SAVOR, THE REVIEW: Vive La Big Fork

Big Fork, a BYOB in Chadds Ford, feels more like France than the town in Montana. We're glad.


Published:

 

Big Fork Restaurant
U.S. 202 and Ridge Road, Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania,
(610) 358-8008

Recomendations
Halibut “hunter style,” grilled chicken with jus
poulet, chile-rubbed
flat-iron steak, creamy polenta, apple crisp.

 

This BYOB

in Chadds Ford

feels more like France than the town in Montana.

Some come just

for the halibut.

 

It took a bit of reflection to decide the Big Fork Restaurant had the right name after all—and not because of the giant piece of flatware that graces one wall.

If chef-owner Kevin Diskin’s BYOB dining room was really intended to remind us of the town in Montana, it would use more than a few wagon-wheel chandeliers and some prints in the bathrooms to evoke it. In practice, Big Fork’s look and style owe more to Provence than the Great Plains, which is only fitting, given Diskin’s training at the Culinary Institute of America and experience at Philadelphia’s esteemed Le Bec-Fin. He deploys it here on a menu that features as much seafood as meat, and there’s not a buffalo steak in sight.

The restaurant occupies a rather small space, about 50 seats, bisected by a low dividing wall, but it doesn’t feel cramped, thanks to high ceilings and a sunny, pale yellow color scheme that sets off natural wood furniture. The room is filled with intimate tables, decorated with small sprays of flowers. With sparsely decorated walls soaring to a high gable, it looks more like farmhouse than hunting lodge. The menu follows the same trail. With a few exceptions, most dishes are prepared in a light, French style, supplemented with some haute-diner comfort classics.

What makes the Big Fork moniker apt is the location. You’re not going to stumble onto it by accident. In the restaurant’s case, though, it has nothing to do with distance. It’s the visibility, or lack of it. Big Fork is tucked away a few hundred yards off busy U.S. 202, in the last spot in Olde Ridge Village, a country-themed shopping strip across from Glen Eagle Square. (Nowadays the address is Chadds Ford, but old-timers call the area Concordville). It’s within two miles over the state line, but hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Big Fork is one of the growing brigade of BYO restaurants that have captured so much of the fine dining market in Chester County. It’s even more economical than most; unlike many, it adds no charge for uncorking a bottle of wine.

The main draw is the taste and talent of chef Diskin, a CIA grad who cooked under Georges Perrier before moving on to Philadelphia landmarks such as Jake’s. Diskin’s sensibility is geared to refined interpretations of rustic French cooking, and his presentations are practical, not artistic—again, an artful take on something basic, not art for art’s sake.

Though the menu is seasonal, some dishes have been carried over for several months, so they’re obviously cornerstones of Diskin’s style: a flat-iron steak rubbed with chile pepper, halibut served “hunter style,” with pearl onions, mushrooms and bacon. There’s always a risotto, the ingredients changing to reflect the market.

The chef’s deft, sophisticated touch is displayed to best effect on the halibut, a cold-water flatfish that is larger and firmer than flounder. A mix of mushrooms and pearl onions with bacon lardoons might sound entirely too heavy, totally inappropriate, yet Diskin pulls it off by keeping the sauce feather light and using the freshest, most delicate tiny onions, cooked just enough. The dish would ennoble almost any white wine.

That’s not true of the other fish mainstay, mahi mahi in lemon-caper vinaigrette accompanied by fingerling potatoes, haricot vert and grape tomatoes. Mahi meat is a notch less firm and lighter than tuna, but Diskin’s gentle sauce would be overwhelmed by anything stronger than Pinot Grigio. The potatoes, cooked through—still firm but not dry—stood out among the sides.

Diskin’s touch is never heavy, even on his menu’s signature beef treatment, a chili-rubbed flat-iron steak (a fancy name for trimmed top blade chuck roast, a name which wouldn’t fetch anything like premium prices). The meat is coarse-grained but flavorful, especially with its crust of ground red pepper, which bites without bruising the taste buds. This is the one dish on the menu that’s ready to stand up to a big-bodied wine, including the Cline Zinfandel we brought.

