Chesapeake Bay, Coastal Maine Favorites Mix Seamlessly on the Avenue
As I sat on a comfy corner bench at Chesapeake & Maine, carefully tying a knot in my plastic lobster bib, I reflected on how much I love this part of my job for Letters. Not only do I love the dining adventures and writing these articles, but my favorite part is letting readers know about the amazing restaurants we are lucky to have here on Delaware’s culinary coast.
Rehoboth Avenue’s Chesapeake & Maine, part of the Dogfish Head family, provided me with a scrumptious tour of both the Chesapeake Bay (a body of water I am very familiar with from decades of boating and dining from its waters) and Maine (which I have visited numerous times, with its lobster pounds and oyster festivals).
Chef Ray Giangerudo, a graduate of the Culinary Institute at Hyde Park, New York, has been with C&M since it opened several years ago. He is now head chef, responsible for a very adventurous, authentic menu, with locally sourced ingredients, and seafood straight from the Chesapeake Bay or direct from the chilly waters of coastal Maine.
Chef Ray, restaurant manager Caitlyn, and server Renah gave us the scoop on the menu choices and the fresh ingredients—and we had a feast.
Because I have an inconvenient oyster allergy, my spouse, Bonnie, had the treat of sampling the raw bar selections, from C&M’s special smoky, sea salt flavor-infused oysters from nearby Hooper’s Island to Maine’s salty cold-water bivalves. “They all were really clean, with sparkling flavor,” she noted, with her favorite being the Moon Dancers from Maine’s Damariscotta River. The oysters are served with Golden Beet cocktail sauce, horseradish on demand.
Next, we tasted the delicious crab vegetable soup, combining fresh local veggies with large shards of sweet crab meat. It echoed great Baltimore crab soup recipes but with a contemporary take—the veggies did not have to be cooked to mush. I appreciate that.
Then came the Buffalo Catfish Bites, catfish being something, I admit, this New Yorker has always avoided. But I was reminded that while its reputation as a bottom feeder persists, in the Chesapeake Bay the bottom feeders dine on crab meat, so what could be so bad? And of course, Buffalo sauce is not just for chicken wings any more. I loved the catfish appetizer. And according to the chef, we should eat more catfish, as it removes them from the Chesapeake Bay where they threaten the rockfish. Do a good deed for rockfish. Eat catfish.
We had one more taste before heading to the entrees—the Crab Scotch Egg, a combo of soft-boiled egg, authentic Chesapeake Crab Cake, mustard mayo, and pickled onions on the side. I loved it, even at peril of filling up before our main (or Maine) course.
Yes, I ordered the lobster. Bib on, butter at the ready, I tackled the slightly soft-shelled crustacean, and one taste instantly transported me back to our Rockport Lobster Festival days. Sweet, delicious, meaty, messy, the whole real deal. For the record, the $20 lobster was fabulous, and while you can add $5 to have it pulled apart and presented ready-to-eat from the kitchen, I enjoyed the whole hands-on, butter-up-your-sleeves experience.
Meanwhile, Bonnie chose the less do-it-yourself option of pan-seared scallops atop a bed of lime and coconut risotto, (“First you taste the lime, then the coconut. It’s great!” ) accompanied by crisp green beans, onions, and cherry tomatoes. “The scallops are amazing!” said Bonnie.
Our server, Renah, suggested the special fall salad accompaniment—kale, butternut squash, Honeycrisp apples, toasted almonds, pickled red onion, and goat cheese. It may have been 93 degrees outside, but inside, with the air conditioning pumping, we adored the fall salad with apple cider vinaigrette.
Although nearing a food coma, we could not leave without tasting the tiny wild blueberries Maine has made famous. Sure enough, the menu offered the Maine staple—Blueberry Crisp with a rich blueberry compote, properly crispy, crusty flour/sugar, all topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Thought we’d need a crane to get us up from the table. We managed.
And the good news is, that along with its regular menu, Chesapeake & Maine has already started its Sunday lobster special, beginning at noon, reservations taken. On Sundays they serve one-and-a-quarter-pound lobsters for $12 and I certainly can recommend the experience. In fact, Bonnie and I have already made plans for an upcoming Sunday.
So overall, whether it’s the Maryland crab in the soup, or the Maine lobster and blueberries, Chesapeake & Maine is totally faithful to its geographic name, with a mouthwatering array of seafood, soups, salads, and more, served in comfy surroundings with excellent service. C&M takes you right to the Bay and New England, all without leaving Rehoboth. ▼