It was a dark and stormy night … but inside, the food and fellowship were cozy.
The staff of the historic Indian River Life-Saving Station are inviting people to experience the 1800s, with lantern-lit museum tours and a locally-sourced dining experience.
The Savoring Our Coastal Heritage Dinner is inspired by what the life-saving station’s surfmen may have been eating around the turn-of-the-century, and will be hosted Saturday, April 27, at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s definitely a unique experience,” said Laura Scharle, interpretive programs manager. “It’s not just a tour of a museum. You’re really immersing yourself in history in such an innovative way.”
Last autumn, she said, guests were charmed by the three-hour event, loving both the menu and the history.
“I know this area has been nicknamed the ‘Culinary Coast.’ There’s a lot of very talented chefs in the area and a lot of people who are foodies,” Scharle said. “This is just another way of reaching a demographic … and then they end up learning the history of the Life-Saving Service.”
The event is designed to feel like a dinner party: the rustic dining room is transformed with white linen tablecloths and twinkling Edison bulbs.
“I think people were really wowed by the feeling of exclusively. … We don’t even normally allow food and drink in the museum. And it’s really small, so they really felt like ‘We’re guests in someone’s home.’”
Last year’s dinner included roasted shellfish, lemon-baked seabass, softshell crabs, duck and local veggies. Scharle said she was thrilled that returning chef Lion Gardner of Blue Moon restaurant used local plants. Beach plums were made into jam, and salty sea beans (also known as glasswort or picklewort) left the marsh to garnish a salad. Muskrat might even make an appearance this time, she noted.
Coastal Delaware has a rich heritage, both in the history books and on the dinner table. Guests will get a guided lantern tour of the old living quarters and museum, including tales of shipwrecks and everyday life in the 1800s. The surfmen performed heroic rescues in the worst possible weather conditions, without modern technology such as GPS or helicopters.
The U.S. Life-Saving Service was established in the 1870s and was a precursor to the modern Coast Guard at a time when the ocean was full of shipping vessels at risk of storms. The Indian River station was built in 1876 on a desolate beach, and 419 lives were saved in the following decades.
This dinner rounds out a slate of regular cultural events at the IR Life-Saving Station, including classes on surf-fishing and beach driving, as well as guided tours of nature and the inlet bridge. There will also be a clambake this summer that is designed to be more family-friendly.
Space at the Savoring Our Coastal Heritage Dinner is limited. The cost is $89 per person, including tour, dinner and beverages (regular or alcoholic). Register by calling (302) 227-6991. Learn more at https://destateparks.com/History/IRLifesavingStation.
Indian River Life-Saving Station is located just north of the Indian River Inlet. It’s part of Delaware Seashore State Park.
By Laura Walter