The 23rd Annual Rehoboth Beach Chocolate Festival happens March 2 at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center. It’s not only a day for chocolate lovers to gather. It’s a day of fun for the whole family, so local businesses are cooking up some sweet specials, including restaurants and spas offering chocolate-themed specials. Starting Friday night, restaurants such as Victoria’s, Cabo Modern Mexican Tequila Bar, Salt Air, Blue Moon, Eden, Planet X, Lupo di Mare, Hobo’s and Dos Locos will be cooking up special menu items and desserts. Chef Jay Caputo at Espuma will offer a three-course chocolate menu paired with wines for $45, as well as some featured chocolate desserts. If your sweet tooth goes beyond chocolate, Kilwin’s Rehoboth Avenue offers one scoop of ice cream with a second for free. Snyder’s Candy will offer 15 percent off of all merchandise. Yet it’s the big shebang at the Rehoboth Convention Center on March 2 that’s the main draw. Sample more chocolate than you’ve ever dreamed of in one place. Tastings start at 11:30 a.m., so don’t fill up at breakfast. 227-2772, visit downtownrehoboth.com
The Event of the Year
The marketing message pretty much says it all, without undue hype: There really is nothing like The MidAtlantic Wine + Food Festival, which happens March 6-10. International winemakers and chefs team with world-class local chefs to make spectacular food and wine events in unique venues around the Brandywine Valley and Delaware’s Culinary Coast, including Rehoboth Beach. All in all, there will be more than 40 events, from wine dinners to beer and spirits tastings to a pop-up restaurant to gourmet lunches. The highlight: a 1,000-Point Wine Tasting (that’s a tasting of 10 100-point wines), a black-tie Gala Winemakers Dinner and Live Wine Auction, and a Gospel Brunch. Among the special events will be the MasterChef Rematch, when six former contestants from all three seasons of Chef Gordon Ramsay’s “MasterChef,” including past winner Jennifer Behm of Wilmington, show off their culinary skills and tell stories from the show. In “He Said Beer, She Said Wine,” local brewer Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and noted wine author Marnie Old will debate whether beer or wine pairs better with food. This multi-course dinner is served on the stage at the Grand Opera House. And there is more. Events will be held at such magnificent venues as the 100-year-old Hotel du Pont, World Café Live at The Queen in Wilmington, the former estate home Oberod in chateau country and the Vicmead Hunt Club, as well as a few stunning private homes. You need to buy tickets now, because they don’t last. Hit midatlanticwineandfood.com.
A Stunning Debut
Beer aficionados know Dogfish’s 60 Minute IPA well. Now there’s 61 Minute IPA, and you can be among the first to taste it during a special Dogfish Head beer dinner at Harry’s Savoy Ballroom in North Wilmington March 13. That means five courses of outstanding Harry’s food paired with five delicious Dogfish beers, all for $75 per person. A sample: braised oxtail and trofie pasta with escarole and arugula teamed with Dogfish’s India Brown Ale and seared branzino with smoked portabellas, chervil and tarragon fumet srved with that 61 Minute IPA. Dogfish owner Sam Calagione (above) swill be on hand to discuss his new brew, and he’ll send you off with one of his specially designed IPA glasses for free. Don’t forget Harry’s for an unbelievable brunch on Easter. 475-3000, harrys-savoy.com
Speaking of Sam…
Another year, another James Beard Foundation Award competition—and another year of honored Delawareans. Semifinalists include Hari Cameron, chef-owner of a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth Beach (that’s him above—not Sam) for Rising Chef and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton for Outstanding Wine, Spirits and Beer Professional. Will they make the cut? Winner’s will be announced March 18. The Beard Foundation offers events and programs to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of culinary culture. Among other things, the foundation maintains the historic James Beard House in New York City’s Greenwich Village as a venue for visiting chefs. The foundation’s awards program covers all aspects of the industry—from chefs and restaurateurs to cookbook authors and food journalists to restaurant designers. A Beard Award is considered the highest honor for food and beverage professionals in North America. The awards are presented each spring at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. Nominees and winners are fêted at a weekend of events in New York City that has become the social and gastronomic highlight of the year. Read what we write about Cameron’s new restaurant here. Read out latest feature about Dogfish Head here. We wish Sam and Hari all the best.