Delaware, Traveling

The Unexpected Foodie … or not, in a familiar place

Was it really a surprise that food would become the primary attraction on a series of travel adventures in which social activities had to be mostly secondary? I guess not, but it still took me by surprise. While back in Delaware for the first time in nearly a year, and the longest time in 7 years, I wasn’t able to go to my former workplace for a purely social visit, but I was able to get that cup of coffee, that quesadilla, that blondie … and of course, that sales tax free item or two.

Older times of personal state representation!

            Let’s look at that cup of coffee. Brew HaHa wasn’t even my favorite place to go when I lived in the neighborhood. It must have been sometime after I left the ‘hood that the Yin/Yang, a tasteful mix of white and dark mocha, became a must-have drink. So it took a top place on the growing list of “items I must consume while back in Delaware” pretty much from its establishment. This time, Brew HaHa was dutifully one of the first places I hit up … only to find it a shell of itself, with the spacious interior relegated to glorified storage area, and emphasis placed upon online rather than in-person ordering. I got the hang of the system, and eventually was rewarded with a well-timed free beverage on my last visit of the stay. I also noticed the regular barista had learned my name, presumably from reading the slip that she attached to the drink as it was placed to claim, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was leaving town.

            And about that blondie. This was also not a new item on the list. The Centerville Café (or is Montchanin Fine Foods?) could be easy to miss or dismiss. In fact, the sandwich I had from them was a major disappointment among my dining out food choices of this Delaware stay. But the blondie is a classic, and hopefully always will be. Key features include NO NUTS, a decent size, and a fresh out of the box emphasis on flavor. At one time I thought the blondies were trucked in from somewhere else, but now I feel they are original.

            You can’t forget the quesadilla. Or the burrito. Or anything else from El Diablo. A proud export of the Wilmington area, yet comfortably staying close to its roots, the small chain was even smaller when I first knew it. Now they have several locations, but the one I had frequented is one of the originals. And, happily, the taste remains the same. It seems hard to believe that a Spanish food item in DELAWARE would be as good as it might be in CALIFORNIA, but I realized the key at El Diablo is their emphasis on natural and not embellished ingredients. I would have gone back on other occasions, but my stomach was well-filled after a single meal.

            Let’s take a detour to the focaccia bread. And back up to Massachusetts, the home state, where a medium-sized statewide group of chain restaurants was born. I was unaware that Not Your Average Joe’s had foraged into the mid-Atlantic, yet pleased when I noticed their logo on the edge of a shopping plaza I had once frequented. They offered outdoor dining and that sealed the deal for a family visit there on a Friday night. As mentioned, the focaccia bread was the main attraction and it did neither disappoint nor negatively affect the memory of previous bites, filled with just the right amount of seasoning and olive oil. The entrée also lived up to the high standards of the bread. On this visit the choice was a stir fry that managed to have enough flavor to not seem bland or over-cooked.

            And since we’re on the subject of chains, a nod is due to my series of visits to the local Starbucks, mostly for a vanilla latte, but once or twice for something else. Before this trip, I’d actually been moving away from the flavored lattes, but it seems the specialty flavors (hello, pumpkin!) lured me back for now. The consistency of the visits – I ended up alternating days between Starbucks and Brew HaHa – also sent me back to a past habit of compiling exact change for the order I would be choosing. A process made easier by lack of sales or meals tax, so the $4.45 for the venti option would be just that. Looking at that routine now, a few weeks later, makes it more apparent that it was mostly one of circumstantial than actual enjoyment or delight. I went to Starbucks because I could (I can’t in my present living arrangement) and not necessarily because it was something I would be doing all the time in another setting. Nonetheless, it was the right choice for that moment.

The coffee comparing actually peaked after my return to Massachusetts.

            I drove away from Delaware with a sudden and surprised realization that I hadn’t been on a highway for at least a 10 day period. It was clear that I’d focused well on what the surrounding neighborhood and surroundings offered, from a culinary, social and exploratory based perspective.

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