Since I began writing for RehobothFoodie.com, many of you have emailed comments and feedback. And for that, I am truly appreciative. The most popular question has been, “When are you going to review Meatless Mondays at Nage?” Well, actually, right now.
As many of you know, I write an e-newsletter called The Local Buzz where I talk about the latest events and highlight new businesses and restaurants opening here at the Delaware beaches. I first mentioned Nage and Meatless Mondays in the December, 2010 issue. Meatless Monday is actually a nationwide phenomenon that originated during World War I when the U.S. Food Administration wanted families to reduce consumption of key staples to aid the war effort. Then in 2003 Meatless Monday was recreated as a public health awareness program by Johns Hopkins. You can visit this website http://www.meatlessmonday.com/ for more info and recipes.
Anyway, back to Nage. This was my second visit and I have to say it was an eye-opener for me personally. I've always considered myself an adventurous eater on the vegetarian front as I will try just about any combination of foods, no matter how strange. So I couldn't understand why I found the Nage's Meatless Monday menu somewhat intimidating. Then it hit me. I'll try interesting combinations of “familiar” foods, but Hari Cameron, who at that time was the chef du cuisine at Nage, doesn't create with just “everyday” food. He uses mushrooms that I've never heard of, a type of pepper that he has specially grown, flowers and more in his cooking. He's fearless. And he's now the chef/owner of a(MUSE.) restaurant in downtown Rehoboth Beach (also reviewed here from the vegetarian perspective).
Bolstered by my more courageous dining companions, I went for it. For starters we had two soups: the Melon Gazpacho with cucumber, olive oil and almonds, and the Tomatillo Soup with cocoa pumpkin seeds, chili oil and oyster mushrooms. A particularly adventurous member of our party also ordered the Fresh Kimchi Salad with radish, carrot and cucumber.
Now I'm sure some of you are reading this and going, Deb, come on. What's the big deal? Well, I don't eat tomatillos everyday and I have never had or heard of cocoa pumpkin seeds, ok? Give a girl a break here, it's tough enough fessin' up that you're a bit of a wuss without snorts of laughter [and abuse… ed.] from the gallery. While all the dishes were very good and beautifully presented, the Tomatillo Soup was the standout. It was extraordinary. I was so glad it was the appetizer that I had ordered, so that other than a taste, I didn't have to share. (I AM an only child after all). I don't know what Hari did to the oyster mushrooms in the soup, but they were out of this world. We all agreed that this was one of the most incredible things we had ever eaten.
We started our main courses with Tempura Squash Blossom with opal basil, white miso, heirloom squash crudo and orange oil. Another companion had the Anson Mill Grits with hen o' the woods mushrooms, cippolini onions, corn relish and yellow tomato. Sauteed Rapini (very similar to broccoli rabe, actually in the turnip family) with pine nuts, apricots, sunchokes and a broken green olive vinaigrette topped it all off. Now you're getting the picture, right? When's the last time you had hen o' the woods mushrooms? And forgive me, but I had to ask what rapini was [don't get out much, do you girl … ed.]. And what's a broken green olive? All were quite good, but the standout in this round was the Anson Mill Grits. I am not a Southern girl and I can take or leave most of the grits I've tried. But this … this was phenomenal. The sunny yellow liquid is pureed yellow tomatoes. The Tempura Squash Blossom entree was delicate and lovely and the touch of orange oil was divine.
We ended the dinner with Roasted Peaches with crispy phyllo, almond, banana puree and caramel ice cream. We opted to share since we were all stuffed but then we all fought over the caramel ice cream. Rich, creamy food of the gods it was.
Chef Hari was kind enough to circulate a few tiny dishes for us to try (as if we weren't eating enough already!). The first was warm and garlicky sauteed peppers. Delightfully green, simple, and quite spicy. The second tiny nosh was a medley of spicy pickled vegetables including green tomatoes and white and green beans. They were cool and bracing to say the least. Talk about a palate cleaner! The third mouth-watering little morsel offered up by the chef was a slightly sweet and cool combination of apples, peppers and those crunchy white beans.
If you can't make it on Mondays, no worries! There are plenty of other goodies on the main menu like the roasted garlic hummus, cheese plates, salads, sides, mac & cheese with truffle, English peas and wild mushroom. And Chef Hari is happy to make any of the pasta dishes vegetarian as well. The Meatless Monday menu changes every week depending on what'e growing out there, so don't be surprised if one of the delectables mentioned above is no longer available. But I know the next time I go, I'll be just a little less afraid.
Nage is located in Shore Plaza, across from Chipotle Mexican Grill in Tanger Seaside Outlets, alongside Hickman's Meat Market, Root Gourmet, Touch of Italy and Outlet Liquors. Reservations are a must. 302-226-2037