A Growing Market

Honeygrow, with its fresh and local flavor, opened on Concord Pike last month. Another location is scheduled for Newark by year’s end.

We all need to eat to survive.

But we also eat for other reasons. For instance, pleasure: we hunger for tasty, savory food. And health: for many, that means fresh, unprocessed ingredients; for some, it means organic or non-GMO foods; for others, it also means vegan. How about eating to support the local economy? That can mean purchasing from local farmers or patronizing non-corporate restaurants owned by neighbors. When we eat out, we usually hope to have a good experience, which could mean fast service, a good atmosphere, or both.

Attempting to meet all of these requirements is a tall order for a restaurant, maybe an impossible one.

But Honeygrow, a young, Philadelphia-based “anti-chain” restaurant, aims to do just that. And now it’s bringing the concept to Delaware. In October, Honeygrow opened its fifth storefront on Concord Pike’s Market Square Shopping Center next to Trader Joe’s.

The Honeygrow concept defies existing categorization, says CEO and founder Justin Rosenberg.

“We are not fine dining or fast food,” Rosenberg says. “We want to serve the quality of fine dining, as quickly as fast food”—and to do it with as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible. Everything is house made with no additives, from the signature egg white noodles to the sauces, dressings and pumpernickel croutons. And if that weren’t enough of a challenge, the menu includes vegan and gluten-free options as well.

The restaurant aims to "serve the quality of fine dining, as quickly as fast food.”
The restaurant aims to “serve the quality of fine dining, as quickly as fast food.”

To deliver on that long grocery list of priorities, the ultra-fresh menu has been honed to the simple and straightforward. It includes six stir-fry and six salad options, a “build your own” option for each, a few smoothies, and a “honeybar” of fruits, nuts, and healthy sweet toppings for dessert.

But don’t mistake simple for plain, Rosenberg says. He and his team have spent a lot of time in the kitchen perfecting recipes. And the team now includes Culinary Director David Katz (of Philadelphia’s much-awarded Mémé restaurant), who came on board to deepen the sophistication of the menu and ensure consistency at all locations.

“David’s talent for making incredible dishes while focusing on simplicity in execution is uncanny. That is critical for us, as we’re not just tossing things into a bowl, cafeteria style,” says Rosenberg. “There’s precision involved, from making our stir-frys to producing our sauces and dressings. I’m excited to be working alongside someone who has such a passion for product, creativity and taste.”

How’s this for interesting food to intrigue a curious palate: the stir fry offerings include a sour cherry barbeque sauce with pork, a lemon miso tahini sauce with free range chicken, a coconut red curry sauce with roasted organic tofu, a smoked oyster sauce with pork, a spicy garlic sauce with pineapples and roasted broccoli, and more. The salad menu includes ingredients like crushed candied cashews, citrus basil caesar dressing, roasted garlic balsamic vinaigrette, baked tempura chicken, honey ginger scallion vinaigrette, white truffle corn succotash and more.

FYI: the ultra fresh menu is affordable, at about $6 to $10 per plate. The honeybar is under $6.

There will be eight Honeygrow restaurants up and running by the end of 2015 (including another northern Delaware location on Main Street, Newark), and more coming in 2016, according to chief brand officer and University of Delaware grad Jen Denis.

Despite that fact, the entire leadership team recoils at calling Honeygrow a chain. Combined with a well-polished and carefully casual set of messages (“Honest eating + growing local,” “we think different about culture, cooking and people,” and “people coming together over wholesome foods since 2012”), one might begin to wonder how much of the company messaging is slick PR and how much is authentic.

I believe it’s real, and here’s the primary reason: Honeygrow’s Concord Pike kitchen has no freezer, none at all. That is irrefutable evidence of full-time, no-holds-barred commitment to fresh ingredients.

Try it and decide for yourself: the Concord Pike location is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

Here’s another reason: these passionate-about-quality entrepreneurs are willing to say they are doing fresh, local and non-GMO “as much as possible.”

For some, that sounds like a cop-out. But to this reporter and fresh food enthusiast, it’s truth in advertising. After all, Rosenberg, Katz and Denis are rolling out a new business concept under market conditions that don’t support a food purist standard, at least not on this scale.

Spicy garlic stir fry with chicken is a popular Honeygrow dish.
Spicy garlic stir fry with chicken is a popular Honeygrow dish.

Americans fully expect a stable menu, but in the mid-Atlantic in February, you simply can’t get many fresh fruits and vegetable staples at any price—even when you work with producers that use greenhouses and aquaponics, which Honeygrow does. Guests also expect to see certain tried and true ingredients on the menu, but you can’t get local bananas or avocados, not ever. Local honey is harvested only a few times a year, and when it runs out, you can’t close the dessert bar. And who can predict the next poultry blight?

For obvious reasons, the Honeygrow leadership is hesitant to pin itself to promising a certain ratio of local food (when pressed, they estimated 70 percent overall—more in season, less in winter). And to be clear: when Katz and Rosenberg talk about local food, they don’t mean the 10-mile hyper-local model, they mean that 100-mile version that gives them access to high quality authentic products, like a New York City-based Japanese outlet they use for rice vinegar, miso, soy and other products.

“Their buying power is great, and they can get us really nice stuff,” Rosenberg says. “We aren’t an Asian restaurant, but it’s important because we draw from that tradition as a stir fry noodle based concept.”

The team is proud of its local food sourcing. There’s a chalkboard in every location broadcasting where ingredients were produced. The list includes numerous farms in New Jersey and Green Meadow Farms nearby Gap, Pa.

Still, to Rosenberg, a restaurant guy for 23 years, local does not always mean better—especially when it comes to animal products. Honeygrow buys beef and pork from Creekstone Farms in Kansas, he says, because it has a strong history of producing all natural and antibiotic-free meats. The chicken is from North Carolina for the same reason.

