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For the sixth year in a row, Dogfish Head Brewery founder Sam Calagione has been named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Wine, Beer, or Spirits Professional.

Also joining the "long list" of names is Hari Cameron, the chef/owner of Rehoboth Beach's innovative a(MUSE.) who is a semifinalist for the Beard Award for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic region.

James Beard Awards are considered "the Oscars" of the culinary world.

The names of the five finalists in each category will be released in March. The May ceremony is moving from New York City and will be held this year for the first time in Chicago.

This is the second time Cameron has received recognition from the Beard Foundation.

Earlier, he was nominated in the Rising Chef category, an Award given to chefs younger than 30 who show much promise in the years ahead.

The Beard Mid-Atlantic chef category is considered one of the toughest. Many chefs tend to work in kitchens in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

This is Cameron's competition for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic:

Scott Anderson, Elements, Princeton, NJ

Joey Baldino, Zeppoli, Collingswood, NJ

Pierre Calmels, Bibou, Philadelphia

Hari Cameron, A(MUSE.), Rehoboth Beach, DE

Peter Chang, Peter Chang China Café, Glen Allen, VA

Anthony Chittum, Iron Gate, Washington, D.C.

Lee Chizmar, Bolete, Bethlehem, PA

Joe Cicala, Le Virtù, Philadelphia

Nicholas Elmi, Laurel, Philadelphia

Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore

Lee Gregory, The Roosevelt, Richmond, VA

Tarver King, The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm, Lovettsville, VA

Rich Landau, Vedge, Philadelphia

Cedric Maupillier, Mintwood Place, Washington, D.C.

Konstantinos Pitsillides, Kanella, Philadelphia

Dale Reitzer, Acacia, Richmond, VA

Justin Severino, Cure, Pittsburgh

Angelo Vangelopoulos, The Ivy Inn, Charlottesville, VA

Greg Vernick, Vernick Food & Drink, Philadelphia

Cindy Wolf, Charleston, Baltimore

 

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For those in Delaware’s restaurant industry, the Cornerstone Awards are the culinary equivalent of the Academy Awards. “It’s the one night that they can come out and celebrate themselves,” said Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association, which holds the awards. “It validates all the hard work that they do, and it’s very special. It can also be very emotional.”

The 12th annual event, scheduled for Nov. 11, beginning at 6 p.m. at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, should be no different. This year, the ceremony will recognize The Back Porch Café, founded in 1974, with a special tribute to owner Leo J. Medisch, who died Aug. 21.

Medisch is widely credited for boosting Rehoboth Beach’s dining scene. His efforts helped pave the way for a newer kid on the block.

Hari Cameron, owner of the whimsically named a(MUSE.), also in Rehoboth Beach, will receive the 2013 Delaware Restaurant of the Year award. The restaurant is only two years old, but it’s no stranger to honors. Open Table in September listed a(MUSE.) among the 100 top spots for foodies.

“It’s a testament to the staff’s hard work,” Cameron said. “This is not a one-man show by any means.”

Admittedly, Cameron is a familiar presence on the Delaware dining scene. He was titillating taste buds long before he opened the Baltimore Avenue restaurant. He previously worked at Nage, also known for innovative cuisine.

“He’s cutting edge,” Leishman said of Cameron. “He’s really taken Delaware by storm and in the culinary end of things, he’s the ‘talk of the town,’ so to speak.”

Frequent diners at a(MUSE.) might agree. Cameron, a 2013 James Beard Award nominee in the rising star category, continually pushes the envelope. For a recent Salvador Dali-themed dinner, he was inspired by the abstract artist’s painting of large cuts of beef.

To salute the scene, Cameron diced tenderloin into a tartar, dressed it with mirin, a rice wine, and oil, and topped it with bone marrow powder and a crumble of bone marrow, which he’d previously broken up in a vat of smoky liquid nitrogen.

“He combines precise food technique and skill with an innovative and inspired vision that pushes the boundary of culinary artistry,” said Josh Grapski, the owner of Nage.

 

A free spirit

Cameron, born in Seaford, grew up with an open mind. His father, who for a time owned a meditation center, had a guru, and the family followed him. They moved around, from Salisbury, Md., to Ithaca, N.Y. When Cameron was in fifth grade, the family settled back in Sussex County, where they had relatives.

While most kids were eating meatloaf and spaghetti, Cameron and his two brothers tucked into sushi, Thai food and curries. His diet was mostly vegetarian until a burger after a high school soccer game whetted his appetite for meat.

When community college and a landscaping job didn’t pan out, Cameron got a job at The Buttery in Lewes, where he went from waiting tables to creating salads in the kitchen. He wanted each salad to be a work of art.

While working at Espuma, then-owner Kevin Reading took him under his wing, and Cameron went to Reading’s alma mater, The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia — all while working full time at the beach.

Cameron joined Reading when the restaurateur opened Nage in 2004, which quickly became known as a hotspot for culinary creativity. (Reading left Nage to open Abbott’s Grill in Milford and Grapski is now the sole owner.)

Grapski helped Cameron open a(MUSE.) in 2012. The name has many meanings. There’s the obvious: the muse is a goddess of inspiration. Cameron also cites the French tradition of providing an amuse-bouche, a single bite-sized hors d’oeuvre that “makes the mouth happy,” he said. “I think food should be fun.”

 

Adapting the avant-garde

Cameron’s inspiration stems from the mid-Atlantic. “Here in Delaware, we have the beautiful ocean on one side and excellent farmland on the other,” he said. He estimates that he works with about 30 purveyors. Many are local, but some are in Philadelphia and Virginia.

He can’t imagine cooking without lemons and limes, which don’t grow well here; but he does refrain from using avocados, which are too closely tied to California and Mexico. For Cameron, seasonal is best. You might find only hydroponic lettuce on the menu in July, for example, since lettuces grow best in cool weather.

Cameron opened a(MUSE.) with a small plate concept featuring what many would consider adventurous food. Take potted chicken, made with layers of shredded meat, chicken liver mousse, foie gras and whiskey. Ingredients on that first menu also included lamb belly, absinthe-laced sweet breads and bacon made with pig jowls.

“I knew it was aggressive in some areas,” he said. “I figured it could be a hard lesson—something that didn’t work— or it could quickly catch on.”

Cameron soon realized that some diners didn’t want to linger over four or five small plates. They wanted a full entrée so they could move on to other beach activities.

He adjusted the menu accordingly. It’s now divided into “firsts, starters, mains and sweets.” Tasting menus feature four, six and even 11 courses.

He also adapts dishes to suit diners’ tastes, although he warns them if it might compromise the flavor. He has even sent staff out for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese to make little diners happy.

Even for a visionary, denying a diner what they want is clearly not Cameron’s style. “It puts bad energy out in the world, and bad news travels faster than good news,” he noted.

Cameron works long hours, but that doesn’t stop him from being creative. While at Nage, he didn’t record his ideas. Now he takes photos of his dishes and posts them on Instagram, and he writes detailed remarks in Marble Notebooks.

He’d love to start a food truck business, open a restaurant with only a tasting menu, open an eatery focused on casual food—even hotdogs—or have a place with a demonstration kitchen, where he could teach young students.

But all that can wait—for now. “I’m trying to perfect this restaurant and make it great,” he said. “I’m trying to pace myself.”

Sometimes, he concludes, “it’s all about the process and not the end result.”

