FranksWine Celebrates 30 Years

Golden Wine Event

FranksWine, at 1206 N. Union St. in Wilmington, is celebrating 30 years in 2017. And that’s not all. This month, FranksWine is hosting a fundraiser—a pop-up Golden Wine Event on Saturday, Feb. 11.

After a five-year break, the event is back at Harry’s Savoy Ballroom at 2020 Naamans Rd. Twenty vendors will be pouring wine that comes from various regions, and guests are invited to meander from station to station—which include craft beer from four local brewers. Overall, the drink menu comprises 80 wines and 16 craft brew selections.

Tickets are $100, and $25 of each ticket and 100 percent of the proceeds from the FranksWine Big Bottle Silent Auction will be donated to Kids Runway for Research, which raises awareness and support for The Nemours Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

The event runs from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Get tickets at frankswine.com.

 

5 Questions with Gad Elmaleh

The French comedian will perform at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Feb. 7

Chances are you haven’t heard of Gad Elmaleh. And he kind of likes it that way.

At least for now.

Imagine: a standup comedian who truly enjoys his anonymity; who’d rather you not know his background before you watch him perform; who’d rather you not know that in France he’s considered one of the funniest people alive.

“It’s refreshing,” says Elmaleh of his newly discovered privacy here in the United States. “To just stand somewhere and stare at people with nobody recognizing me, it’s great. Because I get to live the situation, and to experience it, and enjoy it.”

After more than two decades in comedy in France, and with several TV shows and 22 movies to his credit, Elmaleh took the biggest chance of his career: He moved to America.

Here is a guy known as “the French Jerry Seinfeld”; who broke records by selling out L’Olympia in Paris seven weeks in a row; who was awarded the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by France’s Minister of Culture. And he’s essentially starting over at age 45.

“I worked very hard on the English,” Elmaleh says during a recent phone interview, his voice revealing not only a French accent, but an animated eagerness and, at times, a sober earnestness. “Two years ago, we couldn’t have had this conversation.”

A stranger in a strange land that keeps getting stranger with every passing day, Elmaleh is currently on tour and will be playing World Cafe Live at The Queen on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

“I want to do stand-up,” Elmaleh says. “And what you get from this experience—mentally, physically, emotionally, everything—it’s very hard to find this, and retrieve this, and get this with the cinema. It’s a ride, doing stand-up, a crazy ride [with] risk and pleasure and disappointment and fear and anxiety and reinvention and trying every night.

“Starting over is a big challenge.”

Here, he discusses his passion and why he did what he did—leaving great success behind in his homeland.

O&A: What has been the biggest obstacle for you in coming to America to do comedy, other than having to learn the language?

Elmaleh: I think the language is really not the main thing. Obviously, it’s very hard, and you have to write and translate. And talk in English every day with Americans. And watch TV and [understand] it.
But the really shocking, surprising thing [is playing comedy clubs] unannounced. They have no idea who’s going to be there. It’s just 100 percent Americans who have no idea: “Who is this guy with the weird name trying to do jokes in English?”

And the great thing is I feel I need to earn those laughs. It’s not only that I feel—I have to. Because if I’m not funny there…they’re not going to be nice to me or be like, “Oh, he’s traveling from France, let’s give him a break.” And I love that. It’s a good thing. But it’s also very hard. Because when you bomb, you bomb seriously. It’s humbling.

So when I perform in front of 12,000 [in France] and then I go to the Comedy Cellar in New York in front of 100 people who have no idea who I am, it’s a really, really big challenge. And I love it.

Elmaleh has been called “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Photo Jon Asher
Elmaleh has been called “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Photo Jon Asher

O&A: When you were on the Jim and Sam Show [featured 8-11 a.m. on Sirius 206 and XM 103], Jim Norton—who has 26 years of experience in comedy —was talking about how after a bad show he questions himself. And this is a veteran comedian questioning himself. Is it like that?

Elmaleh: You know, it’s both. Because I have this thing in the back of my head all the time that says you have nothing to lose. What’s the worst-case scenario? “Oh, that guy with the bad accent was not funny?” It’s okay. It doesn’t matter. It’s a little painful. But it’s not that bad.

Just go home, and I write and rewrite. And listen to my sets, because I record every single set. But I’m lucky that I already made my career in France and made my money and earned my life and had my kids and all that. If I had to struggle and make a living with the standup comedy in the U.S., starting over, I would die. It would be impossible for me.

O&A: There’s this comparison to Jerry Seinfeld. People have been calling you “the French Jerry Seinfeld.” Does that work for you?

Elmaleh: I think it’s kind of lazy to compare people. But it’s good when they compare you to the right person, the person you admire. I do observational comedy…And [Seinfeld and I] have been connected even before we met. Then we became friends, and I went on his show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I open for him often. I travel with him. He comes to Paris sometimes, and performed in Paris in English one night, which I helped arrange.

I always say as a joke, and also to him, that they can compare me to Jerry Seinfeld the day that he performs an hour in French.

O&A: What was that day like, when you did Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Seinfeld? It looked like you had fun. Had you two met before that?

Elmaleh: Yeah, we were friends before. He was really interested in my challenge. He doesn’t understand why I need to come to America to do this. He always makes fun of me and says [in animated voice], “It’s like if you say, ‘OK, I’m going to go to Italy and start a pasta factory, and then I’m going to go to Germany and start building cars!”

And he’s making fun of me and he says, “You know it’s standup comedy. You’re from France. You should stay there.”

