Inspired Rehoboth chefs cook to benefit the hungry
It’s not often that you can convince six of Rehoboth’s best chefs to cook for you - all at the same time. But a roomful of lucky diners managed to pull it off last Friday night at the Village Improvement Association Clubhouse where Grenoble Place meets the Atlantic. Our culinary hosts were members of the Rehoboth Inspired Chefs’ Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Delaware’s food-related charities. Friday’s event was held in support of the Cape Henlopen Food Basket. The festivities actually began on the previous Sunday when Tom Poor and his crew opened up Bin 66 Fine Wine & Spirits for a meet and greet sip-fest with the participating chefs.
Armed with a taste of things to come, we all gathered for the extravaganza. Upon entering the beachfront venue, the first thing we encountered was a long table groaning under the weight of house-made charcuterie and cheese from none other than Blue Moon’s Lion Gardner. One of the stars of the show was his duck mortadella: softly savory, aromatic and the perfect match for the Poema Cava Rosé being poured into mysteriously bottomless flutes. The other star of the show was the St. Charles String Trio, which, in true John Bayless style, performed flawless chamber music renditions of popular tunes from the likes of Lady Gaga, Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars.
The first course was presented in a mug, which turned out to be the perfect way to consume Chef Dave Sauers’ lemon roasted chicken. It shared a pleasingly pungent broth with kale and sundried tomato gnocchi. Chef Dave is the kitchen boss at Ginger Breneman’s MIXX on Baltimore Avenue. Tablas Creek Patelin Blanc served quite adequately as the assigned beverage.
Barboursville Viognier was the lucky vintage that accompanied steamed halibut drizzled with ginger and scallion sauce. The bracingly spicy pepper mix on the side reminded us that you can always count on Confucius chef/owner Shawn Xiong to gently shock your taste buds into an advanced state of happiness. Confucius is one of my go-to spots when I need to leave my camera, notebook and snideness at home and just relax over a tasty, prepared-to-order dinner. He and his lovely wife Danielle never disappoint.
As president of the Rehoboth Inspired Chefs’ Initiative, Jay Caputo had no choice but to step up to the plate with something suitably Espuma-like. And his trio of duck on a bed of brussels sprout slaw with apples and brown sugar powder did not let us down. The pairing for this meal was also exceptional, given that 2014 James Beard Foundation nominee Sam Calagione was sitting at the very next table. His Dogfish Head Sixty-One stood nose-to-nose with Chef Caputo’s handiwork. It’s been almost a year to the day since Sam’s Sixty-One was introduced, and the name is testament to Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA plus one key ingredient: Syrah grape must from California. Must is the freshly pressed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit. Its high glucose content complements the bright crispness of Dogfish Head’s best-selling brew.
No Rehoboth Beach culinary event would be complete without a(MUSE.) chef/owner Hari Cameron. Fans of his bastion of molecular gastronomy on Baltimore Avenue know that half the fun is trying to figure out what the heck he did with the ingredients. Hari put his trusty immersion circulator to work for 48 hours to create the most tender and flavorful veal breast I’ve ever tasted (breast is the veal equivalent of beef brisket and must be cooked low and slow). Parsnips were repurposed as smooth and creamy custard with cocoa “cookies” and “dust” scattered here and there. Autard Chateauneuf du Pape made the cut, and the plate was as delightful to behold as it was to eat.
Eden’s Danielle Panarello and Andy Feeley constructed a dessert that was nothing short of spectacular. Impossibly smooth panna cotta (Italian cooked cream) was topped with a bright and citrusy pomegranate gelée for an unexpected textural adventure. It shared the plate with a multi-layered rectangle of dark chocolate spice cake (think petits fours on steroids!). The blackcurrant, blackberry and prune overtones of the Portuguese single-vintage Ferreira LBV Port rounded out this gastronomic roller coaster of fruit and chocolate.
After all these superlatives I found myself stumped over a closing sentence. So I’ll just state what I hope is now the obvious: A good time was had by all.