 

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Where were you on the evening of July 16, 2013?

If the answer is anything other than “I was at A(muse) restaurant for the guest chef dinner,” all we can say is that you missed a memorable dining experience. That night, A(muse) chef Hari Cameron asked noted chef and cookbook author Alex Talbot to join him in the kitchen for an experiment in gastronomy. 

Cameron and Talbot have long respected each other and learned from each other as they explore menus, recipes, and cooking techniques, pushing their creativity and expanding the limits of food and drink. And we were lucky enough to be there the night they joined forces to create a dinner beyond anything we could have imagined. 

Chef Talbot is fond of saying, “It all begins with a question.” That night the question was: “how could two great chefs take local ingredients, local beer, and creative cooking and present a unique six-course tasting dinner?” It began by the chefs trying their tested recipes and dreaming up new ones, inspired by six distinct beers from Rehoboth’s own Dogfish Head Brewery. They found elements they wanted to use in each beer and set about creating the food. They invited other chefs in for a workshop the day before the dinner, to discuss and test out new techniques and flavors. Chef Cameron tells us that in the two days before the dinner, they tried crab 17 different ways (!) before deciding on a warm soft shell crab served over toasted oats with a taste of smoked bone marrow and grilled zucchini. We can tell you that the crab was delightfully crisp on the outside, and rich and fresh on the inside. The creamy, nutty and slightly sweet oats were the perfect accompaniment. 

The dinner had begun with a dish we are quite sure very few people in the world have ever tasted. The chefs served a cold shaved foie gras, which had been quick frozen with liquid nitrogen. This unique presentation was complemented by an icy peach granita (like a shaved ice), a touch of sweet yogurt and fresh local peaches. All the flavors were brought out by the Dogfish Festina Peche beer, which also held hints of peach and had a light summer effervescence.  

By the third course, we thought we had gone to epicurean heaven! But there was much more to come. Whole grain mustard cavatelli pasta had just enough texture and taste to hold its own next to rabbit sausage and a house-made ricotta cheese. The flavors and textures of this dish were typical of what we were to taste all evening. The firm pasta, the warm and delicious ragout of sausage, the creamy ricotta and the accompanying chanterelle mushrooms kept our palates stimulated with each bite. 

Then we moved on to a beef course. But this being Hari Cameron and Alex Talbot, it was not your ordinary beef course. Instead, beef was presented three ways: a small exquisite piece of ribeye, tripe marinated in kimchi, and a beef cheek lightly seared to a crisp coating. All of this was accompanied by a spicy green salsa verde of tomatoes, watermelon, and sea beans. Now there’s something we would never whip up at home! The explosions of intense and perfect flavors in this course were not to be forgotten. This dish was paired with the Dogfish 61 Minute IPA, a smooth, robust beer that went perfectly with the beef. 

We were rounding the bend to the dessert course, but first we were served a powdered Kinderhook cheese course, which was presented with a beautiful beach plum sorbet over small delicate sorrel leaves. Wow!

Finally, as we thought we could eat no more, the final course arrived. A light and airy yeasted vanilla cake with a streusel topping reminded us of the cakes our grandmothers made, and shared the plate with local Bennett blueberries, a white chocolate frozen yogurt and a drizzle of caramel. We thought we couldn’t possibly hold another beer, but this beautiful dessert was paired with Dogfish Indian Brown Ale, which has a distinct coffee flavor to it. A perfect end to an extraordinary meal!

Rehoboth Beach has an incredible variety of great restaurants and chefs from which to choose, but Hari Cameron certainly has secured his place among those at the very top of their game. This Delaware native was recently catapulted into the national spotlight by being nominated for a coveted James Beard Award as “Rising Star Chef of the Year”. One dinner and you will know why he was chosen by the readers of Delaware Today magazine as 2013’s best downstate chef. To see the respect he has earned from his peers, drop by some time for “Mr. Cameron’s All American 5 and 10 Dollar Menu,” served from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m. in the season, and you will find chefs from other restaurants sampling his creative versions of comfort food. (Note: you do not have to be a chef to enjoy this treat. Anyone with a late night hunger can come in for a great meal.)

Chef Cameron is already planning a dinner in September based on Salvador Dali’s “Dinners with Gala” paintings, which will surely sell out. Watch for it, and other special dinners such as the one we were able to attend. They are all open to the public and very reasonably priced. But don’t wait for a special menu. Get yourself to A(muse) any night for a dinner you will long remember.

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October 1, 2013

Rehoboth chef, restaurants receive Delaware honors

Hari Cameron of a(MUSE.) on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach has been named the 2013 Delaware Restaurant Association's Restaurateur of the Year. According to the association, "Cameron's cutting-edge, creative cuisine is taking the food world by storm." Cameron earned a well-deserved reputation at Nage, the delightful Rehoboth restaurant where he worked for eight years, before he opened his first eatery in spring 2012. He was a 2013 semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation's Rising Chef Award.

The Delaware Restaurant Association awards will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 11 at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.

The Back Porch Café, a fixture in Rehoboth for the past 39 years, is this year's Cornerstone Award Winner. Its opening in 1974 on Rehoboth Avenue helped spark the resort town's restaurant renaissance. The awards presentation will include a tribute to Leo J. Medisch, a Back Porch owner who died Aug. 21.

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Hari Cameron finds his calling in the kitchen

December 18, 2013

Jon Bleiweis

REHOBOTH BEACH — After a morning of foraging in the woods — something he says he tries to do between one and three times a week — Hari Cameron fills the trunk of his Honda SUV with sassafras roots and shopping bags filled with fresh picked greens, mushrooms and juniper berries.

Cameron, chef and owner of Restaurant a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth Beach, is happy with the haul.

While he’s not sure what exactly he’s going to do with them yet, his mind is at the drawing board. He may use lichen for a sauce. With the sassafras branches, he may smoke some seafood, then serve it skewered on the branches in a broth made from its roots. The assorted greens will help garnish plates or accent flavors.

“They’re all lettuces,” he said. “Some of them are more tart, some of them are more spicy, some of them are sweeter, but they’re all beautiful and they’re all local lettuces.”

He said he’ll use his haul as quickly as he can develop the right dish for them, usually a matter of days, if not that day.

It’s a part of his culinary philosophy.

When people ask Cameron what kind of food he cooks, he responds by saying it’s food that has one foot grounded in American culinary tradition and the other foot in the here and now of what food can be in a modern context.

“It’s interesting to me that there’s all these things that you can eat that are just in the wild,” he said. “Looking at it from a chef’s point of view, it’s like new flavors to plate with. There are things that are definitely regional delicacies, but there are things people don’t get to try every day because they’re not commonly eaten anymore.”

Before he drives away, he snaps some photos of his bounty on his iPhone and uploads them to Instagram. Within seconds, the three photos have garnered a dozen likes apiece. He started his Instagram account, HariCam, in August 2011 and has more than 1,250 followers. It’s the part of his visual log that he shares with the world.

Cameron will often take photos with his iPhone as he’s cooking and put them online. That’s on top of the numerous journals he keeps on him at a time, and the archives he has at his home.
“I can write down the dish I’m cooking, but it’s a lot better to share an experience through the photos,” he said. “I’ll be five tickets deep and putting up a plate and hurry and put it on my phone. It’s made it easy for me to share my craft and the things I love.”

Cameron’s foraging partner, Nathan Tanner, said he appreciates how the chef respects his ingredients and always looks forward to the final result.