That kind of attention to detail is what the Honeygrow leadership team is about, Denis says. And they aim to instill it in all of their employees, from the store general mangers to the cooks to the front line workers, with a robust three-month training program that includes an emphasis on company values and even specific instructions for making noodles.

“We don’t see ourselves as a chain. We are not massive. We take a lot of time and care,” Rosenberg says. “Just a few years ago we were developing a concept that has turned into a true Philly startup story. My office was my bedroom, and the kids were coloring on the back of invoices. Now we’re opening in another state. We are super proud of that.”

Crafts are King

Wilmington primed for fifth annual celebration

Thirteen of New Castle County’s top craft beer destinations will be tapping the “good stuff” during the fifth annual Wilmington Beer Week, Nov. 7-14.

The weeklong celebration will showcase a WBW-record 61 craft breweries while featuring dinners, tap takeovers, meet the brewers and more. Delaware breweries will be prominent in that lineup, so look for the latest creations from 16 Mile, 2SP, Dogfish Head, Evolution, Fordham, Mispillion, Third Wave and Twin Lakes. Top regional breweries represented include Flying Fish, Heavy Seas, Lancaster, Stoudts, Troegs, Victory and Yards.

Participating venues are BBC Tavern and Grill, Buckley’s Tavern, Chelsea Tavern, Columbus Inn, Dead Presidents Pub, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House, Piccolina Toscana, Pizza By Elizabeths, Trolley Tap House, Two Stones Pub, World Cafe Live at The Queen and Washington Street Ale House.

In addition to featuring events specific to their restaurant, the venues will offer a Beer Week Flight Special, entitling guests to sample three different craft beers for a set price.
Costs are determined by the venue and reservations are required for some special events.

Events run the gamut. Pizza By Elizabeths will host a special WBW Kick-Off Beer Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 5, featuring its own Frozen Toes Brewing as well Fordham-Old Dominion Brewery. Chelsea Tavern is featuring Dogfish Head’s Ancient Beer Series on Nov. 10 with a special book signing by beer historian John Medkeff, Jr. And Iron Hill is spicing things up with a Hops and Hot Wings on Friday, Nov. 13.

“We’re pairing four awesome IPAs from our head brewer Justin Sproul’s favorite breweries and four styles of hot wings from Chef Dave Foster,” says Brian Finn, senior head brewer at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant.

Kid Shelleen’s Charcoal House will be doing a Brooklyn Tap Attack featuring seven of the famous New York brewery’s creations on tap. World Cafe Live is offering flight specials highlighting Raven Brewery’s The Cask, 2SP’s Belgian Amber, Dogfish’s Midas Touch and Mispillion’s Not Today Satin IPA. And look for 2SP brewer Bob Barrar’s award-winning Russian Stout to be featured at Two Stones Pub.

“Unfortunately we can all get caught up in the day-to-day ways of life,” says Dead Presidents’ owner Brian Raughley. “It’s nice to have a week just for trying some rare or new beers you might not have the chance or inclination to otherwise.”

We agree.

For a complete list of brews, special events and more, visit wilmingtonbeerweek.com.

Beer: A Weapon Against the Cold?

These brews can warm you inside and out as winter descends on us

Brace yourselves, folks: early winter forecasts for the Northeast are not encouraging (depending on your perspective). The vaunted Farmer’s Almanac says it “will be colder and snowier than normal,” while websites like FirstHandWeather.com predict a “wintry battle zone.”

The best way to prepare for this battle, as we know from years past, is to stockpile the weapons to fend off Old Man Winter and his arsenal of wind, snow and sub-freezing temperatures.

Certainly shovels, snow blowers, salt, space heaters and generators come to mind. But what about strong ales, bourbon porters, Belgian quads? What about heavily spiced dark beers that warm from the inside out?

Some local breweries are battening down the hatches and raising the AVB on some seriously stout winter beers. Here’s a round-up of these offerings, which are lovely, dark and deep, and will be flowing from taps and bottles in the very near (and cold) future.

Argilla Brewing Company, Newark

The little nano-brewery continues to crank out some big beers, including its “Baron,” an English strong ale, and a forthcoming Belgian quad that weighs in at 10 percent, due in January. Owner/brewer Steve Powell says Argilla brews between four and five times per week, and is working on installing a three-barrel system.

“Getting three barrels in here would double our current brew capacity from 1.5 barrels,” says Powell. “That would allow us to brew a greater amount and keep certain beers on tap longer. Right now we have between five and eight house beers on tap, but they rotate pretty frequently because of our smaller system.”

Powell is currently working on a collaboration beer (all the rage with breweries right now) between Argilla and Mispillion River, in Milford. Called “Old Earth,” this spiced strong ale will include components like ginger, vanilla beans, cinnamon and molasses, and is scheduled to be on tap at the Kirkwood Highway brewpub in December.

Mispillion River Brewing, Milford

12ozILStemplate
The new can artwork for Mispillion River Brewing’s re-release of Black Tie IPA. (Photo courtesy of Misspillion River Brewing)

The downstate brewery, which will celebrate its two-year anniversary on Nov. 15, will once again be releasing its popular “Kringle Beer,” a spiced brown ale, just in time for the holidays. Filled with cinnamon and clover, this 6 percent ABV brew is intended for those who like to drink more than a few per session.

Mispillion will also re-release its “Black Tie Black IPA,” which features lots of roasted coffee and black licorice notes, and is rounded out with El Dorado hops for a finish full of pine notes. Six-pack cans should reach northern Delaware spots like Kreston’s and Premier Wine & Spirits by mid-late November, and will go for between $9.99 and $10.99 per six-pack.

