With fall tightening its chilly grip, the re-born Schaefer’s Canal House in Chesapeake City was calm. When chef Bruce Wetterau and his staff weren’t running ragged, they were able to author some terrific homespun flavors. Servers, afforded time to breathe, exuded charm. And the food—delivered hot and on time—was often delicious. Panko-breaded oysters, plump and crispy, held strong onto their texture and briny pop, even under a sprinkling of wasabi aïoli and toasted sesame cream. The dueling sauces cleverly manage to accentuate the oysters’ inherent sweetness. Chesapeake restaurants usually know their way around a blue crab, and Schaefer’s sturdy and meaty crab cakes (broiled lump, little filler) matched the panache of creamy crab dip, which was punctuated by more shredded jumbo lump and sharp cheeses. Without the crush of summertime revelers partying on the outdoor deck, the Schaefer’s kitchen proved it could transform ingredients into creative dishes that transcended the fish-house norm. A colorful plate of avocado and ripe mango made fitting dance partners for crabmeat and boiled shrimp, while a drizzle of honey-cilantro glaze reinforced the salad’s clean notes. It seems the quality of your experience depends on when you go. Read more here.
Hooray for Beer
The first beer dinner of the season at Matt’s Fish Camp in Bethany happens Nov. 27 with Tröegs Brewery of Harrisburg, Pa. Co-founder John Trogner himself will be on hand to explain how each of the beers—among the most popular in the world of craft brews—is made. Reception: pretzel biscuits with pimento cheese spread served with Tröegs Perpetual IPA. Course three: charred venison tenderloin with blue cheese, seckel pear and smoked black plum butter paired with Tröegs Mad Elg Holiday Ale (an Insider favorite). In between, you’ll just have to see for yourself. 539-2267, sodelconcepts.com
Cuckoo for Cocoa
Nov. 24 brings the seventh annual Chocolate Festival to the Rollins Center of Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. Visit several chocolate and candy exhibitors, watch an amazing ice-carving contest, view a one-of-a-kind candy and gingerbread village created by Dover Downs chefs, and shop the arts and crafts marketplace for gifts and specialty foods. While you’re there, see the Delaware Hospice Festival of Trees. The Capital Ringers will perform holiday tunes on handbells. Instrumentals and choral performances will be featured, in addition to dance presentations by Delaware Ballet Company. Who loves chocolate more than Santa? He’ll be there, too. 800-711-5882, doverdowns.com
The Chef Series Season Finale will take place at World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington on Dec. 5. The event will feature all 10 chefs from the 2012 campaign hosted by Premier Wine & Spirits monthly at its Limestone Road location and 10 tapas-style courses paired with select wines and craft beers, all to benefit the Light Up The Queen Foundation. Participating restaurants will include Pizza By Elizabeths, Two Stones Pub, Stone Balloon Wine House, Redfire Grill & Steakhouse, Chelsea Tavern, Ole Tapas Lounge & Restaurant, Bella Vista Trattoria, Orillas Tapas and World Café Live. “There will likely be an additional chef or two, with a few surprise guests packed in between courses,” says Mike Whitwell, general manager of Premier Wine & Spirits. “We’ve had such a great experience with this campaign and all of the participating chefs. This is a great venue to celebrate great tasting and creative foods, wines and beers around the holiday season while bringing everyone together for a good cause.” Splashing Pearls will perform live. Be there. 996-9463, premierwinespirits.com or 994-1400, worldcafelive.com
Rolling with the Punches
In a season filled with traditions, few things are more traditional than a bowl of punch. Many of our holiday traditions come from northern Europe. Punch is no different—a gift to Americans from the British Isles. Yet the British didn’t invent this common concoction. It was discovered by sailors in the British Royal Navy when they conquered the Indian subcontinent. The drink and the name come from the region, a derivative of the Hindi word for “five,” honoring the five key ingredients of the drink—a spirit, sugar, lemon, water and spices or tea. Although punch today is similar in many ways to the original, much has changed. Learn how in Roger Morris’ monthly Into the Drink column here.
Pie in the Sky
National Pie Day is coming, and Linvilla Orchards in Media, Pa., is here to help. Jan. 23-27 the popular farm and market will sell more than 40 kinds of pie, including several varieties of good ol’ all-American apple pie and a few cream pies as well. In past they were called pyes and were stuffed with meat, according to our friend Patrick Rizzuto of Breslow Partners. The Pilgrims cooked them to preserve the filling through winter. Now we eat pies with fillings from pecan or pumpkin to blueberry, as we have been doing ravenously since the 1800s. Linvilla, famous for its offerings, has been baking them for 40 years. For National Pie Day, it will give away a free pumpkin pie with the purchase of any other pie. We say yum. Mark your calendar now. 610-876-7116, linvilla.com