Coastal Delaware diners are embracing Mexican cuisine, and not just around Cinco de Mayo
On Cinco de Mayo, patrons in coastal restaurants will pop the tops off Mexican beers and order up a taco or two — even in non-Mexican establishments. But many of these diners don’t understand the holiday’s true meaning. It is not, as many believe, Mexico’s Independence Day. That’s Sept. 16. The May 5 holiday marks the victory of the Mexican militia over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.
This year, there’s no shortage of places to celebrate the occasion. The Delaware coast now has a large number of Mexican and Latin-inspired restaurants, from Milton to Fenwick Island. It’s hard to toss a tortilla without hitting a fish taco on a menu, even in fish houses and alehouses. Last September, Billy Lucas, co-owner of Taco Reho, a food truck, pulled up to the curb near Big Chill Surf Cantina on Route 1. Before opening the business, Lucas spent seven years as a tour caterer for musicians and up to 150 crew members. “Everyone loved taco day,” says the Philadelphia-area native, who summered in Dewey Beach as a child. “They also loved enchiladas.”
A Holiday Treat
With or without alcohol, Lewes Dairy eggnog adds spice to the season
Along the coast, nothing signals the start of the holiday season quite like a sip of Lewes Dairy’s eggnog. “I make it just the way I made it when I was young, it just takes me twice as long to do half as much,” says Chip Brittingham, the Lewes plant manager whose grandparents, Grace and Emory Brittingham, began raising Guernsey cows and selling milk in 1919.
Since the dairy’s merger with Hy-Point Dairy Farms in 2013, Brittingham has trekked to northern New Castle County to make the eggnog, which is available starting the week before Thanksgiving until New Year’s. “I want to make sure everything is done right,” he says.
He doesn’t remember exactly when the dairy began offering its celebrated beverage, but its fame was certainly set in the 1940s. Brittingham credits its popularity to top-quality ingredients and a special blend of spices, which produce a silky shake-like beverage with a minimum fat content of at least 7 percent. (The standard is 6 percent.) “It’s a good drink,” Brittingham says simply.
Some say it’s even better with a shot of rum. Mark Harrison, general manager of Nage in the Rehoboth Beach area, whips up this frothy libation for customers who like a creamy cocktail. “I prefer to use local ingredients as much as possible, whether it’s with our food or beverage programs,” he says. “Lewes Dairy is a respected business in the area, and their high-quality products make that decision easy.”
A Legacy to Savor
One year after his death, Leo Medisch remains a strong presence along the culinary coast
On Aug. 21, 2013, coastal Delaware’s restaurant community was saddened to learn that Leo Medisch, executive chef of the Back Porch Cafe in Rehoboth Beach, had died at age 60. Medisch had joined the Back Porch as a grill chef shortly after the restaurant’s opening in 1974, and over the years — as he became kitchen manager, chef and an owner — he symbolized Rehoboth’s celebrated dining scene.
But to many colleagues, friends and customers, Medisch’s talent went beyond the kitchen. Current Executive Chef Timothy McNitt, who joined the restaurant in 1997, says Medisch was “kind, gentle, funny, caring and thoughtful.” Above all, he was a friend.
McNitt, who moved to Rehoboth from Lancaster County, Pa., was hired to work in the Back Porch’s pantry to do prep work and make such items as bluefish-and-apple sausage and duck galantine. “They had a lot of trust in this country boy,” he says. “I loved every minute of it.”