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article by: Matt Amis
Food trends don’t appear out of nowhere. Innovative chefs and restaurateurs in our state have been challenging our preconceptions and palates for years. Luckily, we have the receipts.
1. “Delaware’s kind of old-school in a lot of ways,” says Hari Cameron, chef-owner behind the recently sold a(MUSE.) In 2004, Cameron used prize money from a cooking competition to buy a then-newfangled thermal immersion circulator, “before anybody had any idea what one was.” So even when high-caliber chefs like Cameron explore the depths of culinary experimentalism—like he did at a(MUSE.) with miso-cured vegetables or liquid nitrogen–frozen dessert—“you’re not trying to be trendy, you’re trying to explore food through a local lens.” Cameron is still contributing to Delaware’s food scene through his other concept with his brother, Grandpa Mac, and looking down the road to future projects.
2. Few have been able to challenge Harry’s Savoy Grill’s (2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000) knack for comingling old-school and new-school sensibilities and ingredients for decades. Receipt: Seitan marsala over rice and haricot verts
3. The former Nage was reborn as Fork & Flask (19730 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2037), but the beach favorite continues to inspire with adventurous and international flavors. Receipt: Korean barbecue chicken with kimchi, shiitake mushrooms, peppers and rice noodles
4. Rooftop deck? Check. Avant-garde bistro fare? Check. Timeline-worthy café flambé? Check. Back Porch Café (59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3674) is the true O.G. of elevated beach dining. Receipt: Pepper-cured tuna loin, cornmeal bilini, Meyer lemon salsa
5. Piccolina Toscana (1412 N. Dupont St., Wilmington, 654-8001) furnished the Wilmington crowd with gourmet pizza (figs?! béchamel!?) and small plates before we even knew they existed. Receipt: Stone oven short rib pizzette with fontina and gorgonzola, caramelized onion, roasted garlic
6. From the go-to campus date spot to earning props from Wine Spectator for a wine cellar that would make Hoda Kotb faint, Caffe Gelato (90 E. Main St., Newark, 738-5811) has grown up large since opening 20 years ago. Receipt: House-made fettuccini cacio e Pepe
7. Home Grown Cafe (126 E. Main St., Newark, 266-6993) continues spreading good vibes with its shaggy, vegetarian-heavy food, community fundraisers and hard-to-find craft beers. Receipt: Avocado toast with alfalfa sprouts, cherry tomatoes, capers and smoked salmon, with cage-free egg and gluten-free toast
8. Pizza By Elizabeths (3801 Kennett Pike, Greenville, 654-4478) rang in a new era of Greenville chic with jaw-dropping murals splashed in bold colors and interior design that foretold the coming of Etsy and Goop. Receipt: “Queen” pizza with mushroom duxelles sauce and chicken chunks
9. Former Hotel du Pont acolyte Bill Hoffman took foodie culture to new heights in 2011 with the House of William & Merry (1336 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, 234-2255), where extravagant ingredients mix with local ones on breathtakingly beautiful plates. Receipt: Grilled duck ramen with shiitake mushrooms, baby bok choy and soft-boiled egg.