Like it fresh? Then look for the logo
People love to jump on bandwagons. Not literally, of course (do bandwagons still exist?), but the point is this: For the last few years, everybody’s been touting that their food is fat-free this, organic that, gluten-free whatever and positively all-natural and local whatnot. Some claims don’t make sense; some are easy to verify - and some not so much.
Take “local,” for example. Is a restaurant all of a sudden “fresh and local” because the chef buys a few ears of corn in Grove Park on a Tuesday afternoon, and the rest of his or her food arrives in a gigantic silver 18-wheeler? Maybe, maybe not, and diners certainly have no way of knowing - until now.
I am honored to be a part of Southern Delaware Tourism’s Local on the Menu initiative. As part of the Come to the Culinary Coast - Life Tastes Better Here campaign, Local on the Menu unites Sussex chefs with Sussex growers through an online database. The system provides a real-time snapshot of what’s available today in the fields and barns, and what’s needed tonight by the restaurants. Members display a distinctive logo on their menus and signage to verify that a set percentage of their ingredients did, in fact, grow right here in Sussex County.
A few weeks ago, Millsboro’s Cordrey Center became the perfect springtime venue for growers, ranchers, brewers, restaurant owners, chefs, winemakers, food writers and public relations people to welcome the media, government officials and others to the christening of Local on the Menu. Executive Director Scott Thomas joined Southern Delaware Tourism Board Chairwoman Lana O’Hollaren and Marketing Administrator Jenna Beard to ensure that everyone had a good time - and did not leave hungry.
Abbott’s Grill owner Kevin Reading and Chef Ryan Cunningham wowed everybody with skillets brimming with duck confit gnocchi with caramelized cippolini onions. I’d love to share the aroma of those sautéing little orbs, but scratch & sniff technology has yet to appear in the world of newsprint. The equally fragrant lavender ladies, Marie Mayor and Sharon Harris, were in attendance as Hobos’ Gretchen Hanson brewed up cauldrons of lemonade spiked with Lavender Fields’ latest harvest. It paired perfectly with her grilled rockfish encrusted with crunchy soy panko. Soy panko, yet. Leave it to Gretchen.
Nage marketing diva Chrissy Sarro and Chef Ted Deptula promoted the new Root Gourmet deli with beer bread (thank you, 16 Mile) and fresh, citrusy salads. Chef Hari Cameron (the poster child for sustainable Sussex County eats) demonstrated some of the goodies he’ll be plating up at his new Rehoboth venture, a(Muse.) - including an impromptu lesson on how to corral a particularly feisty soft shell crab. (You had to be there.) Chef John Bimber of The Brick Hotel impressed the crowd with pork loin marinated in Dogfish Head’s gluten-free beer. Pork and beer. Two of the four basic food groups….
The room was full of munching glitterati. State Rep. Ruth Briggs King lent her support to Local on the Menu, along with Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee. Both moved from station to station enjoying the best stuff Delaware has to offer. Some of that stuff included sips from Peggy Raley’s Nassau Valley Vineyards and Fenwick Wine Cellars’ boss Adrian Mobilia. 16 Mile Brewery was represented by co-owner Chad Campbell, and Greer Stangl (a marketing diva in her own right) introduced partygoers to T.S. Smith and Sons’ latest potion, Black Twig Sparkling Hard Apple Cider.
So the next time a restaurant touts itself as “local and fresh,” look for the logo. Life certainly does taste better here.