Can you taste it?
On Sunday, June 8, the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce will bring back one of their most successful events of the year. Taste of Coastal Delaware will merge the area’s most renowned restaurants into one place, creating a culinary extravaganza in the event’s ninth year. Seventeen restaurants and food and beverage purveyors will combine for a public experience to promote their businesses and encourage this year’s theme, shopping and eating local.
Guests can enjoy live entertainment from the Pam Miller Jazz Band, as well as pick up some free giveaways and information from other local area vendors — including a staple in the organic scene, Taste first-timers, Good Earth Market. Manager Sue Ryan is eagerly anticipating this year’s event. “We’re really excited that the Chamber decided to let us be part of the Taste of Coastal Delaware this year,” she said. “I think we can bring a strong awareness to the ‘eating local’ theme.”
Good Earth Market will be offering dishes from their widely popular Grains 101 course held at their Millville shop, as well as seed packets for a variety of plants.
“This is what it’s all about,” she added. “Next year, we’d like to go even bigger with the organic theme and really put the idea into the spectrum. Most of the restaurants involved use local seafood and produce, and it’s great that we can bring that to people. A lot of chefs are getting into organic cooking these days. Everything works together to benefit the community.”
Chamber director Karen McGrath has witnessed first-hand the success of the event in the past years. “We’re all really looking forward to Taste this year,” she said. “All of these restaurants coming into Taste are locally owned and operated. When we say, ‘Shop local,’ we mean the restaurants and the farmers.”
The event is the perfect segue, she explained, towards the farmer’s market returning to Bethany later this month. “If we want to keep family farmers farming, we need to utilize a farmer’s market. They have a large, long-term, sustainable income. We also need to find a way to hook up the restaurants with farmers, and this is a great way to start.”
Eating and shopping local are examples of ways people can help reserve the community — not only by helping business circulate within a community, but cutting down on harmful pollutants that come with extensive deliveries. With gas prices on the rise directly influencing food costs, local purchasing is also likely to generate lower prices for shoppers, too. McGrath also emphasized another simple task that she’s already taken initiative to do around her own home — local planting.
“It’s hugely important,” she said, “as we see more and more development, that there are these contiguous areas of indigenous plants. It makes it so much easier to maintain, and it preserves the area with the [vegetation] that’s meant to live here. It’s a small thing that I can do for the world that’s a good thing for me, personally, too.”
The Pohanka Automotive Group of Salisbury will be on hand, showing eco-friendly automobiles and sharing information on the importance of staying conscious of the environment. Recycling containers, courtesy of Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA), will also be at the event. “We’re looking forward to seeing how that goes,” McGrath said. “This is a manageable thing to do, and we’d like to incorporate it into the event.”
Restaurateurs are preparing their best, from succulent meat and seafood dishes to top-of-the-line drink specialties. Baja Beach House Grill in Bethany Beach will be setting up again this year, promoting one of the town’s most admirable summer-time refreshments, their margaritas and Baja-ritas. Owner Rick Hundley is anticipating the success of Taste.
“We usually bring fish and shrimp tacos, and they fit the event well,” he said, “but our biggest hit has always been our margaritas. That’s how people recognize us. Customers love them, and there’s so much food there, the frozen drinks are a great compliment.” Hundley has been a part of the Taste of Coastal Delaware from nearly the beginning. “It’s a great event, and it’s really more than just tasting. There’s a great energy level, and it’s really a party. It helps the businesses in the area a lot.”
Scott Fornwalt, owner of the Fenwick Crab House, said he looks forward to the annual event. “I love seeing people year after year,” he admitted. “We see a lot of the same customers, and it gives me the opportunity to show some great menu items and get some feedback.” He makes an attempt to buy in the area, too. “I always try to serve as many local products as I can,” he said. “This year, we’ll be bringing our crab imperial, which is a regional purchase, and locally-purchased soft shell crab bites.” They’ll also return with their cashew-topped, Thai chili wings, a favorite in years past.
Last year, the Bistro at Bear Trap Dunes in Ocean View sponsored Taste of Coastal Delaware, but due to renovations, did not participate. This year, executive chef, Jason Hayes, plans on bringing his expertise and talent to the table with some feature dishes, including his crab salad, a dish that earned second place at the regional hotel and restaurant cooking competition at the Ocean City Convention Center earlier this year.
“We’re really excited to participate and get our name out there,” said Hayes. “The main dilemma with our restaurant is that people still think we’re a private club, when in fact, we’re open to the public. We’ll be able to tell people we’re here for them, even if we are a little off the beaten path.”
It may be Hayes’ debut at Taste, but he’s had his foot in the kitchen door for a long time. He found his niche in cooking at age 16 and has earned his culinary arts degree from Johnson and Whales University in Providence, RI. “I’ve been doing this for quite some time, now. I’m a lifer,” he said with a laugh.
As an executive chef in Delaware, Hayes appreciates the importance of working locally with area farmers. “You can get a lot from local farmers and at farmer’s markets,” he noted, “especially in peak season. They are always available and comparable. I can usually find people willing to get stuff to me at the best prices, and as for quality, you can’t beat it. Hayes turns to area farmers for corn, peppers, squash, tomatoes, as well as many of the herbs he uses in his dishes. “Usually, I can find local guys who have no problem bringing you what you need. All you need to do is make the connections and build the relationship. We even look ahead to products that they might not grow now but are considering in years to come. It’s a great way to do business in the community.”
In addition to Good Earth Market, Baja Beach House Grill, Fenwick Crab House and the Bistro, plenty of others will be offering their picks, including Banks Wine and Spirits, Bethany Blues, Chalkboard Tavern and Grill, Fat Tuna Grill, Harpoon Hannah’s, Magnolia’s Seafood Bar and Grill, Mango’s, Matteo’s Salsa Loco, Outrigger’s Seafood Grille and Market, Patsy’s, Sedona’s, Steakhouse 26, the Blue Crab of Bethany Beach, and the Cottage Café.
Last year’s event saw dampening rain, although the turnout was still as strong as ever. “It poured, and we still had a sold-out crowd,” said McGrath. “I’m sure this year will be an even bigger success, regardless of what the weather calls for, so people should get their tickets as soon as possible.” Tickets are available for $35 at the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center, Banks Wine and Spirits in Millville, the South Coastal Library in Millville, the Cottage Café in Bethany Beach, or online. Remaining tickets will also be available for $40 at the door. The event will run from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 8 in the Millville Town Center. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.bethany-fenwick.org.