Business drink Featured Food & Dining

Happy Coffee Day. Want yours dripped, cold brewed, pressed, cold or hot?

The foam on a gourmet coffee, like this one at Drip Cafe, has become a canvas for pretty pictures.
The foam on a gourmet coffee, like this one at Drip Cafe, has become a canvas for pretty pictures.

In the nearly 50 years since the patent for Mr. Coffee was approved, coffee has kept pace with popular culture.

Indeed, the global affection for a good cup of Joe led to the first International Coffee Day on Oct. 1, 2015. National Coffee Day is on Sept. 29.

But while the National Coffee Association reports that 63 percent of American adults drink coffee daily, we no longer savor it the same way.

In short, there is more than one way to brew a bean, and there is a myriad of places in Delaware where you can find America’s favorite beverage.

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Riding the wave

Today, coffee consumers are in the midst of the “third wave” of consumption. 

During the first wave, coffee became an easy-to-prepare household item. Think Folgers and Nescafe Taster’s Choice. Then, in the 1960s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea of Berkley, California began artisanal sourcing, roasting and blending. 

In the 1970s, when the Seattle coffee scene took shape, the term “specialty coffee” was coined. By the 1990s, Starbucks had started its march across the country.

In Delaware, Alisa Morkides ushered in the second wave in 1993, when she opened the first Brew HaHa! in Greenville. 

In the third wave, quality counts, said Morkides, who began Brandywine Coffee Roasters in 2015 to complement her coffee shops.

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“We have a lot of millennial clients who are really, really into their coffee,” she said. “They’re talking about the notes — strawberry, orange and cardamom.”

Now savvy consumers want coffee made using Fair Trade growing practices designed to encourage sustainability and benefit coffee bean farmers. 

Other trends include certified organic products and beans from a single source — much like wine made with grapes from one vineyard or region. 

Customers also value freshness. Swell Joe Coffee Co. in Lewes only roasts 15 pounds at a time, using freshly delivered coffee.

Notting Hill, based in downtown Lewes, covers all the bases, from organic to Fair Trade to flavored to beans that meet Rainforest Alliance standards.

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Grind, drip, press

Coffee-lovers often have distinct brewing preferences. Matthew Kern, the executive chef at Heirloom in Lewes, prefers a French press. The grounds steep — there’s no filter.

“It’s clean and delicious,” he said.

At Sonora at The David Finney Inn in New Castle, owner Melissa Ferraro adds a shot of alcohol to her French press offerings.

Chef Chris Parks, who works with SoDel Concepts, reaches for Death Wish, which bills itself as the “world’s strongest coffee.” He runs the high-octane coffee through a Chemex, a pour-over coffee maker with a copper filter. 

Invented in 1941, the Chemex works like a drip machine, but it’s a manual process that takes finesse. Four total pours let the coffee “bloom.” 

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At home, Greg Vogeley, the owner of Drip Café in Newark and Hockessin, uses a Cuisinart grind-and-brew system “so, my coffee is always freshly ground just before brewing,” he said. A thermal carafe keeps it warm without giving it a scorched flavor.

Cold brew is a trend that’s not budging anytime soon, Morkides maintained. Ground coffee steeps in cold water for eight to 24 hours. Fans say cold brewing makes the coffee smooth and creamy.

At Mug & Spoon in Rehoboth, cold brew is poured into a keg, infused with nitrogen gas and served from a tap that makes it frothy and creamy. 

Speaking of cream, Morkides finds it challenging to count all the different kinds of dairy and non-dairy products she must keep on hand. Consider soy, almond and oat milk — along with half-and-half, cream, milk and skim milk.

Zach DeLong, owner of Scission Craft Coffee, blends Old Bay and brown sugar in one latte and vanilla, brown sugar and cardamom in another.
Zach DeLong, owner of Scission Craft Coffee, blends Old Bay and brown sugar in one latte and vanilla, brown sugar and cardamom in another.

Taste sensations

No matter the milk, the foam on a gourmet coffee has become a canvas for pretty pictures. Pre-pandemic, Drip Café in Hockessin hosted a competition that pitted baristas against each other.

For Zach DeLong, owner Scission Craft Coffee, a food truck, the artistry is in the flavor combinations. The Maryland native blends Old Bay and brown sugar in a latte. Another favorite is a mix of vanilla, brown sugar and cardamom.

