New Peruvian Eats in Middletown

Local Peruvian restaurant chain The Chicken House, with locations in Newark and Wilmington, opened its newest eatery in Middletown last month.

At 422 E. Main St., the space previously occupied by a Vietnamese eatery, The Chicken House is a 100-seat restaurant with a bar, featuring Peruvian beer and more. The menu includes dishes with seafood, pork, beef and, of course, chicken. Featured item “pollo a la brasa” rotisserie chicken is made by marinating fresh chickens with a unique blend of spices and roasting them, which is one of Peru’s most famous dishes. Visit thechickenhouserestaurant.com for more.

Bites – Jan. 2017

Tasty things worth knowing

New Peruvian Eats in Middletown

Local Peruvian restaurant chain The Chicken House, with locations in Newark and Wilmington, opened its newest eatery in Middletown last month.

At 422 E. Main St., the space previously occupied by a Vietnamese eatery, The Chicken House is a 100-seat restaurant with a bar, featuring Peruvian beer and more. The menu includes dishes with seafood, pork, beef and, of course, chicken. Featured item “pollo a la brasa” rotisserie chicken is made by marinating fresh chickens with a unique blend of spices and roasting them, which is one of Peru’s most famous dishes. Visit thechickenhouserestaurant.com for more.

A Second Location for Cajun Kate’s

Last month, Booths Corner Farmers Market creole favorite Cajun Kate’s opened a second location—at 722 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington.

The new eatery serves classic New Orleans-style dishes like po-boys, jambalaya, red beans and rice, and more. Both locations are open only on Fridays and Saturdays.

Owners Don and Kate Applebaum moved from Philadelphia to New Orleans in 1997 and quickly established themselves in two of the premier establishments in the French Quarter—Don at Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA Restaurant and Kate at Bayona Restaurant. The couple moved back to this area in 2003 to start a family, and in 2006 Cajun Kate’s also was born. Every item on the menu is made from scratch, including all the “special sauces,” and both locations serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.
Visit cajunkates.com for hours and more.

Hagley’s Winter Movie Series

Indulge in free popcorn and be a part of a good cause with “Hagley After Hours: A Night at the Movies,” in February and March. The series will include cult classics Mean Girls on Thursday, Feb. 9, The Matrix on Thursday, Feb. 23, and The Breakfast Club on Thursday, March 9.

Hagley Museum is partnering with the Sunday Breakfast Mission for the March 9 showing, and all attendees who bring a nonperishable item for the Sunday Breakfast Mission will receive a free bag of popcorn. Donated items can include canned food, toiletry items (toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, etc.), winter clothes, diapers or formula, and school supplies.

Movie nights will feature themed cocktails and snacks for purchase. Guests are invited to embrace each movie’s theme to receive a free goodie: e.g., wear pink to the Mean Girls showing; wear your favorite sci-fi shirt or accessory to The Matrix; or wear 1980s clothing to The Breakfast Club.

Movies will be shown on the large screen in Hagley’s Soda House auditorium. Prior to each feature film, there will be a short film from Hagley’s collection. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the feature starting at 7 p.m. Admission is just $2 per person.

Events are weather-dependent, so check hagley.org for updates. Because of construction, use Hagley’s Buck Road entrance (298 Buck Rd., Wilmington).

Grain Now Caters

Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen in Newark is now offering catering for meetings and special occasions. The food is prepared fresh and designed to serve 10-200 or more.

The catering menu varies, featuring create-your-own yogurt parfaits, street tacos, sandwich stations and more. Orders can be made online at catering.grainonmain.com. Grain’s chef will review the order and confirm prior to starting. Catering is either available for pickup or both delivery and setup for an additional $25 fee. Grain supplies plates, napkins, cutlery, sides, chafing stands, and the Sterno to keep everything warm.

Food Trends, 2017

Pokes, boar meat and breakfast all day long: Once again, our fearless prognosticator offers his thoughts on what we’ll be eating in the new year.

