Eat and Play in Myrtle Beach

The Myrtle Beach area, popularly known as the Grand Strand, stretches from Little River to Pawleys Island, comprising 12 distinct cities along the South Carolina coast with 60 miles of sandy beaches.

Last week I attended an event to promote Myrtle Beach. On the rooftop of Toronto’s Thompson Hotel I ate some shrimp and grits (mmm… grits), sipped on a drink called “Myrtle Peach” with vodka, peach schnapps and Prosecco, spoke with some Myrtle Beach representatives and enjoyed the view (my second time at the Thompson and both times I’ve walked away thinking, “Yep, the rooftop really is ‘all that’ ”). Here are a few items I thought you’d be interested in:

60 Miles in 60 Days campaign:

Until the end of October, you can win a trip to Myrtle Beach via Twitter and Pinterest.

The integrated marketing campaign outlines 60 ways beachgoers can experience the 60 miles of the Grand Strand during the 60 days of September and October. By visiting Myrtle Beach’s 60 Best Kept Secrets website, travelers can explore the area’s 60 secrets, create a personalized vacation itinerary using these attractions, and review special 60-themed deals on attractions and accommodations, like 60-percent off or a $60 gift card with purchase.

The campaign includes a “pin-to-win” contest on Pinterest.

Create a pin board titled “Myrtle Beach Dream Vacation,” pin at least eight attractions from the 60 secrets to your board and add the hashtag #MYRDreamVacation to each. By submitting your  completed board’s URL to Visit Myrtle Beach via Pinterest, you will be automatically entered to win a 3-night, 4-day trip, complete with accommodations, a restaurant gift card and admission to choice attractions in Myrtle Beach, with one Grand Prize winner receiving admission to at least eight of their pinned secrets.

A winner will be chosen each Friday of the 60 Days campaign, with the Grand Prize winner selected at the close of the campaign.

There are also trip giveaways via its blog and Twitter handle, and by revealing a secret each day via Facebook and encouraging fans to submit their own secret each Friday during the destination’s now infamous “Photo Friday” contest.

Myrtle Beach Cuisine

Like seafood? In the northern end of Myrtle Beach, Calabash-style seafood is popular. This refers to seafood that is lightly breaded, dipped in milk & a combination of flour & cornmeal, and then fried. Usually in a calabash-style restaurant you will get huge portions, oftentimes with a combination plate of several types of seafood along with hushpuppies. The style is named for the small fishing town of Calabash which itself was named after gourds that grew in the region. Calabash the town now prides itself as the “seafood capital of the world”.

Carolina Coastal

There’s also a trend to more fresh, more local. Just south of Myrtle Beach in the heart of Low Country, chefs utilize local ingredients such as Carolina rice, stone-ground grits, shrimp, blue crab, grouper and country ham, in traditional recipes handed down from the Gullah community of the southeastern coastal states. The Gullah are African-Americans descended from slaves brought to the southern colonies in the early 18th century, specifically for their ability to cultivate rice. Most of their foods are stewed, grilled or roasted; very little is fried.

Today, “Carolina Coastal” chefs use locally sourced ingredients, sustainable meat, fish and seafood, as well as regionally grown produce. To promote this, the South Carolina Hospitality Alliance has created a “fresh on the menu’’ designation for restaurants. To qualify, a least 25 per cent of the ingredients have to be locally grown. That’s easy in an area known for its fresh local seafood, rice, grits, sweet potatoes, peaches and berries.

To me, this is the best part of traveling: Eating local food, fresh.

Carolina Coastal Cuisine

Carolina Coastal Cuisine. Image courtesy of My Myrtle Beach.

Examples of Carolina Coastal Cuisine Dishes

One of the PR reps sent me this list but I had to look many of them up. The words were foreign to me. On the left, the names of dishes. On the right, my comments and/or what I’ve learned (blank if I didn’t have anything to say). Read up, there will be a test on this later. (Not really.)

