The Dining Insider: A Feast for the Ages, Tierra Mexi-Cali opens in Pike Creek, Nora Lees brings New Orleans to New Castle, vote for the Best of Delaware




A Most Memorable Event

With friends Michael Marquardt and Lisa Quadrini, Ajit George, event organizer extraordinaire—especially when it comes to food and wine—has outdone himself. His MidAtlantic Food + Wine Feast Feb. 23-26 promises to be one of the most exciting food events in recent memory. It begins Feb. 23-24 with international chefs, teamed with Delebrity chefs, preparing five- to seven-course dinners in some of the finest homes in the Brandywine Valley and surrounding areas, including the former du Pont estate Oberod. It continues on the afternoon of Feb. 24, when international wine expert Charles Curtis leads a tasting of 10 100-point wines—billed as Delaware’s first 1,000 point wine tasting—at the Hotel du Pont. The event will be followed by the exclusive Seven-Course Winemakers Dinner and Live Wine Auction, featuring owners and winemakers from some of the most popular vineyards in the world. There’s much, much more, including demos by Fox TV’s “MasterChef” winner, our own Jennifer Behm, and Dana Herbert, winner of  TLC’s “Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker.” Meet Delebrity chefs David Banks and Patrick D’Amico of Harry’s Seafood Grill, Dan Butler of Piccolina Toscana, Julio Lazzarini of Orillas Tapas, Tom Hannum, Michael DiBianca of Moro, Robert Lhulier of University & Whist Club, Michelle Mitchell of Hotel du Pont; and JD Morton of Domaine Hudson. Some events are sold out, and tickets for others are going quickly, so get online quick. Hit foodandwinefeast.com. Support the Delaware Theatre Company by enjoying the best food and wine the area has to offer. We’re going to call this the food event of the year. For the full brochure, click here.

Mexicali Blues

Here’s a welcome addition to the food scene: Tierra Mexi-Cali Grill in the Pike Creek Shopping Center. The concept at this eco-conscious eatery is simple: Choose either a burrito, taco, bowl or salad, then choose the main meat (pork carnitas, braised marinated beef, chicken, steak or veggie combo), then add toppings such as rice, beans, sautéed onions and peppers, cheese, lettuce, etc. The choice of sauces ranges from pico de gallo to green chili sauce to pineapple-mango salsa. You’ll even find fried yucca. Sit. Eat. Or take away. The food is fresh, delicious and reasonable priced. We like. 384-6657, tierramexicali.com

New Orleans in New Castle

And yet another welcome addition: Nora Lees French Quarter Bistro on Delaware Street in New Castle. As the name suggests, this one is all about Cajun, cher. You’ll find five kinds of jambalaya, blackened everything—from steaks to crab cakes to several kinds of fish—and several creative chicken, beef, pork and seafood dishes. (Andouille meatloaf, anyone?) We say any new Cajun place is OK by us, since there are so few. There’s lunch, dinner and, on weekend evenings, live entertainment (upcoming: New Castle’s own blues bassist Jimmy Pritchard and, later, Delaware legend Johnny Neel). As they say in old New Castle, “Next time you’re down by the river, drop in.” 322-7675, noraleescafe.com

Winter Wine

The DI is a big fan of the event program at James Street Tavern in Newport. Next on the slate: a winter wine dinner with Guest Chef Matt Haley on Feb. 28. Haley, the force behind the SoDel Concepts restaurants Fish On!, Bluecoast Seafood Grill, Northeast Seafood Kitchen, Catch 54 and Lupo Di Mare, will prepare a five-course meal with ingredients from local farms, local markets and local waterways. You will enjoy it with five wines culled from the vast selection at Premier Wine & Spirits in Newport. Check the full menu here. Tickets are a bargain at $45 per person. Order before they sell out. 998-6903, jstavern.com

Chocoholic Heaven

Mark your calendars: It’s time for the Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival, which goes down March 3 at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. Show up to taste the entries, or take the bold step of entering your own creation in the Chocolate Baking Contest. There are categories for chocolate makers of all abilities, from kids to amateur to pro, as well as sub-categories such as cookies, cakes, brownies and more. Anything goes, which means if you think you make the best fudge on earth, you should be here. Or go to sample offerings from local places such as Cake Break, Snyder’s Candy, The Coffee Mill, Stringray and Touch of Italy. It’s like visiting Wonka’s factory—but a bit less dangerous. 227-2772, downtownrehoboth.com

Leap Year Beer

If this didn’t happen only every fourth year, we wouldn’t be so excited—well, maybe we would—so we’ll make a point of visiting Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant on Feb. 29 for the limited relase of Leap of Faith, a light brown Abbey-style ale that will send you reeling into March. It’ll be on tap for only one night, with 100 750 ml bottles available for purchase ($18.50). See what the buzz is about. 472-2739, ironhillbrewery.com/Wilmington

Get Out the Vote

And here’s a gentle reminder: Vote. It’s Best of Delaware time, which means it’s your chance to vote for your favorite restaurants and retailers of food and drink. If you missed the ballot in the February issue, vote online by clicking here. You’ll see the winners in the July issue, as always. There will be more about the Best of Delaware Party as July 26 draws near. Cheers.

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STAFF WRITER MARK NARDONE DISHES ON THIS WEEK’S
BEST WINE EVENTS AND MORE

About This Blog

Mark Nardone
Wilmington, DE

From chocolate festivals to wine tastings to new restaurant openings, Dining Insider has the Delaware dining scene covered. Delaware Today's Mark Nardone shares the scoop each week on the food and wine events you simply can’t miss. Contact Mark at mnardone@delawaretoday.com.

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