a(MUSE.)ment, and jazz on the Back Porch
It all starts with Sidewalk Sale. Locals peek warily out of their doors, on the lookout for those Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and New York license plates. Not that they’re a bad thing, of course, but enough already. (If you’re a visitor and this offends you, don’t email me. Move here and we’ll party.)
It takes a few off-season days to build up enough courage to venture downtown, but the brave are rewarded with the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival. Of course, the license plates are back with a vengeance, but it doesn’t matter. Music is everywhere, and you don’t have to get a credit card cash advance to park.
Our favorite driver, Scott, is our force field against the sobriety checkpoints. He glides us downtown in his Starship Enterprise-sized Town Car, his fares are reasonable, and I don’t think he ever sleeps. He drops us off at Hari Cameron’s a(MUSE.). Steph Cameron reserved my favorite corner table (facing the door, Tony Soprano-style), within tomato-throwing distance of Paul Cullen and his jazzy guitar. Hizzoner wannabe Tom McGlone arrives soon after, Jamison and diet in hand, followed by editor-in-chief Trish Vernon and the affable local-to-end-all-locals, Doug Wingate. They started early with the funky sound of Zoe at Timothy’s Tap House, and their press passes brought an air of importance to our little group.
Morgan & Gower Cheesemonger Andy Meddick took a break from his new artisanal cheesery (opening soon on Baltimore Avenue) to join our little posse. The great thing about Hari’s restaurant is that you can pace yourself, food-wise. Paul Cullen’s wife, Bonnie, started with The Perfect Snack while columnist/psychotherapist Michael Hurd analyzed the foie gras-crowned Apple Scrapple Festival (duck scrapple, no less…). I crunched my way through the Jar of Pickles.
Fast-forward about four hours: Our server Palma was about to have us forcibly removed when we popped into Seafood Shack just in time to catch co-owner Shelia Savaliski belting out a set of hard-hittin’ rock and roll. Fortified by a basketful of Old Bay-laced fries, we encountered local crooner Viki Dee and jazzman JonESax, fresh off the Frogg Pond stage. It was way after midnight when Scott finally poured us into the back seat of the Enterprise, and we sailed merrily through whatever checkpoints there might have been.
No Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival is complete without Sunday brunch at the Back Porch Café. Co-owner Keith Fitzgerald somehow managed to shoehorn our group of eight smack in the middle of the deck next to the band. This time Cullen wasn’t strumming for his dinner, and he got to sip his bloody mary(s) and listen to music rather than play it. Mimosas all around. (It’s morning, for goodness’ sakes. You need your citrus!)
What might possibly be the world’s most delicious scones were rushed to our table by a team of professionals. This is our fifth year doing jazz brunch at Keith, Leo and Marilyn’s 37-year-old eatery, and try as I might, I can’t get past the eggs Benedict. You can bet that any restaurant will mess up poached eggs when they’re very busy. The Porch was indeed slammed, but each and every egg was perfect. Bonnie Cullen - a picky eater, even for an adult - made short work of her apple-pear crepe enrobed in cinnamon syrup and cuddled up to a dollop of snow-white mascarpone.
Jack and Jacki Reamy, celebrated cat rescuers and recent transplants from the deep south (Bethany Beach), are stuck in their own culinary rut of the French country salad topped with a (perfect) poached egg, roasted potatoes, beet root and softly salty lardons. Larry and Lisa Arnold, imported from Philly for jazz weekend, enjoyed the Van Williamson Trio as they munched on Leo’s delicious house-made sausage, herbed scrambled eggs and a crinkly, light-as-air potato pancake. (Yes, the friendly local server Travis is their son.)
Jazz festival sets the stage for Rehoboth fans everywhere to come out and play. I’ll be at my corner table next year. Count on it.