It seems fitting that an organic market has grown at such a… well… organic pace since it first opened 14 years ago.
Good Earth Organic Market in Clarksville and, more recently, Rehoboth Beach has now added dinners and events to its growing list of offerings, and early indications are that the new venture will blossom like the rest of the business has.
Much of that confidence comes because of, and from, the market’s new chef, Nino Mancari, who comes to Good Earth after years in some of the area’s most successful restaurants.
With the Good Earth kitchen garden in place and literally buzzing with activity these days, and with a number of successful farm dinners held on the grounds in recent years, owner Susan Ryan has expanded the vision for the business to include not only dinners served on the premises Wednesday through Saturday evenings, but also “pop-up” happy-hours on Fridays. Good Earth, which already hosts weddings and other special celebrations, will now provide food for those events in-house.
“From a romantic dinner for two in a field to a dinner for 250 people or more,” Good Earth’s new vision encompasses it all, Mancari said. “We are one of the few venues in the area that can handle 300 to 400 people,” Ryan added.
Sitting on the patio of the Clarksville location, watching as butterflies flittered between blossoms in the garden, Ryan said, “There are very view places with this kind of view.” Even on the hottest summer days, she said, customers ask to sit outside so they can feel as if they are part of the garden.
The addition of dinner service, Ryan said, is “something our clientele, and the area in general, has been wanting for a long time.”
So far, the dinners seem to be a hit.
“People are going out of here doing cartwheels!” Ryan said, so happy are they with Good Earth’s addition of dinners.
Customers can expect “a high-quality meal in a casual, fun atmosphere,” she said. Of Mancari’s cooking style, she said, “There is nothing on the plate that isn’t there for a reason. It’s all beautiful, and it’s all delicious.”
Menus will change seasonally and often depend on what happens to be available in the garden that day.
“My favorite part of the day is when I’m making up the menu and Susan says, ‘Do you want any flowers or fresh herbs?’” Mancari said.
With such an intimate setting, Mancari said, “We view it as a dinner party,” more than a restaurant. “It’s our home,” he said. “I prepare it like I would a family dinner — I want to approach it like hosting a dinner party.”
Ryan said the addition of Mancari to the staff is something she has been working on for a while.
“I reached out to him years ago,” she said, adding that she sought “someone who is looking for less volume and more creativity,” and that he is the perfect fit. “He is hitting his age of mastery,” she said (roughly, his 40s, for anyone who’s curious), and when she presented her ideas for the market’s “brand new adventure,” he said, “Hey, yeah — maybe we should talk.”
Mancari couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the new venture.
“It doesn’t feel as much, for me, like a job. I feel like I’m home. This is where I want to be for the next 20 years.”
Good Earth has always supported local farmers and has been a proponent of the farm-to-table movement.
“A lot of people are giving it lip-service,” Mancari said.
Meanwhile, Ryan said, trucks from local farms are in and out of the Good Earth parking lot regularly. “The ‘who’s who’ of the local food market walks through here daily,” she said.
“We are a hub for local farmers,” Mancari added. Helping to build the local farm market has been a focus of Good Earth since its inception, Ryan said.
Mancari said that Ryan’s enthusiasm and desire to do things right was a major draw for him.
“She just has a huge positive vibe and energy that is overwhelming and inspiring,” he said. While Mancari has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry locally, including the late Matt Haley, he told Ryan, “You have become my mentor.”
Ryan also gave praise to Laura Say, manager of Good Earth’s café.
“Laura is like the rock,” she said.
The Good Earth Café is open for brunch and lunch every day. And Say, Ryan said, “built this café into what it is,” and every day, “She puts out the most beautiful creations.”
Now in her 14th year at the helm of Good Earth, which recently added the second market in Rehoboth Beach, Ryan said she is “proud that we have a lot of longtime employees here.”
In addition to the Wednesday-to-Saturday dinner service, Good Earth has recently added a “pop-up” bar on Friday afternoons and evenings, which features live music, as well as Mancari’s creative cocktails. “All of the cocktails are inspired by the herb garden,” he said.
Mancari said everything he does at Good Earth is driven by a sense of adventure.
“It’s like, ‘We really like this, and we bet you will, too — have some!’” he said.
While Ryan said she hopes to foster the concept of Good Earth as a destination all its own, she added that it has already become that for many families.
“People stop here on their way to the beach, and the kids run toward the chickens,” she said. She recalled one family that said Good Earth is their first stop once they reach the resort area. “They said, ‘We love the way it smells!’” Ryan said.
One bride who held her wedding on the property 10 years ago now brings her children back with her when she visits the area, Ryan said, and is planning a 10th anniversary celebration there.
Ryan and Mancari also take pride in the non-human visitors to Good Earth.
“Hummingbirds flock to our gardens,” Ryan said, pointing out that hummingbirds are pretty picky about where they hang out. Researchers from the University of Delaware have even done a pollinator study in the Good Earth garden and, Ryan said, “They saw pollinators they hadn’t seen in years” in this area.
Because seating is limited for dinners at Good Earth, Ryan and Mancari strongly recommend customers make reservations through their website, at www.goodearthmarket.com. For more information, call the Clarksville market, located at 31806 Good Earth Lane (along Route 26), at (302) 537-7100. The Rehoboth market is located at 38131 Terrace Lane, off Route 1, Rehoboth Beach. Call (302) 226-3276 for more information on that location. Information on events can also be found on Good Earth’s Facebook page under “Good Earth Market and Organic Farm.”