duck NC” to make sure they’re still in business, and they even have their own web site with a YouTube video of the festivities.  Their web site promises “the finest in fresh local seafood, steaks, pastas, and more with a Caribbean flair.  Our award winning chefs are always working hard to prepare the finest dishes…Sunset Grille is located on the best waterfront property on the Outer Banks in the village of Duck….a total entertainment destination where families are welcome to enjoy our wide array of activities including…outdoor waterfront deck dining areas, 3 tiki bars, sushi bar, raw bar, large indoor dining areas, and an exciting water sports facility located right on the gazebo.  Bring the whole family and rent a waverunner, take a boat fishing or crabbing, parasail to 1200 feet, kayak the shores of the Currituck Sound, or take the whole party on a pontoon boat for a sunset cruise complete with appetizers and preferred dinner seating upon your return.”

This all sounds good to me, since we’re spending four days in Duck, NC, instead of 36 Hours.  We’ll likely try out many of these activities and let you know how it turns out, including the dinner and karaoke.  The menu includes not just a raw bar, but a steam bar for my Jedi clam eaters.

Sunset Grille & Raw Bar 1264 Duck Road, Duck, NC.  Phone (252) 261-3901

Breakfast served starting at 8:00am, lunch from 11am-3pm, and dinner at 5pm, 7 days a week.

Sep
26

Dinner Reservations at the Blue Point Bar & Grill in Duck, North Carolina

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For our second night in town, Cindy Price in the New York Times recommends the Blue Point Bar & Grill:  “Any restaurant that tries to marry progressive philosophy with old-school Southern comfort food is usually worth a gamble. The Blue Point may look like an upscale Johnny Rockets, but the food is as serious as it gets. This stylized diner sits right on the sound, so reserve a table on the porch before 8 to catch the sunset. The only proper way to start a meal here is with the tender duck confit and pasta ($9.50). For dinner, try the pecan-crusted catfish, served with a crayfish and ham jambalaya ($19.95). Side dishes vary with the season. Recently [July 2005], a side of bright green fiddlehead ferns ($6) graced the menu, wound tight as roly-polies and sautéed with shallots, bacon and Parmesan.”

Brent’s friend Stacey confirmed: “I would recommend Blue Point in Duck, although we didn’t get to go because it was booked, but so many people have told me it was wonderful.”

Shelley Rauch reviewed Blue Point in July 2006 at the DailyPress.com blog, noting that Blue Point had remodeled since the New York Times spent 36 Hours in Duck, NC.  You can click on the link to read her thorough review, but here are some highlights that provide some flavor:

“Duck’s Blue Point has been a dining destination for vacationing Hampton Roads families and lucky locals for years. Hungry folks wanting good food and service have lined up on the ’sound side’ of the Outer Banks since 1989 for the well-prepared and familiar, with a deliciously frisky little spin.

Perched on a picturesque vantage point of the Currituck Sound… the restaurant has finally grown up and filled out its dockside home. Black-and-white checkerboard still covers the length of the floor, while the walls are ruddy and warmly lit. Cozy red booths are in abundance… An open kitchen boasts a long expanse of stainless steel, backed by beautifully laid tile walls…

We arrived a few minutes before our 7 p.m. reservation to a bustling dining scene. The hostess said it wouldn’t be long before our table was ready – would we care to enjoy some drinks on the back patio while we waited? Indeed. Procuring wine and glasses from the bar, we trooped out to the new outside deck, perched directly over the sound… it proved to be the perfect spot to kill some time over Conundrum 2004 ($40), watching a perfectly rosy sun slip slowly into the sound.

The hostess returned, took our party to a booth and presented our menus. We poured over the choices, which ranged from fresh seafood to enticing cuts of beef. Our server was soon tableside, reviewing the specials. I was immediately swayed by the promise of seared U-10 scallops (a classification meaning there are less than 10 scallops per pound, so there are some huge, fat specimens of scallop-dom). They were presented with crisp-tender asparagus, tomatoes and a summery corn sauce. The scallops were outrageously fat and juicy, perfectly cooked through – the sauce really gilded the lily on this one.

The rest of my dining companions chose to start with salads. The classic Caesar ($7.95) was as good as ever, which is to say, very nicely done. The almost classic crisp iceberg wedge ($8.95) was topped with Maytag blue cheese, sweet ‘n’ spicy pecans and gorgeously thick cut bacon. Let’s be real, folks, the wedge is purely a blue cheese-delivery method, and this one met and exceeded expectation.

