The Washington Times - August 9, 2009, 09:09PM

by Reed Hellman, special to Donne Tempo Magazine

Too often, the gastronomic spectrum found at beach resorts is narrow and mostly covered with melted cheese.  By contrast, in Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach, foodies find a range of culinary and dining adventures alongside an exciting stretch of Mid Atlantic seacoast.

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Rehoboth Beach faces the Atlantic Ocean immediately south of Cape Henlopen, a wave battered finger pointing out the junction of Delaware Bay and the ocean.  The resort is largely low-rise, high-brow, dog-friendly, culturally yclept, and enjoys a good measure of alternative lifestyles.  It’s also earning a positive reputation among people who enjoy making food adventures a part of their vacations.

View of Rehobeth Beach

“In Rehoboth, there is a broad range of different culinary experiences,” said Josh Grapski, owner of the well-regarded Nage Restaurant.  “You have Espuma at the high end and crab shack places at the other.  There is a broad spectrum of cuisines and styles.”

Nage is a bistro, “…an American bistro with French influences.”  Grapski and his partner also own a restaurant in Washington DC.  “We have 8 to 10 items on the board that change nightly.  We are looking for balance and contrast on the plate.”  

Diversity of Flavors and Cuisine

Mariachi is another good example of Rehoboth’s diversity of flavors and cuisines.  Offering a menu of fine Spanish and Mexican dishes, Mariachi can satisfy the nacho and enchilada crowd as well as diners more interested in ceviche de pescado and bitter orange flavored masitas de puerco.  Drawing on Mexican, Peruvian, Salvadorian, Cuban, and Iberian recipes, Yolanda Pineda and her family present their dishes with genuine hospitality.  The margaritas are large and the mussels are garlicky.

It takes more than restaurants to make a good culinary destination.  Being a foodie is an interactive passion, and Rehoboth has the specialty producers and victuallers needed to supply demanding gourmands.  Beautiful Foods is an example.  

Nage Restaurant

“We call it the ‘chef’s shop,’” said Nage’s Grapski, mentioning the cheeses and other highly sought-after gourmet delights in the Rehoboth Avenue food store.

Beautiful Foods has received “Best Grocer in the Downstate Area” for each of the seven years it has been in business.  A local favorite, it stocks European and Asian cuisine and retail gourmet selections including 10-year-old aged Dutch gouda, 2-year-old Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano, a selection of prosciutto hams and imported pepperonis, and be sure to try some pates served with cornichons and olives.

Pasqualini’s Bakery is another of Rehoboth’s specialty producers.  Located behind the regionally revered Crystal Restaurant, the family-run bakery fills its display cases with an overwhelming cornucopia of cakes, breads, pies, pastries, and homemade pastas.  Nearly 100 different items appear on the roughly printed menu:  Individual carrot cakes, bobka, sauerkraut rye breads, fresh berry pies, sfogeletelle, cinnamon buns with swirled icing, homemade raviolis, and fresh baked granola.  

Spicy Foods Bring Aficionados

Peppers, in the Tanger Factory Outlets on Route 1, offers a far different specialty—2,000 hot sauces, wing sauces, jerk sauces, salsa, barbecue sauces, marinades, bloody mary mixes, veggies, mustards, spices and other assorted hot stuff.  The first aromatic breath you take upon entering tells you what the store is all about.  

Peppers sales assistants are hot sauce experts who know the tastes, ingredients, heat levels, and recipes and can match hot sauces to different foods.  Between 100 and 150 of the fiery condiments are available to try.  Which is the hottest?  “Mad Dog 357 Silver Bullet,” said Randi Hearn, one of the owners.  “It rates 750,000 on the Scoville scale.  But my favorite is the relatively mild Georgia Peach and Vidalia Onion Hot Sauce.”

Rehobeth’s Nassau Valley Vineyards

Mariachi Restaurant

In Rehoboth’s flat coastal plain, a valley is a rare thing.  Nassau Valley is doubly rare because it holds the state’s first working vineyard and winery. 

Nassau Valley Vineyards grows Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.  

Owner Peg Raley uses her grapes and other fruit from growers on the Eastern Shore to produce her wines.  Visitors can enjoy a free, self-guided tour in the winery’s three galleries featuring the history of wine making, plus tasting programs, a catering hall, and a well-stocked gift shop.  Nassau Valley Vineyards also hosts numerous special events and art exhibits.

A Hobby Gone Out of Control

In nearby Milton, Dog Fish Head Craft Brewery is a “hobby gone out of control,” said owner Sam Calagione.  

The award-winning artisan brewery makes up to 30 different beers, ales, stouts, and even a barleywine.  Free guided tours of the brewery are an opportunity to get close to the inner workings of a modern craft brewery and purchase a couple of cases.  

Dog Fish Head also operates the state’s only legal distillery, tucked away upstairs from their Rehoboth Avenue restaurant, making hand-crafted spirits

Dog Fish Head Restaurant has quickly become a Rehoboth fixture by offering good quality bar food, an ever changing array of chilled brews, and a casual, family-friendly atmosphere.  Despite a recently opened second Dog Fish Head in Gaithersburg, MD, the Rehoboth restaurant remains a singular experience for beer lovers.  Order the special brew of the month, or try a tasting selection.

