A Toast to Holiday Events

We’ve compiled a list of every manner of merriment to help get you into the bell-ringing, carol-singing, candle-lighting, reindeer-sighting, eggnog-guzzling, mistletoe-nuzzling mood. Happy Holidays to all!

Longtime Holiday Traditions

Yuletide at Winterthur
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Winterthur Museum & Gardens
Yuletide is one of the most beautiful times at Winterthur, with tree displays adorning the rooms and the Conservatory; sparkling trees and American Christmas vignettes—scenes inspired by Currier & Ives, holiday decorations from Mississippi in the Civil War era and the White House in the early 1900s. New this year in The Galleries stair hall: a 6×3-foot, slate-roofed, fully electrified dollhouse inspired by Queen Mary’s dollhouse, created by Nancy McDaniel and donated to Winterthur.

A Longwood Christmas
Now–Jan. 8, 2017 | Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pa.
The sounds of the season resonate through the gardens in this year’s musically inspired display. Highlights include an 18-foot Fraser fir adorned with a garland of musical instruments in the Music Room; holiday horticulture showcasing more than 6,000 seasonal plants; organ sing-alongs, strolling carolers and performances throughout the estate; and three fire pits—at the Hour Glass Lake Pavilion, Peirce-du Pont House Plaza and Dogwood Plaza—available (weather permitting) for guests’ enjoyment from 4:30–10 pm.

Family Holiday Fun

Breakfast with Santa
Saturday, Dec. 3, 11 am | Delaware Museum of Natural History
Enjoy a special pancake breakfast and a visit with Santa. Get your picture taken with him and let him know if you’ve been naughty or nice. Afterward, take an afternoon tour at the Museum. Tickets are $5 for members and $9 for non-members. Pre-registration is required at delmnh.org.

Holiday Sing!
Sunday, Dec. 4, 3 pm | The Music School of Delaware, Wilmington Branch
This musical sing-a-long for the whole family is hosted by the Early Childhood Department of the Music School and marks their 26th annual seasonal celebration. Music School faculty and friends provide instruments, singing and fun. Free, and good for ages 1½ and up.

Chesapeake Brass Band
Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm
Grace Episcopal Church, Wilmington
This 35-piece award-winning brass band presents a high-spirited performance of classical, traditional and popular holiday favorites. This event is free.

Holiday Family Festivities at the Delaware Art Museum
Saturday, Dec. 10, 10:30 am
Delaware Art Museum
Enjoy a host of family-friendly activities at the Museum this holiday season. In Kids’ Corner, explore a geometric winter wonderland, add to the interactive igloo and build 3-D snowflakes. Families can also take a wintry walk through the Copeland Sculpture Garden to search for geometric shapes. Free with museum admission.

Legos & Latkes for Kids: A Pre-Chanukah Program
Sunday, Dec. 18, 12:15-2 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
This popular, community-wide event helps parents and kids enter Chanukah with spirit—by making their own Lego Menorah and delicious latkes. Cost is $12-16 per Lego Menorah set, and online registration is required to guarantee a Menorah. Register at ChabadDE.com/register.

Chanukah Family Fun Festival
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 5-7 pm
Chabad Center for Jewish Life, Wilmington
Bring the whole family to this party, which will feature a public menorah lighting, a professional entertainer, a delicious Chinese buffet dinner, a moonbounce, games, Chanukah crafts, festive Jewish Music, face painting, prizes and more. Early-bird tickets (purchase before Dec. 23) are $20 for adults and $12 for kids. Register at ChabadDE.com/ChanukahEvents.

Holiday Theatrics

Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some!)
Friday, Dec. 2–Saturday, Dec. 10 | Chapel Street Players, Newark
Instead of performing Charles Dickens’ holiday classic for the umpteenth time, three actors decide to perform every Christmas story ever told—plus Christmas traditions from around the world, seasonal icons from ancient times to topical pop culture, and carols too. A madcap romp through the holiday season! Tickets to $18.

Christmas by Candlelight
Now–Friday, Dec. 23 | The Candlelight Theater, Arden
Back by popular demand, this heartwarming yuletide celebration features some of your favorite holiday tunes performed by some of your favorite “Candlelighters.”