“He blows my mind,” he said. “You know what itis though, it’s (his) love of the food. He takes the time, finds good recipes, experiments with the stuff and then he’ll spit out something you didn’t expect. It’s a lot of fun.”

“Nature made it perfect,” Cameron said. “I just have to make it edible.”

Becoming the muse
Born in Seaford, Cameron, 31, spent his childhood moving throughout the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, from Washington, D.C., to upstate New York, before his family settled in Georgetown at about the time he entered middle school.

He spent his youth around food and restaurants; his mother was a server until he was in middle school. When he attended Sussex Central High School, he worked at Grotto Pizza, starting as a dishwasher and then becoming a host, and later a pizza cook.

He started at Delaware Technical Community College for a semester, studying business and communications, but at the time, he realized it wasn’t for him.

So he went back to restaurants.

He worked various restaurant jobs in his teenage years, but it wasn’t until a seasonal job at The Buttery in Lewes, when he was 19, when it all clicked for him.

“If you don’t like what you’re doing, or if you don’t have the passion or don’t care about it, then it will be very difficult to be good at it,” he said.

In May 2004, a 22-year-old Cameron was asked to be a part of the opening staff of Nage as a cook. He knew it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

The following year, Cameron, by then Nage’s sous chef, decided to go back to school and started culinary school at The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College in Philadelphia, from where he graduated in 2007 at the top of his class. About a quarter of the way through — he was working at a restaurant in Chadds Ford, Pa., at the time — he realized he missed the beach so much that he decided to return to work at Nage full-time, while attending school more than two hours away for a year and a half.
“I worked eight days a week for that time,” he said, adding he also helped open Nage DC during that time. “It was one of the most difficult things I’ve done, but also one of the most rewarding.”

But the time came when he knew Nage’s direction was going to be different than what he wanted to do.

He had a 10-year dream of opening his own restaurant before he turned 30. And that’s what he did after eight years at Nage.

The maestro in action
Cameron opened his restaurant, a(MUSE.) on Mother’s Day 2012. The punctuation in the name easily provides a double meaning: “Amuse” coming from the French term, amuse-bouche, meaning a small bite to make the mouth happy, while “muse” deals with the inspiration of the artist.

For Cameron, that inspiration has many sources. It comes from the seasonal and regional products that come and go as calendar months change, the ocean, the land, nature, cutting-edge culinary techniques, smells, tastes and sounds, and, of course, fun.

The thought of eating alone in a restaurant is daunting and depressing to many, but not to Cameron. It’s something he says he does on purpose, as it allows him to focus solely on the food.

“Oh man, that’s my favorite. I love it,” he said. “When you go out to eat with people, it’s more of a celebration of life and a social gathering. But when you eat by yourself, you can just sit with your thoughts and you can really think about the food and just enjoy its flavor.”

Some menu items are staples, such as the jar of pickled vegetables. Other items constantly evolve. But it’s the tasting menu where Cameron said he’s best able to showcase his philosophy.

Ordered on a daily basis and available in four, six and 11 courses, the server responds to the request for a tasting menu by asking three questions, dealing with allergies, likes and dislikes.

It’s Cameron’s way to be able to cook what will make the guest happy — his idea of true hospitality. He says he loves being able to compose an experience and have diners enjoy his food.

“When you do that, it’s like eating an interactive show. You can do crescendos and decrescendos,” he said. “A lot of times, people say ‘Cook whatever you want’ and taste something, and they’re like ‘Wow, I never would’ve ordered it but I loved it and it was delicious, and I’m glad I got to taste it.’ ”
The 'big juggling act'
Cameron says he cooks for people. He cooks to entertain. He cooks to feed. He cooks because it’s a trade and a job he likes to do. He cooks to make money. He cooks to express himself. He doesn’t cook for recognition.

But 2013 can’t be called a sophomore slump for the second-year restaurateur, as he garnered a trio of recognitions this year — being named Best Chef in Delaware, downstate, by Delaware Today magazine, Restaurateur of the Year by the Delaware Restaurant Association and a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year.

Despite the accolades, he says he can’t go into cruise control now; in fact, he says there’s never a time for that. When you become complacent, he says, that’s when opportunities for things to go wrong arise.

But that won’t stop him from enjoying the status quo.

“I think everybody is always trying to rush to the next moment instead of really enjoying the moments,” he said. “One of the reasons I wanted to get a restaurant is when you own a restaurant, you learn every day. I’m enjoying the moments now of owning a restaurant.”

But he continues to have other projects on the horizon. While he said he’s not rushing to open a second restaurant or be on a cooking-based reality television show such as “Top Chef,” he is starting to do consulting work to help build a commercial kitchen in a house in Lewes, and he has high hopes to start a food truck this summer in Dewey Beach, with the goal of using local products to bring healthy food to the people.

Being Hari Cameron is “a big juggling act,” he says, and it requires plenty of changing hats.

“It’s a constant of trying to be better. It never is rest,” he said. “It always is ‘OK, what’s next? What can we try to perfect?’ ”

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LIFE

More: Restaurants OpenTable Food

OpenTable Says These Are The Best US Restaurants For Foodies

JENNIFER POLLAND SEP. 17, 2013, 9:35 AM 5,381

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Foodies are discerning eaters who do extensive research before sitting down to a meal. So where do foodies like to eat?

OpenTable has just announced its top 100 restaurants that are Fit For Foodies, which is based on more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 15,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The list of winners spans 26 states, with the majority of the restaurants serving contemporary American cuisine—perhaps a result of the increasingly popular farm-to-table movement. There were also several seafood restaurants.

"We’ve become a nation of foodies, and, as a result, restaurants everywhere are really raising the bar in their kitchens," said Caroline Potter, OpenTable's Chief Dining Officer. "Chefs and restaurateurs are more open to opportunities outside of places such as Manhattan. The cost of living – and doing business – is more affordable in smaller cities. It’s easier to get press and cultivate a crowd of regulars when there isn’t, literally, a restaurant (or two) on every corner."

While places like California and New York are filled with great restaurants, this year's list also highlights restaurants in Alabama, Delaware, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia. Potter called out Husk in Nashville, for example, as one of the most sought-after reservations on OpenTable.

Still, California was the big winner with 19 restaurants that made the list. Both Chicago and Philadelphia had nine restaurants on the list, while surprisingly New York state only had five restaurants.