Plenty of Beach Dinin

Nassau Vineyard Wines

Within earshot of the surf, a beach-going gourmand has nearly limitless dining possibilities.  There are the requisite boardwalk fries, pizza, and saltwater taffy, but there is also Café Sole with its crowd of friendly natives, Dish! and its subterranean eclat, the Cultured Pearl’s upstairs sushi deck, and Fin’s fish house and raw bar.  

Rehoboth even boasts a classic, family-style breakfast place, perfect for a stack and homefries.  The Crystal Restaurant has lines out the door on Sunday mornings, and an army of waiters inside keeping the coffee mugs filled and the eggs done exactly right.  One last beach meal before the long drive back home.

For more information, contact the contact the Rehoboth Beach – Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce or Southern Delaware Tourism.

Truffled Oyster Stew

Courtesy of Nage Restaurant - Hari Cameron, Executive Chef

1 tablespoon shallot, minced, per bowl

2 ounces blended oil

1/2 cup pancetta, small dice

1 cup sherry (Harveys)

1 cup oyster liquor

2 quarts half and half

2 quarts heavy cream

1 ounce Worcestershire

10 shakes Tabasco® sauce

2 bay leaves

1/4 cup dry thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1 splash sherry vinegar

Sweat with oil and pancetta.  Deglaze the pan with sherry.  Add oyster liquor, half and half, heavy cream, Worcestershire, Tabasco, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper, and sherry vinegar and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain and cool and reserve for turnout.

Turnout:

Sweat shallots in a scant amount of oil.  For each bowl, add 5 oysters and season with salt and pepper. Add 8 ounces of seasoned cream (above) and a pat of butter. Heat until oysters begin to curl.  Transfer to bowl of choice, drizzle with truffle oil, and top with a crostini.

Pechuga Apanada

Courtesy of the Mariachi Restaurant

4 ounces of Madeira wine

4 ounces of beef stock

2 teaspoons of sugar

9 ounce chicken breasts (thin) 

Mix the first three ingredients in a sauce pan.  Bring almost to a boil then cook over medium to medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce thickens.  Slightly pan-fried the chicken breasts and then finish in the oven for 8 minutes.  

Served over mashed potatoes and garnished with asparagus topped with the sauce and melted Monterrey jack cheese.

 

The next two recipes are courtesy of Peppers.

A Taste Of Thai Soft Jasmine Rice & Red Chili Chicken Wraps 

2 cups Soft Jasmine Rice, prepared 

1 - 15 ounce can red beans, rinsed and drained 

1 teaspoon salt 

5 chicken breast cutlets, thinly sliced 

1 tablespoon vegetable oil 

3 tablespoons A Taste Of Thai Sweet Red Chili Sauce 

3 tablespoons A Taste Of Thai Garlic Chili Pepper Sauce 

2 tablespoons sesame seeds 

6 - 10 inch flour tortillas 

1 pound prepared hummus 

1 bunch scallions, chopped 

4 cups fresh spinach, washed and trimmed 

In a bowl, stir together soft jasmine rice and beans.  Set aside, keeping warm.  Spinkle chicken evenly with salt.  In large skillet, add vegetable oil and heat over medium high heat.  Brown chicken on both sides. Add A Taste Of Thai Sweet Red Chili Sauce, A Taste Of Thai Garlic Chili Pepper Sauce and sesame seeds.  Cook until chicken is cooked through, about 1 minute.  

Remove from heat.  When chicken has cooled enough to handle, remove from pan.  Chop into small bite size pieces.  Place tortillas, one at a time, in microwave and warm for about 10 seconds each.  Spread each tortilla with a thin even layer of hummus, about 3 tablespoon.  Top with 3/4 cup rice/bean mixture and 1/4 cup of chicken mixture, spreading evenly on tortilla. 

Top with spinach and scallions.  Roll up as directed on tortilla package.  Serve. 

Walter McIlhenny’s Chili 

1/4 cup vegetable oil 

3 pounds lean beef chuck, well trimmed, cut into 1-inch cubes. 

1 cup chopped onion 

3 garlic cloves, minced 

3 tablespoons chili powder 

2 teaspoons ground cumin 

2 teaspoons salt 

2 teaspoons Tabasco Red Pepper Sauce 

3 cups water 

1 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, drained, cooked rice 

Chopped onion, shredded cheese, and sour cream (optional) 

In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  In three batches, brown the beef well, removing each batch with a slotted spoon.  Set aside.  

Add the onion and garlic to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until tender, stirring frequently.  

Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt, and Tabasco Red Pepper Sauce, and cook for 1 minute.  Add the water and chilies and bring to a boil.  Return the beef to the pot.  

Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender. Serve the chili over rice with onion, cheese, and sour cream, if desired. uncovered, 1 1/2 hours, or until the beef is tender.  Serve the chili over rice with onion, cheese, and sour cream, if desired. 

 

Photo one: View of Rehobeth from hotel balcony.  Photo by New Jersey Art

Nage Restaurant, Rehobeth Beach, DE

Photo two: Mariachi Restaurant, Rehobeth Beach, DE

Photo three: Nassau Valley Vineyards award winning wines

Reed Hellman is a freelance writer living in Alberton, Maryland.  Visit his Website at or E-mail your questions and comments to RHWay2Go@yahoo.com.