Cracker Crusted Scamp Grouper, Carolina Gold risotto timbale, fresh oyster stew, butter poached onions and leeks and parsley froth As far as I can tell, risotto timbale is sort of like arancini, or rice balls, but baked in moulds such as muffin tins instead of fried and not coated
Carolina Shrimp with Country Ham and Sweet Potato Hash and Mustard Verjus Sauce dredged in stone ground grits batter and pan fried
Shrimp and Grits Grits, I’m quite familiar with. They’re one of my favourite cold-weather breakfasts.
Carolina Shrimp with tasso ham, tomato, scallion, and bourbon cream over stone ground Adluh mills parmesan thyme grits Tasso ham is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine and isn’t technically ham at all. It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork made from the shoulder butt.
Pulled pork and baby mustard greens, seasoned and wrapped in sweet dough, steamed, and served with two barbeque sauces A note about South Carolina barbeque sauce: There are at least three basic sauce types: Thin and fiery hot pepper and vinegar concoctions dominate the Pee Dee region, peppery tomato or milder ketchup-based sauces are preferred in the upstate and Savannah River and, the “South Carolina sauce” that I’m familiar with, yellow-mustard-based sauce that is favored in the Midlands.
Cornmeal fried Carolina oysters with Piccalilli relish Piccalilli is a Western interpretation of Indian pickles, a relish of chopped pickled vegetables and spices
Pimento Cheese
Chicken Bog Chicken Bog is a chicken and rice dish from the Pee Dee area of South Carolina. I’ve found recipes that top it with bacon, others that call for sausage. It is called “bog” because it is very moist but not soupy.
Perloo A one pot meal, perloo is a steamed rice dish often with meat, shellfish, or vegetables in a seasoned broth. Perloo is from the Lowcountry of South Carolina and is the sister of Jambalaya with its French and Spanish influences. Its origin is from the middle eastern dish called Pilau or pilaf.
Roasted Oysters
Seafood Muddle It’s a stew.
Frogmore Stew Aka Low-Country boil and Beaufort Stew, another seafood dish.
Reezy Peezy Rice ‘n’ Peas (or “reeze and peez”?), a historic Low Country dish.
Hoppin John Another dish of rice and peas, this one with black-eyed peas, chopped onion and sliced bacon.

Also visit Hyman Vineyards and take a stroll through Myrtle’s Farmer Market in Downtown Myrtle Beach Wednesday, Friday or Saturday.

Chicken Bog

Chicken Bog. Image courtesy of My Myrtle Beach.

Getting to Myrtle Beach

Fly

For those of you in and around Toronto, Porter Airlines offers twice weekly flights to Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR), located 5km/3 miles from the resort area. Or, check with your travel agent or favourite travel website. The flight is a little over 2 hours.

Prefer a road trip?

It’s 16-17 hours from Toronto. Taking the I-79 takes you through Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Carolina. The I-95 takes you through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. A combination of US-15 and I-95 takes you through the same states as I-95 but takes a bit longer (though Google maps says it’s a 20 minute difference, and those maps are approximate based on traffic, speed, rest stops and other factors). I’d welcome a road trip!

I leave you with a recipe for shrimp and grits from Chef Curry Martin of Aspen Grille:

Aspen Grille Shrimp and Grits

Ingredients: for 2-3 servings

  • 1 cup stone Ground Grits
  • 1 cup heavy Cream
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced jalapeno (optional)
  • 2 table spoons shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 12 each 21/25 shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 12 1/8 inch slices of andouille sausage
  • .5 cup of red wine
  • .5 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon shallots
  • 2 tablespoons sliced green onion for garnish
  • Boil Cream and water and stir in grits and jalapeno. Reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Add cheese and butter and remove from heat.

Heat a sauté pan on stove medium high heat, add sausage and brown on both sides. Add shrimp and sauté for until pink. Add red wine, chicken stock and shallots and reduce by half. Season to taste. Place grits in bowl of choice and add sausage and shrimp. Spoon pan gravy over shrimp. Garnish with sliced green onion

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