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Business Featured Food & Dining Health Scene About Town

Eat up: Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week returns

 

When Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week debuted in 2014, it gave independent restaurants a chance to showcase their cuisine.

With only a few exceptions, most of the eateries have been locally owned and managed. 

Today, that mission has an increased emphasis. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on most restaurants, said Dan Butler, owner of Piccolina Toscana in Trolley Square, who helped start the first restaurant week.

Running from Oct. 12 to Oct. 22 this year, the promotion is a way to increase business during this challenging time. 

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Eighteen restaurants are offering fixed-price (prix-fixe) meals. Lunch, if available, is $15; dinner is $35.

At Piccolina Toscana, for instance, you can have an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Selections include tuna tartare, all-day braised short rib over hand-rolled gnocchi in a gorgonzola cream sauce and tiramisu. 

Although restaurant week just started, Andrea Sikora has seen a boost in sales at the restaurants she owns with her husband, Bryan. 

The couple’s participating restaurants include Crow Bar in Trolley Square, La Fia in downtown Wilmington and Hearth Kitchen in Kennett Square.

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“So far, we’ve been busier this week than we have been normally at this time,” said Sikora. “It’s absolutely bringing people out.”

Some people don’t know about the promotion when they make reservations, but they decide to order the special when they see the menu, Butler said.

 It works both ways, however.

“From my experience doing restaurant week, most diners come for the prix-fixe menu but order off our regular menu,” said Dan Tagle, executive chef of Krazy Kat’s in Montchanin. “It opens new doors to customers that we haven’t had before.”

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The catch is that Delaware has limited restaurants to 60% capacity to curb the coronavirus’s spread. 

“We can’t accommodate as many people as we normally would during restaurant week,” Sikora noted.

This year, guests can also order the special meals to go. Sikora’s restaurants, for instance, have added them to their online ordering platform. 

The promotion is presented by the Greater Wilmington & Convention Visitors Bureau, the Delaware Tourism Office, the Wilmington mayor’s office, Mispillion River Brewing and Standard Distributing.

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“Connecting with friends and family over a meal remains a top activity for visitors and residents alike,” said Sarah Willoughby, executive director of the Greater Wilmington & Convention Visitors Bureau, in a press release. 

Butler, for one, is thrilled that the organizers brought the Brandywine Valley Restaurant Week back despite the pandemic. 

“You can still dine out safely. My goal with the promotion is to, in some way, call people back. ‘We get it. You need to feel safe.’ If you put your toe in and the water is fine, maybe you will go out to dinner again — safely.”

Paul Bouchard, managing partner of Tonic Seafood & Steak, didn’t hesitate to sign up for the promotion. “We felt it was important to join with the other restaurants and create some feeling of normalcy,” he said.

This year, the featured restaurants include Agave Mexican Cuisine, Bardea Food & Drink, BBC Tavern & Grill, Café Mezzanotte, Chelsea Tavern, Columbus Inn, Crow Bar. Cromwell’s American Tavern & Taqueria, Eclipse Bistro, Harry’s Savoy Grill, Hearth Kitchen, Krazy Kat’s, La Fia, Mikimitos, Piccolina Toscana, The Back Burner, Tonic Seafood and Steak, and Walter’s Steakhouse.

For more information, go to brandywinetaste.com.

Categories
Featured Food & Dining

Newark extends Wednesday alfresco dining into December

Outdoor dining on Newark’s Main Street, which began in June when roadwork had just been completed, has been extended into December.

“This just in from Newark’s City Council: Alfresco dining is on for the rest of the fall!,” Caffé Gelato exclaimed.

The opportunity to dine outdoors on Wednesdays has been a strong economic boost for downtown restaurants.

The extension means there will be outdoor dining on Wednesday, Oct. 21, Oct. 28, Nov. 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 18 and Dec. 2.

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Nov. 25 is skipped because it’s the day before Thanksgiving, and Caffé Gelato will have holiday dinners available for pickup.

The Dec. 2 event will include a visit from Santa.

Earlier events had also involved local retailers and nonprofits.

Parking is available on the street and in municipal lots 1, 4, 6 and 7.

Categories
Business Featured Food & Dining milford-live Restaurants Scene About Town

Bardea at 2: A new menu, plus an outdoor café on way

Bardea 3.0
“This is Bardea 3.0,” the restaurant says on Facebook: New Zealand mussels Rockefeller, garlic, sea buckthorn, whole grape vinegar.

