EASTON, MD, November 24, 2010 - If the sole measurement of a festival’s success could be calculated from the weather, then this month’s annual Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. was perfectly successful.
As of its conclusion, the festival is entering the 41st year and the popularity continues to grow with each passing year as more attendees are finding this event to be a great family-friendly way to honor the culture of the Chesapeake.
Celebrating the outdoors
An estimated 18,000 attendees took advantage of the beautiful autumnal weather and flocked to Easton from around the mid-Atlantic region.
From the Thursday evening opening VIP reception at The Armory through to Sunday evening’s last call under the Tasting Pavilion, the schedule was chock full of everything that has come to be associated with the Chesapeake Bay region and its outdoors.
On the outskirts of town at the Easton Village Ponds, hunters and their Retrievers conducted demonstrations showing their skills in the water and the tall grass. Across downtown Easton, more dogs showed off their skills in competitions of jumping and retrieving near the Easton High School.
Nearby, the Sportsman’s Pavilion played host to fishing and hunting gear along with the newest in supplies, clothing, and guides. Fly Fishing, duck- and goose-calling demonstrations also took place.
Back downtown, Festival attendees strolled the ten blocks that were closed to traffic. Anything imaginable related to the Chesapeake’s outdoor spirit greeted attendees at every turn such as photography, literature, sculpting, carving, and painting.
Retailers’ open doors welcomed shoppers in for festival specials, musicians filled the streets with a wide variety of music, open tents provided cover for local artists’ paintings and sculptures, and area food, wine, and beer were available for purchase to satisfy appetites.
Celebrating the food
There was a variety of food from close to a dozen vendors to be found around every corner of the festival. Smokers were set up by local barbecue establishments to sell pit beef and turkey, along with crab soup, crab cakes, and oysters to name just a few of the local delicacies that could be enjoyed during the three-days.
The food focus, though, kicked in to high gear on Friday night at Bob Pascal’s St. Michaels Harbour Inn, Marina & Spa where the inn hosted a “Wild Game Feast and Beer Dinner.”
The Harbour Inn will soon be celebrating its 25th anniversary and is enjoying the fruits of a revamped kitchen, which is being helmed by a new Executive Chef David Hayes. Chef Hayes came to Harbour Inn earlier this year with experience that has taken him from Buckingham Palace to the acclaimed Inn at Perry Cabin nearby in St. Michaels.
At 25 years of age, Hayes brings an enthusiasm to the kitchen that shows both in his cooking and in his interpersonal skills with his dining guests.
Just days prior to the Friday evening ‘beer dinner,’ Hayes added accolades to his culinary resume with two first place awards in Baltimore, one at the Pork Association Competition and also tied for first place at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’ OysterFest in St. Michaels.
The Harbour Inn teamed up for dinner with the local brewery, Eastern Shore Brewing Company (ESBC). Located mere blocks from the hotel, the brewery is a relative newcomer to St. Michaels as it has just recently celebrated the second anniversary of crafting local brews for thirsty tourists, boaters, and residents.
Hayes met with brewery owners, Adrian (“Ace”) and Lori Moritz, to discuss brewhouse and kitchen flavor and pairing concepts. Over a few beers worth of sampling, they conceived a five-course menu that would showcase a wild game theme (tying in to the Waterfowl Festival) paired with each of the brewery’s five current beers.
Dinner was served on the enclosed outdoor patio just steps from the water and boat slips. With such moderate temperatures, the location provided for comfortable strolling both before and after the dinner.
During the dinner, Hayes and his kitchen staff, brewer Randy Marquis, and the owners of ESBC took the time to discuss each course’s preparation and pairing. Clay Swartz and his restaurant staff executed a smooth delivery of the dinner that started in just a few timely minutes of the scheduled 7 p.m. start.
The dinner was a perfect palate for both Hayes’ and Marquis’ talents. Nowhere, though, did the pairing concept work as seamlessly as in the last two courses. The fourth course showcased tender rabbit meat, dumplings, and diced vegetables in a stew that was accentuated with a pleasant spicy heat and complemented the Knot So Pale Ale, which can be best described as an India Pale Ale (IPA). An IPA can often use its hop bitterness along with its carbonation to help usher the effects of spicy heat away, readying the palate for another spoonful of food—in this case, stew.
The last course of the dinner was a match made in cacao heaven. Individually, the decadently rich chocolate flourless torte and the Duck Duck Goose Porter could have each stood on their own. Together, they exemplified everything a solid beer and food pairing should be.
In this case, it was smooth, rich textures and chocolaty flavors that complimented each other.
Some times, the idea is to get flavors and textures to be different, without contrasting too harshly, and other times the idea is to get it all to blend together into something that is greater than the sum of its parts. This time, it was the latter.
To see the full beer dinner menu along with more detailed notes, please visit After Hours at The Brew Lounge.
Celebrating the beer and wine
The beer was not confined to only the Friday night dinner this year. Presented in past years as the Wine Tasting Pavilion, its name was changed last year to the Tasting Pavilion to reflect the participation of Eastern Shore Brewery.
Close to a dozen local wineries were pouring their grape delights from petit syrahs to pinot grigios, but only one brewery—the most local of them—was in attendance. It bode well for ESBC as they had to make multiple trips to the brewery during the weekend to deliver more kegs as festivel-goers fell in love with the St. Michaels Ale, Duck Duck Goose Porter, and Lighthause (sic) Ale.
The Chesapeake continues to change
Time brings change everywhere, however, in the Chesapeake Bay region with its ecological system so rich and precious, it is more vital to hold on to the natural beauty and to curb the encroachment of modern-day civilization.
An overarching mission of the Waterfowl Festival has long been to keep alive the romance with the outdoors and the Chesapeake region. Raising awareness and funds for restoration, conservation, and continued protection against a deteriorated infrastructure continue to be leading tactical objectives.
The festival provides a family-friendly event to help bring about an understanding of the region’s delicate balance that must be obtained if future generations are to participate in the vibrant outdoor life that residents and visitors enjoy today.
Bryan Kolesar writes The Brew Lounge.
- Authors made signing appearances at the local bookstore
- A pig roast was just one of the many outdoor dining options during the Waterfowl Festival
- Geese and ducks mingled politely with the crowds
- A guitar and fiddle duo was just one of the several al fresco musical performances found on the streets of Easton, Md. during the Waterfowl Festival
- The Eastern Shore is a dog-friendly region
- The Tasting Pavilion provided Waterfowl Festival attendees with the opportunity to sample local chocolate, beer, and wine
- Guests lined up 2-3 deep at the table for beer from Eastern Shore Brewing Company
- A young red-tail falcon kept watch over Tasting Pavilion attendees
- The Sculpting Pavilion showed off the talented products of local artists
- The Sculpting Pavilion showed off the talented products of local artists
- Sculptures were not only available for sale but on permanent display along the downtown streets of Easton, Md.
- Man's best friend needed an occasional break just like his owners
- A simple banjo and a fiddle provided easy and relaxing music befitting the Waterfowl Festival
- Man's best friend, in life and in art
- At the Retriever Demonstrations, the hunter provided the bumper (simulated duck or goose) for the dog to retrieve
- The dogs never failed to impress with their ability to find the bumper, both by sight as well as blindly while being led by their handlers signal calls
- Another successful retrieval
- The goose no longer loose after another successful retrieval
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