Behind The Scenes of The Lost Colony in Roanoke

Some experiences uplift your soul in a way that leaves a permanent and welcome mark.  My time in the Outer Banks, NC was one such journey for me, an area rich with natural beauty and artisan spirit. A lovely spot where nature and the arts join in veritable harmony is the Waterside Theatre, home to The Lost Colony production in Roanoke Island.

For the past 79 years The Lost Colony has seen many talented artists perform including Lynn Redgrave and Andy Griffith. Every summer, over 200 actors, technicians, designers and volunteers recreate the story of one of the great American mysteries, the tale of the lost colony of Roanoke Island.

Behind The Scenes of The Lost Colony in Roanoke

The outdoor amphitheater is situated on the banks of the Roanoke Sound on the site of the original Roanoke Colony in the Outer Banks, NC near Manteo. Patrons are treated to a production under the stars with a stage that is over three-times larger than the average Broadway stage.  The action surrounds the audience, engaging them directly in the excitement and drama.

I didn’t have the chance to catch a performance as they were still in rehearsal phase when I visited, but the experience of the behind-the-scenes tour was enchanting, giving me a rare glimpse of the artistry and efforts that happen before the magic of opening night.

Behind The Scenes of The Lost Colony in Roanoke

Sustainable Chick Travel Tip:  Backstage Tours are available during the summer season.  Audience members can get an exclusive look at The Lost Colony costume shop, dressing rooms, weapons, cast and crew.  Details at http://thelostcolony.org/

During my sneak peek, I learned all sorts of fun facts about the production, including the costume department’s creative use of vodka!  Turns out it’s an excellent way to keep the costumes fresh without adding scent.  Just as this alcohol medium is used in the canning process to preserve and keep bacteria at bay, it does the same for costumes, many of which are made with natural fabrics and authentic period embellishments like turkey feathers.

I won’t spoil the experience for you by giving away too many tidbits, but want to share a few visual highlights of the exceptional craftsmanship-in-progress that takes place to prepare the set and a fun video of the dance rehearsals.  If your travel plans include the Outer Banks, NC (and truly, they should, it’s an amazing gift you’ll give yourself to experience this beautiful area,) do include a stop at The Lost Colony, ideally for a performance and definitely for the backstage tour, too!

Behind The Scenes of The Lost Colony in Roanoke

Behind The Scenes of The Lost Colony in Roanoke

Behind The Scenes of The Lost Colony in Roanoke

Behind The Scenes of The Lost Colony in Roanoke

 

 

Farm To Table: Greek Cooking Lessons from Norfolk Hellenic Women’s Club

Cooking Club Instructor, Nikki Webb, preparing grilled pita bread

Cooking Club Instructor, Nikki Webb, preparing grilled pita bread

Roasted chicken from a smoky grill infused with aromatic herbs and a sweet trace of cinnamon and honey greet you upon entering the AHEPA House. Guests gravitate towards the rows of steaming dishes and Greek women buzzing around the prep tables, chopping fresh vegetables, buttering filo and crumbling Feta. The choreography in the kitchen is as mesmerizing as the aromas.

Each year, during the Norfolk Greek Festival, the ladies of the Hellenic Women’s Club gather to share their devotion to preserve culinary traditions in “Cooking with the Greeks,” a make, bake and taste class featuring classic Greek recipes. The class is a popular attraction during the annual celebration held under one of Hampton Roads’ biggest tents on the grounds of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Norfolk, Virginia.

Helen Emmons, Cooking Class Co-Chairman and manager of Mike’s Pizza (Norfolk), said the group is very passionate about cooking, all of the women want to hold onto traditions and help others discover the joy of Greek cuisine. Hosting the class is a way for them to connect with the community and rediscover their own passions in the kitchen, though having cooks from various Greek regions is not always harmonious.

Helen Emmons, Cooking Club Co-Chairman

Helen Emmons, Cooking Club Co-Chairman

“Greek cooking is very regional,” said Emmons. “We often argue about the correct way to make a dish!”

The diversities are clear in the Hellenic Woman’s Club’s “Come Cook With Us*” cookbook where you’ll find multiple variations of common recipes including three versions of Souvlaki, a shish kebab style meat dish featured in the class.

The in-class version, Chicken Souvlaki, may not be correctly prepared by every region’s standards, but the tender morsels marinated for two days in a brine of olive oil, garlic, oregano, red wine vinegar and lemon juice were certainly delightfully Greek to the students.

“Good, quality extra-virgin olive oil is a crucial component of Greek cooking,” said Emmons. “And of course, we think olive oil from Greece is the best choice!”

One dish that was slightly “Americanized” for the class was the salad, which contained plenty of greens. The instructors explained that it’s difficult to find lettuce in Greece, so a traditional Greek Salad would be primarily tomatoes with maybe a little bit of greens tossed in. Most importantly, they agreed, a good Greek Salad must have quality Feta cheese and olives.