Here's the full list of Foodie-friendly restaurants with their locations:

a(MUSE.) – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Acadia – Chicago, Illinois

All Spice – San Mateo, California

Altura – Seattle, Washington

Art Café 26 – Williamsburg, Virginia

Autre Monde – Berwyn, Illinois

Aviary – Portland, Oregon

Bar Lola – Portland, Maine

Barley Swine – Austin, Texas

Beast – Portland, Oregon

Beast and Bottle – Denver, Colorado

Belly and Trumpet – Dallas, Texas

Benu – San Francisco, California

Bibou – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Bink’s Midtown – Phoenix, Arizona

Binkley’s Restaurant – Cave Creek, Arizona

Blue Hill at Stone Barns – Pocantico Hills, New York

BOCA – Cincinnati, Ohio

The Bocuse Restaurant at The Culinary Institute of America – Hyde Park, New York

Canyon Kitchen – Sapphire, North Carolina

Carpe Vino – Auburn, California

Cascina Spinasse – Seattle, Washington

Castagna – Portland, Oregon

Chalkboard – Healdsburg, California

Commis – Oakland, California

Craigie on Main – Cambridge, Massachusetts

Crossroads – Los Angeles, California

Crudo – Phoenix, Arizona

Cúrate – Asheville, North Carolina

Driftwood – Dallas, Texas

The Farm and Fisherman – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant – Forestville, California

Feast – New York, New York

FIG – Charleston, South Carolina

Fishing With Dynamite – Manhattan Beach, California

Five Bistro – St. Louis, Missouri

Forage – Salt Lake City, Utah

Fore Street – Portland, Maine

Frances – San Francisco, California

Girasol – Studio City, California

Girl & the Goat – Chicago, Illinois

goosefoot – Chicago, Illinois

Gracie’s – Providence, Rhode Island

Grove – Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Grove – Delray Beach, Florida

Gwynnett St. – Brooklyn, New York

Heidi’s – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Highlands Bar & Grill – Birmingham, Alabama

How To Cook A Wolf – Seattle, Washington

Hugo’s Restaurant – Portland, Maine

Husk – Nashville, Tennessee

iNG Restaurant – Chicago, Illinois

ink. – Los Angeles, California

IRON at Marcus Pointe – Pensacola, Florida

Juno – Chicago, Illinois

Kabocha – Chicago, Illinois

Le Pigeon – Portland, Oregon

Lenoir Restaurant – Austin, Texas

Little Fish – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Maison – Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Manresa – Los Gatos, California

Moto Restaurant – Chicago, Illinois

n/naka – Los Angeles, California

Natural Selection – Portland, Oregon

Niche – Clayton, Missouri

The North Fork Table & Inn – Southold, New York

o ya – Boston, Massachusetts

Old Major – Denver, Colorado

Papilles – Los Angeles, California

The Pass – Houston, Texas

Piccolo – Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Pickled Heron – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Playground – Santa Ana, California

Poppy – Seattle, Washington

Posh – Scottsdale, Arizona

Primo – Rockland, Maine

The Pullman – Glenwood Springs, Colorado

The Restaurant at Meadowood – Saint Helena, California

Restaurant Alma – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Roe – Portland, Oregon

Root – New Orleans, Louisiana

Saison – San Francisco, California

Sbraga – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Serpico – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Seven Sows Bourbon and Larder – Asheville, North Carolina

ShinBay – Scottsdale, Arizona

Shorebreak Lodge – Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Sir and Star at the Olema – Olema, California

The Smoking Goat Restaurant – San Diego, California

Sons & Daughters – San Francisco, California

Spur Gastropub – Seattle, Washington

The Squeaky Bean – Denver, Colorado

Staple & Fancy Mercantile – Seattle, Washington

Takashi – Chicago, Illinois

Tilth – Seattle, Washington

Uptown Billiards Club – Portland, Oregon

Vedge – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Vernick Food & Drink – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Vetri – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Woodfire Grill – Atlanta, Georgia

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A Modernist Approach
A Rehoboth Beach chef combines progressive techniques with Mid-Atlantic ingredients.
By Suzanne Loudermilk June 2013

The menu at a(muse.) in Rehoboth Beach, DE, is a simple affair with a dozen or so small plates and a handful of entrees and desserts. But don’t be misled. There’s nothing low-key about any of these offerings—from the intriguing flavors and ingredients to the artistic presentations. Dishes like grilled squid nestle with lentils, olives, and yogurt amid a smear of black squid ink streaking like a comet across a serving bowl. Potted chicken packs a creamy mix of shredded chicken, chicken-liver foie-gras mousse, whiskey, and a port reduction into a glass jar to be slathered on toasts.

Even slivers of fluke, a type of flounder, get fancy with radishes, grapefruit, fennel, and a lovely riff of the bittersweet apértif Aperol.

Yes, this is the type of cuisine you’ll find at the restaurant sitting along lively Baltimore Avenue in the beach town. You’ll have to head elsewhere if you’re looking for boardwalk munchies like pizza, funnel cake, and fries.

The mastermind behind A(muse.)—a modest, interestingly decorated space—is chef/owner Hari Cameron, a Delaware native who was recently catapulted into the national spotlight by being named a James Beard Foundation semifinalist in the “Rising Star Chef of the Year” category.

Cameron espouses a cooking philosophy tying modernist techniques with Mid-Atlantic sourcing. His eight years as executive chef at nearby, award-winning Nage served him well. A(muse.), which opened last year, allows him to capitalize on his creativity.

He’s crafted a menu that encourages diners to nosh on an assortment of dishes. Take note: The servings, while bursting with flavor, are as spare as a Lean Cuisine lunch. The fluke, for instance, allowed for a couple of bites at most as a first course. Cameron also offers six-course and 11-course tasting menus.

We took the a-la-carte route, savoring many of the chef’s creations. The house-made focaccia bread got us off to a good start as we settled in and began to take in our surroundings.

It’s homey and chic at the same time. The cork tables and wood-laminate flooring speak to a bistro sensibility, but then you notice the shelves of potted plants, the papier-mâché rockfish on the wall, and, look carefully, wallpaper made of pages from the Joy of Cooking.

You’ll also find a copy of the cookbook in one of the unisex bathrooms, which are worth a visit. Just about every diner who goes into the restrooms returns and insists that others make a trip, too. The hand-poured concrete sinks are the reason. One is shaped like a horseshoe crab; the other like a nautilus shell with the water swirling around the ridges. They’re impressive.

It’s that attention to detail and whimsy that makes this restaurant fun. When you find out that Cameron was instrumental in the restaurant’s design, you begin to get a picture of a chef brimming with ideas to please guests in the front and back of the house.

Cameron’s composed plates are also picturesque wonders. They adapt to the season’s bounty, so they change often. You might find delicate poached lobster chunks sharing the plate with colorful carrots and Bibb lettuce, or potato cream, a stellar soup dotted with earthy hen of-the-wood mushrooms.

On one visit, the fresh porcini pasta was too al dente, but the other flavors—duck egg, sage butter, and Parmesan—carried the dish. The delicious pork belly, made from Berkshire pork, was the most generous serving.

The “seconds” delivered, too. The tuna was cooked terrifically, perfectly pink in the middle. The sea scallops were fat, seared orbs with bits of cauliflower. And the strips of organic chicken breast with black-eyed peas were moist and juicy.

Not everything worked, though. We’re puzzled why a broth was poured over an otherwise fine flat-iron steak, drowning the rich meatiness of the defenseless beef. The deconstructed desserts were confusing, too.

The “beach bonfire” was a clever conceit, playing off s’mores, the popular campfire treat. The chef breaks down the parts—marshmallow, hazelnut, chocolate ice cream, and graham-cracker “sand”—arranging them prettily on a plate. Unfortunately, a gritty, dry taste dominated.

The oak caramel “crème brûlée” was a beige slab adorned with a toothpaste-like squiggle of orange cream, shattered honey, and olive-oil gummy bears. The “60-second cake” looked like it had been thrown together in that time, but it was a sweet finish with pineapple bits, coconut, cherries, and pecans.

Those deviations didn’t detract from an overall impressive meal. The chef’s mission is so sincere—to use the highest quality products in an inspiring way. We embrace his message and his wonderful food.

 

delaware online

Sussex chef, brewer up for honors

Calagione and Cameron James Beard semi-finalists

Written by
Jeff Kauffman
February 24, 2013

REHOBOTH — A Sussex County chef and brewer were among the names announced earlier this month as semi-finalists in this year's James Beard Foundation Awards.