Wellness tonics. Purple cauliflower. Coconut chips. Beet noodles.

That’s what you have to look forward to if Whole Foods is right and these are the hottest trends of 2017. And that’s why you need to care about food trends, lest you be caught unawares by a sudden beet noodle in your entrée.

You will find no beet noodles here. This is my third year of making predictions for the future of Delaware food, and one thing I’ve learned—I’m not very good at it. (Check the scorecard below.) While I thought 2016 would find a distillery opening in northern Delaware, I missed the brewery boom that was fermenting all around us. And though I saw sushi cooling off, I didn’t notice Newark becoming a hotbed for truly authentic Chinese cuisine.

But those are the risks foodie prognosticators take. There’s no accounting for taste, and even less accounting for what taste buds will crave from year to year. And so I rounded up a few of my usual suspects, did my research, and herewith offer another few predictions for the new year, in full knowledge that life will likely prove me wrong. Again. Happy dining.

Trend: Restaurants enter the bowl game

There’s a reason bowls are the serving vessel of choice at fast-casual restaurants. They’re quick to assemble, can contain both liquid and solid ingredients, and since they don’t require slabs of bread to hold the good stuff together, they’re easy to make low-carb or gluten-free. But while fast-casual trends often filter down from fine-dining experiences, expect bowls to be one idea that trickles up.

“I think that a growing theme is losing the pretense in a lot of things,” says Chef Robbie Jester from Stone Balloon Ale House. “When you get into tuna tartars and tuna carpaccio, they all sound really fancy. But when you shorten that to a four-letter word, I think that’s approachable.”

That four-letter word? “Poke,” as in Hawaiian for “slice,” and no relation to 2016’s least palatable smartphone trend. Jester serves his ahi tuna and avocado poke in ginger sambal sesame sauce with toasted sesame seeds in a bowl. Since he introduced it, it’s been (in his words) “supremely popular.”
“You can mix it with different ingredients, since it’s a larger cut,” Jester says. “I just think it’s a better preparation, and I enjoy eating it. And I think it’s going to continue to catch on until people beat the shit out of it on the East Coast.”

Prediction #1: Pokes pop up on appetizer lists around the state (gotta eat them all!), and bowls don’t stop there. Watch for authentic Asian flavors in a bowl near you.

Trend: Third-wave coffee washes over Delaware

What, you missed the first two waves? Then you haven’t been staring at the coffee horizon as deeply as the coffee nerds who have transformed caffeine consumption on the West Coast. The waves, loosely defined:
First wave: Insta-cofeee. The best part of waking up.
Second wave: The Starbucksization of America.
Third wave (as popularized by San Fran coffee maven Trish Rothgeb): “[In the third wave,] the coffee will make the moment, not the whipped cream or flavored syrup. These baristi will be able to tell you exactly when their coffee was roasted, how the beans were processed, the idea behind the blend, and offer cupping notes.”

The third wave first started to crash over the First State when Drip Café opened its doors and Brew HaHa! expanded its Trolley Square outpost into a coffee roastery. Both were smashing successes. Expect more to come.

Prediction #2: More quality coffee shops, increasingly local coffee production (perhaps another roastery in town?), and potential invasion by national third-wave riders like Stumptown Coffee.

Trend: Breakfast for breakfast, breakfast for lunch, breakfast for dinner

Breakfast for dinner has been a thing since I was a kid, but you can probably blame McDonalds for proving that people dining out will eat breakfast all day, any day, if given the option. Delaware may not have a strong diner culture, but some restaurants will be quick to fill the gap.

“I don’t think that boom is over yet,” says Karen Stauffer, director of communications for the Delaware Restaurant Association. “I see restaurants, especially in bigger areas, expanding to Saturday brunches, with more breakfast-themed items on menus.”

In Newark, brunch hasn’t just expanded to Saturday. It’s already a seven-days-a-week thing at Home Grown Café, where five brunch items are now available daily from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and the breakfast burrito is one of the top three items at lunch.