Stewart’s Brewing Company, Bear

Head brewer Ric Hoffman is rather blunt when it comes to popular winter beers: “I’m a traditionalist. I kind of despise the heavily spiced winter beers, and I steer away from putting that god-awful cinnamon and allspice in the brew kettle.”

Well, then … what does Hoffman, a two-decade veteran of brewing and Great American Beer Festival medal-winner, prefer? Simplicity, mostly, in the form of a rye beer, called “Winterfest” that shows off a “nice, medium brown color” at 6 percent ABV.

“We put molasses in the kettle for depth and richness, but I also use the tips of Scottish heather flowers, which bring notes of lavender to the beer,” says Hoffman. “That and hops, of course, along with some vanilla beans; the result is beer’s answer to mulled wine. We’ll have it on tap for the Winter Solstice.”

Hoffman also plans on another showing of Stewart’s “Dark Helmet,” an imperial schwarz bier (strong black lager) by Thanksgiving. The malty flavor but clean finish goes well with big holiday meals, according to Hoffman. He is also planning an imperial stout, called “Destroyer,” which was placed in bourbon barrels last December, and will be aged and ready to go this January, weighing in at 10.5 percent ABV.

Blue Earl Brewing Co., Smyrna

The new kid on the block, Blue Earl opened in May of this year, and is owned and operated by Ron Price, a mechanical engineer by trade and enthusiastic home brewer who first warmed up his kettle in 1992.

Price says that some of his favorite beers to brew are the wintery big boys that carry a high ABV or require oak bourbon barrel aging. Blue Earl currently works off a 15-barrel system and features 12 beers on tap in its tasting room off Rt. 300 in Smyrna.

Blue Earl’s winter lineup will include an American strong ale infused with American bourbon called “Born Under a Bad Sign,” at a whopping 12 percent ABV, along with an imperial porter called “Big Joe,” which is also bourbon barrel aged.

“We also just brewed a Russian imperial stout that will be the darkest and boldest beer we’ve brewed since we opened this past spring,” says Price. “We’ll be distributing that in kegs across Delaware through NKS Distributing in December.”

2SP Brewing Company, Aston, Pa.

2SP Brewing Company’s winter offerings: The Russian, Citrus Rhine’d and Barolo Old Ale. (Photo courtesy of 2SP Brewing Co.)
2SP Brewing Company’s winter offerings: The Russian, Citrus Rhine’d and Barolo Old Ale. (Photo courtesy of 2SP Brewing Co.)

True, 2SP is technically a Pennsylvania brewery, but with such strong roots in Delaware under the Two Stones Pub umbrella, it had to be included in our round-up. Besides, it has got a lot coming down the pike as it continues its late-summer launch of brews, most of which will be on tap at the Newark and North Wilmington restaurants.

Brewer Bob Barrar, formerly of Iron Hill Brewery, is well known for his Russian imperial stout recipe, which just won a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival for his former employer, Iron Hill (Lancaster store).

Now he brings his talents to 2SP, where he plans to release his “Russian” on Mischief Night (Oct. 30). Following this winter season, 2SP will release its “triple threat” to limited accounts in Delaware.

Those three beers include a bourbon barrel aged Russian imperial stout, a bourbon barrel aged Belgian tripel, and a bourbon barrel aged S.I.P. (or Stigz’s imperial porter, named for founder and president Mike Stiglitz).

In the coming months, 2SP also will be releasing what it calls the “Citrus Rhine’d,” a collaboration between its brewers and Jeff O’Neil, originator of the highly popular “Flower Power,” from Ithaca Beer Co. This imperial pale ale, at 7.5 percent, will feature 88 pounds of Mandarina Bavaria hops, giving it a distinct tangerine and citrus aftertaste.

Iron Hill Brewery, Newark and Wilmington

Beginning in early December, both Iron Hill locations will feature the brewery’s award-winning Russian imperial stout and the “Winter Warmer,” an English brown ale infused with cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and served in a sugar-and-cinnamon-rimmed glass.

But big beer lovers should mark their calendars for Dec. 19, when Iron Hill Wilmington will host its eighth annual Dark Side Party, starting at noon. Iron Hill’s “Dark Side” black lager, at 9 percent ABV, is the star of the show, and pays homage to brewer Brian Finn’s love of Pink Floyd and Star Wars.

“Last year we had Darth Vader and Princes Leia walking around during the event,” says Finn. “It’s a really fun event that’s become more popular each year. At first, we thought it might scare people off, because all we have on tap are black beers. But as people have come around to darker beers, it’s become big.”

The Dark Side Party also falls on the same weekend that Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released in theaters. Finn says that they will be raffling off tickets to see the film at Penn Cinema on the Riverfront, all while pouring big, black beers like 2SP’s Russian imperial stout, Firestone Walker’s “Wookie Jack,” and Iron Hill’s new black IPA called “Galaxy Far, Far Away IPA,” which features galaxy hops. The popular dual-purpose hop (for aroma and flavor) has increased in popularity recently, and offers notes of citrus and even passion fruit.

Stone Balloon Chef ‘Rides the Bus to Flavortown’

Robbie Jester can only reveal that he did really well on Guy’s Grocery Games, which airs on Food Network Nov. 15

Robbie Jester has been steadfastly keeping a secret since last February. To find out what it is, tune in to the Food Network show Guy’s Grocery Games at 8 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15.

Jester, executive chef at Stone Balloon Ale House, was one of four contestants on the show that was filmed nine months ago in Santa Rosa, Calif., in a 24,000-square-foot warehouse that serves as the show’s “supermarket.”

On each episode, host chef/restaurateur Guy Fieri—who calls the show Triple G—sends the four contestants running through the aisles of the market to find items to cook dishes. Known for such catch phrases as “I’m driving the bus to Flavortown,” Fieri challenges them with such tasks as finding substitutions for “out-of-stock” ingredients, cooking with five items or fewer, or making a dish on a $10 budget. A panel of three judges evaluates the competitors’ dishes.