Plates were swept away, and we chatted among ourselves, straining to hear over the growing buzz of surrounding, multi-layered conversations. Duck is, ultimately, a tourist destination, and the people who fill its restaurants are a reflection of that mindset. Family-types, younger couples and older friends all share seat space with tea-swilling Southerners and some who seem to have had a bit much to drink – it’s all part of the atmosphere.

Our waiter soon swept back with the entrees. I had the grilled marinated Atlantic swordfish ($23.95), presented beautifully stacked atop Chanterelle mushroom and smoked Surry sausage lentils. The fish was extremely mild, and completely overpowered by its accompaniments. Sweet lump crab salad perched atop, festooned with micro-greens: mixed together, very tasty and fresh. With room to spare, I nibbled on the meals of my companions. Dave had the cider-brined pork chop ($18.95), a thick and juicy cut of meat that was flawless bite after bite. A fat square of elbow mac ‘n’ cheese was quite good, but slightly shriveled. The cumin-lime coleslaw was vibrantly crisp, while the green-chile barbeque sauce fell sweetly and flatly short.

My dining companions seemed to have made great selections all around. Saute of jumbo lump crabmeat ($24.95) was alive with bright ocean flavors. Surrounded by smoked salmon and perched atop spoon bread, it was Southern goodness in one happy little bowl. The grilled prime beef tenderloin ($32) was a succulent and well-prepared cut, quite tender and leaving the mouth filled with a deep, beefy sense of satisfaction. Completely worth the price of admission, as were the crispy onion rings, roasted new potatoes and black truffle butter – in a word, luxurious.

It was an impressive amount of food, but we were far from finished. Dessert was a simple array of enticingly homey dishes. I had a Madeleine-studded buttermilk ice cream ($7.50), strewn with blueberries and strawberries. A few spoonfuls proved a rich and satisfying end to the eve. Dave went with the strawberry-rhubarb cobbler ($7), nailed dead-on between sweet and tart, and made richer by a scoop of the lavish buttermilk ice cream.

The ever-changing menu is a study in the world of regional fresh foods, prepared with an eye to detail and consistency.

The Blue Point Bar & Grill, 1240 Duck Road, overlooking the Currituck Sound from the Waterfront Shops in Duck, NC. Phone: (252) 261-8090.  Reservations may also be booked online.

Hours: Open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.; dinner seating from 5:00 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m.
Alcohol: Beer, wine and full bar
Smoking: No

Sep
26

Reservations for Dinner at Elizabeth’s Cafe and Winery in Duck, North Carolina

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As our trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina gets closer, Rex and I are starting to firm up some of our plans, with a little help from 36 Hours in Duck, NC from The New York Times and our friend and colleague, Brent, who spent a bit of time there while growing up in South Carolina and has also enlisted advice from friends who are more recent Duck NC visitors.  Since the New York Times article dates back to July 2005, I’ve found a couple of local Duck NC web sites, including a non-Roxy “Best of Duck” site, to make sure the recommended restaurants are still around and hits with the locals.

As 36 Hours suggested, we’ve made plans to stay at the Sanderling Resort & Spa (skipping the $100 Russian Olive Refuge Treatment), and we should make our dinner reservations, including Elizabeth’s Cafe and Winery, and a rough agenda this weekend while the rain in the Roxiticus Valley keeps us indoors.

The BestofDuck.com confirms that “Elizabeth’s Café & Winery is a must for anyone visiting the Outer Banks. Elizabeth’s is also a convenient treat for those who live in the Banks.”

According to Cindy Price in The New York Times, “Elizabeth’s Café and Winery isn’t so hoity-toity you can’t drag a little sand in with you, but one glance at the dining room’s low-lit country charm, and you’ll be glad you donned a collar. The fun-loving proprietor, Leonard Logan, claims that some folks come down from the City (yeah, that City) just for dinner, and frankly, after one bite you might believe the guy. See that wine book on your table? Don’t even open it. The six-course wine-pairing dinner ($80), prepared every night by Mr. Logan and Brad Price, the chef, is nothing short of phenomenal. The menu changes with the season, with dishes like lobster, scallop and brie bisque peppered with diced apple or a quickly seared Pacific lemon snapper paired with a young, honey-scented chardonnay.”

Sounds like a winner to me…I’m hoping they have a cookbook we can bring home for Rex.

Elizabeth’s Cafe and Winery,1177 Duck Road, in the Scarborough Faire Shopping Village in Duck, NC.  Phone:  (252) 261-6145.