Fresh and local menus add new life to Rehoboth
The iconic Dolle’s sign still towers over the Boardwalk in all its international orange glory. And the salty breeze still carries the pungent tang of burgers and pizza across the sand. But when the french fry munchers and soft-serve slurpers weren’t looking, Rehoboth Beach slowly morphed into a destination for those who might not agree that a cheesesteak (with extra hot peppers) contains the minimum daily requirement of all critical nutrients. (I have to believe that it comes close, however.)
The trend started years ago with chefs like Leo Medisch and Siri Svasti at the original Back Porch, Rob Stitt at the very first Eden, and Kevin Reading at his groundbreaking Rehoboth eatery, Espuma. These guys and others were cooking with fresh stuff from farms just up the road! And so it began.
The trend continues, and most everybody who dares to call themselves fine-dining (and even more who don’t) now sprinkle their menus with terms like “organic,” “free-range,” “hydroponic,” “early-season,” and “five-dollar plate charge for sharing” - oops, sorry, that’s another column.
The gyros, fries and taffy are still going strong, but now there’s more, like the tucked-away Hooked on Plants at the corner of Airport and Old Landing roads. It looks like a nursery with hanging and potted flora, but scamper through the sprinklers back to where the big‘uns grow (recalling scenes from Little Shop of Horrors) and you enter another world. Fresh spices, exotic vinegars and oils, local honey, baked goods, cheeses and prepared foods line the shelves. You can even order freshly baked vegetable, beef and chicken pot pies.
Got milk? Imagine biking from the beach to buy fresh cow juice in glass bottles! Earl and Mary Ann Warren’s Rustic Acres Farm Market not only sells the pasteurized variety (but not homogenized - a good thing), but also local meats and unique goodies like Amish roll butter. They’ve recently jumped on the fun-food bandwagon with homemade ice cream. Order a cone, look up the road and see your selection on the hoof.
Fresh treats are made from scratch at several hidden gems. You just have to know where to look. Lori Klein whips up her chicken salad almost daily at Oy Vey Café. The secret ingredient? Blue cheese. (Sorry, Lori, I had to.) Ridiculously fresh egg salad is devoured by the pound at the Creek Side Café at the end of Old Landing Road. Chef Gail Fleming makes it worth the trip with her tasty twists on breakfast and lunch.
Hari Cameron (been gettin’ enough ink lately, Hari?) is the poster child for locally sourced foods, and he’s proving it nightly at his small-plate emporium, a(MUSE.). No mention of healthy eats would be complete without Hobos, where Chef Gretchen not only raids the Rehoboth Farmers Market every Tuesday, but serves on the board of Local on the Menu. (I certainly hope my recent article about that is taped to your refrigerator door.)
Gourmet markets let you join the fresh ‘n’ local gang at home too. I trust that you saved last week’s column on Root Gourmet (check that fridge door). But there’s also a new kid in town, Kingston Gourmet. Chef Bruce Kingston emigrated north from his respected Bethany Beach eatery to whomp up all sorts of stuff for you to take home. He brings his Hotel DuPont chops (25 years there!) to bear with fresh lobster salad (whole Maine claw meat, thank you), shrimp, chicken, tuna and crab salads, prepared entrees and fresh produce.
Kingston, high school buddy Ray Sokola and Ray’s wife Mary Ann are leveling off that Disney ride of a front deck at the old McQuay’s so they can set up tables for al fresco lunching and munching.
From frozen corn dogs on the Boardwalk to Colvine Farms’ bison and hen o’ the woods mushrooms over on Baltimore Avenue, summertime’s all about The Business of Eating. Bon appétit, y’all!