Chef Robbie Jester, as seen on Food Network's Guy's Grocery Games, Season 6.
Chef Robbie Jester, as seen on Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Games, Season 6.

Jester, 30, can only say that he “did really well” on the show and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience. He adds that filming the episode was emotional because he spoke about his dad, Bob, who has stage four lung cancer and is in hospice care.
Jester grew up in a restaurant family, and his personal history as much as his cooking ability helped land him on the show. His father was in the first graduating class of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Robbie began working with his father at age 12 and graduated from the CIA in 2006.

Bob Jester once owned the Kitty Knight House in Georgetown, Md., a sports bar in Newark and the Harbor House Restaurant in Chestertown, Md.

Robbie left Piccolina Toscana in 2013 to become general manager of the former 16 Mile Taphouse on Main Street, which became the Stone Balloon Ale House last year. Jester says it’s been a great experience working with new owners and general manager Philip DiFebo.

The Stone Balloon will host a dinner on the Thursday after the Guy’s Grocery Games episode airs—Nov. 19, at 6:30 p.m. Cost is $55 per person (gratuity not included) and reservations can be made by calling the restaurant at 266-8111. Beers from Oskar Blues Brewery will be paired with each course.

Jester says the theme of the dinner will be “things to be thankful for” and will include some dishes from the show plus several of his family’s dishes, including his grandmother’s German chocolate cake, his father’s crab imperial, and the sweet and sour meatballs he and his aunt made when he was a youngster. “It’s a fun menu that’s dear to my heart,” he says.

In the meantime, Jester says, two more TV projects have been offered to him. Again, he must remain tight-lipped, but he can reveal that they are “food-related.”

O&A has a pair of tickets to give to a reader for that Nov. 19 dinner. Feeling lucky? Go to OutAndAboutNow.com to put your name in for the random drawing.

The Q Factor

Led by a newcomer in Little Italy, BBQ is the latest culinary craze in New Castle County

From Facebook posts to newspaper articles to food blogs, the big buzz around Wilmington is all about barbecue. Credit the August debut of Locale BBQ Post in the old Sugarfoot Fine Foods & Gourmet Catering location on the edge of Little Italy. News of the soft opening, which went viral among local Facebook users, led to lines out the door and sold-out signs by early or mid-afternoon.

Locale BBQ isn’t the only eatery heating up the dining scene. Down in Elsmere, Philippine Smoked BBQ & Grill opened in June. The Road Hog food truck this summer pulled up at the rest stop on 95 near Newark. And if all goes as planned, 3 Doors Brewing, which will feature barbecue, will open in late winter or early spring next year.

What’s the appeal of BBQ? “It’s a great food,” says Chef Dan Sheridan, who owns Locale BBQ with Mike Gallucio and Justin Mason. “You can feed a lot of people and a lot of your friends, and it’s not fussy. I’ve always been a fan. I don’t know too many people who don’t like barbecue.”

Dan Sheridan owner of Locale BBQ Post in Wilmington, checks on brisket that is being smoked, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)
Dan Sheridan owner of Locale BBQ Post in Wilmington, checks on brisket that is being smoked, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

A Tasty Tradition

Real barbecue takes time. It’s not about burgers on the grill. It’s about cooking meat slowly over indirect heat, which is why Locale BBQ can’t just pop more meat in the smoker when supplies run out.

The approach has been around for hundreds of years. It’s thought that after landing in the Caribbean in the 15th century, the Spanish coined the word barbaoa to refer to the natives’ slow-cooking method. The technique spread to the American South, where pigs were so plentiful that they became a barbecue mainstay. In Texas, not surprisingly, it’s all about the brisket.

Because barbecue allows hosts to easily serve a large crowd with inexpensive cuts of meat, it became the dish of choice for large picnics and gatherings. Anyone who’s read or watched Gone with the Wind recalls Scarlett O’Hara charming her beaux at the Twelve Oaks barbecue, where she first met Rhett Butler.

Behind the Q Curve

Despite its longevity and popularity, barbecue as a culinary trend has been slow to catch fire in Wilmington. Sure, there are some solid mainstays, most notably Rick Betz of Fat Rick’s BBQ, who’s maintained that “nobody beats my meat” since 1989 in a bricks-and-mortar restaurant early on and, more recently, as a caterer.

New Castle County contenders that fly under the radar include Big D’s BBQ, David Deal’s counter in The Well Coffeehouse and Marketplace in Hockessin, and Russell’s Quality Food on Centreville Road, which has built a cult-like following for its barbecue, cooked onsite and served out of an unassuming shed-like building near Steve’s Liquors.

Farther south, Where Pigs Fly in Dover has been dishing up hickory-smoked pulled pig since 1993, and Bethany Blues’ two beach locations—in Lewes and Bethany—are smoking strong.

When Eppy’s Barb-B-Que on Philadelphia Pike opened in 2012, North Wilmington diners hoped that the BBQ restaurant might become more of a trend than a “hidden gem.” Unfortunately, Eppy’s quickly closed. (That Holly Oak location has witnessed a string of failed eateries.)

In Philadelphia, however, barbecue is plentiful and popular. Consider Percy Street Barbecue, opened in 2009 by celebrity Chef Michael Solomonov, Phoebe’s BBQ, which opened in 1994, Smokin’ Betty’s, Fette Sau, and Pig Daddy’s BBQ—to name just a few.

Locale BBQ Post in Wilmington, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)
Locale BBQ Post in Wilmington, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

As the Spit Turns

Locale BBQ’s popularity could indicate that barbecue in Wilmington is developing the same hip factor that it has in Philly. Recently, the mostly takeout shop offered garlic-peach sauce made with black garlic from Obis One in Pennsville, N.J., a destination for cutting-edge chefs seeking local, artisanal products.

