Summer Wine—at the Beach
Restaurant owners and sommeliers have seasonal mixes and seasonal buys to stock their wine lists—unless your restaurant has only one big season. The people who pour at the beaches have one chance to match the right wines with the right foods at the right prices. Here’s a peek at what they offer, according to DT wine guy Roger Morris.
The Back Porch Café in Rehoboth Beach has a diverse wine list of about 60 selections—heavy on Californians—with half offered by the glass.
Most people still prefer whites with good acidity for seafood. Henlopen City Oyster House fits that bill with an excellent list. Customers often demand Chardonnay, but there are better bargains and better matches with traditional European wines, such as Muscadet and Albarino.
Beach restaurants generally offer a good range of bottles under $40, but many shy from great bottles at the high end. Not The Buttery in Lewes, which offers a better range of intriguing high-end wines on its captain’s list than it does on its low-end list. The most creative and diverse beach wine list, however, is at Nage in Rehoboth, with great bottles on both ends of the scale.
The Parkway in Bethany has a respectable list of familiar labels. Café Azafrán in Lewes offers heavy selections of lesser-knowns from Spain and Italy. Sake isn’t wine, but it pairs with food like wine does, especially seafood. Cultured Pearl in Rehoboth has an excellent selection of sake and wine.
So enjoy. And don’t forget to look for Roger’s “Into the Drink” column each month in Delaware Today.
We live in an area blessed with many outstanding Italian restaurants. (Have you ever eaten restaurant lasagna in West Virginia or Arizona? We tried. Not good.) How outstanding are we? Giovanni Panza of Soffritto Italian Grill recently announced it received the Ospitalitá Italiana Ristoranti Italiani nel mundo Seal of Quality Award by the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce. That’s a fancy way of saying that Soffritto, In Newark, is the only restaurant in the area recognized by the chamber as being authentically Italian, even if it isn’t in Italy. And it’s not just a bunch of marketing hooey. Investigators from the chamber personally evaluated Soffritto for the quality and authenticity of its food, wine, atmosphere, service and more. Your Insider can’t say he’s surprised by the honor. He was, however, surprised when he walked through the doors five years ago to discover a gem hidden in a strip mall off Kirkwood Highway. We love starters like roasted peppers with mozzarella and Caprese salad, but we flip for entrees such as linguine pescatore and osso bucco. The wall of water adds a pleasant burble to your experience. If you’ve discounted this one as just a cheesy strip place, take our word for it: You need to go there. 455-1101, soffrittogrill.com
We’re not ashamed to admit it: We love dessert. And we firmly believe that at times, it should be eaten first—and we’re not talking about a stuffy tray of artisinal cheeses. We mean gooey, sticky, sweet stuff that jacks your blood glucose to unsafe levels. Take crème brûlée. “I almost hate to say it, but we love crème brûlée around here,” says chef Pat McMahon. “And we sell a lot of it.” That most ubiquitous of desserts, characterized by its rich, vanilla-spiked custard base and crunchy scorched-sugar top, is thoroughly overdone, overplayed and overexposed. Yet we can’t get enough. Even at modern-leaning, higher-end establishments like McMahon’s Domaine Hudson, crème brûlée is a fixture. “I think it’s the ultimate comfort food,” he says. “You’ve got the soft silky, velvety custard, then that dichotomous crunch up top. Plus, how many people have a blowtorch at their house?” Though Domaine Hudson dishes out more fanciful creations—including dark chocolate pot de crème, lemon-olive oil cake and homemade gelati—the crème brûlée, made with Tahitian vanilla bean and farm fresh eggs, is the fave. Other great restaurants offer it, too, as well as well as tiramisu, Key lime pie, cheesecake, cobblers, pound cakes, pies and a lot more. See the dining guide in the August issue for the result of restaurant critic Matt Amis’ exhaustive exploration of local confections. Or just click here.
Burger Madness, Re-visited
Mark your calendars for two great events that celebrate the great American creation known as The Burger. First up: the Jake’s Wayback Burgers fifth annual Chowdown Showdown on Aug. 11, when you can attempt to devour the Triple Triple Burger, a nine-patty monster with nine slices of cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. If you can get one down faster than the other contestants, you’ll win an iPad2 and be entered in the Wayback Burgers Facebook video contest, “Why Wayback is Waybetter,” where you could win a $1,000 cash prize, based on how many Facebook fans vote for your vid. Hit Jake’s at Bear, Middletown, Newark, Rehoboth Beach, Smyrna or Kennett Square at 2 p.m. to get in on the fun. (facebook.com/waybackburgers) Second, Union City Grille in Wilmington will host the Wilmington Burger Battle on Aug. 25. Top area restaurants will compete for several titles, including maker of the Best Burger, Best Alternative Burger and People’s Choice Burger at Twin Lakes Brewing Company. “Wilmington offers lots of events for foodies, but none of them are suited to what I consider to be the perfect food—the burger," says organizer Matthew Curtis, owner of Union City Grille. “A cheeseburger covers all your food groups and yet you can still hold it in your hand. It’s time Wilmington’s chefs had a chance to throw down behind the grill, while letting people cheer on their favorites and raise money to fight hunger.” Delebrity judges will make the call in several categories, but you’ll be the judge for people’s choice. All are welcome. Delaware-brewed beer will be available for sampling, and there will be live music. Proceeds will support the Emmanuel Dining Room to reduce hunger. Keep checking the website for ticket availability. wilmingtonburgerbattle.com
Peachy Summer Fun
Another date to mark in your daybook: Aug. 18, when Middletown hosts its annual Old Tyme Peach Festival to celebrate the town’s former status as peach capital of the country. The fun begins with a parade on Broad Street at 9 a.m. All day long, the area around Broad and Main will teem with crafters and vendors of food, food and more food—and the peach pie contest. Nothing says summer like peaches. middletownpeachfestival.com