A Christmas Carol
Wednesday, Dec. 7–Friday, Dec. 30
Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington
Ebenezer Scrooge returns to the DTC stage as he transforms from a stingy miser to a man who generously celebrates the spirit of the season all year long. Don’t be left out in the cold for this stunning adaptation of a timeless holiday classic. Tickets are $40-50 and available at delawaretheatre.org.

Sparkling Holiday Dance

Wilmington Ballet Academy of the Dance —
50th Annual Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 3 and Sunday, Dec. 4 | The Playhouse on Rodney Square
Kick off the season with one of Wilmington’s most enduring holiday traditions—the story of young Clara on Christmas night as she is tangled in a battle between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King in the Land of Sweets. Wilmington Ballet’s performance features New York City Ballet principal dancers Abi Stafford and Adrian Danchig-Waring as the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier. Live music will be provided by the Wilmington Ballet Orchestra and Chorus, and the beloved Voloshky Ukrainian Dance Ensemble will perform. This year, Gov. Jack Markell and First Lady Carla Markell will make a cameo appearance in the Dec. 3 2 pm show to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Christina Cultural Arts Center — Eleone Dance Theater’s 25th Anniversary of “Carols in Color”
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | The Grand Opera House
For a unique holiday treat, check out this one-day-only performance in Wilmington. “Carols” is a stirring holiday musical that retells the story of Christ’s birth according to the gospel of St. Matthew using contemporary music, exuberant dance and powerful narration. Tickets are $25-35, available at tickets.thegrandwilmington.org or 800.37GRAND.

First State Ballet Theatre — The Nutcracker
Saturday, Dec. 17, 2 and 7 pm and Sunday, Dec.18, 2 pm
The Grand Opera House, Wilmington
Delaware’s only professional ballet company presents Wilmington’s favorite holiday tradition, The Nutcracker. Experience the magical journey through the land of sweets in FSBT’s lavish production. Tickets are $14.99-45 and are available at tickets.thegrandwilmington.org or 800.37GRAND.

Do You Hear What I Hear? Holiday Music!
Thursday Noontime Concert — Cartoon Christmas Trio
Thursday, Dec. 1, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music welcomes back the Cartoon Christmas Trio for one of downtown’s favorite holiday traditions. Jazz music from the beloved cartoon “A Charlie Brown Christmas” will fill the sanctuary of First & Central. The concert is free to attend, but donations are gratefully accepted.

First State Symphonic Band Christmas Concert
Friday, Dec. 2, 7:30 pm | Emmanuel Presbyterian Church
First State Symphonic Band gets you into the season with some of the most popular holiday music—Tchaikovsky’s Suite from The Nutcracker, Symphonic Prelude on Adeste Fidelis and medleys of popular and traditional Christmas carols. The concert will conclude with the Leroy Anderson classics, “A Christmas Festival” and “Sleigh Ride.”

Festival Concert — Mastersingers of Wilmington Nativity Carols
Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music’s holiday concert features its own Mastersingers with conductor David Schelat and organist Marvin Mills. Their program includes music by Marvin Mills, Neil Harmon, Paul Manz, Jonathan Dove and more. Tickets are $20 ($25 at the door) and are available at marketstreetmusicde.org.

A Jazz Christmas — featuring The Wilson Somers Trio
Sunday, Dec. 4, 7:30 pm | Laird Performing Arts Center at The Tatnall School
Emmy Award-winning composer and pianist Wilson Somers leads his jazz trio—Somers on piano; Pete Paulson, contrabass, and Glenn Ferricone, percussion—along with guest artists Ed Kirkpatrick, tenor saxophone; Wes Morton, vibes; The Tatnall Singers and singer Annie Fitch in traditional and contemporary treatments of holiday favorites, all to benefit Family Promise of Northern New Castle County. Tickets are $15-20 and are available through the event Facebook page, facebook.com/jazzchristmas.

An All-Star Christmas
Sunday, Dec. 4, 8 pm | World Cafe Live at The Queen, Wilmington
A star-studded seasonal celebration featuring regional music scene faves Jimmy McFadden, Kevin Walsh, Billy Penn Burger, Steve Prentice, Samantha Desper Poole, Chris Duncan, Ritchie Rubini and Tony Cappella. Tickets are $12 and are available at ticketfly.com.

