The Gabby Guy breaks bread with the tastemakers who will help determine the new menu for a makeover of a supremely stylish Wilmington restaurant, then gorges on great food and great dish at the annual Best of Delaware Party (Part I).

Kitchen Capers
Dan Butler and Gary Munch sure do know how to throw a party. Over several nights, Butler invited select groups to celebrate the 20th anniversary of his Toscana Kitchen + Bar and test some new menu items at the Artisan Kitchens showroom. Munch, mastermind behind Boss Enterprises homebuilders, is launching Artisan Kitchens to create beautiful, functional home cooking-gathering spaces.

So it was dinner for six at 6. Guests included Delaware Children’s Museum executive director Julie Van Blarcom, senior adviser George Meldrum of Nemours Foundation, development director Phyllis Barnes of the Delaware Humane Association, Tom Abel of Swift Financial and Joan Sharp of the Delaware Art Museum’s Renaissance Social Group,

Boss’ Jackie Ivy and Toscana’s Erica Razze greeted each guest with a flute of sparkling Italian wine, then everyone took their places at a modern white table set impeccably with geometrically styled dinnerware and apple-green linens.

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Guests sampled sliced Italian meats and artisanal cheeses while admiring Munch’s handiwork: a stainless and glass wet bar, stone backsplash, leaded glass-fronted display cabinets, refrigerators camouflaged with paneled fronts and a white marble-topped island. Artisan Kitchens will be a national program. Though Delebrity chef Butler is his first collaborator, Munch has lined up such notables as celebrity chef Michael White of Alto and Convivo in New York City, where Gary has spied Madonna, Beyonce and others enjoying a bite. The first buyers of an Artisan Kitchen will be Gary and Kathy Linarducci of Westover Hills.

On to the small plates Dan is considering for the next iteration of his flagship, Piccolina Toscana. We started with butter-poached shrimp over a cannelini salad, then sampled scarlet snapper with peppers, citrus and onion. Next: carciofini doriati, a gratinée of artichokes, cippolini and wild mushrooms with piquant Pecorino.

While the chef prepared the encore vitello al carboni, we caught up on the guests’ goings on. Ms. Sharp—always sharply dressed—was still atwitter after a whirlwind weekend in New York, where she and a gal pal visited the Viennese café at the Neue Galerie overlooking Central Park. “It (the café) had a line around it—almost as big a draw as Ronald Lauder’s Klimt collection,” Joan said. A 10-minute shopping blitz at Barney’s just before closing time yielded two silver lace-cut table runners before a visit to ultra-trendy Per Se. “Decadent, delicious, and definitely a must-do,” Joan said, “at least once.”

Banning Park—not Central Park— on Maryland Avenue will be the “farmer’s field” for Woofstock, this year’s Delaware Humane Association fundraising Walk For Animals on October 3. Ms. Barnes expects more than 700 pets, with their walkers. “Our goal is to raise $95,000 or more,” she said. Woof.

We were eager to hear about Mr. Meldrum’s glimpse of Malia Obama walking Bo—the Portuguese waterhound, not our attorney general Beau—on the East lawn while he attended the president’s Pride Party at the White House in June. “Ooooooh. That sounds too good,” Miss Julie cooed. “Let’s save it for dessert.”

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Speaking of the White House, it may like to hear more about Mr. Abel’s Swift Financial. “We have succeeded where the largest banks have failed in designing a product that will put working capital back into the hands of small business people,” Tom told us. Mr. President, meet Mr. Abel. Discuss.

From small business back to the plates: “Like smaller portions, smaller plates equals smaller waistlines,” Julie joked while asking if Dan planned to include healthy eating options on his new menu. In short, no. “The plates may be smaller, but the flavor will not be. Going out is still a time to enjoy oneself,” he said. Several guests gave Butler’s perfectly presented petal pink veal over crispy gnocchi and seasoned rainbow chard their highest rating.

As for George’s White House fete, “The food was fabulous. Everything was homemade—the biscuits, the ice cream,” he said. “We felt right at home. We knew the rooms so well from seeing them on TV all these years. The East Room, where Kennedy lay in state, was emotionally powerful. We touched every antique, sat in every chair without a velvet rope around it—really went for the full experience, you could say.” Did the full experience include taking any souvenirs (because, you know, everybody does)? “I took a few logo cocktail napkins,” he said, “and I don’t drink!” His other takeaway? A brief private meeting with the president and our veep. It’s good to be from Delaware.

Page 2: Good, Better and the Very Best


Good, Better and the Very Best
Speaking of kitchen creations, the annual Best of Delaware Party was loaded with them. The bash, held at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, truly does get bigger and better every year. It’s so big, in fact, this Gabby Guy entry must be the first of two parts. Here’s a little taste.

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Krazy Kat’s chef Donny Merrill’s whisky-braised pork belly and cannelini was krazy good. So were the tiny, tasty triangles of basil, roasted red pepper and chicken salad on dark bread from Dover’s 33 West. James Street Tavern’s crabcake with yuzu vinaigrette was presented marvelously by the marvelous Miss Mia Malloy.

We were most pleased to meet Miss Delaware Kayla Martell with chaperones Kevin and Brenda Gillis. You may have seen her discussing alopecia awareness and education on “The Today Show” in June as part of her platform for the Miss America Pageant. The condition causes sufferers to lose their hair. Will Kayla wear a wig for the competition or au naturel? “I haven’t decided yet. I have to think about it from more than just my perspective. You’ll have to watch to find out,” Kayla said coyly. Watch we will. Ms. Martell also assured us that she would indeed wear the Delebrity T-shirt we gave her to the pageant. “And my glamazon lashes,” she teased.

Just to whet your appetite for next month’s column, try these: Mediterranean sea salt-caramel Paciugo gelato offered by Chesapeake Inn owner Gianmarco Martuscelli, fizzy Astaire cocktails expertly concocted with Champagne by Delebrity bartender Joe McCoy, and the scarlet snapper ceviche with peppers and watermelon from chef David Leo Banks of Harry’s Seafood Grill in Wilmington. Shall I go on? See more next month. Ciao for now.

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

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