Fellow food truckster Leigh Ann Tona of I Don’t Give a Fork is a fan. She and DeLong are partnering to open on a bricks-and-mortar location near Wilmington Brew Works. 

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Although still in the planning stages, Sleeping Bird Coffee will feature DeLong’s flavorful combinations as well as pastries and sandwiches. With the extra room in the shop, they will also offer drip coffee, which Scission currently does not feature. 

DeLong’s creations are popular among women 30-45, college students and families. “The flavors are the reason you come to my truck,” he noted. 

From the newly opened Chefs’ Haven Café in Independence Mall to Kaisy’s Delights in Lewes, which serves La Colombe, it’s now easy to find a decent cup of coffee.

It’s a crowded market, and Drip Café plans to unveil a branded loyalty app with perks for Apple and Android products. 

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Admittedly, it’s been a tough road for coffee shops during Delaware’s state of emergency, he and Morkides agreed.

“More people are drinking their coffee at home,” said Morkides, who is mailing beans across the country. Sales of her beans are up 400%, but café sales are down 50%. The uptick in roastery sales is not making up for losses in the shops.

Said Vogeley: “Surviving is the new trend this year.”


drink Entertainment Featured Food & Dining Religion

Greek Festival’s encore this week offers comfort food to go

Holy Trinity will offer Greek good to go next week
COVID dashed plans for the annual Greek Festival, but Holy Trinity is bringing back takeout food next week.

The Holy Trinity Greek Festival will get an mini-encore this week, focused solely on comfort food.

“Obviously it’s good for the church, but mostly it’s about a great deal of demand,” said George Rassias, president of the parish council. The festival is one of Wilmington’s most popular annual events and the Delaware Valley’s largest Greek festival.

When coronavirus restrictions led to canceling what would have been the 45th festival in June, organizers pivoted to just takeout for two weekends. The September edition “will operate with the same format that ultimately functioned best in June,” its Facebook page says – plus an expanded menu.

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The Festival-to-Go will run 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at the church, 808 N. Broom St. 

Not all the favorites are coming back, Rassias said, because of constraints in manpower, preparation time, storage capacity and seasonality of ingredients.

All ordering will be done at the church to limit patrons’ wait times and maximize efficiency.

“It might not be the Festival we are accustomed to, but it is the Festival we can safely bring to you under the circumstances,” the page says.

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Returning favorites include 20,000 dolmades and hundreds of trays of other Greek dishes. Items that weren’t offered in June but will be this month include Greek salad, meatball sandwich, pasta flora, tsoureki and all the specials.

The menu lists dolmades (four for $5), Greek salad ($10), gyro ($9), meatball sandwich ($6), meatballs (four for $3), mousaka ($10), pastichio ($10), spanakopita ($6), tiropita ($6) and variety samplers (mousaka or pastichio with two meatballs, tiropita, spanakopita and two dolmades for $17). 

Accompanying them are the dessert sampler (baklava, portokalopita, kataifi, kourambie, melomakarona, and pasta flora for $15), tsoureki (a Greek sweet bread loaf for $15) and red or white Greek wine by the bottle for $15.

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Specials starting Wednesday include all new items: Stuffed peppers for $9, chicken with orzo for $10 and lamb sandwich for $10. A special on the last day only is souvlaki for $9.

Funds raised from the festival are going to church capital projects, such as a massive effort to integrate the 1948 church and 1977 community and improving access within the combined structure with ramps and an elevator. New bathrooms are also part of the project, due to be finished this year.

Festival organizers are promoting a blood drive 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 26 at the church, in memory of Wilmington firefighters. Appointments are strongly encouraged using sponsor code CWF with the Blood Bank of Delmarva. Walk-ins will only be allowed if social distancing can be maintained. 

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The festival has thousands of likes and followers on Facebook, and there is also plenty of appreciation for the September edition.

“Thank you so much for doing this!” Erika Dunham Pappas wrote. “While we will miss the festival in its true form, this is a great (safer) alternative.”

