Pork belly, belly dancing, beer and baba ghanouj - oh my!
So much for ghost town. The Rehoboth Beach area has seen so many winter activities (including the annual Chocolate Festival this weekend) that it would take me until mid-August to write about them all. A few do stand out, however, and one of them is Semra Tekmen’s Valentine’s Day belly dancing blowout at her Turkish eatery on Rehoboth Avenue. The dinner show at Semra’s has become so popular that she plans on making it a monthly event.
The festivities began with a platter of authentic Middle Eastern appetizers. Similar to the traditional mezze (often served on multiple small plates), the selection featured a carrot/peanut yogurt dip, hummus, baba ghanouj (roasted eggplant, tahini, garlic, cumin, lemon, olive oil, salt: delicious) and a bean salad with onions, cucumbers and a lemony dressing. Bottomless baskets of warm pita bread provided the ideal vehicle for conveying goodies from plate to mouth.
Both gyro rotisseries were twirling at full tilt as the kitchen began to assemble the traditional Iskender kebap. Wide strips of roasted gyro meat were sliced from the simmering loaves, stacked crosswise atop pita triangles and ladled with a red pepper and tomato marinara. Crimson ribbons of roasted red pepper and a generous dollop of Semra’s homemade yogurt finished the ancient dish.
Suddenly the lights dimmed, music pulsed through the room, and Kalilah Naia sparkled her way to the stage. Imported all the way from Astoria, New York, this Best of 2012 Award-winning belly dancer captivated everybody with her elegant moves. She highlighted the show with her Dance of the Double Swords, balancing two huge, curved scimitars on her head while performing what seemed to be impossible movements. I had to keep reminding myself I was just a few doors west of the Rehoboth Boardwalk - in the dead of winter. Tired of the same-ol’ same-ol’? Try Semra’s Turkish feast (with a side order of professional belly dancing).
Wine and beer pairings are pretty much everywhere nowadays, but one in particular stood out recently not only for the food and brew, but also for the story of the brewery itself. Tommy Knorr and his brother John are the founders of Evolution Craft Brewing Company, located in Salisbury, Md. Matt’s Fish Camp Manager John Scruggs and his crew built a mouthwatering dinner around five of Evolution’s best creations. Two rather unusual beers dominated the evening, and SoDelConcepts’ executive chef Doug Ruley, Matt’s head chef Casey Cunningham and sous chef Sean Gillespie stepped up to the plate to complement the foamy roller coaster ride Evolution had in store for us.
Winter Migration Ale’s claim to fame is that it’s aged in flame-charred bourbon barrels. The thick, dark chocolate overtones faded into the slow burn of bourbon, making it the perfect companion for crunchy hash browns, crispy pork belly and a sunny-side-up quail egg.
Rise Up Stout was another eye-opener, conditioned on coffee beans roasted just up the road at Rise Up Coffee in Easton, Md. The pronounced coffee nose was matched note for note by Matt’s Fish Camp’s black bottom cheesecake decorated with espresso cream. Knorr assured me that the Caribbean-style stout contained very little caffeine. I was still appreciating his candor around 3 a.m.
Earlier I mentioned Tom and John’s unusual story. Not only do they brew more than 16 varieties of regular and seasonal beers, but they also own and operate Boonie’s Restaurant & Tiki Bar in Tyaskin, Md. (their motto: It’s not the end of the world, but you can see it from here), The Red Roost crab joint in Baltimore, Specific Gravity Pizza and SoBo’s Wine Beerstro (Beerstro – cute, huh?), both in Salisbury, and Bistrot Cinq - in Guatemala!
Their Evolution beers are delicious, but even if they weren’t, they’ve created their own built-in customers…just in case. And so goes The Business of Eating.