Dining in Delaware is far from dull. The state — aka the Small Wonder — boasts James Beard Award nominees, reality cooking show stars and a supportive network of chefs, restaurateurs and industry associations.
So, if you’re in the culinary doldrums, it might be because you haven’t kept up on the tasty gossip.
We’re here to spill the tea.
Mac attack on ‘Beat Bobby Flay’
Delaware’s Hari Cameron accepted the challenge to beat celebrity chef Bobby Flay on the Food Network.
Cameron and his brother Orion own Grandpa Mac on Coastal Highway between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, which specializes in pasta dishes.
The creative Delaware chef won the heat against the other contestant, who left more than a few bones in her sea bass, in the June 14 show.
Consequently, Flay let Cameron select the dish for the final round, and he chose — you guessed it — mac-and-cheese.
Cameron made his noodles from scratch, mixed them with seven cheeses and topped them with toasted breadcrumbs and pancetta.
Flay used dried pasta, and he rehydrated porcini and portabella mushrooms.
In the end, the judges felt Cameron’s version lacked seasoning.
He couldn’t disagree more. “I thought it was perfect.”
Cameron is becoming a familiar face on TV. He was also on “Snack VS Chef” on Netflix. We’re guessing it won’t be his last appearance.
Grotto Pizza unveils summer menu
Grotto Pizza also has a signature dish, and it’s served with a swirl. But the restaurant group that started in Rehoboth Beach also offers seasonal menus to reflect the culinary trends.
Recent additions include a flatbread topped with pulled chicken in a Korean barbecue sauce and chicken salad — a Delaware staple — on brioche or an iceberg wedge.
Cocktails include Stateside Springwater made with Stateside Urbancraft Vodka, hand-squeezed lemon and lime, club soda and a splash of Sprite.
New North of the Canal
The new restaurant serves coffee and pastries from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Put your diet on hold: Gretchen Sianni, formerly of De La Coeur Café et Pâtisserie in Wilmington, is working the whisk and mixer.
In the evening, the wine takes center stage — indeed, the 24-tap temperature-controlled cuvenee system is the focal point behind the bar.
All told the restaurant has more than 350 wines, and the preservation system allows bartenders to pour even pricy bottles by the glass without fear of wasting the rest.
Highlights from the first dinner menu include the tomato tart with a cheesy, flaky crust; deviled eggs topped with caviar; crispy grilled snapper; and a 10-ounce steak with Bordelaise and gratin dauphinoise (sliced potatoes baked in cream).
Monty’s momentous month
To the south, Steve “Monty” Montgomery is a partner in some of the most successful establishments on the Culinary Coast, starting with The Starboard.
In the past month, his experienced team has opened not one but three restaurants.
Starboard Claw is on the old Hammerhead’s property in Dewey Beach. The newly constructed two-story restaurant specializes in crabs — medium to jumbo — and the “claw bar” boasts lobster tail, whole lobster, shrimp and crab claws.
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Not surprisingly, the beverage menu includes orange crushes.
Also new is Starboard Sauced in Mama Celeste’s old spot. Open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the restaurant will continue to satisfy the late-night crowd.
And if you’re participating in the Starboard’s Running of the Bull on June 24, you’ll see “Papa Celeste” (Harry Leontitsis) take on the role of the matador.
In Rehoboth, Downtown Blues opened in Nicola Pizza’s original location on North First Street. (Nicola moved to Route 1 near Lewes.)
You might not recognize the old space, which now has cozy booths, a sleek bar, plenty of TVs for sports, modern light fixtures and lots of barbecue and bourbon.
As for the OG, Montgomery has no plans to open another Starboard.
“While the Starboard helps make the beach what it is, Dewey Beach makes The Starboard so special.”
Open in the Quiet Resorts
The menu mines the Carolinas for culinary inspiration. For instance, there’s a low country boil (shrimp, sausage, mussels and crawfish), Carolina pulled pork and she-crab dip.
But the eatery isn’t afraid to cross state lines. Witness the catfish po’ boy and Delmarva surf and turf, a plate of fried oysters, fried chicken and pecan chicken salad.
Baking up more business
Bakeries have been hot commodities lately. Consider the opening of Sprinkles Italian Bakery & Market on Naamans Road in Brandywine Hundred, owned by sisters Darien and Emma Donovan. Don’t let their last name fool you. They have Italian grandparents.
Dolcé Bakery & Coffee Shop, a familiar Milford bakery at 36 N. Walnut St., recently held the soft opening for its second location in 10th Street Centre, a 21,000-square-foot office space in Milford near the Grotto Pizza off Route 1.
Meanwhile, La Baguette French Bakery at 323 S. Governors Ave. in Dover is adding a second site in the Villages of Five Points in Lewes. Owners Anita Wheeler-Bezy and Ludovic Bezy have not set an opening date.
That’s the sweet news for now. Happy eating!
Small Wonder, Big Bites is an occasional column by Pam George. For more than two decades, she has been writing about Delaware’s ever-evolving dining scene. The award-winning writer is also the author of five books and the Facebook blog, “Small Wonder, Big Bites.” She divides her time between Wilmington and Lewes.
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