But I want him to understand… standup comedy was born in the U.S. If you play soccer you want to be with the best team. If you play baseball, you want to be in the city where baseball is No. 1. So I came to New York.

O&A: You were in the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris. You played the detective. And a theme in that movie was that people kept looking back in the past for a golden age. Everyone was looking back into the past. That said, when was the “Golden Age of Comedy” for you? Were there comedians that inspired you? Or would you say now is the best time for comedy?

Elmaleh: It’s funny, because I’ve been inspired as an artist not only by comedians. And it’s really interesting how you can be inspired by different role models that are not necessarily comedians.
The shock that I had when I saw Charlie Chaplin, when I was a kid. And the movie was The Kid. I was a little boy in Casablanca, Morocco. It was a shock. It was really an important moment for me.
Also, I don’t know why, but I also immediately thought of Frank Sinatra. I don’t know why. When I put on a song from Sinatra, it’s not only the music that I hear, I hear a whole time. A time, an epoch, a way of life.

There’s a whole atmosphere. There’s a whole environment. And if I could go back in time, I would really love to attend one of his concerts, and hang out with him, and [see] him hang out with the Rat Pack. There’s something really classic that I’m nostalgic about. Maybe I’m just getting old, but that’s what inspires me.

 

Cinema Six-Pack & A Shot

Six films that fool around with clocks and calendars

In celebration of the observance of Groundhog Day on Feb. 2, why not explore some cinematic time-traveling or time-twisting of your own? These movies will keep you preoccupied while we wait for spring.

Groundhog Day (1993)
This priceless romantic comedy is the perfect vehicle for the off-kilter persona of its star, Bill Murray. Murray plays Phil Connors, a jaded TV weatherman who gets mysteriously stuck in an ever-repeating day while covering the annual groundhog festivities in Punxsutawney, Pa. Phil (the guy, not the rodent) goes through a hilarious evolution of attitude and behavior toward the quaint townsfolk while also pursuing a liaison with his attractive but reserved producer (Andie McDowell).

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
You could almost characterize this military sci-fi thriller as Groundhog Day with warmongering aliens. Tom Cruise plays a glib public relations guy for the allied earth forces as they face a daunting off-planet enemy. He, too, gets stuck on the same repeating day as he tries to figure out how to be an actual soldier and perhaps even defeat this overwhelming alien force. Although Cruise is surprisingly effective in this role, the star of the film is a buff and battered Emily Blunt as our side’s genuine kick-ass hero.

About Time (2013)
From writer-director Richard Curtis, the feel-good tearjerker mind that brought us Love, Actually, comes this romantic dramedy. Domhnall Gleeson stars as a young man who discovers he has a genetic ability to travel in time, and he uses that skill to adjust some areas of his past that have been disappointments, specifically the lack of a girlfriend. But, in true movie fashion, time travel can have unintended consequences. Will all the mistakes get cleared up by the end credits? What do you think?

Midnight in Paris (2013)
Gil, a restless, nostalgic American writer (Owen Wilson), is discontented with the crass realities of modern life. While on vacation in Paris, he accidentally stumbles down a back street and into the city’s storied past. There, he meets such literary luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Scott Fitzgerald, and discovers, to his surprise, that his heroes are equally discontent with their era, which he has idealized. An amusing yet poignant critique of misplaced romanticism about eras gone by.

Back to the Future II (1989)
Although it lacks some of the genuine surprise of the first installment, this sequel is certainly more inventive in its mash-ups of 1985, 2015 and 1955. When the future changes the present, Marty must go back to the past again to try to fix things while avoiding running into his former time-traveling self (trust me, it works better than it sounds). The movie integrates the dual storylines in a clever fashion, especially when you consider that it is all done without the benefit of modern CGI technology.

Interstellar (2014)
Set in a plausibly dystopian future, astronauts on a barren, decimated Earth must travel through a wormhole to seek other planets capable of sustaining human life. The time-bending aspect of this dense sci-fi film doesn’t emerge until late, but it adds a metaphysical frisson to what could otherwise have been a rather straightforward space saga. Interstellar has a lot, maybe even too much, on its mind, but in the deft hands of director-co-writer Christopher Nolan, the movie is more thought-provoking than it is pretentious.

And a shot…coming to Theatre N in February.

Sing Street (2016) Screening Feb. 24-26
Conor, a sensitive, lovelorn teenager in 1980s Dublin, decides the best way to capture the attention and, better yet, the heart of a mysterious girl is to start a band. Writer-director John Carney has demonstrated an affinity for stories of aspiring musicians; his previous features include Begin Again and Once. In this outing, he has the immeasurable help of his appealing young lead, Ferdia Walso-Peelo, supported by Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy and a smashing ‘80s soundtrack featuring The Cure, Duran Duran, A-Ha and Spandau Ballet. For a full Theatre N schedule and more information, go to theatren.com.

All In the Timing

Davey Dickens Jr. picked up a guitar six years ago. Next month, his band releases its debut album.

It’s funny how much difference five years can make in a person’s life.

Take local country musician Davey Dickens Jr. for instance. It wasn’t until 2011, when Dickens was 32 years old, that he started playing guitar. Yet, just five years later, in March 2016, he found himself in one of Wilmington’s most esteemed recording studios, performing and recording his songs with some of the area’s most seasoned musicians—members of the then newly formed Davey Dickens Jr. and the Troubadours.

“I’d never stepped foot in a studio, ever,” Dickens says, his voice betraying amazement at where he is today: His band releases its debut self-titled album on Feb. 16 at World Cafe Live at The Queen.

