Inspired chefs rally for local and sustainable foods

December 19, 2012

Many thanks to the readers who responded to my little contest from a couple of weeks ago. I challenged you to match a list of local women who have distinguished themselves as restaurant owners to the names of their particular Rehoboth, Dewey, Lewes or Bethany establishments. The good news is that so many people responded. The bad news is that nobody was 100 percent correct, though some of you got downright creative. So, without further ado [insert drumroll here], the envelope, please:

Sydney Arzt: American Pie, Sidestreets, Sydney’s. Joyce Felton: Strand, Blue Moon, Surfside Diner, Westside Diner, Tijuana Taxi. Alison Blyth: Yum Yum, LaLa Land, Go Fish!, Go Brit!. Marilyn Spitz: Back Porch Café. Nancy Wolfe: Chez La Mer. Emily Carr: Two Seas. Susan Townley Wood: Cultured Pearl. Doris Lynch: Captain’s Table. Yolanda Pineda: Mariachi. Joan Caggiano: Nicola Pizza. Lauren Cox-Ristenbatt: Café Solé, Solé. Jennifer Zerby: Victoria’s, The Point Coffee House & Bake Shoppe. Justine Zegna: Venus on the Half Shell, Planet X. Danielle Xiong: Confucius. Dana Banks: Parkway, Royal Zephyr. Ginger Brenneman: MIXX. Mara DePace: Villa Sorrento. Meghan Gardner: Blue Moon. Maria Ramirez: Café a go-go. Gretchen Hanson: Hobos. Maya Contractor: Café Papillon. Lori Kline: Lori’s Oy Vey Café.  Lily Thamibutra: Lily Thai. Victoria Kopunek: Red Square. Amanda Randall: Gelato Gal. Irene Vrentzos: Corner Grill. Lynn Lester: The Brick Hotel. Patsy Dill Rankin: Patsy’s. Debra Holmes: Debacle. Shelia Savaliski and Steph DaLee: Seafood Shack. Wendy Adams: Charcoal Deli, Charcoal Grill. And, the late Marcia Shihadeh: Camel’s Hump.

So many brave entrepreneurs of both sexes have contributed to Rehoboth’s growing status as a dining destination. To that end, and to unite local restaurateurs in raising funds for food-related charities, the Rehoboth Inspired Chefs Initiative held a delightful reception last week at the Rehoboth Beach Museum. I’ve attended several functions there. The exhibits are masterfully assembled, and you never leave without learning something. One of the things I learned was just how clever this core group of chefs and restaurateurs can be as they attempt to quietly outdo one another's culinary proclivities.

Every member contributed at least one culinary tour de force. The humble slider was kicked up to notches heretofore unbeknownst with the addition of crispy, unctuous pork belly (Little Tavern and White Castle would be proud). Vegetarians and carnivores alike couldn’t get enough of RICI’s corn pudding muffins that paid homage to Sussex County’s Baxter Farms, combining GMO-free corn with cheddar and colorful sweet pepper jam - both laced with 16 Mile brew.

Each chef pulled out the stops to create an impressive bite, and textural differences took the spotlight with a tiny tuna tartare with orange, horseradish and pumpkin puree, perched happily on a square of lavash and crowned with puffed rice. One of my favorites was a heaping platter of salt and pepper shrimp. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have tackled the servers who were passing those little gems around. I have to learn to curb my enthusiasm.
By the time I finished stuffing five or six of those into my mouth, in came the braised lamb belly rounds on crisp polenta. A candied basil leaf (yup, candied!) crowned a dollop of poached garlic puree.

The chefs’ motto is “Get inspired, get involved,” as they work to integrate food-driven charitable works into their everyday business. We’ll be seeing a lot more of RICI as their membership expands and they continue to change Rehoboth’s culinary landscape for the better.

  • 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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