Rachel's Table

Everyone’s a Regular at 1861

Walking down the steps and into the dark wood doors of 1861 Restaurant is like stepping into another time and place. The walls are brick and decorated finely with wood and stone accents, classic light fixtures, and posh bar seating. I half expected to see Ernest Hemingway, bottle of gin in hand, sitting in a cozy circular booth and flirting with a dressed-to-kill Ava Gardner.

It’s hard to believe 1861 is located in Middletown, DE, only a few miles from my house. Opening for business in September of 2011, 1861 is named after the year Middletown was established. Seeing as the owner, Jasper, is a champion of the local community and describes his restaurant as “regional, casual pub fare, some might even call a gastro-pub” I couldn’t wait to try it.

Since film siren Ava Gardner is no longer with us, I opted for something even better and met my blessed-with-movie-star-good-looks friend Nicole for Happy Hour.

The beautiful Nicole, inside and out

Nicole’s a regular at 1861 and has always wanted to try the Scrapple Pizza. Yes, that’s right, SCRAPPLE. For those of you not from the Mid-Atlantic region, scrapple is a pork product traditionally served for breakfast. Kind of like sausage (but not really) in loaf form. I don’t usually eat it, but I’m up for anything local, so we ordered one. Topped with fried eggs and artfully doused with ketchup, Scrapple Pizza is a delicious take on breakfast, complete with hashbrowned potatoes.

Scrapple Pizza. Delicious.

As Nicole and I enjoyed our Happy Hour snack (and $5 glasses of Pinot Noir) Jasper, the owner, stopped by to say hello. Ever the gracious host, Jasper answered my questions about where his food comes from. I discovered that he relies heavily on Filasky’s, one of my favorite places to shop! He also makes a point to source most of his ingredients within 50 miles of the restaurant. Hailing from New York, Jasper’s restaurant philosophy is sophisticated yet simple, while his understanding of quality, regional ingredients is evident in the cuisine he produces.

Photo op! Jasper made me feel like a regular on my first visit

After gobbling up that pizza, Nicole and I made plans to come back with the husbands for dinner later in the week. Since Nicole and her husband Bryan dine at 1861 at least twice a week, it wasn’t hard to find a date. The date we picked happened to be Peach Festival day. In honor of this Middletown tradition, 1861’s menu boasted all things peach, including small plates like Peach Caprese Salad and Ribs with Peach Barbecue Sauce.

Peach barbecue sauced ribs

For the main course, the husband and I split the Shrimp and Grits. But a diner can also order casual fare like Fried Chicken and Waffles or 1861 Meatloaf. If you’re in the mood for something more upscale, try the Pan Seared Duck with Blackberry Gastrique. I’ve also heard great things about the Lamb Burger.

Our Shrimp and Grits arrived already split into two portions for us. Cheddar grits with bacon-infused shrimp were a perfectly rich combination. But the star of this show was the fried green tomato nestled on top of the creamy grits. Crunchy and juicy at the same time, the green tomato enlivened the dish, making it light, bright and comforting. Jasper told us he rode with Johnny from Filasky’s to a special field on the farm to pick these tomatoes. Johnny wanted to make sure they were perfect for 1861.

Shrimp and Cheddar Grits

For dessert, the boys enjoyed peach cobbler, while Nicole and I indulged in a decadent brownie with coconut ice cream from a local favorite, Woodside Creamery.

Thank you, Woodside Creamery

Peach Cobbler, the 1861 way

When Jasper stopped by to give Bryan a glass of his favorite Scotch, he chatted with us like we were old friends. A great ending to a pleasant evening.

A great ending to this blog post is the following review of 1861 written by the beautiful Nicole:

If I had to describe 1861 in one word it’d probably be propitious [for those of you not as smart as Nicole, it means “indicating a good chance of success”]. I have never been a foodie of any sorts, but I know a good recipe for success when I see one. Between its unique atmosphere, friendly staff and consistently good food it’s hardly a place to get sick of [and she’s there A LOT]. In fact, the restaurant’s owner Jasper, recently introduced me to a fellow patron as a “regular”. I don’t think I’ve been considered a “regular” anywhere so I immediately felt special. Then I reminded myself that Jasper makes everyone feel special. He talks, and more importantly, he listens. I bet he could even tell you the brand name of our dehumidifier. We’re close like that. I’m even invited to the one year anniversary party in September. But then again, you probably are too.

If you ever see Bryan and Nicole in a corner booth, it would be easy to mistake them for movie stars. I mean, look at them. But they’re just regulars, being treated like celebrities and enjoying all the good things 1861 has to offer.

These two need to be in films

1861 Restaurant

423 North Broad Street

Middletown, DE 19701

302.376.7956

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13 comments

  1. Consider yourself one lucky gal to have 1861 where all of their ingredients come from local sources. I like their style!

