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So many events - so little ink!

Course four was a delicious combination of clams, scallops and shrimp. Chef Ingrid Dellatorre and wine expert Dave Hill were at their best as we motored across the Delaware Bay. BOB YESBEK PHOTOS
October 6, 2017

I have to admit that I was skeptical. "A spice store in the high-rent district just steps from the Rehoboth Boardwalk," I wrote. "Can this be a good idea?" Well, turns out it was a very good idea. In fact, at last week's 2017 Franchise Conference in Florida, The Spice and Tea Exchange of Rehoboth Beach was singled out as No. 1 in sales nationwide - besting 57 other locations. 

As part of the week-long event, store manager Dan Slagle was chosen to participate in a Local Events Panel where he outlined the Rehoboth store's particularly outstanding success with the Taste & Learn Chef Series. These in-store events are held from January through April. Local chefs and cooks perform culinary demonstrations with ingredients available at the store, and participants get to munch on the results. Dan attributed the success of this marketing tool to several factors, including Rehoboth Beach's high visibility as a culinary destination, the store's loyal customer base, the local restaurant community, and the constant flow of new customers generated by weekly visits from the perpetually sold-out Eating Rehoboth food tours. 

Slagle was also the guest speaker at the Manager's Workshop. He spoke about his team's positive energy and the local merchants that support the store; not the least of which is Roy and Laura Eckrote's Olive Orchard Tasting Room (in First Street Station) that carries selected spice blends to pair with Olive Orchard's premium oils and balsamics. 

The award ceremony was held on the last day of the conference, and for the second consecutive year, owner Joy Quinn-Whalen, Dan and the entire Rehoboth team received the top sales award. No small feat for a seasonal resort! In fact, Joy's Spice & Tea Exchange at 67th Street bayside in Ocean City won third place for percentage gain over last year and fifth place for sales increase over last year - again, out of 57 other stores. 

Dan says it best through the company's franchise mission statement: "Our mission is to create and share the experience of a more flavorful life. The Rehoboth team aspires to deliver this to each and every customer." As a food writer and one of the guides for the Eating Rehoboth tours, I can tell you first-hand that this is more than just a bunch of flowery words.

Joy and her closely knit team really do make every customer feel welcome. And it's a win/win for everyone. 

In a more maritime tone, I was honored last week to be a guest on one of the last Cape May-Lewes Ferry sunset wine cruises for 2017.

Noted oenophile and celebrated wine guru Dave Hill (now hosting at Bethany Blues in Lewes) teamed up with talented Chef Ingrid Dellatorre and the delightful Debra Matalone from Lanterna Distributors to dish up an amazing feast on the high seas. Well, OK ... the Delaware Bay. 

There can be nothing wrong with bacon-wrapped anything - especially if that anything is blue cheese-stuffed dates. Ingrid had these little gems sharing the plate with almond-encrusted Manchego and plump, crispy fried olives.

Such bright flavors could only be paired with the bright and bold 2013 Beyra Reserva Tinto from Portugal. 

Course number two was a blockbuster with warm mussels lounging in a tomato wine sauce studded with spicy chorizo. Again, any wine that can stand up to those flavors had its work cut out for it: Spain's Paloma de Plata Albarino from 2015 was up to the job. 

My favorite was the deeply flavorful croquette served alongside mesclun with red onion, oranges and almonds. The crispy little quenelle lounged in a garnet-hued lake of raspberry vinaigrette.

The warm, ripe texture of Portugal's Julio Bastos 2015 Dona Maria White (a soft blend of Arinto, Viosinho and Antão Vaz) was the perfect foil for this rollercoaster of flavor. 

Chef Ingrid is used to plating dish after dish in a kitchen that is rocking back and forth, and her talents were well-tested when course number four was assembled.

Traditional mixed paella marched out of the kitchen with a glass of Bodegas Valduero 2015 Finca Azaya not far behind. 

Crema Catalana (think crème brûlée with a Spanish accent) served as denouement, along with 2013's Canals Canals Cava Brut Especial.

This sparkling blend from Spain brought the freshness of lemon zest and the tartness of a ripe green apple to the crackle-topped dessert of cream, cinnamon, vanilla and orange rind. 

It was yet another command performance for Dave, Ingrid and their crew (quite literally). The Cape May-Lewes Ferry Sunset Wine Cruises sell out very quickly, and in fact there are no more seats available until 2018.

But if you manage to make your way on board and into the crow's nest dining room, the wait will be worth it.

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at byesbek@capegazette.com.

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.