Reminiscing over a culinary salute to love

June 25, 2021

I was paging through my sauce-splattered notes last weekend and came upon some scribbles about a particularly memorable wine dinner several years ago at Bluecoast Seafood Grill in Bethany Beach.

The theme was Valentine’s Day, but the event stood out as one of the most creative I’ve ever attended.

SoDel Concepts’ then Corporate Chef Doug Ruley and Corporate Sommelier Mike Zygmonski took the packed restaurant on an expertly curated journey through the four stages of (at least some) romantic relationships: (1) Be mine?, (2) Four play, (3) I heart you!, and the often inevitable (4) It’s complicated! The whole evening was so inspired I thought I’d share it with you.

 It all started when unsuspecting palates were tempted with a basket of warm, house-made muffins and breads paired with none other than a delightful prosecco from SoDel Concepts’ favorite Conti di San Bonifacio vineyards in Italy. The chocolate muffin and the mini-churros were the stars of the show.

 In the second course, things got a bit racy when a Gigamoto Oyster arrived at the table in its delicate and heavily fluted shell - totally nude! (Meaning, of course, that there was no breading on the uncooked bivalve.) It lounged in a foam of rose champagne that stood nose-to-nose with the tiny oyster’s mineral/melon flavor. An equally unclothed (meaning: served tartare) scallop in Meyer lemon was decorated with bits of celery and perched atop a mound of chunky salt and pink pepper. The sparkling gold and somewhat less dry Bellavista Franciacorta Alma Brut washed it down nicely. I have to admit it was kind of fun watching some people attempting to eat the coarse salt/pepper garnish. I am easily amused.

The zenith of any relationship is marked by the utterance of those magical words: I heart you! (Or some variation thereof.) Bluecoast Bethany staged that heady moment with a beautifully presented plate of cured salmon, blood orange, hearts of palm, seductively red beets and a brush of dried and ground amaranth flowers. The pink blend of chardonnay, pinot nero and pinot blanco in the form of Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta’s Brut Rosé softened the citrusy edge of the orange and amaranth.

Then there’s that moment when he or she looks at you with sad eyes and says, “It’s complicated.” (An alternative to the equally insincere, “It’s me, not you.” Yeah, right.) But those of us enjoying Bluecoast’s view of Salt Pond learned that there is no heartbreak that can’t be soothed with a soft-scrambled duck egg topped with crispy maple pancetta and charred wild onions. Surrounding the bright-yellow mound of lusciousness was a duck-fat fried shiitake, shaved cheese and a couple of sweetly dark cippolini onions. A mercifully restrained drop of truffle oil actually added to the layers of taste. Lamb’s lettuce brought freshness and color.

Referred to in wine circles as Italy’s Challenge to Champagne, Bellavista Franciacorta Saten Brut’s soft and fruity palate sparkled its way through the course, effectively eradicating any melancholy that “It’s complicated” could have triggered. In fact, I submit that the salmon in the previous course was a reminder that there are indeed lots of fish in the sea!

The golden sweetness of Ruby Donna Moscato coincided with a chocolate fondue buffet where crunchy biscotti, soft and salty pretzels and, of course, strawberries waited to be plunged into dark chocolate. The nose-tickling frizzante of the moscato was the perfect foil for the salty-sweet palate.

I remember that it was windy and cold on that February day, but Doug and Mike left us all with warm memories of Bluecoast Bethany’s slightly naughty but all-in-fun celebration of love. And the value-added is that I get to share those memories with you.

  • 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

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter