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Feast at the Beach

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Because of the impending Hurricane Sandy and her whirlwind of trouble, Taste of Wrightsville Beach will move inside Blockade Runner and take place 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the 27th!

Taste of Wrightsville Beach
10/27, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m. • $40-$75
FOR Masonboro Benefit
10/28, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m. • $25
32 N. Lumina Avenue

GOOD EATS: South Beach Grill is one of the many coastal participants who will take part in the first-ever Taste of Wrightsville Beach, which owner John Andrews helped organize. Photo courtesy of South Beach Grill.

Locally, there is never a time we say goodbye to the beach. Though the tourists are packing away their swimwear and vacuuming their cars full of sand, us yokels are finding more reasons to trek to the coast without worrying about traffic on the drawbridge. Whether fishing for drum or oyster, lots remain to be enjoyed here—especially by way of eating!

Wrightsville Beach will host a weekend celebration at its first-ever Taste of Wrightsville Beach, a collaborative effort between the Wrightsville Beach Foundation, the Wrightsville Beach Merchants Association and the Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce. It will showcase the best eats of the beach through its numerous restaurants.

The weekend-long block party will take place in the heart of downtown Wrightsville in the Robert’s Grocery and Lagerheads Tavern parking lots—tented for the occasion, nonetheless—and will offer fresh culinary fare prepared by Wrightsville’s renowned chefs.
Lisa Weeks, president of the Wrightsville Beach Parks and Recreation Foundation, worked with John Andrews, owner of Wrightsville Beach’s South Beach Grill, to create and organize this event, which she says has been a long-time coming.

“John and I have been talking for a couple years about creating some new and exciting events during the shoulder seasons,” Weeks says, “which is certainly a time when hotels and our local businesses suffer.”

It wasn’t until the recent success of last spring’s Fire on the Dock professional chef competition that prompted Weeks and Andrews to launch a fall soirée. The “Iron Chef”-like competition took place at Wrightsville Beach’s Shell Island Resort, included Cape Fear-area chefs and others from the outlying area beaches, all of whom competed in a bracket-style tournament. The outcome attracted hundreds of diners across the state over the contest’s 15 weeks and really shined a light on the island.

“After seeing how successful Fire on the Dock was, we said ‘Now is the time to do this,’” Weeks says. “We thought it would be a great opportunity to [conjoin] our community and shuck oysters at the table together.”

The weekend’s festivities kicks off Saturday the 27th, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Patrons will be able to savor award-winning culinary fare prepared by Wrightsville’s restaurants, including South Beach Grill, Tower 7, King Neptune, Vito’s Pizzeria, 22 North, Rita’s Italian Ice, Holiday Inn Resort, Shell Island Resort, East at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort, Banks Channel Pub and Grille, Bluewater Grill, Mellow Mushroom, Surfberry, Bridge Tender, Fish House and Dockside.

Best In Show for the evening’s fare will be decided by the event’s local celebrity judges including Culinary Adventures’ Liz Biro, Cape Fear Community College Hotel and Restaurant Management Program Coordinator Diane Withrow, The Chef’s Academy’s Eric Gephart, Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti and New Hanover County Commissioner Rick Catlin. Attendees are encouraged to voice their opinion on their favorite dish for a People’s Choice Award, which will be named by popular vote. Local guitarist Hali Esinhart and the South Hammock Bluegrass Band will perform in the evening. Boutique beers and wines will be available at the event, too.

“The beach is very crowded during the summer, so the fall is exhale time for locals,” Weeks says. “It’s also a perfect time to celebrate our local cuisine.”

There are only 500 tickets available for the event, and general admission is $40 per person, while VIP passes are $75, which come with the choice of a half-peck of steamed oysters or a Low Country seafood boil, are still available. All proceeds will benefit the Wrightsville Beach Beautification Program.

The weekend will wind down with a tribute to Masonboro Island by Friends of the Reserve (FOR) with the third annual FOR Masonboro benefit from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday the 28th at the Blockade Runner. The event will promote fellowship and raise funds to preserve Masonboro’s habitat.

Fresh seafood will be prepped by the award-winning Blockade Runner culinary team, including head chef Mark Lawson, and live entertainment will be performed by Brazilian guitarist Rafael Name, Daniel Parrish and the Dylan Holton Band. Family-friendly events will take place and include a touch tank (compliments of the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher), T-shirt painting with local artist and Wrightsville Beach School marine science instructor Cissie Brooks, and a Halloween costume contest from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. An auction will take place featuring grabs like a cruise of Masonboro Island narrated by N.C. Coastal Reserve director Hope Sutton, a Sea Tow membership, a one-week stay on in a waterfront home on North Harbor Island and more. Proceeds from ticket sales, auction bids and raffle chances will be donated to the North Carolina Coastal Reserve, the island’s steward, for education, conservation and research.

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