By general acclamation, the best entrée we sampled was a half-chicken in a reduction of pan juices, a concentrated jolt of chicken essence fortified with the caramelized overtones of roasted carrots and onions. This is one of the rare chicken dishes that makes ordering America’s most overexposed main course taste new again.

Appetizers weren’t as uniformly dazzling. Duck salad featured appealingly chewy confit and fresh greens, but was dominated by the light, flaky pastry that topped it. A smoked salmon tart was balanced better, mixing the strong fish with a firm dose of capers. Perhaps best—and perhaps not coincidentally, the closest to its peasant roots—was a bowl of hearty potato-leek soup.

A few of the side dishes that come with entrées are also offered a la carte. None is better than a thick, rich creamy polenta that’s almost as rich as dessert. The other choices include ramekins of tangy macaroni and cheese, baked to a perfect crust, and a risotto—a more austere, less creamy interpretation than many, but overflowing with peas and chunks of diced butternut squash. Unfortunately, customers can’t substitute one side dish for another, something the menu warns, but something I’d failed to notice until I asked.

What I wanted to avoid was the one side dish I didn’t care for—indeed, the only dish of the meal that left me unimpressed: the garlic mashed potatoes. The term is almost a misnomer. Diskin does them in a nouvelle French style, puréed rather than mashed. They are just a tad firmer, in fact, than a soup. This is a nouveau French style made popular by Joel Robuchon, but I still prefer a homier, drier style, the kind of whipped potatoes that hold peaks. That might not mingle well with the French influence of the main courses, but would beat this rich, yet bland version, the rare dish on the menu that comes off as a bit precious.

I’d like to see what Diskin could do if he aimed for homespun potatoes instead of fancy French ones, because his desserts are masterpieces spun from the rough cloth of prosaic classics.

Oh, some of them sound uptown. Crème brûlée might sound and look impressive, but it’s really just egg custard topped with a fire-fused sugar crust—at least it is in Diskin’s version, a rich, sweet mixture served in wider-than-usual cups. The same is true of chocolate cake with a molten center. It’s a high-class version of church-supper fare, sophisticated in its dark-yet-sweet intensity—beyond sinful, beyond devil’s food, more like Satan’s secret stash.

Fruit desserts are more my passion, and Big Fork’s apple crisp ranks with any in the region. It is a concentrated layer of sweet, nicely spiced apples beneath a dense, grainy coating, its depth buoyed by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Big Fork’s atmosphere is greatly enhanced by experienced waiters who know their jobs. They’re soft-spoken, well versed on the menu and attentive without being overbearing. The lower-level servers were much younger and prone to mistakes such as serving men before women and refilling half-empty glasses of sparkling water with tap from a pitcher. It didn’t spoil the meal, but keep it in mind if you’re the persnickety type.

There’s one more way in which Big Fork might be an apt name. Like the rugged terrain around Yellowstone, the restaurant feels as if it’s still a little wild, not yet fully formed. As Diskin expands his repertoire, the place could become a gem for wine-lovers, who are always looking for food equal to the challenge of their best bottles. All it would take is a little more red meat on the menu—lamb, venison, maybe even some buffalo. 

D

 

 

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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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Clearing the mind and learning to think not thinking is Zen awareness. Taking the appropriate action in this moment is Zen. Once you know this in your body, walking, standing, sitting down,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark
420 Willa Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: UUFN
Telephone: 302.368.2984
Contact Name: Richard Field
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Tuesday, April 24, 8:00 p.m., part 1 Wednesday, April 25, 8:00 p.m., part 2 Gore Recital Hall   Performing the complete Bach Cello suites is an epic milestone in the artistic life of a...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

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Living in Mythology, an exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Jean Diver, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from April 6-27, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

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Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Try practicing yoga in a beautiful garden setting, strengthening your body and spirit. Our yoga class is open to all levels. We will practice slow, easy motions to get into the rhythm of nature....

