New concepts and fresh ideas mark the 2012 season
It’s been a challenge keeping up with the annual Got-To-Be-Open-By-Memorial Day frenzy, and the whirlwind of opening festivities has been lots of fun. Most of these events are like cocktail parties, with smiling servers proffering appetizers as invited guests mingle with restaurant glitterati (some glitter more than others, depending on whether or not it’s open bar).
But Root Gourmet’s debut was a cut above. Rather than a crush of partygoers attacking yummy buffet fare (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), Nage/Root Gourmet owner Josh Grapski, promotion diva Chrissy Sarro, fresh-from-Philly Chef Brenton Wallace, Bread Whisperer Keith Irwin and marketing/branding expert Steve McLerran engineered a lavish sit-down dinner … for 10.
Guests included writers from various publications: Billie Criswell from Beach Paper; her husband and freelance photog Daren; Fay Jacobs from Delaware Beach Life magazine and Letters from CAMP Rehoboth; Deb Griffin from The Local Buzz; advice columnist and author Dr. Michael Hurd; and of course yours truly, representing none other than the Cape Gazette.
Root Gourmet’s muckety-mucks explained the simple concept: Crafted Foods To Go. It works like this: (1) They cook up all sorts of gourmet goodies. (2) We (who cannot do that) buy the aforementioned goodies. (3) We go home. (4) We heat ‘em, plate ‘em and hide the packaging. (5) We humbly take credit for cooking a gourmet meal. If what they sell is anything like the delights they dished up at the party (in fact, it is), you might have a hard time convincing your guests that you made it yourself.
Moving downtown, who would have thought that the unassuming Hari Cameron would shake things up with such a cutting-edge concept as his spanking-new a(MUSE.)? As former boss toque at Nage, plates brimming with prime rib, pork shank, duck breasts and vegetarian feasts were certainly his claim to fame. But under that gentle demeanor there lurked a daring revolutionary! And if the crowds in the last couple of weeks are any indication, local foodies and vacationers are lovin’ it.
The menu will make you chuckle. Dishes like Toad in the Hole, Cool Hand Fluke, Have You Any Wool? and A Drive On Route 16 belie the precision that goes into them. They may be small plates, but they’re big on taste and design. Servers lay down the ground rules early on: Order at least one dish from each of five sections on the menu. They’re priced from $5 on up, so by the time you’re finished, you’ve invested about the same as you would at any fine-dining joint in town. But you’ve tasted a bunch of different things rather than just one.
In fact, ordering from Section V (dessert) could be optional. Depending on your choices from Sections I through IV, you just might be full. But it’ll be hard to resist such delicacies as Lavender Fields and The Beach. I’ll give you a hint about the last one: It involves a sandy shore of toasted grain, waves of hazelnut and … a tasty pearl. Leave it to Cameron.
It looks like Jay Caputo and Greg Plummer have hit the jackpot with Cabo, their Mexican-flavored tequila bar. I’ve been there several times, and I’ll tell you that the old Porcini House never saw such action. Early returns suggest that the nachos and the mahi tacos are particularly good when washed down with Jay’s pineapple-infused tequila.
In the storefront department, Modern Mixture’s nopalito-laced salads are lighting up the old Tornado Fries spot, Lexie’s is pushin’ chimney stax (a warm pastry in a variety of flavors), and Semra’s Mediterranean Grill replaces Seaside Thai with Greek goodies.
Add Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle Mexican Grill (both still being built) and the just-opened Panera Bread, and our chances of starving during the 2012 season are lower than ever.