The album features eight songs penned by Dickens and touches on life’s challenges as well as some of its joys. Montana Wildaxe co-founder and guitarist Kurt Houff encouraged the project early on.

“Kurt and I got to be pretty good buddies,” Dickens says. “He started coming up to the house, and we did a couple of song-writing sessions. [Then] we started playing out a lot as The Troubadours.”

The Troubadours came to include a former bandmate of Dickens, Dave Van Allen, on pedal steel, along with Houff’s fellow Montana Wildaxe bassist Tony Cappella and former Caulfields drummer Ritchie Rubini, who did double-duty as producer during the band’s sessions at Studio 825 last year.
“I’m so blessed to have such a force,” says Dickens.

For Dickens, those blessings included attracting the interest of Johnny Neel, famed keyboardist most known for his time with The Allman Brothers. After getting a copy of Dickens’ material, the Wilmington-born Neel agreed to return to his native state to play on the album.

While Dickens is somewhat amazed at the band’s success, he isn’t resting on his laurels. “We’ve got a lot more material,” he says.

Davey Dickens Jr. and the Troubadours play Upstairs at World Cafe Live at The Queen on Feb. 16. Advance tickets are $10 and include a copy of the new album plus a band t-shirt. More details at worldcafelive.com.

Tuned In

Not-to-be-missed music news

Classical Guitar Performance by Duo 220 Set for Feb. 25

Hailed for their technique and musicianship, classical guitarists Adam Larison and Andrew Stroud of Duo 220 have established a firm position in a newly emerging generation of guitar ensembles.

The Wilmington Classical Guitar Society is hosting a performance by the duo at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant (503 Duncan Rd., Wilmington) on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 7:30 p.m.

Duo 220 strives to create programs that are new, fresh and accessible through a mixture of both standards and lesser-known works in the guitar duo. Admission is $10 for students, seniors and WCGS members and $15 for general admission, available at the door or online at wilmingtonguitar.org.

Cory Henry & The Funk Apostles

Join an intimate evening performance with Cory Henry and his band, The Funk Apostles, on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Clifford Brown Performance Center. Henry is a 29-year-old Brooklyn-born songwriter, organist, pianist and music producer well-versed in jazz, gospel and funk. He has toured with Bruce Springsteen, Michael McDonald, P. Diddy, Boyz II Men, Israel Houghton, Donnie McClurkin and Kirk Franklin and has released two albums, First Steps (2014) and The Revival (2016).

Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert begins promptly at 7:30. Early bird tickets are $20 through Feb. 5 and $30 after. Tickets are available at ccacde.org.

The Arts at Trinity

On Saturday, Feb. 18, at Trinity Episcopal Church (1108 N. Adams St., Wilmington), The Arts at Trinity presents a performance by the Mid-Atlantic Chamber Music Society as part of its 2016-2017 music series. Admission is free. Donations are accepted. The performance is at 7:30 p.m.

Open Mic Night

The Music School of Delaware hosts a bi-monthly open mic night on the second Thursday of every other month, beginning in February. On Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Wilmington branch – 4104 Washington St.—the event will include professional-grade equipment for artists: drum set, grand piano, electric piano/synth, guitar/bass amplification available upon request, microphones, PA system and monitors. A complimentary recording of the performance is available to all participants as well as an after party. The event is free.

Thrones in the Round in Philly

The Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience is coming to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sunday, Feb. 26. It will mark the first time an orchestral concert like this will be performed in the round.
The performance is expected to be massive in terms of sound, size, and visuals, sure to mirror the Emmy-winning show’s stature. Innovative music tour production and video technology will take the audience through the seven kingdoms of the Game of Thrones universe.

The Travel Songs Foundation

Delaware band and creative organization Travel Songs recently established a nonprofit, The Travel Songs Foundation, and launched its first project: preserving instrument-making in Peru’s Andean region.

In 2013, the band—now foundation—broadened perspectives with a successful Kickstarter campaign that funded the group’s first award-winning documentary, Travel Songs: Peru.

Now, the Travel Songs Foundation takes things a step further, and is chartered under the Delaware Community Foundation with the mission to connect cultures through music. Funded by grants and tax-deductible donations from its supporters, the foundation fulfills its mission by producing documentaries and other multimedia about music and culture from around the world. Paired with each film project, the foundation identifies a critical need in a host country’s local music or culture and launches a charitable initiative.

The first initiative for the foundation launched mid-January in Cusco, Peru, and is called The Sabino Luthier School. While filming in Cusco in 2013, the team met and interviewed a Peruvian instrument maker named Sabino Huaman, who expressed a fear that his trade, which had been passed from generation to generation within his family for more than 100 years, would soon disappear.

In launching The Sabino Luthier School, the foundation hopes to help preserve this local art. By the end of this year-long intensive training course, students at the school will possess the general skills to be able to construct traditional Andean instruments, and will have the training to pursue building or repairing string instruments as a profession.

The project covers full day courses every Saturday in 2017, all travel and lodging for the students, a course instructor wage for Huaman, as well as the cost of all tools and materials. The Travel Songs Foundation will also provide equipment and training to a local videographer (Huaman’s son) to document the students’ progress throughout the year.

For updates, visit travelsongs.org.

melomanie-group-2015Mélomanie February Series

Mélomanie will present provocative pairings of early and contemporary works in innovative chamber music on Saturday, Feb. 4, at 4 p.m. at CAMP Rehoboth (37 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach) and on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 2 p.m. at The Delaware Contemporary (200 S. Madison St., Wilmington). Parking is free onsite and a reception follows the performance. These concerts feature the premier of “Just a Regular Child” by Delaware composer David Schelat and collaborations with two guest artists, violinist Daniela Pierson and cellist Todd Thiel. The repertoire also includes works by Couperin, Guignon, Bartók and Corelli.