Bardea Food & Drink in downtown Wilmington turns two years old on Saturday, but owners Scott Stein and Antimo DiMeo aren’t pausing to celebrate just yet.

They’re too busy rolling out a new menu, relaunching the family meal program and creating a heated outdoor garden for alfresco dining for Bardea, 620 N. Market St.

“We’re making big updates,” said Stein, who was so excited about the new dishes that the Italian eatery debuted the new menu before the anniversary date. “It went over really well. We’re really excited.”

Not to worry, loyal customers. Octopus, lamb skewers and fried calamari are still on the menu.

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Eggplant parmesan is another staple, but it’s now in the vegetable category, which also includes a “wedge,” made with cabbage and topped with guava Bearnaise and puffed amaranth. Fennel has also proved popular.

“We’ve been very plant-forward in 2020,” Stein said. “The oakwood-shiitake mushroom tart is to die for. We do a take on potato-leek soup — a tartlet. It’s a nice, composed bite.”

The tartlet is in the “snacks” section. There are also categories for pizza, small plates and dishes meant for sharing, which now features whole, crispy-skinned Rohan duckling dry-aged on site.

DiMeo, the executive chef, and his team are taking a lighter touch with the pasta dishes to offset such hearty dishes. Take, for instance, the reimagined pasta Bolognese.

Bardea's Antimo DiMeo
Bardea’s Antimo DiMeo

Most versions have a meaty sauce with ground beef, pork and veal. Bardea, however, purees the meat, incorporates it into the sauce and then cooks the pasta in it.

“When people get the dish, it blows their mind because they expected to see the meat,” Stein said. “But it has this great, robust flavor of meat, but it’s very light. It has a nice bright red color. Antimo did a great job with it.”

Fans of Bardea’s family meals will be happy to learn that they are returning this month. “Some guests aren’t comfortable yet coming out to dine,” Stein said.

To make it easy, there is a set calendar for each day of the week, from Tuesday through Saturday. For instance, shepherd’s pie is available on Tuesdays.

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The meals, available in limited quantities, include a composed snack, salad, vegetable or starch, dessert and house-baked bread with cultured butter. “For $75 for two people, you’re getting a five-course experience,” he noted.

Those who want to dine alfresco will appreciate Bardea’s outdoor café, which will include a heated tent with open sides, spaced seats and planters. Stein hopes to area complete in the next two weeks.

The additions and changes are as much about the staff as they are the guests.

“Our staff is everything; they’re depending on us,” Stein said. “Antimo and I are going to fight to the last.”

 

Categories
Delaware Nonprofits Events Food & Dining Health

Turkey drive canceled; some seniors to get gift cards

turkey drive
A recent turkey drive organized by Norman Oliver.

The pandemic has caused a statewide turkey drive to be canceled, founder Norman Oliver said today.

“Due to the COVID-19 virus, Food Lion, Nor Enterprises/Our Youth Inc. and Multiplying Good will be partnering to give out Food Lion gift cards to the management of all the senior high rises located in the city of Wilmington for residents to use towards the purchase of their Thanksgiving meal,” he said in a statement.

“There will be no in-person gatherings at any of the locations this year,” he added.

Oliver began the event by feeding four homeless men under a bridge in Wilmington. He grew up in Wilmington’s rough Southbridge neighborhood, was nicknamed “Stormin’ Norman” by a coach, eventually earned a graduate degree in social work and served as a Wilmington city councilman for 12 years.

With the support of dozens of individuals and organizations, the drive lately provided turkey and the trimmings to more than 30,000 people a year.

Categories
Business Featured Food & Dining Scene About Town

Rosenfeld’s Delicatessen is now open in Wilmington

When Warren Rosenfeld was a child in the 1960s, his family often spent Friday evenings at Hofberg’s, a kosher delicatessen in Washington, D.C., where the “famous” sandwiches included corned beef, spiced beef, boiled beef and tongue.

On Sunday mornings, the family went to Posin’s, a bakery and deli known for takeout. 

Flash-forward to 2020. Rosenfeld and partner Big Fish Restaurant Group today opened Rosenfeld’s Delicatessen in the Mid-Town Brandywine section of Wilmington. 

The downtown delicatessen takes Rosenfeld one step closer to his goal. 

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“I’m interested in expanding Jewish culture, Jewish cuisine and the brand as a legacy for my children and family — especially since my father was a Holocaust survivor,” said Rosenfeld, who lives in Ocean Pines, Maryland.

He started down that path in 2013 when he opened Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli in Ocean City, Maryland. He was 58, and he’d had a successful law practice.