“Yes please,” wrote Tina Rogers Malloy, “since we didn’t get a chance back in June!”

drink Featured Food & Dining Government Health

Beach bars will be allowed to reopen for Labor Day; inspections target Newark

Jamie Mack announces state food, bar inspections have moved to college towns
Jamie Mack announces state food, bar inspections have moved to college towns

Delaware beach-area bars that were asked to close for the Fourth of July weekend because of an outbreak of COVID-19 will be allowed to reopen for Labor Day.

The patrons must have a reservation, they must order food and they must social distance, said Jamie Mack, chief of the Delaware Division of Public Health’s Health System Protection.

“We do recognize that maybe the initial shutdown in that area had a heavier impact on some of the smaller establishments that rely on patrons sitting at the bar for dinner as part of their table service,” Mack said Tuesday during Gov. John Carney’s weekly press conference on COVID-19. “So this allows them to get back to some of that, essentially have a few more seats.”

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The news about the bars being opened came with a warning from Carney that federal virus expert Dr. Anthony Fauci had said during a White House call with state governors that Labor Day weekend would be last big test for the country’s containment procedures.

Delaware’s coronavirus numbers are trending well, he said. With everyone following social distancing and mask guidelines, those numbers will continue to improve.

“The goal of course is to get more and more students in the classrooms, on an in-person basis because we know that kind of instruction is most effective,” Carney said.

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Mack also talked about how state enforcement of restaurant and bar rules had ramped up in the last month, and in recent weeks shifted from the beach to college towns, where students have arrived.

His team inspected more than 400 food establishments statewide in the last month and 150 sites had no violatons.

“We were not as patient with some of the facilities as we had been in the past. So we have now issued fines and we’ve taken other enforcement actions,” Mack said. “In at least one instance, we walked into a place and the conditions were concerning enough that they were closed on the spot.”

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Police helped clear out the space, and the business was able to reopen when it had “a better handle on things,” Mack said.

He said inspectors have been out in Newark, the home of the University of Delaware, for the past two weeks checking out establishments by focusing on nights and on weekends.

“A lot of places do a great job during the week,” he said. “Once they get the crowd starting to come in, things can get a little tougher for them, so we want to make sure they have those visits done as well.”

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Newark’s mayor and city council recently had a battle with area bars because the city wanted to shut the bars down to avoid an outbreak like that at the beach in June and currently happening in other college towns. Bars threatened to sue, and the city backed off and asked the state to increase inspections.

The city also passed a new emergency rule saying that only 12 people could gather in a private home inside, and 20 people outside, including the homeowner. While one council member described the rule as another tool in enforcement, it was put into use last weekend to break up a party of 75 people.

Mack said the enforcement inspections always look to provide information on first visits.

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“Second visits, we’ve done fines, we’ve done closures,” he said.

He said his staff had praised Caffe Gelato and Homegrown in Newark as doing a great job, as well as Easy Speak Spirits in Milford and One Coastal in Fenwick.

Business drink Featured Food & Dining Health milford-live Scene About Town

Virtual Vino: COVID-19 hasn’t put a damper on wine dinners

At 6:30 p.m. on a warm summer evening, Caffe Gelato’s customers sat down to a five-course dinner—complete with thoughtfully paired wines—and a show. 

The event featured Fred Dame with Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles, California. 

Just another wine dinner? Hardly.

Caffe Gelato is in Newark. The master sommelier, however, was in California, and he talked to his audience via smartphones, laptops and tablets. 

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The diners, meanwhile, were in the restaurant—and in their homes.

Welcome to Caffe Gelato’s wine dinner series during the pandemic. The next event—a Sinatra Sing-Along dinner with tribute performer Sean Reilly—is scheduled for Thursday.

The virtual hybrid is the brainchild of Ryan German, the owner of Caffe Gelato. But the Main Street restaurant is not the only eatery to take a high-tech approach to a meal with a winemaker.

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SoDel Concepts, which has 12 restaurants in coastal Sussex County, also has offered virtual wine dinners. 

On Aug. 27, the hospitality group’s Lupo Italian Kitchen in Rehoboth Beach is offering a wine dinner with contactless pickup. On Sept. 3, Catch 54 in Fenwick Island is featuring Lamoreux Landing Wine Cellars.

The dinners have several advantages. For one, restaurants, which currently have limited seating, can boost their income. 