General tickets are $25, and $15 for students ages 16 and older. For children through age 15 admission is free.

Purchase tickets online at melomanie.org, at the door, or at 764-6338.

Another All-Star Extravaganza

The Shine A Light concert series continues March 4, with a spotlight on 1977. The fundraiser once again features scores of the area’s top musicians.

67 musicians representing 83 bands
1,240 rehearsal hours
126 volunteers
38 songs
Countless creative collaborations

And that was last year.

The Shine A Light On The Queen concert series has been a hit with the public from the outset, and this year’s event, The Shine A Light on ’77, promises to exceed those numbers on its way to another sell-out and another lucrative fundraiser for the Light Up The Queen Foundation.

Set for 8 p.m. Saturday, March 4, at World Cafe Live at The Queen in Wilmington, the concert will once again bring together an all-star musical lineup of scores of the most popular and revered singers and musicians in the Wilmington area. They’ll be celebrating the music of 1977, when punk and disco were bursting into full flower, signaling a new wave in pop music.

One change fans will note this year is the March date. In previous years, the concerts took place in February, when the chance of inclement weather was a greater variable. In 2015, a stifling blizzard hit the area on the day of the show, rendering many roads impassable.

Yet, says bassist Betty Bullington, “It was a full house. You never would have known the weather was so bad outside.”

For its first three years, the series was a musical tribute to The Rolling Stones. Two years ago, organizers switched gears and decided to fete the music of 1975. It was a 40th anniversary retrospective on what concert co-producer and performer Rob Grant describes as “a time when some of the best music was being made.”

“Besides, we ran out of Rolling Stones songs and, let’s face it, the ‘70s were cool,” he says.
“It [will be] a really big mix of funk, folk, disco, good old country and badass rock and roll,” says Shine A Light performer Davey Dickens Jr. about this year’s show. “There was a lot of stuff going on in 1977—and the 1970s as a whole—musically.”

A Worthy Cause

Grant, who sits on the of the Shine A Light Planning Committee, also performs at the event. He says it gives him and other musicians “an opportunity to play some great music with really talented musicians and performers while also knowing we are helping a worthy cause.”
“The Light Up The Queen Foundation began in 2011 with a single arts education program and has developed and diversified over the years,” says Tina Betz, the Light Up The Queen Foundation executive director.

“The concert is by far the biggest fundraiser for the Foundation, pulling in approximately a half million dollars in its six-year run. The money raised has benefitted over 10,000 young people through musical arts programs,” she adds.

The foundation also provides education on social issues and healthy living, along with education through music and art.

“The concert for the Light Up The Queen Foundation is a truly worthwhile event in a city constantly struggling with their arts programs,” says Joe Trainor, who is seen by many as a leader in the area’s music and theater scene. Trainor has organized many tribute concerts for bands such as The Eagles, Queen and Genesis, outside of his own extensive oeuvre of original work. When asked for one word to describe the event, he didn’t hesitate: “Community.”

“This event brings people together and provides an opportunity to play with others you don’t normally get to play with,” he says, adding that this spirit of community forces everyone to “up their game.”
Trainor enjoys the wider palate the tribute to an entire year offers versus celebrating a single band’s repertoire, because the gamut of music is both a challenge and a change of pace. Other musicians share that view.

“There are no songs we wouldn’t want to play [on the playlist],” according to Tony Cappella, the troubadour bassist from Montana Wildaxe, who also performs with approximately a dozen other bands. “If anything, it gives us a chance as musicians to step out of our comfort zones. We love new challenges and styles.”

Cappella’s own musical career began a few years before 1977. “There is a really good chance I might be playing on a song I haven’t played on in 40 years,” he laughs.

For the performers, the journey to the night of the show rivals the actual show.

Performers jamming at last year’s concert. Photo Joe del Tufo
Performers jamming at last year’s concert. Photo Joe del Tufo

“In a way, the show itself is a bit anti-climactic for the musicians,” says Lew Indellini, lead singer of Special Delivery. “Don’t get me wrong, we love performing for this event, but the meetings, discovering the playlist, the rehearsals and collaborating with some of the most accomplished musicians in the area is one of the best parts of this event for us.”

No Egos

“It’s great to have helped invent something all the performers look forward to,” says Shine A Light Committee member and event co-founder Kevin McCabe, “especially since I’ve looked up to many of these musicians for such a long time.”

Despite the high level of musical accomplishment of the individual performers, “there is no ego” involved, according to McCabe, who also performs. “Everyone has a lot of respect for one another.”

Last year’s show ran much longer than the intended three hours. At the first musicians’ meeting for this year’s show, Grant emphasized quicker change-overs between songs. Singer Dan McGowan and guitarist Mike Petrillo discussed additional production value.

“We believe adding more production value will enhance the experience for the audience,” says Petrillo.
The meeting also was an opportunity for “rookie” musicians—most of them younger—to meet the rest of the members.

“I couldn’t believe how passionate everyone is,” says Samantha Poole, who will be performing at her first Shine A Light event.

“The gig itself is one thing, but the relationships you develop are very special,” she says. “My father used to play in The Sky Band with Nick Bucci when I was 10 years old. I’ve performed onstage with Nick since then, but it will be amazing if I get to perform with him at this year’s event.”

Poole’s father will be in attendance, making it extra special for her.