“This was my retirement venture,” he said. He added a food truck to explore Sussex County, Delaware, opened a Rehoboth location, and sold the truck.

Wilmington visitors have long begged him to open in New Castle County, which lacked a New York-style deli despite a sizeable Jewish population. The old Jack Lundy Delicatessen on Miller Road is long gone.

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Rosenfeld found a willing partner in Eric Sugrue, managing partner of the Big Fish Restaurant Group. 

Sugrue has multiple restaurants in the Wilmington area, and his hospitality company has a proven track record when it comes to operations.

The restaurant is in the former home of Harvest House, owned by the Big Fish Restaurant Group. 

It adjoins Washington Street Ale House and shares a kitchen with that restaurant, which is also under the hospitality company’s umbrella. 

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The freshened décor includes the mural of Jewish celebrities that’s become one of Rosenfeld’s signature. Artist Kathy Denk of Ocean Pines created the cartoon-like figures, including Barbra Streisand, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Albert Einstein.

Since the 40-seat space is smaller than the Rehoboth location, the menu has fewer items. 

But all the favorites are on hand, such as corned beef Reubens, knishes, blintzes, latkes, matzo ball soup, sandwiches that take two hands to hold. (Sugrue declined to sample the tongue sandwich during tastings, Rosenfeld said, but other managers stepped up to the plate.)

Sugrue wanted the Wilmington site to be named Rosenfeld’s Delicatessen to reflect plans to grow the concept into a full-service operation with dinner menus. 

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For now, the new location’s hours are Monday-Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By 2021, Rosenfeld and Sugrue hope to open a North Wilmington site, and then venture into Baltimore and Virginia. Not surprisingly, Rosenfeld would like to take the concept to Washington, D.C., where he was born.

From the chopped liver to the noodle kugel to the brisket, the menu reflects his childhood. Indeed, sandwiches are named for relatives and friends

Nostalgia is an essential ingredient in every dish.

“What I’m selling is memories,” Rosenfeld said, “that’s what I’m selling.” 

Categories
Business Food & Dining

Le Cavalier expands to debut its brunch on Sunday

It’s not easy to open a new restaurant in an iconic space like The Green Room in the Hotel du Pont.

But neither the naysayers nor a pandemic could stop chef-partner Tyler Akin, who opened Le Cavalier there Sept. 1.

While there have been some grumblings from Wilmington’s Old Guard, most diners have welcomed the neo-brasserie.

“We are really grateful for the response we’ve received from the community to Le Cavalier’s opening,” said Dave Pollin, cofounder and president of The Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG). “The restaurant has been busy every night since we’ve opened and we’re mostly full on the weekends.”

As a result, “Le Cav” is adding brunch on Sunday, Oct. 4.

“Our goal was to introduce brunch within a month after opening,” said Akin, who cultivated his culinary career in Philadelphia. “We are so happy to be right on target. Now we can introduce Le Cav to folks who might not be available in the evenings, and we can expand our team.” 

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The Tower Hill graduate’s brunch menu continues the concept of marrying French fare with influences from former French colonies. For instance, you can have a croque-madam, a Lyonnaise salad or Tunisian shakshuka (eggs in a sauce of tomatoes with spices). 

Shakshuka is popular in Mediterranean cultures, and Akin worked at Zahav, which takes a modern look at Israeli cuisine.

Sweet options at Le Cav include Dutch Baby, a puffy pancake with blackberry, brown butter crème Chantilly and calvados-caramel pecans. Belgian waffles come with flambeed banana and Nutella ganache. 

Since we’re in Delaware, expect a jumbo lump crab omelet. Traditionists can also opt for the familiar egg dishes. 

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As is the case at dinner, guests can dine on the outdoor patio, which sports wicker café chairs and heaters. Online ordering is available for both meals.

“Takeout has been a helpful add-on — something that wasn’t part of the original plan,” Akin said. “It’s been great to see people try a dish one night, love it and order it to-go the next night.”

Thus far, best-selling dishes include gnocchi Parisienne with crab and caviar, Caesar salad, lobster tail, veal shoulder, branzino, swordfish and “enough pomme purée to feed a small army,” he said of the cream whipped potatoes.

“We are grateful for the support Wilmington has shown Le Cav,” he said. “While no restaurants are setting records right now, we’re grateful to have a business that is sustainable for the hotel, our community and our team.”