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
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THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

Thursday, April 26, 8:00 p.m. Gore Recital Hall David Rose was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and there began his early musical education and violin study. At the suggestion of his first teacher,...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Living in Mythology, an exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Jean Diver, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from April 6-27, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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More information

Calling all Doodles!  Pack up your owners and head for Dewey Delaware for the Annual DoodlesinDewey ~ a fun filled time on the beach at a low-key "funraiser" for Food&Friends, a DC based...

Cost: $10-25 suggested

Where:
Dewey Beach
Saulsbury St
Dewey Beach, DE  19971
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Sponsor: Food&Friends
Telephone: 301.467.5523
Contact Name: Amy Scott
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

Our thoughts and our stage turn to music, mayhem and marriage with the multi-Tony nominated "The Wedding Singer". Shows are at 8pm on April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.  There are 2pm...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

Night Ranger, the band that invented the power ballad of the 1980s, brings its classic sound to the SugarHouse Casino Event Center on Friday, April 27, at 9 p.m. Tickets for the band’s 35th...

Cost: $29-49

Where:
SugarHouse Casino
1001 N. Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, PA  19125
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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Girl Scout Junior Not just a pretty face! With the Winterthur Garden as a laboratory, earn the Flowers badge while discovering how flowers function and recording your experience in a garden...

Cost: $12

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington , DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

Water is Life Kenya is hosting its annual Water Walk fundraiser Saturday, April 28th at the Newark Reservoir. Funds raised will help complete Water is Life Kenya's clean water project in Kuku, a...

Cost: 10.00-25.00

Where:
Newark Reservoir
Old Paper Mill Road
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: Water is Life Kenya
Telephone: (302) 894-7335
Contact Name: Colleen Leithren
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Maker Fest Enjoy a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. This event features demonstrations from area makers showcasing...

Cost: Admission is $10 for Adults, $5 for Hagley Members and Youth 6-18; under 6 free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Girl Scout Daisy Take a step on your Flower Garden journey during this fun-filled exploration of the Winterthur garden. $10 per girl.

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 180-044-83883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

Discover the thrill of printmaking inspired by nature. Using spring plants and simple materials, students will explore the possibilities of organic and geometric compositions with layered shapes...

Cost: $80 Members, $100 Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Calling all Doodles!  Pack up your owners and head for Dewey Delaware for the Annual DoodlesinDewey ~ a fun filled time on the beach at a low-key "funraiser" for Food&Friends, a DC based...

Cost: $10-25 suggested

Where:
Dewey Beach
Saulsbury St
Dewey Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Food&Friends
Telephone: 301.467.5523
Contact Name: Amy Scott
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 28, 2018 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm Wilmington Country Club 4825 Kennett Pike Wilmington, DE   Guests will enjoy a four course seated dinner prepared by award-winning chefs...

Cost: Call for sponsor opportunities.

Where:
Wilmington Country Club
4825 Kennett Pike
Wilmington , DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Meals On Wheels Delaware
Telephone: 302-656-6451
Contact Name: Jennifer Halliday

More information

38th Annual Rare Plant Auction® at Longwood Gardens A benefit that enriches urban neighborhoods through the power of plants. Join us at the 38th Annual Rare Plant Auction® on Saturday, April...

Cost: $125-$600

Where:
Longwood Garden
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Lenny Wilson
Website »

More information

Clark Wilson from East Liverpool, Ohio, is a favorite and master with silent films.  He is the house organist at the Ohio Theater and has recently been appointed to the Music Department staff of...

Cost: $20 Adults, $10 Students, Groups Call 302-995-2603

Where:
John Dickinson High School
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 28, 8:00 p.m. Loudis Recital Hall Cap off the day-long Steel Band Festival (in Puglisi Orchestra Hall beginning at noon) with the featured festival concert.   There is no...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loudis Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Our thoughts and our stage turn to music, mayhem and marriage with the multi-Tony nominated "The Wedding Singer". Shows are at 8pm on April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.  There are 2pm...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

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