Newcomer Pat Kane, the wunderkind 20-something guitarist, may be the youngest performer at this year’s event. He will share the stage with some of the “silverbacks”—the musicians who are his grandparents’ age.

“It would be great to continue to add more young musicians and singers each year,” says Poole, to continue what has quickly become a tradition and centerpiece event of the local music landscape.
The Light Up The Queen Foundation “helps feed and cultivate the local arts,” says Betz, “by bringing music to young people who may, one day, be up on that stage themselves performing in a Shine A Light event.”

Tickets are available at the World Cafe Live website, WorldCafeLive.com. General admission is $60 and a limited number of VIP tickets are available for $250. Kathleen Ford, the Shine A Light Committee chair, says a portion of the price of the tickets is tax deductible. “But,” she adds, “don’t hesitate, because they are going quickly.”

Pucker Up

Sour beers are a growing presence on the brewing landscape

Lore has it that thousands of years ago, when humans first discovered that hops, grain and water combined to create beer, all the resulting beverages featured a taste profile that we would describe as sour.

Blame the microorganisms that linger around us—then and now. Bacteria and naturally occurring yeasts were in the air, water and dust, and especially in the open vessels often used to craft the early brews. They settled freely in the wort (the grain and water mixture that forms the beginnings of beer) and thrived.

Once Louis Pasteur demonstrated how to rid food and prep equipment of unwanted microorganisms using his namesake process and simple sterilization, brewers learned the importance of making sure the final product was free of unwanted microbial visitors. Open wooden vessels gave way to closed, easily cleaned copper kettles and eventually, stainless steel vats. Paired with high-temperature cleaning, the simple changes all but eliminated the potential of unwanted critters infesting a batch of beer.

The disappearance of sour beers from the American landscape also had a good bit to do with changes in approaches to food storage, as well as a healthy dose of big-business marketing, says Craig Wensell, CEO and co-owner of Bellefonte Brewing Co. in Wilmington.

“Brewing in America has been in an awakening almost since Prohibition. Everything changed after that period of self-isolation. Sour beers almost immediately made a comeback right after that,” he says. “But along with the whole concept of canned foods and long-term shelf-stable products, there was an attempt to run the old-style beers off. Either that or they just faded away.”

Bellefonte Brewing Co.'s sour Belgian quadruple, Sour Claymonster, fermenting. It’s available at the brewery this month. Photo Anthony Santoro
Bellefonte Brewing Co.’s sour Belgian quadruple, Sour Claymonster, fermenting. It’s available at the brewery this month. Photo Anthony Santoro

Because nothing is as alluring as the forbidden or unattainable, modern brewers began to plumb history for those funky flavors lost through modern cleanliness. However skeevy it might sound, in pursuit of this primordial flavor born from higher acidity, modern beer makers began intentionally infecting their brews with several types of bacteria and wild yeasts, all designed to add a little something to bring about that new/old sour flavor only the wonkiest beer enthusiasts and culinary anthropologist even knew we were missing.

The master brewers of Belgium were the first in recent history to bring these flavors back to commercially produced brews, going back to the old open koelschip—the Germanic name for what Americans refer to as the coolship, or an open vessel used to cool wort. This allowed “wild” yeasts and bacteria to settle into the mix before it moved to the brewing process.

They began offering up their intentionally inoculated and fermented sour ales known as lambics, as well as lambic blends (known as gueuzes) and Flanders ales. Others not of Belgian provenance included Berliner weisse and gose, both from Germany. Goosed with naturally occurring flora in the wort stage, the finished brews were often aged in used wine barrels, where other lingering bacteria and the remnants of each vintage would boost the flavor profile further.

Properly prepared, these beers can range from light and fruity to verging on the complexity of a fine, dry red wine and lend themselves to a variety of food pairings. In fact, Wensell says that among traditional craft brew drinkers who lean toward a hoppy flavor, sours can often fall flat. But with wine drinkers who often claim to not like beer, sours are frequently a hit.

“The mouth feel of the product is going to be the same as wine, so I use that as my reference point for people who say, “I don’t really like beer,’” he says. “Ten to 15 times over the course of every weekend we see the beer person turn up their nose and someone who doesn’t like beer will go to the sours. It can really take people 180 degrees out of where they thought they were.”

Bellefonte Brewing Co.'s Funk n' Pineapple. Photo Anthony Santoro
Bellefonte Brewing Co.’s Funk n’ Pineapple. Photo Anthony Santoro

Done wrong, the taste of a sour beer can skew toward the unpleasantly earthy or even, um … poopy. Because of their brewing process, even when done well, consistency isn’t the hallmark of sour beers. If you find a brand you like and stick with it, you can still expect flavor variations from batch to batch, Wensell says.

“Sours are kind of hit and miss, but they’re becoming more ‘hit.’ In my drinking experience, I’ve been punished by a number of sours,” he notes. “It’s been kind of an adventure in discovery. It doesn’t always go your way, but it’s always entertaining.”

Sours available at Bellefonte this month will be the Sour Claymonster, a sour Belgian quadruple (or “quad” – essentially an extra-strong Trappist-style ale) with flavors of tart cherry and caramel; a mixed fermentation with Brettanomyces bruxellensis (“Brett brux”) and Saccharomyces Trois (“Sacc. Trois”) yeasts that Wensell describes as “a big, bright. pineapple bomb”; Bellefonte’s second batch of Solera #1, a complex sour with a wine-like flavor that, with carbonation, comes off like a prosecco; and a bright and complex full Brett fermentation that features strong flavors of sour peach and mango. Wensell says he also likes to keep at least two sours on tap throughout the year, usually a blueberry and raspberry.

