Mona Lisa, We Adore You
Identity carries a lot of weight in a neighborhood like Little Italy. The residents and business owners of the eight-block patch of west Wilmington have upheld some of the proudest and strongest local traditions since Italian immigrants moved there in force between 1880 and 1920. The Italian families that live and work there—no matter how Americanized they’ve become over the generations—cling tightly to their cultural roots and touchstones. Food holds it all together. Every pizza, sub and water ice shop has a history and DNA that’s uniquely Little Italy. Cherished eateries like Mrs. Robino’s, Pastabilities and nearby Attilio’s—the comfy, homey places that feel more like a great aunt’s rec room than a restaurant—inform the Little Italy experience. These red sauce and chicken parm places are the purest form of comfort food to the people who grew up around them. Food reminds Jacques Macq of home, too. But for the Belgian-born restaurateur, dining also served as his passport to nearly everywhere else. Which means his Mona Lisa Euro Bistro is a little Italian and a little of everything else, too. Dining critic Matt Amis likes it. Here’s why.
Labor Day weekend draws near. If you haven’t made a plan yet, join Delebrity chef Jennifer Behm, past winner of “MasterChef,” in a Barbecue for the Troops. With a brother in the service, Barbecue for the Troops, a benefit for the USO, is near and dear to her heart. Check the BFT website to register your fundraiser, then get to work on your menu. Behm is kind enough to share her recipe for ribs. It feeds a whole lotta people, and it can be prepared the day before so you can enjoy your party. It goes like this:
ï‚· 5 large oranges quartered
ï‚· 5 lemons quartered
ï‚· 3⁄4 cup whole peppercorns
ï‚· 10 bay leaves
ï‚· 2 cups of sugar (brown makes it a little sweeter)
ï‚· 1 cup kosher salt
ï‚· 5 cups white vinegar
ï‚· 15 garlic gloves or 1 bulb smashed
ï‚· 3 tablespoons of smoke salt
Put ribs in a large container (an insulated plastic cooler works great), then add just enough water to cover them. If you can’t put the container in the â€¨refrigerator, add ice to keep cool. Brine the ribs for 12 to 24 hours. Remove from brine, pat dry, add dry rub. (Create your own from cumin, coriander, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt, pepper and paprika.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place ribs with five onions peeled and rough diced, two stalks of celery rough diced and five large carrots rough diced, then cover with stock or water to just cover ribs. Cook for three hours or until fork tender. Allow to cool and place in refrigerator. When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator 45 minutes before and allow to come to room temperature. Fire up the grill to 300 degrees F. Grill face down to get hot, then baste with your favorite barbecue sauce. Remove from the grill. Dig in. 1-855-4USO-BBQ, teamuso.org
A place we love: year-old Semra’s Mediterranean Grill in Rehoboth Beach. Owner Semra Tekmen prepares delicious meals made with spices and other ingredients sent to her by family in Turkey. That’s all homemade—and all delicious. Learn more here. 226-GYRO, semras.com
Fresh Fare + Fun = A Good Deed
Look for The Farmer and The Chef South on Aug. 29 at Baywood Greens in Long Neck, a dinner to celebrate community and healthy eating while raising money for the important work of The March of Dimes. It goes like this: pair local farmers with local chefs, let them start cooking, then enjoy the fruits of their labors. Because agriculture is still an important industry in Delaware, the MOD believes it is vital to support local farmers and to make sure you know where to buy fresh, local produce. Chefs include Ryan Cunningham of Abbott’s Grill, Hari Cameron of a(MUSE.), Lion Gardner of The Blue Moon Rehoboth, Jay Caputo of Espuma, Ted Deptula of Nage and others. Farms include Fifer Orchards, Hopkins Farm Creamery, Magee Farms, T.S. Smith & Sons and more. The March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. It focuses on advancing research on maternal and health issues, helping moms have healthy pregnancies and supporting families. To learn more, click here. Look for The Farmer and The Chef North on Sept. 19 at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington. Same idea, different cast of characters. thefarmerandthechef.com
Home of Beer
Do you believe you have an award-winning beer recipe? Delaware will crown its first homebrew champion on Oct. 20 during the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival at the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village in Dover from noon till 5 p.m. The event is an American Homebrewers Association-sanctioned competition, meaning the champion will be selected by beer judge certified program judges. Festival-goers who purchase the VIP ticket package will select the semi-finalists in five categories, and the certified judges will pick the champion from among those five. The winner, in addition to holding the state title, will earn $250 in cash, at least $250 in prizes from the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail and Cabot Cheese, plus a ribbon. Five finalists will earn ribbons. The competition is sponsored by How Do You Brew, a wine and beer homebrew store in Newark. The five categories will include: IPA (American-imperial), American Ale (pale, amber, and brown), Delaware-grown fruit beer, Belgian-French ale and specialty brews. “We also wanted to announce that the competition rules have changed,” says Charles Gray, who is managing the competition for Kent County Tourism, producers of the festival. “Our homebrewers let us know that we had originally asked for too much beer per entry,” he said. “And we listened. The new requirement is six to 12 bottles or keg equivalent per entry.” To enter, purchase a $10 Brew Competition ticket online at http://www.eventbrite/delawarehomebrew. Competitors are asked to deliver their entries to the festival grounds in Dover between 11 a.m. and noon on Oct. 20. Competitors may also purchase a greatly discounted $10 festival ticket with five tastings. The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival, now in its fourth year, is Delaware’s official Wine and Beer Festival, featuring Delaware’s wineries, breweries and distilleries at one great event. This year’s theme is Drink Local, Eat Local and Buy Local. Select Delaware restaurants will serve food, 40 Delaware artists and artisans will display their work, and there will be a corn hole tournament, a keg tossing competition and live reggae music by the Island Boyz. The first 500 ticket buyers will receive their choice of a free wine or beer glass, and VIP ticket holders can sample and judge the semi-finalists of the Delaware Homebrew Championship. This year’s event will include expanded free parking adjacent to the festival grounds, the 19th century farm village. For tickets, visit http://www.eventbrite.com/event/5171847134. For information on the event, click delawarewineandbeerfestival.com or call 800-233-5368.
Looking Forward to Cheesy
“If there is one thing we cannot stand, it is a sandwich that calls itself a grilled cheese when it is actually a panini. Just say ‘no’ to panini-ing.” —Famous Grilled Cheese Judge That You Have Never Heard Of
What’s all the hubbub? Only the event we’ve been waiting for all our lives. Cheesetoberfest, says its organizers, is “an all-out, no holds barred, grilled cheese competition” that will go down at Fordham & Dominion Brewing in Dover Oct. 5. Twenty restaurants from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Philadelphia will battle for top honors while the brew flows and an oompah band toots on. The categories:
White bread, butter and either American or cheddar cheese. Just like Mom used to make.
We Will Roquefort You
Any so-called bread and any so-called cheese. No additional ingredients.
Cheeseballs to the Wall
A sandwich that is savory more than anything else. Internal ingredients must be at least 60 percent cheese by weight. Contestants may use any type of bread, butter, cheese and additional ingredients.
Looking for a Gouda Time
A dessert sandwich. Again, internal ingredients must be at least 60 percent cheese by weight. Contestants may use any type of bread, butter, cheese and additional ingredients.
Participating restaurants include, among others, The Pickled Pig Pub in Rehoboth, 33 West Ale House and Grill in Dover, Ulysses Gastropub in Wilmington, and more. Book the date now. This one is the cheesiest. cheesetoberfest.com