Established in 1990, the awards have earned the nickname of "The Oscars of Food." The award categories range from the nation's Outstanding Chef honor and regional top chef awards to Best New Restaurant.

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton was nominated for the Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional category and Hari Cameron was nominated for Rising Star Chef of the Year category for his Rehoboth-based restaurant a(MUSE.).

This will mark the third year in a row Calagione has been nominated.

Cameron, 30, just made the cut for the Rising Star Chef of the Year category as chefs must be 30 years of age or under in order to qualify.

"This is one of those things that when you look at the chefs in the country, they're the best, so to have my name around them is an honor," he said.

Cameron added the dedication to a(MUSE.) he gets from the employees was a huge factor in getting the restaurant — which opened in May — noticed.

At a(MUSE.), he aims to cater to all types of palettes with his unique cuisine.

"We're not only cooking with the highest quality ingredients and techniques, we keep our menu true to the region," said Cameron. "I want my the customers to be familiar with the food while applying great cooking techniques, seeing the here and now of cooking at low temperatures, for example, new styles and progressive cooking."

In order to be nominated for the event, anyone and everyone is asked to apply. For this year's competition, at total of 44,000 entries were submitted to the foundation.

"Our restaurant committee goes through each entry and checks for eligibility of each nominee," said Yvon Ross, director of sponsorship and special events at the James Beard Foundation. "At this point, we are right now sending a ballot out to 600 judges along with previous winners to cast their vote."

Judges are instructed to vote only on restaurants they have visited and tasted the cuisine or libations.

Five finalists from each category will be announced March 19. The final awards gala and reception is scheduled for May 6 at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City.

capegazette

2013 James Beard semifinalists feature two from Cape Region

Cameron, Calagione vie for culinary distinctions in national awards

By Molly MacMillan | Mar 01, 2013

Screen Shot 2013-03-01 at 1.34.17 PM

 

The Cape Region's reputation as a dining destination has been bolstered with not one, but two semifinalists for James Beard Foundation awards, considered by many to be the food industry's highest honor.

In February, the James Beard awards committee announced Rehoboth Beach chef Hari Cameron, of a(MUSE) restaurant was selected to compete against 17 other chefs nationwide to be named "Rising Star Chef of the Year" at the awards in New York City.

Local beer baron Sam Calagione was once again announced as a semifinalist to take home bragging rights as the James Beard Foundation's "Outstanding Wine, Spirits or Beer Professional," for his Dogfish Head brewery in Milton.

Cameron said his status as a semifinalist came as a welcome surprise.

"I'm blown away, truly honored," Cameron said. "It's a huge honor to know people enjoy the food we are doing enough to recognize it."

2013 does not mark the first year local cuisiniers have been up for the Beard foundation's culinary honors. In 2011, chef Jay Caputo, who created the menus at his Espuma, Cabo and Rose & Crown restaurants, was a finalist for the foundation's top honors and Calagione was also in the running for Wine, Spirits and Beer professional.

Though his position as a semifinalist is his most recent career distinction, Cameron has been making moves in the downtown Rehoboth restaurant community since he opened a(MUSE) last year.

As a member of the Rehoboth Inspired Chefs Initiative, Cameron promotes innovative dining in the Cape Region and works with other local chefs including Caputo  to promote local, healthful, sustainable eating and more recently, local art as well.

During the month of February, Cameron featured artworks created by multi-generational Rehoboth natives Terrance and Clyde Vann, a grandson and grandfather who paint portraits and modern, abstract paintings.

For the chef, the walls of his restaurant provide another outlet to promote what he finds special about his community at the beach.

"Since we started cooking we wanted to do something that was truly regionally inspired," he said, "That goes along with the art in the hallways."

The James Beard Foundation is slated to announce five finalists for their awards, which also include categories for best restaurants and chefs by region on Monday, March 18, with final award winners announced May 3 and 6 in New York City.

haridelaware online

 

First State has two James Beard Award semifinalists

Written by
Patricia Talorico February 20,2013
The News Journal

The “long list” was announced today for the James Beard Awards and Hari Cameron, chef/owner of a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth Beach and Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head are among the semifinalists.

Cameron, who opened his eatery on Baltimore Avenue in 2012, has been recognized in the Rising Chef category.

Calagione, founder of Milton brewery and an owner of the Rehoboth brewpub, is once again a semifinalist for Outstanding Wine, Spirits and Beer Professional.

The finalists will be announced March 18.

The awards, widely considered the “Oscars” of the culinary world, are held in May at New York’s City Lincoln Center.

Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 1.08.50 PM

Written by
Jon Bleiweis February 13, 2013
For the Beachcomber

Hari Cameron finds his muse in the kitchen

Longtime Nage chef opened restaurant in May

REHOBOTH BEACH — Opening a restaurant had been a 10-year dream for Hari Cameron. On Mother’s Day last year, his dream came true, as the chef opened his first restaurant, a(MUSE.), after eight years working at Nage.

Now, Cameron is able to offer patrons his style of food, which he describes as progressive mid-Atlantic and fun, but also inspired.

“It’s great when the hard work can pay off,” he said. “I love offering guests an excellent dining experience, and it’s a great thing for me to offer people something a little different in the area.”

Honoring local ingredients and past recipes and giving them a modern twist is what Cameron tries to do when crafting his restaurant’s menu. Recently he took a trip to the Lewes Historical Society to look up old recipes of Delaware to try and modernize.

About 25 percent of the dishes have been a part of the menu since opening. Dishes vary based on availability and seasonality of ingredients. “A lot of times it’s using the best ingredients we can find to cook beautiful cuisine,” he said. “I want to cook the kind of food that is very true to the mid-Atlantic.”

Cameron said he tries to mix old and new techniques together on the menu, whether it’s a jar of pickles with house-made mustard, or Berkshire pork cheek that is cooked for three days before being served.

Staying local is something Cameron prefers, as well. For example, the razor clam dish features forged sumac, a spice that is locally grown, and the bison liver is sourced from Colvine Bison Farm in Greenwood.

An item that has been on the menu since the restaurant opened is the potted chicken liver, which Cameron said was inspired by a trip to France. Served in a glass jar, it contains shredded chicken, a chicken liver fois gras mousse and a port reduction.

New on the menu is a lobster salad, which features poached lobster, hydroponic bibb lettuce from Baywater Greens in Salisbury, carrots, horseradish and rose hips.

The restaurant is open Tuesdays through Sundays for happy hour at 4 p.m. and dinner at 5 p.m., and a late night menu featuring $5 and $10 plates is available after 9 p.m.

delaware online2

Delaware Dines Out: a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth Beach

delawareonline.com
By SARIKA JAGITANI

September 26, 2012

EDITOR'S NOTE: Delaware Dines Out, The News Journal sponsored Restaurant Week, runs through Sunday. Thirty restaurants are offering three-course meals for $30 – and some eateries also are offering $15 two-course lunches. We're sending staff out and about to some participating eateries this week to chew and chat about their DDO meals. Keep reading Second Helpings this week for more reviews.55 Hours editor Sarika Jagtiani visits a(MUSE.) in Rehoboth Beach.

There's a reason a(MUSE.) has an average food review of 4.4 out of five stars on OpenTable.com. The 55 people who reviewed Chef Hari Cameron's new-ish joint in Rehoboth Beach have given high praise to the entire dining experience – most notably the food – which made me and two of my food-savviest friends excited to give it a taste.

We would otherwise choose someplace less esteemed, maybe a local pub-restaurant combo for a casual girls' night. a(MUSE.), however, proved just as relaxed, but with more interesting food at only slightly higher costs thanks to the Delaware Dines Out menu, which was thoughtfully placed on top of the regular menu so diners couldn't miss it.

The hardwood floors and candlelight courtesy of mason jars gave the small dining room a warm glow, hugging the diners. It was the perfect atmosphere for conversation and a few drinks as we studied the menu.

An attentive but unobtrusive waitress – the best kind – swung by with another table's pot roast to give us a sneak peek while we were considering our options. She returned to take our orders and started us off with some hearty bread and olive oil with sea salt that packed a crisp, apple finish.

Then came the small plates and all conversations ceased. Talking with full mouths is, after all, frowned upon, but we couldn't help chatting enough to offer bites all around.

The salted crisps served with corn relish and tuna had a nice flash of acidity and kept the non-meat eater happy. The star of the table, however, was the ale gnocchi with duck ham, mushroom, thyme and brown butter. Gnocchi can come off as chewy and bland, but this was subtle and velvety, with a hint of a crust on the outside. With the savory duck ham and brown butter it's difficult to imagine the pickiest eater wouldn't love these flavors.

The same could be said of the Berky Pig, a main dish option of pork presse with turnip, apple, bourbon and prunes. The classic apple and pork combo is essential fall; you get the tartness of apple with a meat so tender it falls apart at first stab and seems to warm you from the inside. Or maybe that was the bourbon. Either way, paired with a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, it's September on a plate.

Although it looked great, or as great as pot roast can look, the beef cheek was a touch gamey and tough. Of all the dishes on the table, this might have been the only one that wasn't polished off completely.

This is the point in the meal when, at other restaurants, diners are slumped over and in need of a blankie from the supersized portions. Not here. The fairly sized plates were filling but not overwhelming, so fitting in dessert was not a stretch.

That's when our waitress made the only misstep of the night – and inadvertently became our new best friend. She mistakenly brought all three of us the beach bonfire dessert, a deconstructed s'more. After we mentioned that I had actually ordered the apples with verjus sorbet, caramel and sorrel, she backtracked for the correct dish, but not before leaving us with an extra beach bonfire, free of charge. That was a good move, because once we put spoon to plate there's no way anyone was sharing.

The dessert had all the flavors of a beach bonfire without the sand in your shoes. The only sounds at the table were the clink of spoons tapping plates and the crunch of crushed graham crackers that covered the smoked chocolate ice cream. Conversation finally resumed when all that was left on the plates were some lonely marshmallows.

Our waitress brought the apple dessert in short order, and spoons quickly moved from one plate to another as we delved into the soft, gooey and cinnamon apples. The caramel was a sensible fit, but it was the tartness of the sorbet that really made it sing.

After a post-dinner chat – with no pressure to leave from the wait staff – we left full, but without the feeling that we should be wearing Spanx. We left satisfied, not stuffed, and ready to plan a return visit.

 capegazette

Battle at the Beach

by Molly MacMillan

September 26, 2012

Gathering some of the Cape Region's most celebrated chefs, Meals on Wheels recently held a second round of competition to determine the final contestant in the Sunday, Oct. 7 Battle at the Beach Celebrity Chef Throwdown.

In competition Sept. 18 at 16 Mile Brewery, chefs Liz Kornheiser of Blue Moon, Becca Krebs of Salt Air, and Rob Stitt of Shorebreak Lodge, all in Rehoboth Beach, were presented with a box of four secret ingredients and given 35 minutes to plan, prepare and plate their creations.

In contrast to an earlier round of the Food Network's "Chopped"-style competition, when contestants received white chocolate in their baskets, chefs at this competition discovered their secret ingredients were all local favorites: chicken, apples, lima beans and scrapple.

"I don't know how many of you were here last time, but we had so much fun," said Meals on Wheels board member and emcee Alyssa Titus. "The chefs today can bring their own pantries and cooking equipment, with some restrictions. The winner tonight will face our first winner, Kevin Reading, at our final throwdown at the Celebrity Chef Beach Brunch."

After five minutes for planning, the chefs and their assistants went full speed in their makeshift kitchens while spectators watched their preparations and enjoyed special brews from 16 Mile, including the #8 ECB, or Eastern Chef Brew, the result of a collaboration with celebrity chefs at the annual beach brunch.

With tickets for the event priced $25 each, Meals on Wheels Celebrity Beach Brunch Chairwoman Pam McCutcheon estimated the organization raised enough money during the two semifinal rounds to provide nearly 900 meals for home-bound seniors in Delaware.

"The total between two events is probably $5,000, which is incredible for something like this," McCutcheon said. "This is the first time we've done something like this."

Spectators were also treated to a spread of appetizers including prosciutto-wrapped strawberries, grilled shrimp and roasted figs, catered by competition judges, chefs Hari Cameron of a(MUSE) and Gretchen Hanson of Hobos, both restaurants on Baltimore Avenue in Rehoboth Beach.

Just 35 minutes after the ingredients were revealed, the judges, including Meals on Wheels representative Randy Taylor, sat down to evaluate the creations based on presentation, creative use of ingredients and most importantly, taste.

Shorebreak Lodge chef Rob Stitt said he tried to cut through the chaos as he created his entry of pan-roasted chicken with summer succotash, scrapple hash and apple chimichurri.

Blue Moon chef Liz Kornheiser earned big points for presentation on her bacon-wrapped chicken breast with black garlic scrapple grits, a rainbow chard apple sauté and 16 Mile beer-battered lima bean salad, but Becca Krebs of Salt Air, won over the judges with her smoked chicken breast, lima bean succotash and rosemary polenta with quick-pickled apples and a chicken pan sauce.

Krebs said she worked with her assistants to incorporate as many preparation techniques as possible for the meal, but Titus said she had a heads up on the winner after she watched the judges dig in.

"When I saw each of them take a bite of the polenta, I knew who won," she said. "I said, 'That's it, she won.'"

Krebs will go on to face Kevin Reading of Abbotts Grill at the 10th annual Celebrity Chef Beach Brunch at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach Sunday, Oct. 7. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Meg Nichols at 302-656-6451 and mention any of the restaurants involved in the "Battle at the Beach Celebrity Chef Throwdown," to purchase tickets at the discounted price of $65.

 

Delaware Today Logo

DE Today Pic

by Mark Nardone

September 25, 2012

Chef Hari Cameron approached the table with a warm but weary smile. The evening sun cast a warm glow onto his black-rimmed eyeglasses and tattooed forearm. He spoke softly. "We're about 45 days into service now," he said. "I don't have kids of my own, but I've been told that's the rapid diaper-changing stage." The chef had every right to sound slightly delirious. In those 45 days, he'd given himself just three days off. But like a new dad, Cameron also looked profoundly satisfied with his new creation, a(MUSE.), his labor of love on Rehoboth Beach's colorful Baltimore Avenue. Cameron, a native of Georgetown, had spent the previous eight years at Rehoboth's excellent Nage restaurant, which provided a foundation for locally driven, progressive-leaning coastal dining. Now it was clear that his culinary mind was moving at a different speed. He'd speak excitedly about a shipment of earthy heirloom sunchokes, or his new temperature-controlled sous vide cooking bath. Cameron was, of course, the only chef who thought to bring a liquid nitrogen tank to the Rusty Rudder's Country Chili Cook-Off. And perhaps the most fun element of his new restaurant is the chance to share in Cameron's excitement for food, an unbridled dining nerdiness that drips from every absinthe foam and sweet corn emulsion. The enthusiasm speaks even louder in Cameron's cooking—his lively, erudite, and often brilliant cooking—and makes a(MUSE.) one of the most inventive and exciting new restaurants in Delaware.

