Milk and cookies for Santa Claus? Fugetaboutit!

December 24, 2011
Santa, use this landmark to find Rehoboth Beach. I also suggest you skip breakfast. BY BOB YESBEK PHOTO

Dear Santa,
I’m writing this letter to prepare you for your upcoming visit to Rehoboth Beach. You see, our little town is a popular dining destination, and though milk and cookies by the fireplace are certainly cute, there are people around here who can do a lot better. You’re our first visitor to arrive by air from the North Pole, so I’m guessing you’ll be a bit peckish by the time you get here.

First of all, many of the places on your list will not have chimneys. But a ventilation hood is a fine alternative (if the exhaust fan isn’t on). I’m sure you’ve gotten pretty good at somersaulting over the occasional smoldering yule log, but here in Rehoboth we’ve got bubbling fryers and hot grills. So keep an eye on what’s at the bottom of that stainless steel shaft!

You won’t have to settle for a dreary plate of sugar cookies when you wiggle your way into Nage restaurant. Chef Hari Cameron’s going to whip up a batch of his legendary duck scrapple. Enough with the frown, Santa! You’re in Delaware, and scrapple’s what we do. Dig in.

Be ready for a Fire & Ice martini from bartender David Engel at Espuma. While he’s mulling the cucumbers and peppers, scarf up Chef Caputo’s Opus appetizer. Really, Santa, how many tykes in footie pajamas will flash-fry a boiled egg (lightly crisp on the outside, the yolk still soft on the inside) and pair it with a warm bacon tart? See what you’ve been missing?

If you’ve been checking your list twice, you won’t pass over the Blue Moon (watch out for that mirror ball!). Enjoy a plate of Chef Lion Gardner’s to-die-for gorgonzola-stuffed dates wrapped in apple-smoked bacon. You’ll want a dozen of those crispy little gems, but leave room for savory duck leg confit, nestled all snug in a creamy bed of raisin and goat cheese risotto. It’s cold out there. Enjoy.

As you begin your final descent into Matt’s Fish Camp, don’t get snagged on the stately towers of our new Indian River Inlet bridge. The FAA-required lights aren’t installed yet, but the cranes will guide you to a heaping platter of Chef Casey Cunningham’s fried Ipswich clams. They’re remarkably light, and you can’t get them just anywhere (it’s a long way to Massachusetts). Finish up with a Cucumber Fresca (vodka-infused cucumbers with fresh lime). Put Rudolph on autopilot and watch out for the sobriety checkpoints.

Just about now you’ll be ready for some spicy barbecue, so follow the plume of hickory smoke to Bethany Blues in Lewes. Sydney Arzt will coax at least one carol out of Love Seed Mama Jump (her son’s the lead singer), and manager Kevin Roberts will whomp up a tasty trifecta of pulled pork, beef brisket and pulled chicken sliders. Top each with crunchy slaw and a pickle. Trust me, Santa. I know these things.

As you glide over Dewey Beach, watch out for the flying lawsuits. They’re as abundant as the seagulls, and a lot messier. Assuming you touch down unscathed, slide into Port Dewey. On the bar you’ll find a steaming bowl of Chef Inton Mouynivong’s shrimp and lobster lemongrass soup and a basket of his magical hushpuppies. Zack and Mitch King have been good (for goodness’ sake), so leave a little something extra - like a case of fiery Sriracha sauce.

Ready for dessert? Lou Bascio at Rehoboth’s Touch of Italy will plate up a couple of his mom’s delicately layered sfogliatelle. Tom Gross, manager of The Point Coffee Shop, will hand-pick one of John DelVecchio’s Boston crème doughnuts while you help yourself to a mug of high-octane Kenya AA coffee. Have two - the night is young.

Before you head out over the bay, fill a to-go cup with Gelato Gal’s award-winning Chocolate Zen. Somewhere over New Jersey, treat yourself to a spoonful. If that doesn’t make you exclaim, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” nothin’ will.

  • 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

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