Masters of Our Domain

Celebrity chefs can’t stay away from Delaware.

    Welcome to Home Skillet. Don’t be alarmed, we’ll have much coverage on Wilmington Restaurant Week in next week’s blog. Here’s what’s cooking this week:

    Thursday, April 23: Just how many celebrity chefs are keeping a second home in Delaware these days? Less than a week after Meals from the Masters festivities comes Harry’s Savoy’s incredible Share Our Strength event, which gathers chefs from around the country to raise funds for the Ministry of Caring and the Food Bank of Delaware.
    Share Our Strength: Taste of the Nation Dinner is a five-course food and wine extravaganza when a cadre of chefs prepare a dish apiece while guest sommeliers pour a specially-selected wine to accompany each course. There’s a silent auction (seriously, you can’t have an event without one anymore), a wine raffle, and more fun stuff.
    This year’s guest chef lineup includes Aron Gonsalves from Paradise Cove Luau in Honolulu, Izzy Sarto from Tremont 647 in Boston, Scott Fratangelo from Spigolo in New York City, Robert Bennett from American Harvest Baking in Mt. Laurel, NJ, and James Beard Foundation Award-winners Jeff Buben and RJ Cooper from Vidalia in Washington. DC. Our own celebrity chef David Leo Banks is the host.
    Tickets for the event, which begins at 6 p.m., cost $200.
    Call Harry’s (2020 Naamans Road, Wilmington, 475-3000) or visit for more.

    Meals for the Matt-ster: So Sunday was my first ever time attending the Meals from the Masters Celebrity Chef’s Brunch.
    (It was also my first time inside the majestic Bank of America building. Wee-ow! Place has its own gift shop, a few bridges and a full-scale arcade! How cool?)
    I was prepared for a gastronomic rollercoaster ride. I was prepared for expensive ingredients, unique flavors and expert techniques. I was prepared to rub elbows and clink mimosas with rich ladies in large hats.
    Oh–I was not disappointed. Here are a few of my favorite sights from the morning:

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The moment we entered the pavilion, we spotted these dazzling and refreshing pineapple parfaits courtesy of Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Beneath the surface are layers of white chocolate cheesecake, panna cotta and lemon cream. On top is raspberry sorbet. It tasted as good as it looks. Hey, which tasty parfait is larger? It’s an illuuuuuusionnnnn

Of course you can’t bring normal old eggs to the Celebrity Chef’s Brunch, so there were quail eggs aplenty. Here, Delaware native Tom Douglas (who now owns Dahlia Lounge in Seattle, as well as several other restaurants) fries up a bunch to top his crispy salmon.

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If you’re in a high-end enough crowd, “berries and cream” becomes “marinated local spring berries with polenta cake and farmer’s cream.” And people give Joe Biden a tough time for being verbose. These, made by the folks from Osteria in Philly, were quite tasty.

What would brunch be without…chocolate! Spanish chef Joseba Jimenez de Jimenez, the artful chef from The Harvest Vine in Seattle, impressed with his dark chocolate truffles with Piment d’Espelette caramel. All the Frenchy stuff refers to the pepper powder you see in the background above. It gave the dark chocolate chunks a kick.

Chef Clifton Holt was a little steamed (ha!) that my girlfriend/photographer didn’t want to eat any of his Thai green curry mussels, dispite taking multiple pictures of them. So out of kindness and hunger, I circled around and sampled them. They were plump and spicy and amazing, chef.

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Spring means lamb, and this one got a pecan crust and a setting alongside roasted sweet potatoes and a tangy chipotle barbecue sauce. From Barrington’s Restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Local minimalists Talula’s Table came with bite-sized savory treats that combined shreaded local lamb on top of a citrus, parmesan, frico and rosemary pastry.

This was the head-turner of the day. Chefs from Mandrona Manor in California made ice cream using liquid nitrogen. That’s chef Jesse Mallgren’s assistant pouring the stuff that killed the T-1000 into a copper bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

Then he stirs…

And presto! Ice cream! It’s cool! It’s tasty! It’s science!

Our own Jay Caputo’s Spanish chicken and andouille sausage ragout wasn’t the flashiest dish, but it was one of the tastiest.

More Delaware goodness. Here is Michele Michell of Hotel Dupont’s entry: a bittersweet chocolate cream with white pepper chocolate tuile and mandarin coulis. Easily one of the richest spoonfuls of the morning.

From the “Stuff That Looks Like Ice Cream but Actually Isn’t” file came these Kobe beef meatballs from Michele’s in Dover. The tiny meatball came atop artisan macaroni and cheese. Can we serve all meatballs in cocktail glasses from now on?

All the way from Tortola, British Virgin Islands came chef Davide Pugliese and his wife. Theirs was one of the most buzzed about tables of the day, between their beautiful, tropical tablescape to their succulent pumpkin-crusted ahi tuna. It was amazing. Spooned around the plate was a pumpkin-wasabi mousse that gave a sweet and pungent punch to the tastebuds. Awesome stuff. But my personal favorite of the day was…

This. This is a pave of Kobe beef brisket, wrapped and seared inside a thinly drawn rye bread crust, and plated next to a lightly pickled cabbage slaw and Vermont mustard. It came from chef Mark Levy of The Point in Saranac Lake, New York. Chef Levy was happy to tell me about the preparation that went into his dish, from brining and spice rubbing the brisket, to running slices of rye bread through a pasta machine until it was super-thin. The meat was impeccably tender, like a mini-beef Wellington. I was impressed.

    And that, more than likely, is what I’ll remember about the Meals from the Masters Celebrity Chef’s Brunch: talented, passionate chefs bringing their A games for a great cause. You better believe I’ll be back for seconds next year.

    Much more to discuss next week, so while I get crackin’, shoot me an email with any upcoming events or feedback.

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