Restaurant Guide: Localvores Unite
The farm-to-table movement is sweeping the state. Why? Supporting local farms builds communities—and fresh food just plain tastes better. Here are some restaurants at the fore of the movement.
Research assistance by Rebecca Kasman
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Should you happen to spot Nino Mancari driving a tractor across U.S. 9 in Lewes, or moving a drove of pigs across town, worry not. The chef hasn’t lost his mind—or his job.
Mancari, who runs the kitchen of Salt Air in Rehoboth Beach, is ushering in the next level of farm-to-table dining. Recognized and acclaimed for their straightforward and vivid approach to local cuisine, Mancari and Salt Air owner Jonathan Spivak have taken over the former Good For You Market in Lewes and transformed it into Salt Air Farm and Table. There, and on the adjoining land, Salt Air will grow its own vegetables and raise its own sheep, chicken and pigs. “[Good For You owner] Andy Meddick approached us about taking over the farm,” Mancari says. “And the idea has grown dramatically from there.”
The idea sprouted while the pair planned renovations to Salt Air’s kitchen and dining room. If they could just relocate all of their prep work, storage and baking to another building, they’d have more room for tables and equipment at the restaurant.
Salt Air’s (50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2444, saltairkitchen.com) spices, oils, vinegars, crackers, baked goods, dips and more will be available for purchase at the farm store, and it will host a nightly farm table dinner, maybe two.
Mancari, who several Delaware chefs credit as a spark plug for the state’s infatuation with farm dining, is taking his acumen to new heights. Blackbird Heritage Farm in Townsend has outfitted Mancari with breeding stock, so he’s planning an animal husbandry program. He’s recruited an army of interns, who will rotate between the farmland, the market and the restaurant. And he’s reached out to local artisans, including jewelry artist Heidi Lowe, who he’s commissioned to create unique flatware for the restaurant.
“This is what sustainable, local agriculture is all about,” Mancari says. “We’re really trying to create jobs, create produce here.”
The seeds have been planted.
249 N.E. Front St., Milford
During the heart of the growing season, about 90 percent of the ingredients utilized at Abbott’s are grown locally. That’s a lot of product, and a lot of it comes from very close by. “Where we are in this area, there are a lot of opportunities to find farmers,” says chef Ryan Cunningham. He goes to Bob Russell Farms in Milton for tomatoes, Colvine Farms for fresh bison meat. In Bridgeville is grower Kevin Evans, and in Clayton is Small Wonder farm, a hydroponic grower that seeds everything from Bibb lettuce to hybrid squash. Fifer Orchards and Kirby & Holloway are Abbott’s purveyors, as are Dogfish Head, 16 Mile, Tröegs and Evolution breweries.
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