Spanakopita, Greek rice, stewed green beans and Chicken Souvlaki

Spanakopita, Greek rice, stewed green beans and Chicken Souvlaki

The preparation of Spanakopita, a Greek-style spinach pie, offered the class valuable insights on handling the paper-thin filo pastry. Instructors informed the class that the pastry may often be labeled “Strudel Pastry” at the grocery store and is most commonly found in the frozen section. When working with filo, a lightly damp towel should be kept over the unused sheets to keep them from drying out. Each layer of filo is ideally buttered as you are putting the layer in, not ahead of time.

Of all the culinary treats prepared, Kataifi was a crowd favorite. The classroom grew quiet, students were riveted as the instructor demonstrated how to press Kataifi pastry into the pan and layer it with a sweet nut mixture. The silence in the room was quickly broken, though, when samples of Kataifi arrived at the tables. “Oohs” and “ahhs” permeated the room with each flavorful bite of this delectable dessert.

Complementing the feast was a bottle of Moschofilero Erasmios (Kotrotsos Winery,) a dry robust white wine made from the Moschofilero grapes primarily grown in the Peloponnese region of Greece. Moschofilero Erasmios is commonly paired with fish or fruits and compliments Greek desserts quite well. Take good note of this tip: Judging from the clean plates and empty bottles at each table, the Moschofilero Erasmios wine was an equal crowd-pleaser to the Greek cuisine!

Lines outside the food tents, where Norfolk Greek Festival foods are in high demand.

Lines outside the food tents, where Norfolk Greek Festival foods are in high demand.

“We were a little surprised by how well our classes have been received by the community,” said Emmons. “I think we need more access in Norfolk for farm to table initiatives and bringing cooking back into the kitchen.”

As long as the community shows interest, Emmons said the Norfolk Hellenic Women’s Club will continue to share their traditions, tricks and love of Greek cuisine at the festival each year. As evidenced by the full classroom and crazy-long lines at the outdoor food tents, there’s no shortage of interest in Greek foods. We should expect to see “Cooking with the Greeks” return next year.

 

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The Norfolk Greek Festival, is Tidewater’s oldest and largest ethnic festival. Hosted annually in May, it features traditional Greek cuisine, arts, crafts, entertainment and tours of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Find more information at http://norfolkgreekfestival.com

The Norfolk Hellenic Women’s Club is one of the oldest organizations in the area, recently celebrating its 100th anniversary.
*”Come Cook With Us: A Thesaurus of Greek Cooking” is available for purchase regionally through the Norfolk Hellenic Women’s Club.

 

Destination Norfolk Ghent District: Virginia’s Hidden Cultural Gem

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Walkway along “The Haugue,” Ghent District

Nestled between the midtown and downtown tunnels, hugging the Elizabeth River, the Ghent District in Norfolk offers visitors hope. Hope that history can triumph over the rage of the industrial machine. Hope that charming, picturesque neighborhoods are not merely trivial anecdotes in Norman Rockwell magazines, but still are pulsating epicenters for residents and tourists alike.  There is a current racing just below the surface – this is an area barely containing its brilliance and buoyancy.

Every step along the streets of the Ghent District delivers a constant stream of eye-candy from Colonial and Queen Anne architecture to river front views or lush sprawling landscapes and parks. Shopping and dining locations cluster along Colley Avenue and 21st Street. Within the span of a mile you can visit the Chrysler Museum of Art  to view a breath-taking collection, peruse an eclectic collection of vintage and specialty shops, and then grab a glass of vino and relax on the patio of the Mermaid Winery on West 22nd Street.

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“Ringo” Willy from Doumar’s

After the ambiance of the area snags you, the food will keep you rooted with an endless array of cuisine options from barbecue and waffle cones at the historic Doumar’s on Monticello Avenue to upscale bistros like the Green Onion on Colley Avenue where lobster rolls and pan-seared duck breast steal the limelight.

When you’ve had your fill, a visit to Nauticus for an interactive experience with Navy history and a tour of the Battleship Wisconsin will take you back in time and tickle your aquatic senses. If the sea doesn’t speak to you, the Harrison Opera House on Virginia Beach Blvd may carry the right tune.

Cultural activities add to the merriment including the popular Stockley Gardens Spring Arts Festival hosted in Stockley Gardens Park along Olney Road and the Annual Virginia Beer Festival which takes place on the waterfront just outside the Ghent District in downtown Norfolk.  The Naro Theater on Colley Avenue provides a steady community gathering place year round where visitors can experience new Indie films and live music.

If you have a day to spend or a week to relax, there’s absolutely no shortage of local culture and cuisine to crave in Norfolk’s Ghent District.  The real challenge is tearing yourself away when it’s time to leave and scrambling to carve out time to visit again.

Yes Virginia, there is a magical vacation spot.  One that will supply you with rich experiences and a wistful hope of return!

Find more information on local Norfolk attractions and events at http://www.visitnorfolktoday.com/