Food Fests’ Burst into Spring on Hilton Head Island

The Seafood Fest includes the “Iron Chef” competition where local professional chefs let their creativity flow and keep their cool preparing gourmet level concoctions from the surprise ingredients found in their mystery baskets – all within 1 hour! Photo courtesy of Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest.

What do you get when you have fabulous weather, fresh locally caught seafood and expertly prepared ‘Buffalo-style” chicken wings in every flavor imaginable AND a rollicking good time?

If you’re in Hilton Head Island during March or April then you’ve set yourself up for all that and more! Spring festival season kicks off with two ‘foodietastic’ events that you will not want to miss.

If platters of hot chicken wings washed down with plenty of cold beer in a waterside Lowcountry setting make you happy, then by all accounts Wingfest is your ideal festival. Belly up to a celebration of “all things wing” on Friday, March 22 (5-8pm) and Saturday, March 23 (11 am – 6 pm) at the Shelter Cove Park on Hilton Head Island.

The Friday night “pre-WingFest” party includes local chefs preparing wings of many flavors while local restaurant Street Meet provides a section of non-wing goodies. Live music and the popular Kid’s Zone add to the family atmosphere.

On Saturday, competition kicks into high gear with the main festival where over 6,000 lbs

Don’t fly the coop! Head over to Wingfest and sample a bounty of wings prepared in every flavor and style imaginable! Photo courtesy of Hilton Head Island Recreation Center/Wingfest.

of wings will be served, professional judges will select the top wings of the day and you can add your 2 cents by voting for the People’s Choice Award winner.

This opportunity to raise your cholesterol also benefits a good cause! All event proceeds go to the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association’s Children’s Scholarship Fund, where “so no child is denied recreation opportunities.”

Here are all the Details

Pre WingFest Party:

  • Friday, March 22, 2013, 5-8 pm
  • Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Admission: $5 per person (children 10 & under FREE)
  • Food and refreshments available for purchase with tickets.


  • Saturday, March 23, 2013, 11 am – 6 pm
  • Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Admission: $5 per person (children 10 & under FREE)
  • Food and refreshments available for purchase with tickets.

Do you love seafood? If that answer is yes, then you MUST attend the 6th annual Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest on Friday, April 5th and Saturday, April 6th! Some of the most talented and innovative chefs on the Island tie on their aprons tight and gather up their best seafood recipes for this charitable food festival.

Take a break from all that seafood to cheer on your favorite crustacean in the popular crab races at the Seafood Fest. Photo courtesy of the Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest.

Seriously, it is a not-to-be missed spectacle of seafood delicacies focused on our locally caught seafood like shrimp, fish and blue crab. And to up the ante for the chefs, there’s the popular “Iron Chef Competition” pitting competing local chefs to create an appetizer and an entrée using “mystery baskets” containing various ingredients including two (2) core local seafood 
ingredients, in only 1 hour!

Other activities include a silent auction, Kid Zone play area and the famous (infamous?) crab races. The chefs are not the only ones who can get on some friendly competition – pony up for a hermit crab and cheer your crustaceans on to victory!

Then gather your rose buds and accolades and get back to the seafood. This year’s participating restaurants include Alexander’s, American Culinary Federation, Black Marlin, Hudson’s on the Docks, L’Woods, The Chart House, Bluffton Oyster Co., Hana Sushi, Red Fish, The Crazy Crab, Skull Creek Boathouse, Steamers Seafood, Gillan’s Fresh Seafood & Oyster Bar and more! Plus musical entertainment on Friday includes Cranford & Sons—Hilton Head Island’s Rockabilly-Folk Explosion/Low Country Stomp band and on Saturday, long-time Island favorites The Headliners will keep a fresh-n-funky Motown groove going all ‘Fest long.

The Better Show, a daily, national television show, will also be filming a segment called “License to Spill” during the Seafood Fest. The segment will feature Hilton Head Island, the Seafood Fest, and some of the local food and chefs participating in the event. Cool beans!

Check out Chef Russell Keane’s excellent oyster recipe below and visit him at his restaurant NEO, where locally grown produce and products take center stage.

It is important to note that the Seafood Fest host is the David M. Carmines Memorial Foundation that raises monies to support several beneficiaries including the Island Recreation Association Scholarship Endowment Fund, The American Cancer Society, and the MD Anderson Cancer Clinic.

David M. Carmines was a native of Hilton Head Island, a lover of all things outdoor and “Hilton Head Island”. David is no longer with us, but his positive spirit and love of life is honored by the Foundation through its volunteers, supporters and charitable recipients.

Here are all the Details

Hilton Head Island Seafood Fest:       

  • Friday, April 5, 5- 8 pm
  • Saturday, April 6, 11 am – 5 pm
  • Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Admission is $5 per person (Kids 12 & under FREE)
  • Food and refreshments available for purchase with tickets

Fresh Oysters with Champagne Mignonette By Chef Russell Keane; NEO – Farm to Table Gastropub.

Local, succulent Lowcountry oysters are at their peak now! Photo courtesy of NEO – Farm to Table Gastropub.

Chef Russell Keane of NEO – Farm to Table Gastropub will be participating in this year’s Seafood Fest and shares one of his favorite recipes (and the technique) for enjoying one of my favorite Lowcountry delicacies. Chef Keane was also recently featured in Bon Appetite Magazine supporting Hilton Head Island’s growing locavore movement.

From Chef Keane: Fresh oysters, particularly the uniquely flavorful variety available in the Lowcountry, are a true delicacy. At NEO, we like to feature fresh local oysters, from the May River or Mackay Creek, showcased with a simple mignonette – condiment made with shallots, cracked pepper and vinegar. If you cannot get Lowcountry oysters, we recommend cold-water varieties, which are generally firmer and offer more robust flavor!

What You’ll Need

  • Sauce Pan
  • Large Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Spoon
  • Oyster Knife
  • Demitasse Spoons or Droppers
  • Ramekins
  • Platter


  • Fresh oysters*
  • ¼ c shallots, diced
  • 1-½ c Champagne or sparkling wine (cava or rosé)
  • ½ c red wine vinegar
  • ½ c apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp cracked pepper corns, or freshly cracked pepper


1) Prior to opening your oysters, clean their exteriors well – you can scrub them with a stiff brush under cold running water – and then store the oysters on a platter (round cup side down) in the refrigerator. You can also cover them with a damp towel or cloth.

2) Combine Champagne, or sparkling wine, and shallots in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until mixture (mignonette) is reduced by half.

3) Add pepper – when you are cooking something that will take longer than 15 minutes, we recommend adding pepper later to avoid bitterness.

4) Add both vinegars and simmer for additional 10 minutes. Set aside and chill.

5) As you open your oysters, with your oyster knife and a protective glove or towel, take care to avoid spilling the flavorful natural juices (“liqueur”) inside. Properly cleaning the oysters’ exteriors will help prevent debris from getting inside and eliminate the need for rinsing away their briny goodness.

6) Carefully scrape your knife beneath the oyster to detach it from the shell, but leave it in the shell with the juices.

7) Serve the oysters with fresh, course ground horseradish and lemons, and serve the mignonette in small ramekins and demitasse spoons, or pipettes (droppers). Enjoy!

*Chef’s Note: When buying fresh, unshucked oysters, look for those that have closed shells and are free of fishy or musty smells. Refrigerate the oysters – do not soak them in water, or store them in sealed containers or plastic bags (they’ll suffocate) – and eat them as soon as possible (within a day or two).