Searching your favorite beer shop for something to take home? Here are a few top-rated bottles to try:

Dogfish Head's SeaQuench Ale. Photo courtesy of Dogfish Head Brewery
Dogfish Head’s SeaQuench Ale. Photo courtesy of Dogfish Head Brewery

Dogfish Head SeaQuench Ale – The only blend on the list happens to also be one from the locals at Dogfish Head Brewery in Rehoboth Beach. This session hazy golden sour combines three separate brews—a traditional German-style Kolsch wheat beer; a gose with hints of sea salt, coriander and black lime; and a Berliner weisse flavored with lime and lime peel. All three are aged together to produce a thirst-quenching drink that’s tart and citrusy up front with a hint of salt and a malty sweet finish. It pairs well with steamed mussels, grilled chicken and raw oysters for the main dish, or a bit of chevre during your cheese course. As a seasonal release, SeaQuench won’t be back around until the summer.

otravez-bottle-pint2016Sierra Nevada Otra Vez Gose-Style Ale – Flavored with prickly pear cactus fruit, coriander and grapefruit, this brew from the Chico, Calif.-based brewery offers a tangy bitterness reminiscent of watermelon that goes well with spicy main dishes, goat cheeses and citrusy desserts. Its 4.5 percent ABV makes it a refreshing, smooth-drinking selection.

Russian River Consecration – A dark reddish-brown brew, Consecration gets much of its color from being aged in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels acquired from wineries local to the Santa Rosa, Calif., brewery, and from being spiked with black currant prior to the four- to eight-month aging process. What emerges is ale with a sour punch. Undertones of the wine remain, complementing top notes of currant, chocolate truffle, tobacco and spice. Its 10 percent ABV is as foreboding as its dark color, so take your time enjoying this one.

Weyerbacher Brewing Tarte Nouveau Session Sour – This light, refreshing and mildly sour offering originally began as an experiment by the Easton, Pa., brewery to see if it was possible to create a sour beer that wouldn’t contaminate the rest of its drafting and packing equipment. What first emerged as their limited-edition Zulu label has now morphed into this tart, pale-yellow ale that offers an easily drinkable 3.9 percent ABV and a dry, smooth finish. The subtle presence of cherries helps this beer pair well with light seafood dishes like ceviche and the earthier tastes of a beet and goat cheese salad. Be patient, though. This sought-after seasonal won’t be back again until spring.

Bites

Tasty things worth knowing

A Winter Harvest

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar, located in Glen Mills, Pa., and at six other sites throughout Pennsylvania, recently released a new winter menu.

The restaurant offers farm-to-table fare featuring organic, local, sustainable and non-GMO ingredients sourced from more than 75 local farms. Freekeh, Caputo Brothers Creamery Cheeses and Baker Street Bread Co.‘s baked goods play a starring role in the new menu.

Restaurateur Dave Magrogan and Executive Chef Josh Short are utilizing Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-Op’s organic, local and sustainable ingredients to create the restaurant’s new winter menu, which is available at all of the restaurant’s locations.

Among the menu items are street tacos, flatbreads, brick oven pizzas, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, seafood, meat, poultry and vegetarian dishes. The super grain salad, vegetarian poutine, tuna poke, Vietnamese chicken tacos, macadamia nut-crusted halibut, Kennett Square mushroom stroganoff and the vegetable stew are also new additions.

And for dessert? There’s the sugar plum cobbler, upside-down zucchini bread cake and bourbon butter pecan.

Harvest Seasonal Grill is currently pickling vegetables for its charcuterie offering, and is working with local initiatives to forage, source and pickle fruits and vegetables during the cold winter months. The restaurant has also begun working with Baker Street Bread Company to secure fresh bread deliveries daily.

Taking A Bite Out of Hunger

Thanks to a $10,000 donation from Delaware Food Lion locations, kids at Clayton Court Apartments in Wilmington won’t have to worry about being hungry after school. Clayton Court is the newest site to participate in the Food Bank of Delaware’s pilot after-school grab and go meal offering. Meal service began just before the holidays, and it’s already popular with both kids and parents. Kids who live in the complex can stop by the rental office and grab a nutritious meal to take home.

Meanwhile, two ongoing supporters of the Food Bank surprised the staff with significant donations. The TD Charitable Foundation delivered a check for $80,000, and the Norfolk Southern Foundation donated $15,000 for the Backpack Program plus an additional $15,000 for community nutrition programming.

More Food Bank news includes its Culinary School course, which begins Feb. 13. It’s for those interested in a career in the food service industry. The 14-week training class will take place in Newark and Milford.

The program includes 12 weeks of hands-on training in basic and high-end kitchen skills, safe food handling, and life skills. Students also have the opportunity to become ServSafe certified. The 12 weeks of training culminate with a two-week paid internship at a food service company. Upon graduation, the Food Bank of Delaware helps place students in entry-level jobs in the food industry.

Breakfast & Bird Walk

Kick off the Great Backyard Bird Count at Coverdale Farm Preserve with a hot breakfast and a bird walk on Friday, Feb. 17, from 8-11 a.m. (with an extended portion from noon-2 p.m.). The bird data collected will be submitted to this international bird survey, a continent-wide survey in which anyone can participate. It creates a snapshot of birds in mid-winter and provides useful bird trend data.
The fee is $15 for Delaware Nature Society members and $22 for nonmembers. Meet at the preserve at 543 Way Rd., Greenville.

