At Centreville Cafe, holiday dining is taking on extra sparkle this year. With a new liquor license in hand, owners Vince and Elizabeth Moro are serving such seasonal sippers as espresso candy cane martinis garnished with fresh greenery.
“We plan on mixing vintage holiday cocktails, too,” Elizabeth says, noting the café is extending its evening hours to accommodate small gatherings of friends and intimate celebrations. Time-starved shoppers can pop in and recharge with a glass of wine from the café’s expansion cellar paired with a sampling of gourmet cheeses.
To set the scene, lavish Yule decorations went up the day after Thanksgiving. Look for lots of cookies, specialty breads and hot chocolate to enjoy in the dining room or take home. The hosts will pour it on for the café’s signature four-course high-tea parties, expanding the schedule and the glamour quotient.
“Our tea parties are so popular, and we hold many each week. We look forward to making the teas of the holiday season extra festive,” Elizabeth says.
5800 Kennett Pike, Wilmington, DE, (302) 777-4911
December is the season for noshing, from platters piled high with gorgeous cookies and sumptuous pastries to catered comfort food dinners and creative signature cocktails.
Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli and Rosenfeld’s Big Fish will serve traditional Hanukkah treats, including latkes—crispy potato pancakes—at its locations in North Wilmington, Bethany Beach and Rehoboth Beach. Another popular holiday treat is sufganiyot, fried doughnuts traditionally filled with red currant, apricot or raspberry jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Bethany Beach, North Wilmington, Rehoboth Beach
At Lettie’s Kitchen in Hockessin, reservations for dinner packages sell out two weeks before the holiday. Owner Tom Alexander puts out the menu the day after Thanksgiving. Patrons can savor the fixings all the way up to Christmas Eve.
“I always do a Christmas dinner with ham, hash brown potatoes, pineapple bread casserole, green beans and coleslaw, a dinner roll and chocolate cake,” he says.
The boneless ham is glazed with brown sugar and honey. Alexander preslices and portions servings. This year, he’ll be dishing out twice-baked potatoes instead of hash browns, but the home-cooked feel is the same. The pineapple casserole is pure comfort food, a mixture of white bread, crushed pineapple, spices and egg. “It gets a little brown on top for a bit of crunch,” he notes.
Dinners are packaged in foil containers with heating instructions. “Pop it in the oven for a while, then it comes out ready to go. At such a busy time of year, folks really appreciate that convenience,” he says.
Save room for dessert, too: Lettie’s offers lots of options for a sweet ending to the repast.
“We do an array of desserts. Chocolate cake, orange creamsicle cake, carrot cake. But the big favorite is pie. Apple pie, cherry pie, pecan pie and Key lime pie, even though a lot of people think of Key lime as a summer dessert. And people still order pumpkin pie for Christmas, believe it or not, so we make them, too,” Alexander says.
1318 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, DE, (302) 239-7816
A holiday repast typically begins with a seasonal cocktail at V&M Bistro in North Wilmington, owned by the Carrieri–Russo sisters. “We will definitely have the Grinch martini, green with a red cherry heart. Our eggnog martini is a big hit, too,” says Vincenza, who operates the sleek restaurant and lounge with her sister Margherita.
Throughout the holidays, expect fanciful desserts. Inspired by a glistening Tannenbaum, the tree-sicle is a cool treat with the whimsical appeal of a popsicle.
Sometime during the week before Christmas, V&M will start serving a three-course, seven fishes menu. The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian tradition rooted in the doctrine of abstaining from meat the day before Christmas. It’s not certain where the name came from—theories range from the seven sacraments to the seven hills of Rome—and the scope of dishes is vast. Picture a platter of baccala, or salted cod, swimming in a sea of side dishes, from clams casino to calamari stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs. The mix of seafood varies from year to year, but the celebratory sentiment remains the same.
“We try to time it just right. A week before Christmas is too early for most people. A few days before is better,” she says.
1717 Marsh Road, Wilmington, DE, (302) 479-7999
Because clams, oysters and mussels are highly perishable, restaurateurs agree timely shopping and a willingness to play it by ear are essential in securing ingredients for seven fishes menus. Buy too soon, and you could wind up wasting food. Wait too long, and you could miss out on limited supplies.
At Mama Maria’s Italian Restaurant in Milford, owners Salvatore and Franco Laragione evaluate the seafood that’s freshest and best on the market before coming up with a holiday menu of dishes. Franco spreads the word to patrons in posts on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
945 A N Dupont Blvd, Milford, DE, (302) 422-2661
At Piccolina Toscana, a contemporary Italian bistro in Wilmington’s Trolley Square, chef-owner Dan Butler’s annual La Vigilia (literally, “The Vigil”) repast has made Christmas Eve one of the most popular nights of the year. Sometimes, demand is so great that Butler schedules two seven fishes events. Based on menus from the past decade, patrons can expect such nibbles as oyster fritters with horseradish cream and arugula with fried smelts dressed with toasted almonds and pomegranate.
1412 N Dupont St, Wilmington, DE, (302) 654-8001
Want to dine out on the holiday? Sullivan’s Steakhouse in North Wilmington will be open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Christmas Day, when the restaurant will offer a special prime rib dinner. Sullivan’s will serve broiled lobster tail and dry-aged long-bone rib-eye throughout the holidays.
5525 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE, (302) 479-7970
Brandywine Prime Seafood & Chops in Chadds Ford boasts a close proximity to the legendary Longwood Gardens lights display, making this a convenient spot for lights-goers to take their loved ones out to dinner before or after seeing the display. With sumptuous steaks and seafood available, the holidays will feel more decadent than ever.
1617 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, PA, (610) 388-8088
Since the holidays are all about giving, how about gifting somebody you love a scrumptious gift box? Taste Local Eats, a company founded in Kennett Square, sends gift boxes brimming with products from small businesses in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In addition, a portion of the money from every gift box sold on the Taste Local Eats website goes to a local nonprofit, such as Kennett Area Community Service, so you can enjoy tasty treats knowing you are making a difference in your area.
Kennett Square, PA, (484) 406-5825