It's time to rediscover dining in Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley.
It's been a center of trade on the east coast since colonial times, where travellers found rest and nourishments in the Colonial inns and taverns throughout the area. But while visitors now are more likely to arrive on Amtrak than on horseback, the spirit of the Brandywine Valley remains vibrant and welcoming.
As does the cuisine.
Restaurants today pay daily respect to the seafaring culture of the Chesapeake fishermen and the farm-to-table traditions of their Pennsylvania Dutch neighbors, infusing that local heritage with modern techniques and global influences. The Wall Street Journal recently charted the rise of Mid-Atlantic cuisine, saying the region "is staking its claim to culinary greatness."
James Beard-nominee Bryan Sikora, one-time chef/owner of Talula's Table (and the toughest restaurant reservation in America, according to NPR) now has three restaurants in downtown Wilmington: La Fia Bistro, Cocina Lolo and The Merchant Bar. Dwain Kalup came from the Michelin-starred Blackbird in Chicago to take over the kitchen at Domaine Hudson, recently honored by OpenTable voters as having the best wine list in the entire Philadelphia region. And up in Hockessin, Delaware Chef Bill Hoffman moved his family and his kitchen into a century-old farmhouse to open The House of William & Merry.
Our chefs take the utmost advantage of the bounty of the MidAtlantic and its culinary traditions. Restaurants pride themselves on shopping local. Eggs from Powers Farm star in the the crab benedict at Home Grown Café all year long, while at the height of summer, you'll find tomatoes and corn from SIW Vegetables on the menu at Buckley's Tavern and from Highland Orchards at River Rock Kitchen. Crab cakes are serious business in these parts, and if a restaurant is serving them, you can count on a high standard and little (if any) filler. Scrapple has gone from being a MidAtlantic-region curiosity to the star of many brunch menus, highlighted in items like the scrapple mac ‘n' cheese at Ulysses Gastropub and the scrapple cheesesteak at Grain on Main - and revitalized by some chefs who make their own.
The region's reputation for world-class beers and breweries, led by Dogfish Head in Delaware, has inspired a network of gastropubs that combine craft beer with creative fare. The Stone Balloon Ale House sits in the location of the legendary music hall in the college town of Newark. Two Stones Pub, the local "temple of beer," now has four places of worship - and is brewing under its own label with acclaimed brewer Bob Barrar (formerly of Iron Hill Brewery) at the helm. If you prefer wine, you can go on a tasting journey down one of several local trails in the Vintage Atlantic Wine Region and bring a bottle of the Brandywine home with you.
No visit to the Brandywine Valley is complete without a Bobbie from the original Capriotti's (winner of the Washington Post's "World Cup of Sandwiches"), macaroons at the Hotel du Pont, a cone at Woodside Creamery (or any of the local restaurants where Woodside ice creams are served), and a milkshake at the vice president's favorite burger shop, the Charcoal Pit. And after a long weekend, Deerfield Golf Club offers 111 feet of "brunchy goodness" at one of OpenTable's top 100 brunches in the United States.
Taste for yourself why people are talking about what they ate in Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley. Discover what's on the menu at www.visitwilmingtonde.com, and find out some of the other top reasons to visit Wilmington and the Brandywine Valley this winter here.
(La Fia image courtesy of delawareonline.com)