Serving Up Sustainability

Bison, Boraxo and biodegradable coasters: Are green restaurants the wave of the future? Some local eateries are giving it a try.

On a blustery fall morning, members of the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce gathered at Ted’s Montana Grill in the Christiana Fashion Center for the restaurant’s grand opening ceremonies. It was only 10 a.m., but that didn’t stop servers from passing copper mugs filled with “Hendrick’s Mules” and diminutive burgers speared with tiny American flags. The crowd gathered to watch Ted’s CEO, George McKerrow Jr., and chamber President Mark Kleinschmidt cut into a steak so large that it easily dwarfed a cheesecake.

Just another restaurant opening near the mall? Not quite. The ceremonial steak and sliders are bison, which is the star attraction at Ted’s Montana Grill. Sodas, which come with wax-coated paper straws, are placed on 100-percent biodegradable coasters. Want yours to go? Takeout cups are made with cornstarch. In the bathroom, soap dispensers contain biodegradable Boraxo.

McKerrow and his partner, the media mogul Ted Turner, are dedicated to sustainability in the restaurant industry. “We started the conversation,” says McKerrow. In 2008, they spearheaded “The Green Restaurant Revolution” tour.

But they’re not the only ones making an effort. Several Delaware-based establishments are also stepping up to the plate. It’s not easy. Most restaurants lack the resources of Ted’s Montana Grill, which is fueled by Turner’s convictions, McKerrow’s 40-plus years of industry experience—he also founded LongHorn Steakhouse—and some serious buying power; Ted’s is now in 16 states.

But even Ted’s bows to some consumer preferences, practical considerations, and an industry that has yet to catch up.

Blackened blue catfish from NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View, one of nine restaurants owned by Rehoboth Beach-based SoDel Concepts. All nine feature the fish, which is threatening the ecosystem in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo Pam George
Blackened blue catfish from NorthEast Seafood Kitchen in Ocean View, one of nine restaurants owned by Rehoboth Beach-based SoDel Concepts. All nine feature the fish, which is threatening the ecosystem in the Chesapeake Bay. Photo Pam George

On the Plate

Turner—who is an avid outdoorsman—and McKerrow decided to feature bison to help increase the threatened animal’s herds. The population, which numbered up to 30 million at one time, dwindled due to habitat loss and overhunting in the 19th century.

As more consumers become aware of the health benefits of bison (it’s higher in nutrients and lower in calories than most meat), they will increase the demand—or so the theory goes. Ranchers, as a result, will grow their herds, which can be good for the environment. Able to withstand harsh weather conditions, bison are natural foragers that thrive on grass outdoors; there’s no need for feed and artificial shelter. They calve without human interference, and their natural heartiness requires fewer vet visits than cattle.

Their grass diet results in meat that is slightly sweeter than regular beef and much leaner. The taste and the health benefits have whetted the public’s appetite, which is evident by the number of bison burgers in many local restaurants, including Buckley’s Tavern in Centreville. Of course, both Buckley’s and Ted’s also offer standard beef burgers and steaks.

Supporting the growth of an endangered species is one way that restaurants can be sustainable. Another is to create dishes with creatures that are causing an imbalance. Take, for instance, the wild blue catfish, which was introduced into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries in the 1970s for anglers. The fish, however, has few predators other than man, and it exhibited a voracious appetite for just about anything on the bay’s bottom.

“It’s a pesky fish, but it is delicious,” says William Hoffman, who with his wife, Merry Catanuto, owns The House of William & Merry in Hockessin. “We try to serve it as much as we can to try and help balance the ecosystem in the bay.”

Farm-raised fish have been getting a bad rap for the fish’s unhealthy habitat. Disease not only can affect the farm-raised fish but it can also drift into the wild fish population.

But not all aquaculture practices are detrimental to the ocean. Brian Ashby, the owner of 8th & Union Kitchen in Wilmington’s Little Italy, features Verlasso salmon, which is raised on Patagonian farms that follow sustainability standards established by the World Wildlife Fund. He also sells specials with cobia that’s raised in open-water farms.

These new methods encourage containment in the deep ocean, where the currents can flush the pens. The containment mimics a natural habitat as much as possible, right down to including species such as mussels, which consume waste.

Hoffman offers alternatives to overfished species like swordfish, tuna and salmon. “There are so many species out there that aren’t overfished, but that people don’t know about,” Hoffman says.

In the House of William & Merry, diners expect to find new ingredients prepared in innovative ways.

Buckley’s Tavern, known for its comfort food, recently offered parrotfish, which are threatening coral reefs. But at the Big Fish Grill restaurants, customers stick to the familiar, says Eric Sugrue, the managing partner. “It’s challenging because obviously, we want to do the right thing, but we also want to put items on the menu that people like and can afford to eat,” he says.

The price point is also a factor for the restaurant’s cost, Sugrue adds. Joe Van Horn, owner of Chelsea Tavern, might agree. “We use reputable vendors, and purchase the most sustainable [ingredients that] we can, while continuing to offer the price point that we do,” he says.

What’s more, many restaurants won’t take a risk on an item not selling because diners refuse to try it. Sugrue says there’s been no noticeable uptick in customer concern for sustainable fish or new species, even in the market adjacent to the original Big Fish location in Rehoboth Beach.

Recycle & Reuse

Sourcing sustainable food is not the only way that restaurants can benefit the environment. The reclaimed wood that makes 8th & Union Kitchen’s décor so distinctive likely came from a tobacco factory, says Ashby, who noticed the aroma when the workers were cutting the wood.