 

quinoa meringue

 

a(muse.) = a(mazing!)

LSD (Lower Slower Delaware) News

Friday, May 18, 2012

My friend Hari Cameron, formerly the executive chef at Nage, debuted his new restaurant, a(muse.) in Rehoboth Beach on Baltimore avenue last night and we were lucky enough to be in attendance. I have to admit that knowing Hari personally made the opening more excited.... I was jazzed; I felt like this restaurant was going to be a hit, right off the bat.

Well I had underestimated my friend, clearly because his restaurant was much more than a hit--it's a revelation!!!

Simply stated, this place is an inspiring place to dine. His decor is brilliant and denotes an effective sense of humor in the apples hidden throughout the restaurant. You might find one above the fire exit, or on one of the carefully crafted forks that adorns the ceiling. Immediately one feels like this little game is an inside joke, but one that you can easily be party to, and so it goes....

lsd sink shot

At first, when we made our approach, we thought, "Oh it must be early, no one is here" but that was all a crafted ruse as we realized the bar was nearly full behind a natural facade that separates the dining room from the bar--a twist of both elegance and intuition that speaks of the sophistication Hari Cameron pours into his space. Then I ordered a drink--- I never order martinis, but I was curious--a basil and cucumber concocted martini. It was divine; the perfect savory drink to please my palette.

Hand-poured cement sink!

I must take a second to speak about the bathrooms, with their poured concrete sinks because, as the saying goes, if one can judge an establishment by the restrooms, this place is likely to become a legend. They are a(wesome). Shaped of sea-inspired beings, the sinks are as elegant as the meal you are about to have. If you don't have to use the restroom, fake it. It's worth it. I swear. t

Now to the food. We order the pickle jar and the chive dip to start and the moment the food arrived, everything changed. The pickle jar is an assortment of pickled vegetables served alongside powdered mustard, a creme fraiche and some other glorious mustard... this is the dish for me. I love pickled anything. YES! Thank you food gods!

 

lsd shrimp shot

The next was a chive dip... simple enough? Yeah, right. A(muse.) redefined dip in those moments. It's just too much. It was inspiring all on it's own, and then Chef Hari Cameron sent over a shrimp cocktail that was so wonderful I nearly lost my mind. Beautifully served, four shrimp arrived on a platter elegantly adorned with caper dust and a nitrogen-frozen cocktail sauce; when I tasted them, I never wanted it to end. I tried my best to concentrate on the shrimp but the moment was fleeting. I would have ordered another plate, but Hari brought us out elegant pork tasters on handmade carved spoons that nearly stopped my heart....

They were a pork confit, but they tasted of a fond breakfast; syrup laced their existence and I vowed to try and remember each flavor held therein, but as soon as I was finished, another drink--a cucumber infused margarita-- mixed with my culinary pleasure and I was a mess... a mess of good feelings and good eats. I barely knew where I stood--how then, could I describe this meal other than that it buggered my sense to the point of euphoria?!

There were others besides--a special red quinoa and fava bean dish, and an heirloom tomato taster... oh the pleasure my palate survived to tell! It was a circus of flavor that danced so theatrically, so wonderfully, I am loath to tell the details of the experience! I was so intoxicated from the food, the decor, the wonderful, giving spirit that embodies the experience of a(muse.)... that I feel i cannot fully convey the whole tale.

Which is why you must go. This restaurant is doing great things. I don't think I mentioned that Hari's brother Josh is also back there in the kitchen, helping him to do great things and come up with more and more innovative dishes. They are bound to be completely unstoppable in the culinary world. Do yourself a favor and go to a(muse.)

This dining experience is not to be missed!!! That, and, we are lucky enough to have it here locally, so do treat yourself to their generosity of spirit and dine at this establishment. You will be left with a food experience that leaves you truly satisfied!

 

rehoboth foodie

a(muse.)

by the Rehoboth Foodie

a(MUSE.), at 44 Baltimore Ave., is certainly one of the most unusual restaurants in Rehoboth Beach, and probably for many miles around. Owner and Chef Hari Cameron is betting that Rehoboth is ready for his daring, small-plate tour through all sorts of fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and if the crowds at our recent five visits are any indication, his bet just might pay off.

Warning! If you're looking for a 3 pound lamb shank, wrapped in crisp bacon on a bed of mashed potatoes, or a dozen braised shortribs on a disc of polenta the size of a CD (not that there's anything wrong with that), this is not the place for you. But if you order one dish from each of the 5 cleverly designed and genuinely a(MUSE.)ing menu sections, I guarantee you'll leave just as full, and you will have experienced 10 or 12 different tastes rather than just one. Hari Cameron recently added some larger plates to his ever-changing menu, and they are outlined in Section IV below.

And the good news is that the cost of a tasting extravaganza (each part between $5 and $18) will set you back no further than if you'd eaten a full meal and dessert at any of the other fine-dining joints in town.

So, there's the disclaimer. Are we on the same page, and are you ready to walk on the wild side with Chef Cameron -- dinner-wise, that is?

UPDATE! As a(MUSE.) finds its sea legs, Chef Hari has expanded the menu to include larger portion dishes that still feature the high-quality goodies that go into the small plates. So if you're not a lover of small plates, you can still enjoy a(MUSE.), the creative goodies and the friendly atmosphere. I have rewritten SECTION IV below to reflect the new items.

We now return you to our regular programming re small plates:

 

jar of pickles

Section I lists five selections of the lightest items on the menu. I love the Jar of Pickles [pictured, right]. Cool & crunchy veggie sticks are pickled to a bright and bracing acidity, then presented in a glass jar accompanied by a schmear of mustard, a dollop of creme fraiche and sourdough crostini. Last night I started with the Toad In The Hole [pictured, left]. This dish pays tribute to every kid's memory of comfort food, but with a couple of wonderfully non-kid-friendly surprises. A farm egg is nested in the proverbial hole in a delightfully buttery round of toast. Mustard greens create yet another nest, and pickled onion and a touch of Old Bay round it out. I would never have combined these things, and I'm so glad Cameron did. My one gripe is that I'd like the white of the egg cooked a little firmer. I suspect it was steamed, and I'd love it if Hari would leave it in just a little longer; like the quail eggs that crown the bastirma crostini at AlMayass on E. 21st St. in NYC. A simple fix, and the dish works perfectly.

 

toad in the hole

Cool Hand Fluke [pictured, right] is a thin-as-air slice of fluke crudo, surrounded by beets, tiny potatoes and cool watercress. If you like sushi, you'll love this one. It tastes like the ocean -- but with potatoes. Chips & dip have always been the Perfect Snack [pictured, left], and is served on a plank where an off-centered ramekin holds spring onion dip -- in name only. The light taste of leeks and crème fraîche replaces any strong onion flavor, and the crispy chips (slices of toasted lavasch, perhaps?) are delicious. The only bad thing is that they eventually run out. Drats.