Sheridan’s prior business, Wilmington Pickling Company, provides the pickles. In fact, it was Sheridan’s search for a kitchen where he could take the side business full time that helped spark the idea for a BBQ joint. “I needed to do something else besides just pickles, and I wanted to keep cooking,” says Sheridan, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Australia who’s worked at Bistro on the Brandywine, Cantwell’s Tavern, and La Fia. “Barbecue just kind of goes hand-in-hand with pickles.”

Locale BBQ also benefits from the talents of fellow Chef Christopher Baittinger, who’s worked at Ulysses American Gastropub, Chelsea Tavern, University & Whist Club, and, most recently, Ernest & Scott. Baittinger, who’s unabashedly passionate about all things pork, makes bacon to sell at Locale BBQ. (Culinary trend spotters could say that barbecue’s shining star is partially linked to the public’s continued appetite for pork, which was a common ingredient at the recent Farmer & the Chef benefit.)

Locale BBQ sticks to sweet tea for its signature libation. Barbecue, however, also goes well with craft brews and bourbon. The latter is a combination the new 3 Doors Brewery, located three doors away (thus the name) from sister restaurant Chelsea Tavern on Market Street, will promote. “I love barbecue; I love beer,” says Joe Van Horn, operating partner of both restaurants, as well as nearby Ernest & Scott Taproom. “This is the restaurant I’ve always wanted to do. This is going to be a little more of my baby.”

Although the full-service 3 Doors Brewery, which will brew Belgian-style ales in its seven-barrel system, will have a 500-pound smoker onsite, the restaurant won’t limit itself to barbecue. Other items will include burgers, soups and salads.

Ribs at Locale BBQ Post in Wilmington, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)
Ribs at Locale BBQ Post in Wilmington, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

Deciding Differences

Even barbecue-centric restaurants, however, often go beyond the expected pork, chicken and brisket. Locale BBQ, for instance, has bratwurst. Russell’s offers jerk chicken, hot dogs, yams and fried fish. Fat Rick’s is also home to Miz Walt’s chicken, which was the star at the restaurant Rick and wife Tina opened in 1990 in what is now Eclipse Bistro.

Philippine Smoked BBQ & Grill takes the BBQ menu to a unique level in town. Here you’ll find the expected favorites: beef brisket, whole or half chicken, chicken leg quarters, pulled pork, and ribs. The shop offers smoked turkey legs and kielbasa as well. Then there are the dishes inspired by owners Romeo and Lalaine Balan’s Filipino heritage: chicken or pork kabobs, mini eggrolls, puto with cheese (sweet rice cake with cheese) and biko (sweet sticky rice).

Sides, made in house, include a Carolina-style vinegary slaw but also a macaroni salad with smoked chicken breast, raisins, and pineapples. Roast lechon (a Spanish term for roasted suckling pig) is available Saturday or Sunday. It’s particularly popular on the Filipino island resort of Cebu, where Lalaine grew up. The restaurant also does special orders for a whole pig or turkey. “We do everything,” she says. “Just think of it and we will do it for you.”

There are other differences among the area’s barbecue restaurants. Some serve the meat already sauced. Others dry rub the meat, then customers pick from the available sauces, which usually include sweet and spicy selections.

Betz sticks to the tried-and-true. “We are a classic American barbecue,” he says. He uses a dry rub and adds a touch of vinegar to the Carolina-style pork. Traditional sauces are on the side. “We do the classic barbecue that was served 100 years ago and will be the same barbecue that will be served 100 years from now.”

But in Delaware, even classic fare can go in and out of fashion. “Brisket sneaked up on us a few years ago,” Betz says. “I don’t know where that came from; we do a ton of brisket now.”

Betz, who had restaurants in the North Wilmington suburbs and in downtown Wilmington, closed his bricks-and-mortar operation 15 years ago to cater. He now has a location in an office plaza off Foulk Road mostly for its commercial kitchen, but he’s open during lunch for those who want to pop in. “You know how some restaurants do a little bit of catering? We’re a catering company that does a little bit of ‘restauranting.’”

Newcomers don’t threaten him. “Barbecue has been a tiny, tiny niche in the food segment” in Wilmington, he says. “That’s where I survived all by myself all those years.”

He might get a lot more company in the future. Along with the opening of 3 Doors Brewery, Sheridan and his partners would like to open additional locations with the same to-go-friendly model. “We’d like to do two or three down the line,” he says. “I’d like to get down to Main Street, Newark—anything with a lot of people driving by or walking by who need a quick bite to eat.”

All that will have to wait. At week three, Sheridan, who gets in no later than 6 a.m. to feed the smoker, was still busy meeting the current demand. The good news is that despite the hard work and long hours, he hasn’t lost his appetite for his menu. “I still eat it every day,” he says. “I ate a rack of ribs last night. And if we’re still eating it, we hope it’s also good for everybody else.”

Judging by the lines outside his door, “everybody else” agrees.

Partying for a Cause

Inaugural Meals on Wheels event set for Oct. 22

Fall is finally here, and with it, of course, weekends filled with football games. And in the parking lots at Delaware Stadium before a Saturday afternoon Blue Hens game, or at Lincoln Financial Field before an Eagles game, RVs and hatchbacks will be laden with a smorgasbord of smoked goodies, chips and dips, and seasonal brews.

But even veteran tailgaters’ spreads will pale in comparison to the Meals on Wheels Ultimate Tailgate, set for the Wilmington Sheraton South in New Castle, on Thursday, Oct. 22, beginning at 6 p.m. This inaugural event will feature local restaurants and chefs offering their unique spin on classic tailgate dishes.

