Katie Lee has "basically the greatest job in the world," she says. If you spend a lot of your summer daydreaming about when and where you'll get to dip your toes in the ocean (and what you'll get to eat right afterwards), you might just agree with her. For a second season, Lee is hosting Beach Bites and taking viewers to more sandy locales to tasting the dishes that locals and visitors adore. This time, however, all her locations are in the U.S., from Hawaii all the way to Montauk.
"I went to a lot of places in our own country that I haven't been before, like the Gulf Shores of Alabama," she explains, "and it was really fun exploring some of our own treasures that we have right here." It also gave her an opportunity to experience some of the different influences on beach food, even if many of the ingredients are the same, from the Cuban influences in south Florida to the food in Hawaii, where East meets West and creates something wholly unique.
While she's been to beaches all over the world now, Lee's love of the ocean is rooted in nostalgia, and trips with her family to the same place every year: Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"I'm from West Virginia and we would save our money all year long to have our vacation every summer," she told Refinery29. The trip included Lee's grandfather, who would roll down the windows about an hour out and get everyone excited by saying, "I smell the ocean!"
This season, one of Lee's favorite parts of filming was getting to go back to Myrtle Beach, and back to the restaurant she would go to with her grandparents every year. Filming, she said, was just like getting to sit with her grandfather again over fried clams.
For Lee, that sense of nostalgia, and of being a kid on vacation, is part of what makes beaches special. In fact, when she's not filming Beach Bites, you might find her on one of her local beaches. Lee lives in the Hamptons (with her adorable puppy), and tries to get to the beach as much as possible. In good weather, she keeps beach chairs and towels in her car, ready to go.
When it comes to beach eats off-camera, Lee keeps it casual: a simple quinoa salad (she avoids mayo-based ones, probably for good reason) and some fruit, like ripe peaches, kept cold in the cooler are her go-to's, as well as a bottle of rosé to share with friends, which she calls "summer Kool-Aid for grown-ups." Lee is also able to take advantage of the beach trucks that sell treats like ice cream cones and burgers, and she also adds that "you can never go wrong with a simple hot dog." (We agree!)
If it's easy to bring a small grill along, she might even grill at the beach. Lee finds that sausages are an easy dinner to pack. There's no need to marinate, or pack salt and peppers since it's already seasoned. If she's sticking closer to home, her grill is also a secret for easy dinners.
"I even bring my cutting board outside and do my prep by the grill," she says. Her go-to is marinated flank steak with whatever vegetables she can find at the farmer's market. "The flank steak is such a large cut of meat... so one big piece feeds a lot people," she says, meaning she can grill up one large pice of meat rather than lots of small, individual cuts. (Bonus: people can also choose if they want rarer or more well-done pieces once you've sliced it.)
Another super-easy dinner that she can whip up in under five minutes with the help of a grill is shrimp tacos. After a bit of prepping grill-side, she can cook up the shrimp in two minutes and the peppers and onions in around four minutes. The tortillas are then heated up on the grill, and, voila, taco night in a flash.
"I make everything on the grill in the summer," she emphasizes. And while grilling at home might not compare to watching the sun set in Hawaii (another activity from this season's Beach Bites), thankfully, it still pairs really well with rosé, too.