In the past decade, Delaware has seen a renaissance of fine eating. OK, wait…perhaps “renaissance,” French for “re-birth,” isn’t the appropriate word for a state in which fine, haute-cuisine dining seems to have evaded us for the better part of, well, forever.
We’ve always had the old reliable standbys like Harry’s Savoy Grill and The Green Room at the Hotel DuPont, but even those venerable landmarks relied more on the classics as opposed to breaking any new culinary ground. Wilmington started with some unique entries like Moro, Eclipse, and Toscana. Rehoboth Beach then put it in overdrive with a ridiculously prolific number of high-end eateries.
We may now be able to add “Hockessin” to that list of Delaware cities offering up some provocative and edgy food. Though it only just recently opened, The House of William and Merry (1336 Old Lancaster Pike, Hockessin, DE 19707) showed few kinks so common among many upstart eateries. I’d heard about this new restaurant from a Facebook buddy and after perusing the menu online, I immediately wondered how my gastronomic-self hadn’t discovered the place sooner. I immediately resolved to get myself over to William and Merry’s (what a great name!) as quickly as possible.
The opportunity presented itself on a Sunday evening. Sunday Supper, as it’s called, is a three-course, prix fixe menu for $30 per person. I’m not always the biggest fan of prix fixe, but in looking at what was being offered, I knew I’d find something I’d enjoy.
Upon entering the restaurant, I was warmly greeted by both William and Merry, who were busying themselves in the open kitchen a few feet from the front door. The rest of my party hadn’t yet arrived, so I waited at the bar and ordered something deliciously titled a Caramelized Pineapple Martini ($9). My party arrived while this concoction was being made, so it was quickly delivered to our table. This one packed a punch. Pineapple vodka and pineapple juice got it started. But the gorgeous orange hue was provided courtesy of the blood orange puree. Sweet and refreshing and oh-so-strong.
There were only three options in each course, appetizer, main, and dessert. Of course, this is the reason some restaurants offer these deals at such reasonable prices. Offer fewer choices, but ensure the quality of what IS being made. Nevertheless, the choices suited us. I decided to go with the bowtie pasta with smoked trout for my appetizer. This delicious dish featured what looked like handmade pasta, slightly imperfect, but totally tasty and cooked to a tender and chewy al dente. Several smoky shards of trout topped the pasta and the sauce featured a generous sprinkling of capers and citrus zest.
For my main course, I chose the BBQ Pork Rib. This meaty bit was perhaps the one minor let down of the night. It had obviously been cooked low and slow, but I think it may have been left in a little too long. Several pieces were a little chewier than they should have been. Fortunately, the vinegar-y, slightly sweet sauce provided an excellent foil to help remedy this issue. On the side were perfectly seasoned collard greens and a huge hunk of spicy cornbread. The cornbread was a little drier than I prefer, but I soon realized perhaps the chef meant this. Y’see, the cornbread was plopped right on top of that delicious, vinegar-based sauce. Naturally, I took forkfuls of this bread and sopped it up in the delicious sauce. Perfection! My plate was clean in about 11 minutes.
These past few years I seem to be regressing when it comes to my favorite part of the meal. Regressing in the sense that I seem to want to just skip right to dessert. William and Merry definitely excelled here. I opted for the blueberry crumb cake topped with Woodside Farms Creamery butter pecan ice cream. This was unlike any blueberry crumb cake I’d had before. Rather than blueberries being studded throughout the cake, the blueberries formed a juicy, tart “crust” at the bottom of the cake. In the middle was a light and airy cake and finished on top was a thick layer of (my favorite part!) crunchy and somewhat spicy crumb. Woodside Farms butter pecan ice cream rounded this out, but we all already know how good their ice creams are!
I was impressed with William and Merry. My first impressions have only been gauged through the prix fixe menu, so I’ll definitely be interested in getting back soon to get a fuller view of what these talented young chefs have to offer to the ever-burgeoning foodie community that is Hockessin.