The soft golden hues of summer, the gentle caress of the ocean breeze and the melodic chirping of coastal birds craft an ethereal canvas unique to coastal Delaware. For a chef deeply entrenched in this sun-kissed tapestry, there’s an unmatched enthusiasm to dish out creations that echo the vibrancy and elegance of our coastal embrace. Outdoor dining transcends a meal, morphing into an all-encompassing experience — a journey that serenades the very essence of this radiant season.
It’s a season of brightness, and it beckons us outdoors to share meals under the blue skies. Imagine laying a picnic blanket on the soft sands of the beach, the horizon a seemingly endless stretch of vast blue sea.
I think of the Mid-Atlantic region’s fresh produce during this season. A salad, vibrant and bursting with life, becomes the heart of our summer feast. Cherry tomatoes, plump and juicy, are paired with the crunch of fresh cucumbers. Add some fresh mozzarella or burrata and a splash of homemade vinaigrette and you have summertime freshness on your plate.
“Outdoor dining transcends a meal, morphing into an all-encompassing experience.”
But what’s a picnic without some indulgent dips and spreads? On one side, there’s the creamy blend of ricotta, garlic powder, onion powder and scallion creating a ranch dip, and on another, a savory hummus that pairs brilliantly with fresh vegetables.
As we dive into these delights, the glinting tins catch my eye. They house the sea’s treasures — sustainably sourced mackerel, sardines and anchovies. And just beside them, a platter boasting a medley of charcuterie tempts the senses. Thin slices of prosciutto, spicy chorizo and smoky salami lay waiting, a nod to the diversity of Mid-Atlantic cuisine. I love these things served with crusty bread from Keith Irwin’s Old World Breads.
Yet, as we feast and laugh under the sun, the seriousness of food safety cannot be forgotten. Though perfect for a day outdoors, the summer heat is a double-edged sword. The balmy temperature can cause foods, especially perishables, to enter the “danger zone” of 40°F to 140°F. Bacteria thrive and multiply in this range, turning our delightful dishes into potential health hazards. I like the new technology of my soft cooler that is easily transportable and can be carried on my shoulder and filled with ice packs, ensuring food stays chilled and fresh.
With safety ensured, the grilling begins. The portable grill, a symbol of summer barbecues, is fired up. The aroma of grilled meat and seafood fills the air, intertwining with the scent of the sea. Vegetables marinated in herbs and spices sizzle as they touch the hot grate, their flavors enhanced by the smoky touch.
Beverages are a must to quench the thirst that comes from sun-soaked fun. Instead of reaching for the predictable canned soda, I opt for homemade, iced green tea, fragrant with a hint of jasmine, and a pitcher of Bennett Orchard Peach lemonade. For those who prefer a touch of spirited fun, I love some of the sessionable fruited sour beers from The Crooked Hammock Brewery and Dewey Beer Company or a glass of chilled rosé.
As the day winds down and the sun dips toward the horizon, it’s time for dessert. Fresh fruit parfaits, layered with luscious yogurt and crunchy granola, offer a sweet end to the day. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies or fruit bars satisfy those craving more indulgence.
But as we pack up, the principle of ‘leave no trace’ rings in my mind. The beauty of the Mid-Atlantic shores is a gift we must preserve. Every wrapper is collected, ensuring we leave the beach as pristine as we found it. The summer feast may have ended, but our memories, flavors and love for the Mid-Atlantic region remain etched in our minds and hearts forever.