I keep two running lists of restaurants. One list is made up of restaurants I “need” to visit for work purposes; places I’m either reviewing or writing about. The other list is a tally of places I want to visit on my own tab and for my own enjoyment. For a long time, Nick Farrell’s Sovana Bistro has topped that second list.
Farrell and his crew are the O.G.s of farm-to-table cuisine in this region (before the trend blew the heck up), and I was lucky enough to experience my first visit in July during the peak of summertime produce.
But expectations can be tricky, especially when they’re sky high. Somehow, amazingly, Sovana Bistro still managed to blow me away. From the cozy industrial-chic dining room, we enjoyed dishes that integrated simple ingredients into the kitchen’s next-level imagination and execution. Not an inch of plate was wasted, not a pea tendril out of place. (Above: Apple salad with Gorgonzola cheese, golden raisins, spiced pecans and cider-lime vinaigrette)
(Above: Artisanal cheese plate)
And who doesn’t love a chef with a sense of humor? Sure, little grilled quails (Above: like this one from Griggstown Farm, paired with ratatouille) are pretty funny, but not to the extent of foie gras scrapple. Vegetarians, shield your eyes.
From Sovana’s 100-Mile menu crept the Taste of Local Vegetables. Construction of this green monster is anchored by a portobello mushroom tart, which is topped with leek-spring garlic purée, English peas, grilled squash and wilted spinach. The greens dripped lightly with a preserved lemon vinaigrette.
(Above: Seared scallops with wilted kale and potato purée.)
Can’t wait to see what Sovana does next season.
Tuesday, August 3: Surely you’ve wined at Domaine Hudson, Wilmington’s preeminent wine bar. But have you cheesed? On Thursday, DH, in conjunction with Vino 100, will host a wine-and-cheese happy hour featuring French summer wines and selected cheeses. The event gets underway at 5 p.m. and costs $25 per person (plus gratuity). Five cheeses and five wines await you, but this type of event sells out quickly at Domaine Hudson, so call 655-9463 to reserve your spot.
New Digs: The Greene Turtle, a boozy chain of sports bars whose first link formed in Ocean City, Maryland, is slowly creeping its way up the Eastern Seaboard. A few weeks ago, the Turtle continued its march into Delaware, unveiling a location in restaurant-crazy Rehoboth Beach, loaded with all the burgers, beers and cartoon turtles it’s famous for. The Greene Turtle (101 S. Boardwalk, Rehoboth Beach, 226-2000) also serves steaks, wraps, sandwiches and kid-friendly dishes. Sound like your type of place? Then you’re in luck: There’s another location at The Villages of Five Points in Lewes (17388 N. Village Main Unit 21, Lewes, 644-6840) and another Greene Turtle franchise is on its way. The chain hopes to create another half-dozen or so sites across Delaware in the near future.
Chef change: The Dining Insider just received confirmation that chef Robert Lhulier has flipped his last filet at Wilmington’s Union City Grille. His career resumes this week at the venerable University and Whist Club.
Owner Matthew Curtis, who purchased the then-ailing steakhouse in 2008, will resume cooking duties. “I’m coming out of retirement,” he says. “We were really fortunate to have Robert in between his next venture.”
Curtis, a former chef at Deep Blue and Toscana, did yeoman’s work as a front-of-house coordinator and tireless marketer. UGC was a constant presence at community events, and a place to be for wine dinners and happy hour specials. It’ll be interesting to monitor the Grille as it adapts to the change. “I’m stoked about getting back in the kitchen,” Curtis says. “We’ve never been about reinventing the wheel here, just giving people good, honest food.”
For now, Curtis seems unfazed. He told me he’s shooting a live segment for NBC this week—a cooking demo about Philadelphia Phillies-inspired dishes. He’s working on the Tugger, a shaved steak panini with fried onions and gooey cheese, a chili-topped Phanatic Burger, and a martini called the Chooch, in honor of the Fightins’ much-loved catcher, Carlos Ruiz.
Much more to come on UCG. Stay tuned.
Hot: We love ourselves some Feby’s Fishery here at DT. The family-owned restaurant prepares its fresh seafood simply, so that fancy sauces, crusts or other embellishments are often unnecessary. But, ah, sometimes concessions can be made. Fresh oysters with a dash of peppery hot sauce is an embellishment we can all live with. To coincide with Feby’s newly expanded oyster bar, the restaurant has unveiled its line of specially-made hot sauces. The varieties (pictured above) include cayenne pepper, chipotle pepper and a super hot sauce (which, we can only imagine, must be super hot).
Grab some hot sauce at your table at Feby’s, or take home a bottle from Feby’s in-house fish market.