    In Malaysia, it was local or nothing. Even the meat was “processed” on-site (a/k/a/ kept live and slaughtered Halal) by the restaurant owner. Fruits and nuts were harvested or marketed that morning and kept for the day – when they ran out, they ran out. Their kitchens were open for public view at any time. Americans would probably faint at what they saw, but I always knew what I ordered was fresh and free of contaminants as it came off the wok to my banana leaf.

    Here in the Houston area, none of those 1861 dishes would be served lovacore. The eggs and shrimp (we’re near the coast, but out-of-season) and just a couple of veggies would be it. Pigs, duck, lamb, milk are all “made” (that process is highly energy / transport intensive) far away from here, and coconut, peaches? Other states or even country (is there a USA made coconut that’s not Hawaii?).

    • Hi Shannon! We can get shrimp locally and all kinds of bacon, lamb, etc. ‘Twould be awesome if coconuts grew in DE. That would mean the weather was good year round. πŸ™‚ We have plenty of peaches around here though. So what IS local in Houston? You must miss Malaysia!

      • I do miss Malaysia! Every day. I’m eating lentils cooked with curry, veggies, chili/garlic paste, and fresh coriander – a holdover from the way we used to eat there. Delicious, but it would be better with ikan bilis (dried anchovies).

        A near tropical environment means that we can grow just about anything here! But alas, Houston is a concrete city and yields few fruits. Most of the good picking crops (blueberries, tomatoes, fruit orchards, etc.) are well north of Houston – 100 miles or more.

        My guy, Bubba, farms 5 acres next to his house, growing what I don’t, we trade yields sometimes, and he’s only 15 miles away. We are so rockin’ that relationship.

        Most of the large tracts of land down here are used for farming, but it’s grains or alfalfa hay, for feeding livestock, which in turn feeds us (you all, I mean, not me). Though it’s cheaper and healthier for me to remove the “middle man” (livestock), it’s not cheaper for the farmer who’s in the business to make money with minimal effort. It’s a symptom of the system we’ve undoubtedly created.

      • Your lentils sound delish! Lentils are one of my favorite thing to eat in fall and winter. I don’t know why I coincide them with cool weather. Maybe because I always make lentil soup in the winter.

        I love that your farmer friend’s name is Bubba. πŸ™‚ How big is your garden?

      • I have many fruiting trees, including pear, peach, plum, fig, and pecan, about 10 16-sq-ft planting beds/areas, and am working on some wicking containers for the back porch (herbs, greens) for easy-picking.

        There’s always something growing here! Right now, I’m eating bell pepper right off the plant, waiting for cantaloupe, green beans, and broccoli, and lamenting the last of my cherry tomato volunteers. Fall is all about squash, radishes, and select greens (brassica family)

        And I’m really rather lazy, if you can believe that. πŸ™‚

      • I doubt you are even remotely lazy! I need to see these fruit trees! Have you posted any photos of them? Ooooo, you should guest post on your fruit trees! What’s local to you isn’t local to me but I’m so interested in what grows in other parts of the country.

      • I think there is one photo of my “fruit orchard,” which contains 14 trees, in my “A Walk on the Property” album (link on the home page). The rest of my edible plants are scattered around the acreage! I didn’t plant the trees – they were the forethought of the previous owners.

        However, if I plant it, it’s gonna be edible, if not by my family, by my beloved invertebrates. Yes, I’m a bug weirdo. πŸ™‚

      • Did I read right? Guess post? *gulp* It’s all a bit ugly at the moment. Perhaps I should wait and post in the spring when they’re doing more than just dropping leaves for my compost. Really, I would love that. We’ll get it together!

  2. Holy gawd. I don’t know what I’m ogling more – the ‘celebrity couple’ or the food! Wow. (And, ah, you ain’t half bad yourself there, missy!)

    The scrapple pizza…if Peppermeister heard about that… Ooh! Ooh! If he heard about that maybe we could come eat there with you! YES.

    Great review – the food and the overall service sounds amazing.

    • Oh, Jules, don’t speak of such things as possibilities. I would eat five scrapple pizzas if you and Peppermeister visited 1861. You would actually be a celebrity! I’d make sure we got a corner booth and a bottle of gin!

      Nicole and Bryan are the most celebrity looking noncelebrity couple I’ve ever seen. It’s a good thing the husband and I have a healthy self image or we could never be friends with them. πŸ˜‰

  3. Nicole

    Rachel! You are so incredibly sweet. I love so much about this post, besides the fact that my face is plastered all over it. Our friendship was forever changed from the moment you uttered those drool-worthy words, “I’ll split the scrapple pizza with you”. You have always been the celebrity in my book. Bryan and I are so thankful to have you and Joe as friends and fellow diners. I’m so glad you enjoyed 1861. πŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: Eat Local at 1861 Restaurant « Rachel's Table

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