Field of Dreams

A roving band of localvores invade Delaware with their humongous table, plus Columbus Inn and digital burgers get their Just Desserts.

Restaurant news and events:

Monday, September 6: Localvores, rejoice: Outstanding in the Field, a roving, locally bent “restaurant without walls” (but with one loooooong dinner table) is coming to Delaware.

Traveling from site to site, Outstanding in the Field joins together local farmers, food producers and chefs for one gigantic outdoor dinner. For its first Delaware appearance, OitF tapped celeb chef Matt Haley and the Indian River Lifesaving Station for hosts.

Haley (he of Fish On, Lupo di Mare, Bluecoast, Betty’s, NorthEast Seafood Kitchen and Catch 54) will present a five-course meal with wine pairings for the Monday night event, but he’s keeping his menu options close to the vest. He’ll grab whatever is freshest just before the meal, and he’s considering using local rockfish, crab meat and smoked bluefish. Any steak will come from Bob Raley’s cattle farm, and cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, corn and peaches could get starring roles.

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The event gets underway at 3 p.m., and $200 tickets can be had here.

New digs: Just Desserts Café

Maria Avila has relocated more times than the Washington Senators. She first opened her bakeshop and café in the Cannery Shopping Center on Lancaster Pike in 1998. Then she packed up and moved the business to Hagley Museum, then again to Trolley Square.

“Bad landlords,” she says.

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Then she had some bad luck to match. She suffered a car accident that kept her and her business sidelined for nearly three years.

Now Avila and Just Desserts (330 Kennett Pike, Suite 111, Chadds Ford, Pa., 302-507-8028) are back, in pristine new Mendenhall Station, and she’s back to baking her famous cookie trays, pound cakes and creations like the orange creamsicle cake (below).

From her Chadds Ford digs, complete with kitchen equipment, Avila is in her comfort zone, providing customers (many long-timers who have followed her around since the Cannery days) with desserts, plus lunch and dinner dishes—mainly salads and sandwiches.

Best of all, “it’s in a nice area and the landlord is great,” she says.

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New digs: Open Sesame

By now we know the concept of “social networking” is a huge deal (right, David Fincher?), but what about a socially networked restaurant? That’s part of the concept behind Open Sesame, a quick-service burger joint that lets customers design their own dinners via the web.

Here’s how it works: jump to, name your burger, use the DIY menu software to add toppings and such, then press order. Your burger creation stays on the online menu, and every time someone orders it, Open Sesame will bank you a 25-cent in-store credit.

In addition to burgers, Open Sesame (414 N. Union St., Wilmington, 654-5061) also does fries, steaks, subs salads and shakes. Owner Ashton Timmons says Open Sesame does a lot of walk-in business from its Union Street location, but that wacky orders have already begun streaming in via the Web.

“One person created a burger topped with avocado, salami, horseradish and mayo,” she says. “It was a little much.”

Timmons creates juicy burgers using fresh-ground beef from the butcher and her mom’s cast iron skillet. Spicy El Caliente burgers, and the blackened Cajun burger have proven popular choices so far.

Timmons says she tries to keep prices affordable (see her $4 cheesesteak) in order to do good by the community. “We know the economy is bad so we wanted a place where people could come in and eat out with family and keep it affordable.”

Restaurant Riff: Columbus Inn

Where to start with the Columbus Inn? It’s hard to form an opinion of the beautifully reappointed “new” Columbus Inn without taking into account its roots. All the special family events, the late nights and the powerful men and women who called the Columbus Inn their second home—they’re all part of the DNA of this place

Above: Peekytoe crab salad with watermelon and cucumber

That said, the new CI is truly stunning. New owners Louis Capano & Associates, general manager rich Snyder and designer Ron Fenstermacher spared no expense in bringing the Inn into the 21st century.

Above: milk-fed veal with bluefoot mushroom and sweetbread ragout.

And new chef Chris D’Ambro has developed a menu that’s high-end and modern without abandoning Columbus Inn’s signature brawny appeal.

Above: filet mignon with potato gratin

Clearly, I was impressed. But I wondered what the old guard thinks of the new duds. Any former regulars out there care to weigh in?

Look for a full review of Columbus Inn later this fall.

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