The Dining Insider: Welcome Ernest & Scott Taproom, Going French at The Stone Balloon, Spanish Wines at Orillas Tapas and Valentines Treats

It’s Beer Heaven—Literally
We’re very glad to see the opening of Ernest & Scott Taproom at Ninth and Market in Wilmington. Owner Scott Morrison set out to create a warm and welcoming place, and he has succeeded wildly. The heart of the venture is cask-conditioned beers and ales, meaning you’ll find a diverse list of microbrews that are fermenting in the bottle or keg. Those microbrews come from far and wide, and some are so rare or limited in quantity, you won’t find them anywhere else in the area. The dedication to craft extends to a list of small-batch spirits and wines from small producers, so there’s fun to be had by all. And the menu offers everything from hearty sandwiches to refined entrées. As for the name, Ernest refers to Papa Hemmingway, Scott to F. Scott Fitzgerald, who lived in Wilmington for a time in the 1920s to escape the social scene of New York (though he and wife Zelda couldn’t escape the drinking). Visit often—a beer that was on the list may be replaced by something just as superior by dinnertime. For some of us, that’s heaven. We’ll see you there. 384-8113,

Parlez-vous, Français?

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Book it quick. On Feb. 9, Stone Balloon Winehouse in Newark is offering a four-course dinner with wines from France’s most famous wine-making regions. Your meal:

First Course

Smoked oysters with white pepper-pear soubise, Minneola tangelo tapioca and Arugula Oil paired with Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne

Second Course

Scallop Gargouillon-de-Citron with cucumber and fleur de sel beurre blanc, to be enjoyed with 2008 Baron Patrick de Ladoucette Les Deux Tours from the Loire Valley

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Third Course

Venison with lentils with roasted fennel and chevre with parsnip frites accompanied by Delas Freres Saint-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone 2009

Fourth Course

Duck confit and veal sweetbreads with gnocchi a la Parisienne, rainbow chard, and royal trumpet mushrooms in blackberry-pepper sauce. The wine: Chateau Haut-Beausejour, Saint-Estéphe 2006 Bordeaux

You don’t have to twist the DI’s arm. Call now. 266-8111,

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Another We Can’t Resist—En Espanol

Also on Feb. 9, Orillas Tapas Bar, on Market Street in Wilmington, will host a dinner of Latino foods and wines. Here goes:

First course

Maine lobster salad empanadas made with squid ink dough served with avacado cream and salsa roja. The wine will be Torres Gran Vina Sol.

Second course

Ceviche of shrimp, octopus and cabia with jicamo bell pepper slaw and kalamata olives, served with crispy plantains and salsa verde. Your wine: Torres Vina Esmeralda.

Third course

Salad of duck confit with goat cheese, grilled pears and toasted walnuts over baby argula and endive drizzled with kamquat vinagrette, to be enjoyed with Torres Salmos.

Fourth Course

Filet mignon churrasco with chipotle crab meat imperial, grilled baby zucchini and piquillo chimicharri, paired with Torres Celeste Blue Label

Fifth Course

Semi-sweet chocolate mousse with toasted hazelnuts, dulce de leche, blue cheese cream and short bread cookie, served with a Torres Orange Brandy Cocktail.

Viva los Hispanos, we say. 575-9244,

Cupid Takes Aim…

…with cupcakes. Last week we reminded you that Valentines’ Day can be celebrated with treats from Cupcake Heaven in North Wilmington. Choose from 150 flavors and myriad decorations. (426-0270, But don’t forget Sweet and Sassy Cupcakes in Newark. For $49.95, you can send your paramour a dozen. The Romantic Cupcake Assortment includes two vanilla cupcakes topped with sweet vanilla buttercream and chocolate buttercream, two rich chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream and vanilla buttercream, two triple chocolate cupcakes filled and topped with dark chocolate ganache, two vanilla and chocolate cupcakes topped with raspberry buttercream, and red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. All are decorated with sugar flowers and edible heart confetti. For the same price, you can send a dozen red velvet cupcakes. Or try The Dirty Dozen, another assortment topped with pennants bearing racy messages of love and attraction (about the cupcakes, we assume). We promise your intended will be amused. 368-2253,

And If You Must Go the Traditional Route…

…go with Govatos in Wilmington. A five-pound assortment of white and-or dark chocolate caramels, creams, crisps, fruits, and freshly roasted nuts should do it for just about anyone ($113.25). 888-799-5252,

More on the Chocolate Front (and More Beer, Too)

This month, head brewer Brian Finn of Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant hosts three terrific events. We’ll keep you in suspense about two. For now, you need to know about the Dark Side, an annual celebration of dark beers from Iron Hill and beyond, on Feb. 8. That means a pairing of beer and chocolate in time for Valentine’s Day. Check out Belgian witbier with white chocolate filled with orange peel compote and coriander-infused white chocolate ganache, Pig Iron Porter with a “malted milk ball” of chocolate ganache and smoked salt, and Russian Imperial stout with dark chocolate filled with bourbon-infused butterscotch speckled with vanilla beans and malted candy brittle. It happens at Iron Hill’s Wilmington location. 472-2739,

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