“We would get calls daily to ask if we were serving breakfast,” says Sasha Aber, owner at Home Grown. “It’s just nice, comforting food for people to start off the day. And they’re a good price point for people too.”

High-end breakfast food is the main course at Egg Restaurant in Rehoboth Beach and De La Coeur Café et Pâtisserie. Drip Café expanded its restaurant in 2016. Mrs. Snyder’s brought lemon hollandaise to New Castle. Expect all to continue.

Prediction #3: Diners make a comeback. A new one will open, with a commitment to local, freshly sourced ingredients and breakfast all day.

Trend: Fast-fresh-casual takes over the world

Consider this trend a subset of “everything in a bowl,” since that’s where you’ll find most fast-fresh-casual food being served. Also consider it one of the most obvious trends I missed in 2016, with the opening of two Honeygrows (one in North Wilmington, one in Newark), a Zoës Kitchen at the Christiana Fashion Mall, and Roots Natural Kitchen in Newark.

But the fast-fresh-casual trend deserves a category of its own. People certainly want to eat healthy, people increasingly want to eat fresh/local … but people don’t have much time. Those realities used to cancel each other out. Not anymore.

“I think we definitely see more of this coming in 2017, especially in Newark, Wilmington and Dover,” Stauffer said.

Prediction #4: Definitely in Wilmington. If there’s a concept that seems ready-made for Market Street, this is it.

Trend: Wild game gets tamed

Game meats have been popular in Delaware since the first time someone looked at a muskrat and thought, “Hmmm, I could eat that.” But what once was an acquired taste, embraced by a few select spots (like the always-game Stewart’s Brewing Company and the serving-kangaroo-before-its time Matilda’s) is now entering the mainstream. Metro Pub & Grill in Middletown has venison chili and wild boar sloppy joes. Stone Balloon in Newark has a venison Salisbury steak—and expects to add more game to the menu this year. Game meats tend to excite chefs—and they’ll try to excite you.

Prediction #5: It won’t be hard to find wild boar, ostrich and venison on menus in 2017.

Three final trends to watch:
• House-cured meats. (Domaine Hudson has the best charcuterie plate in town; Maiale Deli and Sulumeria continue to impress. Watch for more.)
• Locally produced sour beers.
• Wawa-style touchscreen ordering expanding everywhere.

Last Year’s Predictions Scorecard

1. The End of Tipping: At least one fine dining restaurant in Delaware eliminates tipping in 2016—most likely one at the beach.
Ouch. Not only did the trend to eliminate tipping not come to Delaware, but it seems to have stalled nationally. In fact, the San Francisco restaurant where I first ate under a no-tipping policy brought it back after only five months. If no-tipping is the future, the future is not now.
2. Home Cooking: Increased interest in home cooks entering the sharing economy leads Delaware legislators to loosen cottage food regulations, or they get no pie.
On May 1, 2016, the Division of Public Health published new Cottage Food Regulations that allow for the preparation of a limited type of food products in residential kitchens, pies included. Those regs are now final.
3. Scrapple is the new bacon: The biggest scrapplephobic in your life will venture to try some in 2016.
Only you know what your people think, but Bill Hoffman’s scrapple at The House of William & Merry was a revelation to scrapple-deniers in my life in 2016.
4. More wineries, more breweries … and more distilleries.
One out of three … well, that ain’t good, but at least I have beer to drown my sorrows. Breweries exploded in northern Delaware last year, with the arrival of Dew Point Brewing and Bellefonte Brewing, the re-opening of Twin Lakes, and more. And we got a meadery in Liquid Alchemy. Fenwick Wine Cellars expanded into Salted Vines Vineyard down in Frankford. But still no signs of a distillery up north.
5. Market Street, Dining Destination: Look for a net gain of five places on or near Market Street in 2016.
Let’s see: We added Merchant Bar, Masala Kitchen, Twisted Soul, Starbucks, Market Street Bakery & Cafe and Coffee Mode. Brew HaHa! moved across the street and expanded, but closed the first location, so that’s a net neutral. Still, nailed it!