Section II is where tastes begin to kick-in with even more gusto. The server will warn you that the Senators Love Soup [pictured, left] is not the big ol'chunky bowl of bean soup you might be used to. If anyone can deconstruct soup, it's got to be Cameron. The smoked ham and Berkshire pork beg to be eaten on the same fork with a couple of tasty white beans and pieces of celery and parsnip. A comforting broth is decanted tableside.

 

lsd shrimp shot

The American Classic shrimp cocktail must be seen and tasted to be believed [pictured, right]. The man serves it with chips of ice, for goodness' sake! Cool horseradish, capers and lemon are like a dessert fresh from an episode of Chopped. (I can see it now: Shrimp: Not just for dessert any more!).

A Taste of Spring [pictured, below right] is our veggie writer's favorite; a cool, crunchy tangle of asparagus, cattail (!), buttermilk and mixed greens.

Section III opens the gateway to substantial savories and unexpected textural twists and turns. Have You Any Wool? [pictured, left] just had to be about lamb (get it?), and the slice of lamb belly (think of lamb bacon) is quite good. It shares the plate with a hint of absinthe (!, again), coffee and little lambs'-tail lettuce.

 

soft shell crab

Come Out of Your Shell Soft Crab [pictured, below right] might very well be the star of the show at a(MUSE.). Fried to a crunchy finish, it is accompanied by a polite green onion, pasta mixed with mild roe, and .. wait for it ... green almond! A soft, almost buttery glaze on the pasta softens the naturally bitter taste of the almonds. But be aware that this luscious, fuzzy pleasure is only available 'til about June, and knowing Cameron's penchant for freshness, the crab dish might soon find another accompaniment.

Textures of the Field is that mouth-feel roller-coaster to which I alluded: Another veggie delight (dish is pictured in the veggie review of a(MUSE.) See link below.) with toasty quinoa, barley, soy and wheat grass. I hate wheat grass. This was delicious! Who knew?

Section IV [larger, more traditional portions replace the small-plate versions of the following items] introduces the heavy-hitters, including Yard Bird [smaller portion pictured, lower left] where organic chicken teams up with chard, peas and smoked potatoes in a softly delicious reduction. Veggies will love Earth and Surf; a medley of mushrooms combined with sea lettuce (a very strong taste -- get ready!) celery root and a bit of parmesan. By Ocean, By Air is replaced by School is Out: Grilled Tuna, potatoes, onions and wine. New additions include A New Family Tradition: Hickman's steak with zucchini, peaches and onion, and Virginia is for Lovers, consisting of Snapper in black garlic with local clams. Post your comments below.

Section V (ordering may be optional at this point. I suggest waiting 'til you finish sections III or IV before you decide) is all about dessert. The Lavender Fields [pictured way below left] pays homage to the Lavender Ladies up in Milton with lavender chocolate and lavender honey. A strip of dark chocolate is as dramatic as it is tasty.

The star of the dessert show is certainly The Beach. In the picture [below right] (lit only with abirthday candle, and Photoshop'd to death just so you can see it), a sandy shore of toasted grain gives way to a faux ocean of salted caramel in which bouys of shattered grape and ... wait for it .. lemon salt water taffy ... float. I love it.

Hari may give me "that look" for writing this, but a(MUSE.) is not your typical restaurant, and I do not suggest bringing the kids unless they have exhibited very early signs of foodieness, an ability and desire to try new things, and behaving themselves.

It has a very lively bar, overseen by none other than that leopard-spotted mixologist himself, David Engel (Renegade/La La Land/Nage/Espuma). People are drawn to David's snarky commentary and local repartee as he mixes, slices, dices, blends, dishes, shakes, mulls and pours.

Why not a(MUSE.) yourself by experiencing this one-of-a-kind eatery by going to 44 Baltimore Ave., where Café Solé and then Solé used to be. There's outdoor seating, and the recent Solé renovation moved the front door to ... the front! So no more threading your way through al fresco diners in order to get in.

Wait 'til you see the bathrooms! Both sinks are custom cast. Pictured below is the already-famous horseshoe crab sink. Out of almost 200 reviews, this is the first rating of  "10" ever awarded to a bathroom.

ANOTHER UPDATE! a(Muse.) now has both an afternoon and late-night happy hour (4-6 and from 10 on). The late night menu includes goodies from the first three sections of the menu, plus some delicious surprises. Hari is listening to his customers, and adjusting his concept to appeal to an even wider cross-section of diners. And more and more people are discovering this little gem. Note also that you can now order a Six-Course Tasting from the small-plates section ($77) or embark on the 11-Course Tour for $111. Both are good deals.

 

delaware online

Delaware Dines Out: a(muse.) in Rehoboth

by Sarika Jagitani
September 25, 2012

There's a reason a(MUSE.) has an average food review of 4.4 out of five stars on OpenTable.com. The 55 people who reviewed Chef Hari Cameron's new-ish joint in Rehoboth Beach have given high praise to the entire dining experience – most notably the food – which made me and two of my food-savviest friends excited to give it a taste.

We would otherwise choose someplace less esteemed, maybe a local pub-restaurant combo for a casual girls' night. a(MUSE.), however, proved just as relaxed, but with more interesting food at only slightly higher costs thanks to the Delaware Dines Out menu, which was thoughtfully placed on top of the regular menu so diners couldn't miss it.

The hardwood floors and candlelight courtesy of mason jars gave the small dining room a warm glow, hugging the diners. It was the perfect atmosphere for conversation and a few drinks as we studied the menu.

An attentive but unobtrusive waitress – the best kind – swung by with another table's pot roast to give us a sneak peek while we were considering our options. She returned to take our orders and started us off with some hearty bread and olive oil with sea salt that packed a crisp, apple finish.

Then came the small plates and all conversations ceased. Talking with full mouths is, after all, frowned upon, but we couldn't help chatting enough to offer bites all around.

The salted crisps served with corn relish and tuna had a nice flash of acidity and kept the non-meat eater happy. The star of the table, however, was the ale gnocchi with duck ham, mushroom, thyme and brown butter. Gnocchi can come off as chewy and bland, but this was subtle and velvety, with a hint of a crust on the outside. With the savory duck ham and brown butter it's difficult to imagine the pickiest eater wouldn't love these flavors.

The same could be said of the Berky Pig, a main dish option of pork presse with turnip, apple, bourbon and prunes. The classic apple and pork combo is essential fall; you get the tartness of apple with a meat so tender it falls apart at first stab and seems to warm you from the inside. Or maybe that was the bourbon. Either way, paired with a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, it's September on a plate.

Although it looked great, or as great as pot roast can look, the beef cheek was a touch gamey and tough. Of all the dishes on the table, this might have been the only one that wasn't polished off completely.

This is the point in the meal when, at other restaurants, diners are slumped over and in need of a blankie from the supersized portions. Not here. The fairly sized plates were filling but not overwhelming, so fitting in dessert was not a stretch.

That's when our waitress made the only misstep of the night – and inadvertently became our new best friend. She mistakenly brought all three of us the beach bonfire dessert, a deconstructed s'more. After we mentioned that I had actually ordered the apples with verjus sorbet, caramel and sorrel, she backtracked for the correct dish, but not before leaving us with an extra beach bonfire, free of charge. That was a good move, because once we put spoon to plate there's no way anyone was sharing.