“The Ultimate Tailgate will continue the legacy of offering guests an opportunity to indulge in a unique culinary excellence, while raising money in support of Delaware’s homebound seniors,” says Regina Dodds, director of Events for Meals on Wheels Delaware. “We are incredibly grateful for the community’s outstanding contributions, and are excited to kick off our new fundraiser in the fall of 2015.”

Some of the local restaurants scheduled to be on hand for the Ultimate Tailgate include 8th & Union Kitchen, Caffé Gelato, Fins Ale House & Raw Bar, Soffritto Italian Grill, Columbus Inn, Pizza by Elizabeths, Buckley’s Tavern, and Chesapeake Inn & Marina.

Executive Chef Tom Hannum, of Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville, also serves as vice chair of the board of directors for Meals on Wheels Delaware. He says the Ultimate Tailgate will give Meals on Wheels a chance to extend its fundraising efforts into the fall, much like the Wine Auction and Celebrity Chef Brunch do in the spring.

“All the events we did used to be on the same weekend, and it was sometimes hard for people to attend each one,” says Hannum. “By spreading the events out, we’ll be able to attract more customers and guests.”

Gianmarco Martuscelli, owner of the Chesapeake Inn & Marina, says he and Chef Christian Lackford are planning Thai chicken mini-tacos and mini-crab cake sliders with a citrus-horseradish aioli and tomato jam.

Martuscelli takes great pride in being involved with Meals on Wheels. “Throughout the year, we get invited to a lot of events or are offered the chance to work with a lot of charities, and when it comes down to it, we can only do so many,” says Martuscelli. “But I feel like Meals on Wheels does the most for the community, and is a top three charity in mind, so we’re proud to be a part of it.”

On the beverage side of the event—because what’s a good tailgate without a proper beer or cocktail?—Two Stones Pub and its newly opened 2SP Brewing, located in Ardmore, Pa., will handle the beer garden at the Ultimate Tailgate.

Ben “Gumbo” Muse, of 2SP, says the event will feature more than 30 craft beers on tap at the beer garden. Of those, six will come from the 2SP lineup, including the Delco, a workhorse lager perfect for tailgating, the Weiss Wit, with subtle notes of coriander and orange peel, the Baby Bob, a roasty stout, and the Bellcracker, a double IPA.

In addition to all the creative fare and craft beer, Painted Stave Distilling, from Smyrna, as well as Philadelphia Distilling will be on hand to offer samples of their vodkas and gins.
Live entertainment will include a DJ spinning tunes, courtesy of Spin Jocs Entertainment, and cover band FreeLance playing classic rock. Guitarist Bruce Anthony also will be on hand, playing a mix of traditional jazz standards and contemporary blues and rock.

While the Meals on Wheels mission is to raise funds in support of nearly 4,000 homebound seniors statewide, Erica Porter Brown, project manager with City Fare Meals on Wheels Delaware, hopes the event will encourage those attending to consider becoming volunteers.

“Our biggest challenge continues to be our desperate need for new volunteers, especially as the number of people we serve increases,” says Brown. “We have not been able to add delivery drivers with some of the expanded routes we are now serving, so this fall, we will be undertaking a major volunteer recruitment campaign.”

Katy Ford, a 64-year-old Delaware native, has been delivering Meals on Wheels for just over a decade, after she was first approached about volunteering while working at Wilmington Trust. It started as a once-a-month activity for Ford, and is now something she enjoys doing several times a week.

“I wanted to do something meaningful in my retirement, and it’s turned into something that’s just as much for me as it is for the people I serve,” says Ford. “I thank them when I drop the meals off, because it really is fulfilling. It only takes between 30 and 90 minutes out of my day, and I’m happy to do it. I’ve made friends over the years and gotten a lot of good advice from those I’ve served.”

Ford picks up the hot lunchtime meals on Silverside Road and follows a mapped-out route that takes her to a minimum of six houses and a maximum of 18.

Anyone interested in volunteering should check out the volunteer portal at the Meals on Wheels website.

For more information on the Ultimate Tailgate, or to purchase tickets to the event at $55 per person, go to mealsonwheelsde.org, or call 656-6451.

Fundraisers Full of Fun

Help others—and have a great time doing so

Whether you like dancing, attending an elegant gala, sampling delicious food and drink or a simple stroll with your pet, you can have the perfect day or evening out while also contributing to local cultural, philanthropic and art-focused nonprofits. Here are a few upcoming fundraisers to get started:

DHATails Around the Tower

Sunday, Oct. 4, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Rockford Park, Wilmington

This is Delaware Humane Association’s 25th Annual Walk for the Animals, which is a one-mile walk around the park for dogs and their owners. A fun atmosphere, dressed-up dogs, music, refreshments, pet-oriented vendors, pet contests, and more make this a great outing for the entire family while raising funds for homeless animals waiting for their forever home.

For more information, visit dehumane.org.

A Night in Cuba: A Celebration of a New Era

Saturday, Oct. 10, 6:30 p.m.-1 a.m.
Doubletree Hotel, Wilmington

The Latin American Community Center’s 46th Annual Grand Ball, A Night in Cuba: A Celebration of a New Era includes a cocktail hour, dinner and lots of dancing.
Call Sindy Rodriguez, 655-7338, ext. 7701, for information about individual tickets, a table for 10 and sponsorship opportunities.

For additional information, visit thelatincenter.org.

vendemia_daVinciVendemmia da Vinci

Sunday, Oct. 11, 2-6 p.m.
Bellevue State Park, Wilmington

The 12th annual Vendemmia da Vinci is a fundraiser for the da Vinci Society of Delaware, which promotes the cultural heritage of Italian people through education, service, charity and community events. The gala includes samples of Italian wine, Italian food, an Italian Beer Garden, live entertainment, and a Vendemmia 2015 commemorative wine glass. Also featured are a handcrafted wine and homemade gravy contest, silent auction and Italian vendor displays.