For another, the meals satisfy a thirst for fine wine, good food and knowledge—and you don’t need to dine out.

wine dinner
Some of the packets that went to at-home customers: Mixed vegetables, purple potatoes and the guacamole. Photo by Pam George.

The necessity of innovation

When Gov. John Carney ordered restaurants to shut down their dining rooms on March 16, SoDel Concepts had wine dinners scheduled. The events draw diners to the beach-area restaurants during the off-season.

“Instead of canceling, we made the switch to virtual,” said Mike Zygmonski, who oversees the company’s wine program. The first event was in March.

German followed a similar path. The restaurateur, known for his wine program, had already booked wine dinners, including an event with Justin Vineyards on April 30. 

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The distributor wanted to cancel.

“I said instead of canceling it, let’s get the founder, Justin Baldwin, on Zoom,” German recalled. “The initial response was no; he’s busy.”

German persisted.

“Finally, someone asked him, and he said: ‘Oh, I’d love to do it!’”

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Riedel agreed to provide exquisite stemware for the restaurant to offer at a reduced price. 

Customers picked up food and wine to go, which was the only option at the time. The promotion went over so well that Caffe Gelato partnered with Pizza By Elizabeth and The Starboard to hold a dinner and virtual concert to celebrate restaurants’ reopening. The event, sponsored by Maker’s Mark, featured Ben LeRoy and The Snap.

For Caffe Gelato’s Daou dinner on Aug. 13, diners had the option of the to-go or dine-in format.

“It was a little trickier,” German acknowledged of juggling both scenarios.

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Via Zoom, diners at home saw their counterparts at the restaurant. People were eating outside on their patio or on the restaurant porch. Some sipped wine in their dining room or at Caffe Gelato’s tables. 

SoDel Concepts, however, has retained the virtual-only format, except, that is, for events at The Clubhouse at Baywood in Millsboro, which has plenty of room for social distancing and a spacious veranda.

wine dinner
The Caffe Gelato wine dinner via Zoom let guests interact, as well as hear the guest master sommelier. Photo by Pam George

Refining the process

SoDel Concepts initially maxed out its virtual wine dinners at 60 to 80 guests. Now the company can handle 120 to-go wine dinners, and the meals are prepared before the kitchen gets busy with in-house orders. 

“We’ve found it works best if the first, second and dessert courses are cold, and the entree is hot,” Zygmonski said. 

Beginning with the sold-out Daou dinner, Caffe Gelato created a YouTube video to show customers at home how to reheat and prepare each course. 

Wearing a mask, Executive Chef Jeovany Valle put a generous dollop of garlic-and-compound butter on the oysters and popped them in the oven. The gazpacho “salad” only required an attractive dish.

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Purple potato puree with goat cheese and grilled summer vegetables came in sealed bags for a quick boil, and the New York strip steak was already nicely grilled. 

The steak, dusted with a cocoa-espresso rub, came rare so that it wouldn’t overcook in the customer’s oven. 

Valle demonstrated how to spoon the roasted strawberry-cabernet sauce over the top to make a pretty pattern.

Did guests in the restaurant get a more polished presentation? Undoubtedly. But those at home got a cooking class with ingredients that beat Blue Apron.

wine dinner
This is a home plating of the main course. The steaks were huge and guests easily got two means out of them. Photo by Pam George.

Red, white and zoom

Technology, of course, is the tie that binds these events together.

When Sam Calagione joined Caffe Gelato guests on Zoom for a Dogfish Head beer dinner, the restaurant set up a big screen. Everyone in the room was there to see the brewery’s founder.

But, for most events, guests use their own devices at their table or at home.

Zygmonski, who uses GoToMeeting for his virtual dinners, said about 80 percent of the customers who purchase the package tune in to the feed.

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“I host the event, and the chefs talking about the menu,” he said. Winemakers and winery owners discuss the vintages. “We use pictures and Google Earth to show and highlight the vineyards, which has worked well.”

Will these events continue in the future? German, who is prepared for ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, is pondering Valentine’s Day wine dinners to-go in 2021. 

As long as restaurants can sell alcohol to go, SoDel Concepts will feature virtual wine dinners. 

“The advantage is that we can sell more dinners than we can typically do in-house, and we don’t need to close the restaurant for a wine dinner,” Zygmonski said.