The Wilmington Children’s Chorus Annual Candlelight Holiday Concert
Saturday, Dec. 10, 7 pm & Sunday, Dec. 11, 5 pm | First & Central Presbyterian, Rodney Square
Join the Wilmington Children’s Chorus as they celebrate the season, showcasing holiday music from around the world. The performance features all 150 members of the Youth Choirs, Select Choir, Young Men’s Ensemble and Chamber Choir at First and Central Presbyterian Church. Tickets are $10-$20; call 763-3637 to order.

Holiday Choral Concert
Sunday, Dec. 11, 4 pm | St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, Wilmington
The Music School of Delaware’s Delaware Women’s Chorus and Adult Jazz Choir join the Choir from St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church, singers from New Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church and Brandywine Brass in performance. Music for chorus, chorus with brass quintet and brass quintet alone will round out the program. A community carol sing will follow the concert. Admission is a non-perishable food item.

Thursday Noontime Concert — Center City Chorale’s Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day
Thursday, Dec. 15, 12:30 pm | First & Central Presbyterian Church, Rodney Square
Market Street Music continues its musical holiday celebration with delightful carol arrangements sung by Wilmington’s Downtown Choir, including brilliant arrangements of well-known carols by Howard Helvey. Guest pianists Neil Harmon and Hiroko Yamazaki join the chorale. The concert is free, but donations are gratefully accepted.

Halls that Are Decked

Rockwood Holiday Open House
Friday, Dec. 2, 6 pm | Rockwood Museum
There’s something for the entire family at the 16th Annual Holiday Open House: live entertainment, children’s activities, refreshments, free photos with Santa, museum tours and a festive light display in the gardens of the Mansion and Carriage House; and New Castle County Youth Entrepreneur’s Secret Santa Shoppe, selling gifts for the whole family. Entertainment includes Delaware Arts Conservatory performing excerpts from The Snow Queen; Delaware Children’s Theatre performing a preview of Willy Wonka; the Imagination Players; Kathryn Ciminello Dance Troupe; Cab Calloway Middle School choirs; the UD Children’s Choir and more. The event is free to attend, but families are asked to bring a nonperishable food item or new mittens, hats or scarves for the Giving Tree.

Holiday House Tour
Saturday, Dec. 10, 9 am | Delaware Art Museum
The Museum’s holiday house tour enters its 30th year. Start at the museum with artisan shopping followed by a tour of historic Greenville houses decked out for the holidays. Homes open at 10 am. Proceeds benefit the Museum’s educational programs. Tickets range from $25-60 and are available at DelArtHolidayHouseTour.org.

Old Fashioned Christmas at Bellevue Mansion
Now – Dec. 18, 10 am-4 pm | Bellevue State Park
Step back in time into the beautifully decorated Bellevue Mansion at Bellevue State Park. Visit with Father Christmas, sit and listen to the storyteller, view the train display, custom-designed for the holiday by the First State Model Railroad Club. The Mansion provides not only an old-fashioned experience but also many holiday picture-taking and “selfie” opportunities. Tickets are $15 (children under 2 admitted free) and are available at eventbrite.com.

Hagley Twilight Tours
Tuesdays & Wednesdays, Dec.13-14 through Dec. 27-28, 4:30-7 pm
Hagley Museum
Enjoy a rare opportunity to see Eleutherian Mills—the first du Pont family home in America—dressed for the holidays with softly glowing lights, lace, fresh greenery, poinsettias, and dried flower arrangements. Admission is free for members and $10 for non-members. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call 658-2400, ext. 261.

Holiday Greens Workshop
Saturday, Dec. 3, 9 am | Delaware Center for Horticulture, Wilmington
Add sparkle and beauty to your holiday decorations at the annual Holiday Greens Workshop. Create a beautiful wreath or table arrangement from an unusual collection of fresh greens, dried flowers, seeds, fruit and ribbon. Experts will be on hand to provide guidance. Bring hand pruners and gloves to work with prickly materials. Tickets are $45 for members and $55 for non-members. Space is limited, so reserve by calling 658-6262.

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.”