Smell the Ocean Yet?
If Delaware can be said to have a cuisine all its own, the new Salt Air defines it perfectly. Localvores, dig in.
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On one night, perfectly fresh local porgy was the catch of the day. Straightforward broiling yielded tender white meat, which separated from needlelike bones to form fluffy bundles on the fork. Another night featured plump grilled oysters on a stick. The flesh was sweet and tender, not at all chewy, and smoky, briny flavors got a bit of pop from a brush of green aïoli.
Salt Air has a few standby munchies to share. Sweet, oily sardines arrived in their tin accompanied by crunchy, cheesy homemade flatbread. A complimentary basket of said crackers, with a spread made from goat cheese and roasted red peppers, was nice. Another cheesy offering paired chunks of Parmesan-Reggiano with plump figs and a sweet balsamic vinegar reduction.
Perhaps the most impressive shared appetizer was a burrata—an Italian-influenced dish of cheese and fresh cream that has trend-seeking foodies buzzing. A mantle of mozzarella surrounds a delicious inside that oozes with fresh cream and mozzarella scraps. The creation shares textural space with a soft-boiled egg—creamy, rich and buttery. (“Burrata” translates to “buttered” in Italian.)
With only a drizzle of olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a grilled crostini, it would have been an amazing dish. But Salt Air takes it to a new level with all that, plus a scattering of sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes fresh from the garden of revered custom grower Bob Russell of Milton.
Sharing is encouraged at this picnic, but a few dishes were so good, I wanted to keep them to myself.
Chowder made from bacon, hominy and local corn was sweet and creamy and disappeared quickly. The dish conveyed beautifully the distinctive sweetness that comes only from corn in the peak of its season.
A treasure of an entrée—which my table ordered on multiple visits and loved—was roasted halibut. If you enjoy filet mignon with compound butter and sautéed mushrooms, this is the seafood equivalent. The thick, juicy piece of white fish was topped with huge chunks of smoky bacon, sauced with a honey-laced tomato jam, then served atop vinegary black lentils. The play of sweet, salty and sour was masterful. The dish was listed among daily specials on our visits, but a server hinted that it’s been received so well, it wasn’t disappearing anytime soon. Wise move.
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