Van Horn says that his restaurants recycle paper, cardboard, plastic. glass, metal and fryer grease.

(Using services that manage and recycle kitchen oil has become a common practice.)

Along with reclaimed wood for the dining rooms, using services that manage and recycle kitchen oil has become a common practice.

Brian Ashby, owner of 8th & Union Kitchen, says the restaurant's reclaimed wood decor likely came from a tobacco factory. Photo David Norbut
Brian Ashby, owner of 8th & Union Kitchen, says the restaurant’s reclaimed wood decor likely came from a tobacco factory. (Photo by David Norbut)

Reducing food waste is also a practical priority. Home Grown Café in Newark orders small quantities to make sure that everything is used, says owner Sasha Aber, who also buys as much of her seasonal food as possible from local vendors.

Restaurants like Home Grown and 8th & Union Kitchen that make items from scratch can be resourceful. “There is very little that goes to waste in this kitchen,” Ashby says. “Nearly every vegetable scrap is used in our mushroom pho. Meat scraps are almost always incorporated into other dishes. There is always a veg scrap bin in the walk-in.”

Some Delaware restaurants once participated in a composting program with the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center. But that business was ordered to cease operations in 2014 due to neighbors’ complaints about the smell.

At Harry’s Savoy Grill, the leftover prime rib is donated to Emmanuel Dining Room and other charities. Oyster shells are sprinkled in garden beds. From plastic to glass bottles, everything that can be recycled is recycled at The House of William & Merry.

Ted's Montana Grill at the Christiana Fashion Center. (Photo by Joe del Tufo)
Ted’s Montana Grill at the Christiana Fashion Center. (Photo by Joe del Tufo)

Materials Matter

With their plastic straws, coffee stirrers and takeout containers, restaurants can generate a lot of waste that collects in landfills—and stays there. When McKerrow and Turner decided to open Ted’s Montana Gill, they wanted to do something about that problem. In 2001, McKerrow researched paper straws online and found a company in New Jersey that invented the product in 1833. He called and talked to the third-generation owner.

“He said: ‘George, we haven’t made a paper straw since 1970,’” McKerrow recalls. It was possible, however, that the machine was still around. The owner called back to say the engineers had indeed found the machine and could make it work. With packaging in hand, the straws arrived at the first Ted’s in Columbus, Ohio, in trash bags. Unfortunately, they quickly turned to limp noodles in the soda.
The motivated company found a biodegradable polymer to make the straw and stirrer last an hour.

Today, the company also sells the products to cruise lines under the name Aardvark Straws. Being responsible does not come cheap. Regular straws cost less than a penny when purchased in bulk. A package of 24 paper straws is $4.99 online.

Ted’s originally used all biodegradable takeout containers. Without clear plastic lids, though, servers mixed up the orders. Plus, some foods quickly soak through cardboard. The restaurant conceded that aluminum with a clear lid was better for some items.

As for building materials, low-flow toilets, no-water urinals, and high-pressure/low-volume water sprayers deliver a return on investment and help promote sustainability. These are additions that customers, who can press restaurants to do more, cannot see. But for those committed to sustainability, there is too much that they do notice.

Yasmine Bowman, for one, is watching. The realtor and Wilmington resident says she is dedicated to being a responsible consumer. On her Facebook page, she writes, “‘Sustainability’ will be my personal word and cause for 2017.”

“I tend to stay away from restaurants that do not recycle. I prefer to frequent establishments that are in line with my value systems. I also do not go to fast food restaurants that put hot food in plastic containers. The health dangers of BPA leaching into the food are a huge health threat. I would also like to see more restaurants offer organic, cruelty-free and gluten-free options. This is the future. Those who find a way to accommodate this sooner will thrive; those who don’t will slowly fail.”

Remembering Darius

Darius Mansoory’s first restaurant in Wilmington was Knuckleheads Saloon in the late 1980s. He’d be the first to tell you that it was aptly named; Darius knew little about running a restaurant in those days.

So, after a few years he sold the place, left town for nearly a half-decade, and returned to repurchase the same building – 1206 Washington St. – at sheriff’s sale. In 1997, the location was reborn as the Washington Street Ale House. Darius had, indeed, learned quite a bit about running a restaurant by then.

The Ale House, which is still going strong after nearly 20 years, was the foundation for Darius’ Cherry Tree Hospitality Group. Mikimotos Asian Grill followed. Then Presto Coffee Bar & Bistro and The Marashino Room – all three located along Washington Street in Wilmington. A few years ago, he expanded his restaurant holdings to Rehoboth Beach with Stingray Sushi Bar & Asian Latina Grill. The former “knucklehead” had become quite the restaurateur.

“When I opened up, I knew it all. I was the best,” Darius told Out & About during a 2012 interview for the Ale House’s 15-year anniversary. “And then the next year went by. I looked at me in the previous year, and I said, ‘Oh, that guy probably didn’t know anything. I know it all now.’ And then the next year goes by, and I look back at myself the year before and say, ‘That guy didn’t know anything.’ Where does it end? I don’t think it’s gonna.”

Unfortunately, it ended much too soon for Darius; he died Dec. 31 of an apparent heart attack while vacationing in Cuba. He was 52.

I knew Darius for all 28 years of this magazine’s existence; saw his shortcomings; was amazed by his resilience; admired his creative intelligence. Darius lived big and had a heart even bigger. The size of his heart is what I’ll remember most.

Let’s hope Darius’ restaurants continue to operate. It would be a fitting tribute.