Cape Region food and music: The perfect pairing!

October 19, 2018

Nowadays here in the Cape Region you can’t throw a bottle of 2003 Château Lafite Rothschild Pauillac Red Bordeaux without hitting a wine-pairing event at a local eatery. And things have extended to beer pairings, and even bourbon and scotch pairings. One of the most recent pairing dinners to appear in my inbox is fried chicken and champagne! Fork & Flask’s Executive Chef Sean Corea is particularly proud of that one. (Oh, and it works. Trust me on that.)

But in the last few weeks the spotlight has been on another kind of pairing: food and music. Jazzfest at the beach has become a major production with online ticket sales, big-name headliners at all the big venues alongside a celebration of up and coming jazz players at local high schools. Almost 30 years ago, jazzfest started as the brainchild of a small group of downtown Rehoboth businesspeople and consisted of a few bands by the Boardwalk. It quickly spread into local restaurants, and the rest is history. Of course it’s the restaurant angle I like the most, and there’s nothing like nibbling a tasty meal at your favorite eatery while listening to local live music. The ultimate pairing, indeed.

Longtime sax master John Ewart has been gracing the back porch at the Back Porch for many years. Jazzfest wouldn’t be the same without the smoky sound of his tenor sax paired with Executive Chef Tim McNitt’s signature crisp veal sweetbread sharing the plate with a leek and potato latke, prosciutto and morels. Top that off with Back Porch’s signature Flaming Coffee (a floor show in itself).

Casa DiLeo presented a triple threat (actually quadruple if you count the pizza) over last weekend with local luminaries Johnny Neel, Keith Mack and Ed Shockley. Each night they were kicked off with the perfect audio appetizer: Matt Lafferty & the Pros from Dover. As much a feast for the ears as Chef Johnny DiLeo’s pizza is for the palate.

Café Azafrán’s famous haricots verts and Rich Steele’s veal sausage and cannellini bean small plates tasted even better last week when consumed in the presence of singing bartender Holly Lane and keyboard tickler extraordinaire John Flynn. FYI, this food/music pairing continues every Thursday throughout the year. So if you missed it last week, all is not lost.

Last Friday at Bluecoast Rehoboth, Hot Sauce Band provided the perfect spice for Executive Chef Jason Dietterick’s signature dishes that have quickly put this relatively new restaurant on the map. Back downtown, the same thing goes for Cuvee Ray Wine Bar where Crescent City Collection provided perfect backup for Rob Bagley’s cocktails and Joey Churchman’s kitchen magic.

The kitchen wizardry of Bethany Blues Executive Chef Drew Boyle provided a delicious backdrop for Saturday’s audio extravaganza from blues masters Jake & Elwood. A rack of ribs, a shot of Pappy (oh, go ahead, splurge!) and music from Lower Case Blues’ Jake Banaszak and Elwood Bishop from No Byscuyts couldn’t have been more fun at B’Blues’ professional musical venue.

Hammond B-3 organ virtuoso Fred Dawson dominated Saturday afternoon at The Rusty Rudder where his seven-piece Club Phred band hit on all the classic ‘60s and ‘70s tunes. Pair that with Corporate Chef Pete McMahon’s family-friendly fare. The powerful sound of that Hammond organ rocked the Rehoboth Beach Firehouse on Saturday afternoon courtesy of Wilmington’s “Mr. B-3” himself, Bill Dilks. Sips & Bites at the event went to benefit the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, that timeless Hammond keyboard filled the room (in more than one way!) at Indigo Indian Restaurant. Chef Raghu Kumar’s tikka masala, vindaloo dishes and made-to-order onion kulcha naan provided the perfect harmony for one of the Cape Region’s newest trios, 2nd Time Around. They also appeared at Fork & Flask’s Saturday Jazz Brunch. Chef Sean Corea cranked out multiple renditions of his crabcake eggs Benedict and deconstructed bacon, egg & cheese biscuit in perfect rhythm with the music.

I don’t have nearly enough space on this page to list all the great dishes that were served up alongside amazing local and not-so-local bands last week. But I don’t want to miss Bruce Anthony and Sam Nobles’ Saturday concert at a(MUSE.). (Chef Hari Cameron’s modernist touch in the kitchen makes his dishes as beautiful to look at as they are to eat.) Bruce & Sam are yet another year-round feature on Fridays just around the corner at Chesapeake & Maine.

Every year around this time, Cape Gazette Special Editions Editor Jen Ellingsworth and her team put together the most comprehensive list of jazzfest events known to man. So if you are flagellating yourself for missing your favorite band, appetizer or entrée, keep an eye out for next year’s publication. It will be the 30th anniversary for the Delaware Celebration of Jazz, and it’s gonna be a blockbuster. Think of it as a multi-page menu for your mouth and your ears.

  • 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