Make reservations, Pollin advised. “We are accepting walk-ins but recommend booking ahead when possible. When the capacity restriction is lifted — currently at 60% — we expect that the ornate historical space will have even more buzz than it already does.”

The details

For information, reservations and online ordering, go to lecavalierde.com or call 302-594-3154. Le Cav is at 42 W. 11th St., Wilmington, DE 19810.

Categories
Culture Food & Dining Headlines

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

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.” 

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.

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. 

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. 

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.”

Categories
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.

[adrotate group=”11″]

 

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.

[adrotate group=”11″]

 

“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.

[adrotate group=”11″]

 

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.” 

[adrotate group=”11″]

 

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. 

[adrotate group=”11″]

 

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. 

[adrotate group=”11″]

 

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.”

 

Categories
Business Food & Dining Headlines

Chefs’ Haven Cafe plans to open Tuesday in Independence Mall

Long before the coronavirus became a household world, Chef Mark Eastman proved he could pivot.

The Schoharie, New York, native has pursued his craft from Saratoga Springs to Philadelphia, where he worked at Brasserie Perrier. He’s cooked for the Grateful Dead and a grateful Delaware book club.

Eastman follows his instincts, and most recently, that means opening Chefs’ Haven Café in Independence Mall in Brandywine Hundred. The new restaurant will open Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The café is situated in the site formerly occupied by De La Coeur Café et Boulangerie, which had debuted in February and closed in May. (Ciro Forty Acres now occupies De La Coeur’s Trolley Square-area space.)

Eastman, who will serve breakfast and lunch, will continue to operate Chefs’ Haven in Hockessin, which he founded in 2008 to offer cooking classes for groups — including book clubs — and sell products, such as his artisanal bread.

It won’t be easy. But Eastman, a 30-year culinary veteran, is no stranger to challenges.

Going with the flow

Eastman grew up in a rural area about 30 minutes from Albany, New York. 

“It’s out in the middle of nowhere — farm country,” he said.

He learned to cook from his mother, but she wanted him to attend a community college specializing in agriculture.

“It wasn’t something I was interested in,” he said of the curriculum. “It didn’t last very long.”

He moved to Saratogaa Springs and started as a bar boy in a high-end restaurant in the 1980s and graduated to server. Hauling home up to $400 a night in tips, Eastman was content. His fiancée, however, urged him to become a chef with a career path.

At that time, admission to the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont required five years of experience, an entrance exam and a skills test, such as breaking down anything from a frog to a rabbit.

“Half the class was gone the first day,” he recalled. Eastman, however, aced it all.

Making a move

After graduating, Eastman held several hospitality jobs in Sarasota. As the executive chef at the Sarasota Performing Arts Center, he prepared meals for such acts as Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones.

“It was like a three-ring circus,” he said.

Eastman loved it, but the hours were hard on his family. They moved to West Chester, where his wife had friends, and Eastman worked at Dilworthtown Inn before opening The Gables in Chadds Ford.

A position at Brasserie Perrier led to crazy hours again. He often worked 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m, six days a week. The hours didn’t improve once he took a job with a food services and facilities-management company.

Tired of the grind, he opened Chefs’ Haven at 1304 Old Lancaster Pike in Hockessin in 2008.

Taking chances

Eastman quickly became known for his classes, his bread and his imported cheeses.

When Delaware Gov. John Carney declared a state of emergency in March to help curb the coronavirus, he halted his cooking classes and focused on prepared foods. The made-from-scratch aficionado cures and smokes pastrami and corned beef and makes the sausages, all of which will be featured in the new café.

The Independence Mall location “kind of dropped into my lap,” said Eastman, who is partnering with Alexander Sabo on the project.

He had hoped to take over the neighboring space in Hockessin that housed Nal Restaurant, but the landlord made other plans.

The café will serve breakfast and lunch. Hashes will include the standard corned beef, along with a mushroom hash.

To be sure, Eastman likes putting his signature on his dishes. House Benedict, for instance, will feature smoked pastrami with hollandaise on rye bread. Instead of shrimp-and-grits, he’ll serve spicy shrimp on grits on sourdough splashed with chipotle hollandaise.

The spinach-and-feta omelet contains roasted shishito peppers, while the mushroom omelet is folded around goat cheese. Eastman will also feature an assortment of breakfast bowls.

Eastman will take lunch up a level. Instead of romaine, he’ll have baby bok choy in his Caesar, with house-made croutons, radishes and fried shallots. Fans of his chicken-curry salad in Hockessin will find it in Wilmington, along with his macaroni-and-cheese.