Food Notes – Nov. 2015

Tasty things worth knowing

A New Beginning
French-style cafe opens in place of Fresh Thymes

Croissant

After Wilmington’s Fresh Thymes Cafe closed its doors recently, a new French-style eatery, De La Coeur Café et Patisserie, took its place. Alex Sianni and Pastry Chef Gretchen Brizendine helm the new café, whose name means “baking from the heart.” It features locally sourced, sustainably produced food.

Brizendine has been in the restaurant business for more than seven years, and Sianni has been in the business in three countries and the fine wine industry for more than 15 years.
The café’s food is sourced from Powers Farm in Townsend, Bayberry Farm in Middletown and Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative in Lancaster.

Located at 1836 Lovering Ave., it will serve breakfast, including sandwiches, omelets, pancakes, French toast, and crepes; lunch, featuring soups, salads, sandwiches and paninis, and of course a variety of pastries like éclairs, croissants, cookies, tartlettes, mousse cups, and more.

Visit the website at delacoeurcafe.com for the opening date and more information.

Expanding to Middletown
Wilmington chef has plans for three new eateries

Patrick D’Amico, Middletown native and chef at several Wilmington eateries like Eclipse Bistro, the Hotel du Pont Green Room, and Harry’s Savoy Grill, is opening three Middletown restaurants with RM Hospitality Group over the next few months.

Metro Pub & Grill is the first of the three, which will be a gastro-pub at 17 Wood St. off West Main Street. It will be open daily for lunch and dinner early this month.
Next, a fine dining establishment tentatively called The Bank will open in January.
Currently the site—an actual vacant bank building at West Main and North Broad streets—is undergoing renovations.

The third name and location are TBA.

Do Good This Season
Food Bank of Delaware needs help

This month, IHeartRadio in partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware will be collecting turkeys as part of the annual Turkey Round Up. Drop off your frozen birds and other holiday essentials at the following locations on Thursday, Nov. 12. and Friday, Nov. 13, between 5-7 p.m. both evenings: Food Lion grocery stores at 1607 Pulaski Highway in Bear, 501 W. Main St. in Middletown, and 1030 Forest Ave. in Dover.

Additionally, the Food Bank needs help filling 2,500 Thanksgiving meal boxes for Delaware families in need. The following items are requested: Canned vegetables, cranberry sauce, evaporated milk/shelf-stable milk, canned pumpkin, canned fruit, juice, corn muffin mix, mashed potatoes, gravy, and frozen turkeys (must be dropped off to Newark or Milford warehouses).

For more information about hosting a Thanksgiving For All food drive, please contact Angel Diaz, Fleet and Routing Coordinator, at 292-1305 ext. 260 or adiaz@fbd.org.

Dinner & a Documentary
Penn Cinema hosts a special one-night screening Nov. 5

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers one of the most destructive industries facing the planet today—large scale factory farming—and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. This 91-minute documentary will be featured at a one-night screening on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 7:30 p.m. at Penn Cinema on the Riverfront. Prior to the showing, guests are invited to dinner at Drop Squad Kitchen (serving dinner until 6:30 p.m.) or for happy hour at Veritas Wine (both also located at the Wilmington Riverfront). You can also enjoy the Riverwalk or one of the other dining attractions the Wilmington Riverfront has to offer.

Claymont Steak Expands
Third location opens on Concord Pike

ThinkstockPhotos-174449396Claymont Steak Shop opened a new location at 2720 Concord Pike this fall, making this the third restaurant in the local chain, with existing locations in Claymont and Newark.
Since 1966, Claymont Steak has been popular for its cheesesteaks, subs and pizza. The new location, with a contemporary interior, and online and delivery options, includes baklava and other snacks in addition to its staple plates.