Beer. Cheese. Wine. More Cheese: The four basic food groups

October 13, 2017

I wrote last week about how the number of shoulder-season events here in the Cape Region continues to exceed my weekly allotment of ink I’m allowed to splatter on this page. But I really want to include you in some of my adventures as much as I can. 

To that end, one of the side-effects of my being on the radio every week is the expansion of my sipping and biting range. As I learn about (and eventually talk about) places familiar to my listeners to the north, the south and the west, I get to introduce Cape Region readers to new places that might warrant a day trip. Or, in this week’s case, more like a half-day trip. 

Fordham Brewery, currently in Dover, was named in honor of Benjamin Fordham. In 1703 he was given a charter by Queen Anne to establish a brewery in the heart of the bustling port city of Annapolis, Md. In 2003, the brewery made the decision to relocate to Dover. 

Meanwhile, in 1989, Old Dominion Brewing Co. was establishing a brewpub operation in Ashburn, Va. It wasn’t long before it was named one of the top 50 breweries in the U.S. Armed with a hunch that their differences would actually made them stronger, Fordham & Dominion joined forces in 2007; consolidating operations in Delaware in 2009. 

That all sounds very high-falutin’ (I’m looking for my powdered wig) until you get to know them. They have a wonderful sense of humor (just look at their “pinup” series of labels), and last week I was honored to be a judge at their annual Cheesetoberfest held at the brewery. 

Yes, you read that right. Cheesetoberfest. This event takes the whole Oktoberfest thing, slathers it with cheese, adds more cheese and an oompah band - all while never losing sight of the obligatory beer angle. I was sequestered in a small room (equipped with beer taps, of course) surrounded by an impressive group of longtime Cheesetoberfest judges. As the all-brass band played on (they were quite good, in fact), well over 500 people moseyed among food trucks and local vendors while we sipped and bit our way to a final decision. The judges’ and the ticketholders’ popular vote coincided with the very local Little Grocer. Sort of a sub shop/caterer/little of this/ little of that spot owned for many years by the Stachecki family, they wowed everyone with their crusty-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside grilled cheese loaded with caramelized onions. 

When it came to the mac & cheese awards, the judges’ decision and the popular vote diverged. The public gave the nod to Doc Magrogan’s restaurant at Dover Downs, but the judges, with their seasoned palates, long list of accolades (well, them, not me) and vast knowledge of everything food, chose ... wait for it ... Applebee’s of Dover! I’m here to tell you that we all agreed unanimously on that one. Just goes to prove that sometimes y’just never know. 

On Friday night, there was no shortage of big names in the culinary and wine world at The Clubhouse at Baywood Greens. The Private Reserve Dinner at that beautiful venue was graced by Master Sommelier Larry O’Brien (one of only 236 in the world), SoDel Concepts head of culinary operations and Vice President Doug Ruley, and Craig Ellick, Ambassador of Stonestreet Estate Winery in Alexander Valley, Calif. 

Doug was joined by yet another award winner in his own right, Matt’s Fish Camp Executive Chef Maurice Catlett, and the executive chef of Baywood Greens himself, Tom Deptula. 

Ruley, Catlett, Deptula and their team could do no wrong. Whipped burrata with a fig & onion jam surprise inside was followed by Wagyu beef tartare sporting a jaunty egg yolk hat. Fork-tender lamb loin was all decked out with cherries, pistachios and blue cheese. 

Larry O’Brien and his merry band of oenophiles matched the kitchen course-by-course with such delicacies as La Crema Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley and the velvety smooth Les Cadrans de Lassègue from St. Émilion, Bordeaux, France. 

I’m still not used to the fact that we have access to all this, right here in the used-to-be-a-scary-ghost-town Rehoboth Beach area. Get out there and enjoy the off-season and let our talented restaurateurs know you appreciate the risks they took to bring their talents to the beach.

  • 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.