“Everyone goes nuts over it here — I can’t keep it in the house,” he said of the supreme comfort food.

Eastman had a more extensive menu, but for right now, he just wants to get started.

“I can see what works and change it up if I need to.”

Find Chefs’ Haven Café in Independence Mall at 1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington 19803 or go to chefshavende.com

Categories
Business Food & Dining Health

Chefs’ Haven Cafe opened Tuesday in Independence Mall

Long before the coronavirus became a household world, Chef Mark Eastman proved he could pivot.

The Schoharie, New York, native has pursued his craft from Saratoga Springs to Philadelphia, where he worked at Brasserie Perrier. He’s cooked for the Grateful Dead and a grateful Delaware book club.

Eastman follows his instincts, and most recently, that means opening Chefs’ Haven Café in Independence Mall in Brandywine Hundred. The new restaurant was expected to start serving customers on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

The café is situated in the site formerly occupied by De La Coeur Café et Boulangerie, which had debuted in February and closed in May. (Ciro Forty Acres now occupies De La Coeur’s Trolley Square-area space.)

Eastman, who will serve breakfast and lunch, will continue to operate Chefs’ Haven in Hockessin, which he founded in 2008 to offer cooking classes for groups — including book clubs — and sell products, such as his artisanal bread.

It won’t be easy. But Eastman, a 30-year culinary veteran, is no stranger to challenges.

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Going with the flow

Eastman grew up in a rural area about 30 minutes from Albany, New York. 

“It’s out in the middle of nowhere — farm country,” he said.

He learned to cook from his mother, but she wanted him to attend a community college specializing in agriculture.

“It wasn’t something I was interested in,” he said of the curriculum. “It didn’t last very long.”

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He moved to Saratoga Springs and started as a bar boy in a high-end restaurant in the 1980s and graduated to server. Hauling home up to $400 a night in tips, Eastman was content. His fiancée, however, urged him to become a chef with a career path.

At that time, admission to the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont required five years of experience, an entrance exam and a skills test, such as breaking down anything from a frog to a rabbit.

“Half the class was gone the first day,” he recalled. Eastman, however, aced it all.

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Making a move

After graduating, Eastman held several hospitality jobs in Sarasota. As the executive chef at the Sarasota Performing Arts Center, he prepared meals for such acts as Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones.

“It was like a three-ring circus,” he said.

Eastman loved it, but the hours were hard on his family. They moved to West Chester, where his wife had friends, and Eastman worked at Dilworthtown Inn before opening The Gables in Chadds Ford.

A position at Brasserie Perrier led to crazy hours again. He often worked 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m, six days a week. The hours didn’t improve once he took a job with a food services and facilities-management company.

Tired of the grind, he opened Chefs’ Haven at 1304 Old Lancaster Pike in Hockessin in 2008.

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Taking chances

Eastman quickly became known for his classes, his bread and his imported cheeses.

When Delaware Gov. John Carney declared a state of emergency in March to help curb the coronavirus, he halted his cooking classes and focused on prepared foods. The made-from-scratch aficionado cures and smokes pastrami and corned beef and makes the sausages, all of which will be featured in the new café.

The Independence Mall location “kind of dropped into my lap,” said Eastman, who is partnering with Alexander Sabo on the project.

He had hoped to take over the neighboring space in Hockessin that housed Nal Restaurant, but the landlord made other plans.

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The café will serve breakfast and lunch. Hashes will include the standard corned beef, along with a mushroom hash.

To be sure, Eastman likes putting his signature on his dishes. House Benedict, for instance, will feature smoked pastrami with hollandaise on rye bread. Instead of shrimp-and-grits, he’ll serve spicy shrimp on grits on sourdough splashed with chipotle hollandaise.

The spinach-and-feta omelet contains roasted shishito peppers, while the mushroom omelet is folded around goat cheese. Eastman will also feature an assortment of breakfast bowls.

Eastman will take lunch up a level. Instead of romaine, he’ll have baby bok choy in his Caesar, with house-made croutons, radishes and fried shallots. Fans of his chicken-curry salad in Hockessin will find it in Wilmington, along with his macaroni-and-cheese.

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“Everyone goes nuts over it here — I can’t keep it in the house,” he said of the supreme comfort food.

Eastman had a more extensive menu, but for right now, he just wants to get started.

“I can see what works and change it up if I need to.”

Find Chefs’ Haven Café in Independence Mall at 1601 Concord Pike, Wilmington 19803 or go to chefshavende.com