Wine, women … and a parade!

Michelle Souza and Chef Phil Mastrippolito bring women and wine together at Lupo di Mare. BY BOB YESBEK PHOTO
January 31, 2012

It was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation to attend December’s Women and Wine Club event at Lupo di Mare. After all, the ad was clear: wine, a four-course meal, more wine and a charity angle - for women only. About 80 percent of them would be regulars, with the others expecting a roomful of those similarly gendered.

But other than Chef and General Manager Phil Mastrippolito and a couple of young waiters, there I was. The only guy. The event coincided with Rehoboth’s annual Hometown Christmas Parade (threatening to be rained out at any minute), and as edgy as I was, the whole package still seemed like a good deal. So, thoroughly secure in my manhood, I stepped proudly over the threshold. Heads turned (not for very long, truth be told - I was a little disappointed) and I found myself in a sea of laughing, drinking, joke-telling, celebratory ladies.

As the parade damply scrambled to life outside, I was brought up to speed inside: The Women and Wine Club was founded in January 2008, the brainchild of SoDel Concepts’ catering and special events coordinator, Molly King. For those of you recently relocated from a distant planet, SoDel Concepts is the operation behind Matt Haley and Bryony Zeigler’s six (soon to be seven once again) Delaware eateries, including the Northern Italian-flavored Lupo di Mare.

The club is a fun way to promote their properties and familiarize members with wines wholesaled by Southern Wine and Spirits. The longtime beverage purveyor was effervescently represented by Michelle Souza, the evening’s mistress of ceremonies. Better yet, a portion of the ticket sales went to Food Bank of Delaware, a favorite cause of SoDel Concepts.

So it’s a win/win/win: Womanly camaraderie is enhanced by a bit of education about wines (providing the perfect excuse to drink them), everybody gets a delicious meal and FBD benefits from the proceeds. It was starting to drizzle as the parade twinkled its way across Lupo’s front windows, but it was warm inside as Michelle introduced the first course.

This is the part of the article I wasn’t looking forward to. The last thing I want to do is barge into Denise Clemons’ and John McDonald’s territories. Denise’s Cape Flavors column covers all sorts of creative recipes and cooking techniques. John, the Cape Gazette’s wine guru (and chef in his own right) forgets more stuff about grapes than I’ll ever know. So I tread lightly.

Chef Phil paired a mini-seafood salad with a Champagne Nicolas Feuillate Brut. Golden notes of pear and apple sparkled with the citrusy mix of scallops, mussels, shrimp and calamari. Were the bubbles working their magic, or was the parade speeding up? It had started to rain, and the merriment on The Avenue played out like a silent movie - only in color.

I secreted the last flute of Nicolas in my lap as servers presented Foley Chardonnay from Santa Barbara. Whispers of vanilla and hazelnut intermingled with the earthiness of porcini-cream-drizzled mushroom ravioli. Another glass of Foley appeared before me. Were the lights on The Avenue getting brighter? Suddenly it was all about red as fresh glasses were filled with Chateau Tanunda Barossa, a ruby Shiraz from Australia. But I hadn’t finished my (second) Chardonnay! No matter.

My fascination with the tiny lights that encrusted Jusst Sooup Ministry’s parade car was interrupted by Mastrippolito’s tomato braised short ribs. Nestled contentedly atop creamy polenta, the beef was darkly seared and fork tender. The berries and black pepper of the Shiraz provided the perfect foil for the savory ribs. Outside, the CAMP Rehoboth Chorus glided silently yet moistly by, with conductor Bill McManus channeling his best Marvin Hamlisch in the face of winter adversity. They were all smiling. The rain had stopped.

Chocolate and chili peppers are made for one another, and Phil’s pot de crème consummated that marriage. The finish of rosemary and sea salt balanced the luscious woodiness of Taylor’s 10-year-old Tawny Port. Did the parade end? Everything seemed a bit out of focus. Must have been the chocolate.

  • 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.

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