A couple of years ago, we did not take a cruise. We thought we would do a land-based vacation at some oceanfront resort. We ended up at The Sanderling Resort & Spa in Duck, North Carolina. The resort was situated on a thin strip of the outerbanks. So thin, in fact, that only the hotel, a road, and a poolhouse separated the the Atlantic Ocean from the Currituck Sound.
It was a beautiful rustic resort. Very high end. We had a gorgeous suite with sitting area, two bathrooms, and two balconies that overlooked the dunes and the ocean. There were two restaurants, the Life Station, a former Caffrey's Inlet U.S Lifesaving Station #5 built in 1874, and The Left Bank, an AAA Diamond Award winning restaurant overlooking the sound, with floor to ceiling windows that showcased the exquisite sunsets.
There was nothing within 15 miles of our resort. An island unto itself, and we were captive.
We did nothing for an entire week. We sunned on the beach sipping cocktails. We flew kites with wild abandon. We foraged for seashells. We swam in the poolhouse pool. And we ate.
Each morning began with breakfast at the Life Station, whimsical, fresh, and delicious. They had traditional fare, but I was drawn to the fried catfish topped with milled grits, bacon, melted jack cheese, and fried egg; and Eggs Sanderling, poached eggs on toasted english muffins with shaved ham, and a light mustard sauce. Their take on benedict.
After breakfast, we would move on to bloody marys, screwdrivers, and the beach. It seemed like a private beach. Very remote and private. Our little chairs, umbrellas, and cooler full of bloody marys and screwdrivers. We would sun, read, and fly kites. I had never flown a kite with such childlike joy. High, higher, highest into the stark bright blue sky, wading ankle deep in the ocean collecting seashells. The kite was an extension of my arm; my friend, my buddy, my truth. It would direct me to the right seashells. It would tell me when to lower or to soar higher. We were tight, that kite and me.
We were the only ones in the resort who knew the secret number of the code key to unlock the private poolhouse. Our secret garden. We knew the code. We knew the secret. After beaching all day, we would go to our private pool and swim laps. I was and will never be a lap swimmer. For those seven days, I swam laps. The poolhouse overlooked the sound with a gazebo and sun chairs. Ours.
We would venture away from the resort during lunchtime, driving up and down the narrow island, looking for places to eat. Fishbones Sunset Grille and Raw Bar was a wonderful place. We sat at an outside bar on wooden stools with cocktails and ate three dozen oysters on the half shell, squeezing lemons and eating Saltines. Plump, exploding oyster juice. Route 12 Restaurant, in the northern town of Corolla, had a Raw & Steam Bar, where the shrimp were liberally doused with Old Bay, steamed and served under a cloud of Old Bay smoke, leaving a trail of dripping steam from kitchen to table. The spice blend happily burned our mouths and tongues.
High tea was served daily at 4:00 in the lobby of the hotel; hot tea, iced tea, and lemonade accompanied by sterling silver-tiered trays of canapes, dips, scones, petit fours, and cheescakes...Heaven.
We ate dinner evey night at the Life Station. Mussels in a smoked paprika and thyme broth, shrimp and corn chowder, crisp fried rockfish with fingerlings, shaved fennel, and saffron crab potage. Night after night, gorgeous, fresh, and delicious meals. After dinner, we would walk the beach at night with flashlights, cocktails, and brazen stolen hand-holding moments.
Our last night we ate at The Left Bank, The Sanderling's award winning restaurant with a month long reservation list The restaurant was beautiful, the service impeccable, and the food devine. We were greeted with an Amuse Bouche of half-shelled oysters topped with apple ice. I had a succulent pan-seared medium rare duck breast with a cipollini onion balsamic glaze. Michael, being the beef connoissur, had the beef filet bathed in a red wine butter with dauphine potatoes and Perigord truffles. That meal was very expensive. The one disapointment was my fois gras appetizer., pan-seared with a huckleberry reduction. It was burned underneath, having stayed one second too long in the saute pan. The Executive Chef was undone about it, which was endearing, but fois gras is my favorite thing in the culinary world. Mess with it and you mess with me. I did managed to move on.
It was a great week. On land. With an ocean and a sound.
On our way home, we stopped by the Wright Brother's Memorial, and Jockey's Ridge State Park where the dunes were so big it felt like another world.
We ate Carolina barbecue all the way home, packing our cooler with samples, treats, sauces, and food memories.