For more information, visit societadavinci.org; tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the gate.

Eleganza

Wednesday, Oct. 21, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Wilmington Country Club, Wilmington

The Ministry of Caring, a nonprofit serving the underprivileged, is hosting its 27th annual event, a luncheon and fashion show featuring styles of Lafayette 148 New York from designer Neiman Marcus. The fundraiser includes a live auction and prize drawings (win a two-year lease of a 2016 Cadillac ATS Sedan). Admission is $100 per person, which includes the lunch. Money raised by this event supports the Ministry of Caring’s four emergency homeless shelters for men, women and children, along with the Ministry’s Job Placement Center.

For tickets, call 428-3702.

The Ultimate Tailgate

Thursday, Oct. 22, 6-9 p.m.
Sheraton Wilmington South, New Castle

Enjoy local restaurants serving their unique interpretation of tailgate food. This sophisticated yet casual event will feature wine and spirits, live entertainment, and a beer garden. (For full description, see page 39).

For additional information, visit mealsonwheelsde.org.

Christi Awards

Friday, Oct. 23, 5:30 p.m.
Christina Cultural Arts Center Inc., Wilmington

Launched in 1991, the Christi Awards are Christina Cultural Arts Center Inc.’s signature event. The awards ceremony honors unsung individuals and organizations making significant contributions to promoting the arts in Wilmington. The awards ceremony also raises public awareness of the organization’s mission, program impacts and financial support needs.

This year’s theme is “Arts for Our City’s Sake,” celebrating the impact of the arts on the quality of life in Wilmington. Three honorees have been chosen this year: Kenneth C. Brown, for Achievement by an Arts Educator; Juhi Jagiasi for Volunteerism; and Darrell Andrews, Jr., for Achievement in the Arts by a Youth.

General tickets are $75 each and are available at christiawards.org.

all-hallows-eve-ballAll Hallows’ Eve Costume Ball

Saturday, Oct. 24, 9 p.m.-1 a.m.
Brandywine River Museum of Art Courtyard, Chadds Ford, Pa.

Calling all witches, ghosts and ghouls—will your costume be the winner? The event is the Young Friends’ annual fundraiser, and all proceeds will support programs of the Brandywine River Museum of Art. Enjoy cocktails, light refreshments, music and more.

Prizes go to people in the most creative costumes, and to those not in costume, beware: You will suffer an unspeakable fate, according to the website.

Tickets start at $85. Guests must be 21 or older to attend. For more information, visit brandywine.org.

Blue Jean Ball

Saturday, Oct. 24, 6:30-10:30 p.m.
Food Bank of Delaware, Newark

Help combat hunger in the First State at the Food Bank of Delaware’s 10th annual Blue Jean Ball with a spooky new twist—a Halloween theme.

Come dressed in a costume—there will be a contest—or casual blue jeans.

The event will feature a fall harvest small plate menu prepared by students from the Food Bank’s Culinary School with guidance from presenting sponsor Iron Hill Brewery’s team of chefs. Food will have a distinct autumnal theme and each item will be carefully paired with a seasonal brew from Iron Hill.

In addition to fine food, beers and wine, the evening will feature entertainment and dancing with Mike Hines and the Look.

Tickets are $75 a person, which covers unlimited beer, wine, food and a commemorative beer mug. For more information, visit fbdbluejeanball.org.

wine_women_shoesWine, Women & Shoes

Friday, Nov. 6, 6-10 p.m.
Hercules Plaza, Wilmington

This event benefits Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children. It includes a wine tasting, a fashion show, a silent auction, food, shopping, complimentary valet parking, and more. Tickets start at $100.

For more information, visit winewomenandshoes.com/Nemours or call 302-651-4383.

Delaware Antiques Show

Nov. 6-8, times vary
Chase Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington

Sixty of the country’s most distinguished dealers present the finest offerings of American antiques and decorative arts, including furniture, paintings, rugs, ceramics, silver, jewelry, and more at this 52nd annual event. The show benefits educational programming at Winterthur.

For more information, visit winterthur.org.

Contemporary Gala

Saturday, Nov. 14, 7-10pm
DCCA, Wilmington

Join supporters of the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts for this elegant evening of food, dancing, auctions, and unconventional entertainment. Proceeds raised from the event will help with DCCA exhibitions and educational programs.

The Patron Pre-Party from 6-7 p.m. includes specialty appetizers, VIP wine tastings presented by Frank’s Wine, early bidding on auction items, and a curatorial tour with honorary chairs, Gov. and First Lady Jack and Carla Markell. Tickets are $250. General admission for the Contemporary Gala from 7-10 p.m. is $75 for members and $85 for non-members. Tickets cover a silent art auction, silent luxury auction, open bar, dancing, music, and more.

For more information, visit thedcca.org.

the_GrandThe Grand Gala

Saturday, Dec. 5, 8 p.m.
The Grand Opera House, Wilmington

At the 39th annual Grand Gala, all proceeds benefit Arts Education at The Grand Opera House. This year’s event features internationally-renowned music ensemble Celtic Woman, accompanied by the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. Ellen and Michael Kullman are this year’s distinguished honorees for their commitment and service to Delaware. As usual, the Ultimate After Party will take place following the Gala at the Hotel du Pont. It will feature live music, dancing, an open bar and gourmet fare in six rooms.

For more information, visit thegrandwilmington.org.

Coverdale: On the Grow

From Farm to Fork to a CSA to barn dances, the historic Greenville land is host to a cornucopia of creative and often delicious events

As stars flicker over the panoramic 352-acre sweep of Greenville’s Coverdale Farm, strings of lights illuminate a hill overlooking woodlands where 160 people are seated at long tables laden with courses of farm-grown vegetables and family-style servings of salad, ratatouille and Angus steak. Glasses tinkle lightly as guests make new acquaintances and pour each other paired tastings from Dogfish Head bottles—Midas Touch, 61 Minute, 90 Minute IPAs.

The occasion is Coverdale’s autumn Farm to Fork, a display of community in celebration of the harvest.

Coverdale Manager Michele Wales, who envisioned the now annual event seven years ago, describes the late-September experience as an evening of engagement and mindfulness of what’s on people’s plates.

“Sitting and dining on the land where so much of what’s on your plate came from—that makes my head want to explode,” Wales enthuses. “It’s so beautiful for me. I’m hoping for people to experience just how powerful a meal can be with other great people. We nourish folks with this beautiful food that we’ve worked so hard for throughout the year, and fall is the perfect time to celebrate what we’re growing and raising. To see our food transform to art on a plate is really exciting.” Note: the food was prepared by Susan Teiser of Montrachet Fine Foods, located on Kennett Pike.

The heart of Farm to Fork is aligned with all of Coverdale’s happenings and programs: creatively teaching the community about the sources of their food.

Guests are welcome to traipse through the farm's U Pick field for flowers and veggies. (Photo courtesy of Coverdale Farm Preserve)
Guests are welcome to traipse through the farm’s U Pick field for flowers and veggies.
(Photo courtesy of Coverdale Farm Preserve)

The farm, which dates back to William Penn’s time, was owned for years by the Greenwalt family. In the 1990s, the family turned the land over to the Delaware Nature Society, which also oversees Ashland Nature Center, the DuPont Environmental Education Center, and Abott’s Mill Nature Center.

In 2000, Wales became one of the first full-time farm staff members. “We transformed sallow fields and empty barns into a classroom where we were charged and are still charged with educating others,” says Wales.

The DNS, which recently celebrated its 50th year, is a private nonprofit environmental organization that promotes environmental education, advocacy and natural resources conservation—and is what Wales calls the gateway to connecting with the natural world.
This makes Coverdale wildly popular for school field trips, summer camps and more.

“We’re all so very passionate and dedicated to the mission of connecting people to the sources of their food by growing and raising food, and engaging and inviting everyone that comes down our driveway to get as excited and passionate as us about what we do,” says Wales.

She says an exciting seasonal change has come to Coverdale.

Aside from its dozens of events and programs, Coverdale has typically been closed to the public except for Wedneday afternoons during the season. But on Wednesdays and Saturdays this past May-September, the farm was open to the public on a more frequent basis. On these days, guests who visited could choose to stop by early in the morning to help with farm chores like bottle-feeding calves, collecting eggs and tending to pigs. They also were invited to forage in the farm’s U Pick field for tomatoes, peppers, flowers and other vegetables. For a more relaxing afternoon, guests were welcome to pack a lunch picnic at any of the tables beneath the oak trees along the driveway. Staff members were on hand to “teach you whatever you want to learn,” says Wales. She says these days are excellent low-key ways for families to enjoy the farm at their own pace.

“It’s been really successful, so we’re looking to increase activities and more opportunities for the farm to be open in 2016,” says Wales.

HolsteinCalf_drinking_milk
School children feed milk to a Holstein at Coverdale. (Photo courtesy of Coverdale Preserve)

A mainstay for Coverdale is its Community Supported Agriculture program, in which members are signed up to receive a select amount of produce from June-October each week. Free cooking classes are offered to CSA members, who may sometimes be in a creative stupor—when, for example an Oh, No, Not Another Week of Lettuce class might be of use. At the end of each season a party is thrown, and everybody brings homemade food to celebrate.

Coverdale’s education program—school field trips, programs for children, families and adults—runs year round, with dozens of classes for everyone. This includes an upcoming family hayride series in October and November featuring pumpkin carving on Oct. 18 and learning about the cider-making process on Nov. 8.

Then there’s what Wales calls the “big event”—the annual Harvest Moon Festival, Oct. 3-4. The weekend, free for members and nonmember children under 5, and $5 for nonmembers, is filled with artisan demonstrations, children’s activities and crafts, hayrides, music and food trucks.

For adults, a basket weaving class (Oct. 10) and a cookbook club are offered. The Cookbook Club, hosted by DNS and the Hockessin Book Shelf, serves up an evening of cooking and eating on Oct. 8 and Nov. 12. And for people interested in raising and butchering their own meat, there’s the two-day Pasture To Plate: Poultry Processing & Cooking, Dec. 12-13.

The key to knowing what kinds of events to host, Wales says, is implementing options that are connected to food, the farm, and the landscape at Coverdale. She says one important theme is “putting culture back in agriculture,” which was the inspiration for a new barn contra dance series. The dances are slated for Oct. 23 and Nov. 6, and will continue on various dates in 2016. Led by an experienced contra caller, the evenings will be filled with bluegrass, and guests from beginners to experienced will learn traditional dance steps from contra to square dancing.

With so much going on, Coverdale certainly utilizes its four full-time staff members, says Wales, but as she puts it, a lot of dedicated people are necessary to make all the moving parts move fluently. That’s why volunteers are so helpful, she says. “We couldn’t do it without them.”

Qualified people are invited to work in almost any area: program instructors, educators, animal husbandry, vegetable production, and more. For more information on how to get involved, visit the website.

Ultimately, sharing ideas and encouraging others to do so is what keeps Coverdale so fresh and creative, Wales says. While she and the other fulltime staff members are behind the scenes planning, they are constantly listening to ideas from instructors and volunteers.
“We’re part of a community,” says Wales. “We know each other so well, and people have ideas, so we share.”

Visit delawarenaturesociety.org/CoverdaleFarmPreserve for more.