Local Producers Making the Yum

by Dave on June 5, 2009

As first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, May 7, 2009:

Good food is not hard to find at the Delaware Beaches. The area is blessed with great farmer’s markets, exquisite and versatile restaurants, and the bounty of the land and the sea. However, nothing beats the local products made with care by local producers. These people know how to “bring the yum,” whether they’ve been doing it for one year or seventy-five.

Often you’ll find local products being sold as specialty items in markets like Washington, DC. For instance, it is not unusual to travel 100 miles only to see “We only use Lewes Dairy cream” on a restaurant menu. Even here at home, Wahoo Raw Bar & Crab Co. recently proclaimed on its sign “Now proudly serving Hopkins Farm Creamery Ice Cream!” The same treatment is given to Bella’s Cookies, Kogler’s Old World Bread, Dogfish Head beer and many more local delicacies.

Behind those names, however, are stories of hard work, dedication and passion to deliver the best of the best.
LEWES DAIRY

The granddaddy of local producers, the Brittingham family’s Lewes Dairy has been bottling high-quality milk since the early 1920’s, with a brief break during World War II.

“In the early 1920s, Grace and Emory Brittingham utilized their farm to produce milk for local customers,” says the Dairy’s web site. “They had a couple hundred acres, a herd of Guernsey cows, six sons and a daughter. The unprocessed milk was cooled by a supply of local water, hand poured into bottles with a pitcher and delivered from the family car on the way to school. In the 1930s, they were the first dairy “below the canal” to switch to refrigeration, cooling systems, and pasteurization to eliminate bacteria.”

After returning from World War II, Archie, Weldon and their brother Bassett Brittingham built a new plant and reopened on July 23, 1946, with a new name, “Lewes Dairy.” In 1955, the Dairy introduced the 73-cent glass gallon jug of milk. House-to-house delivery was stopped July 1st, and tractor-trailers delivered to the new chain of Dairy Markets and “Mom and Pop” operations in an effort to reach even more customers.

In 1964, the Dairy took on the United States Department of Agriculture, with appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, challenging the “Milk Marketing Orders,” which threatened to change how the company bought milk, and would have greatly affected local farmer’s profits by regulating the price of milk at the farm level.

Today, the dairy processes a million pounds of milk every month, and its products can be seen all over the peninsula. Their heavy cream and seasonal egg nog are must-have delicacies.

BELLA’S COOKIES

Milton-based Bella’s Cookies is the creation of the Leishear family, whose brainstorm resulted in an organic cookie company that now sells sweetness all over the region.

Mark Leishear’s daughter Bella had baked cookies under the supervision of her mother, Kelly, so Mark did the fatherly thing and ate 12 of them.

“The cookies were great,” recalls Leishear. “The next day I had some of ‘Bella’s Original Cookies’ packed in my lunch as a co-worker and I headed north to the University of Delaware on a sales call. She loved Bella’s Cookies too, and an idea was born.”

That idea has evolved into multiple fantastic flavors as well as cookies suitable for diabetics, gluten-free cookies, vegan cookies and many more organic, natural goodies.
Bella’s Cookies recently added Bella’s, their new dessert line. The new desserts will feature local ingredients sourced from local producers.

“We’re very excited about it as it brings together great tasting natural and organic desserts with fresh, locally sourced ingredients,” says Bella’s Cookies President Kelly Leishear.

Some of the new offerings will be Strawberry Pies & Tarts and a Delaware Rum Cake (made with locally distilled Dogfish Head rum).

KOGLER’S OLD WORLD BREADS

Steve Kogler only uses four ingredients in his bread: flour, water, yeast and salt.

The artisinal baker  behind Old World Breads, which can be found in local restaurants or selling out quickly at all of the summer farmer’s markets, is a stickler for quality.

The bakery, less than one year old, is located north of Milton. From it, Kogler creates loaves of French bread, wheat and whole-grain varieties and something called a “cinnamon shortie,” which is a bread with a buttery cinnamon topping.

If you can’t wait for the farmer’s markets to begin, Kogler’s breads can usually be found at places like the Good Earth Market on Rt. 26 in Clarksville and Tomato Sunshine on Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach.

HOPKINS FARM
CREAMERY ICE CREAM

The Hopkins family is no stranger to the dairy business, with a home farm on 900 acres. So it wasn’t much of a stretch to start churning their own ice cream last year on the premises at the corner of Rt. 9 and Dairy Farm Road outside of Lewes.

In preparation for their opening of their ice cream stand last year, the Hopkins’ spent a week at Carpigiani Frozen Dessert University in Winston-Salem N.C. learning how to make the perfect ice cream. The creamery features 18 robust flavors churned on site, and can nouw be found in select restaurants in the area.

Or, if you prefer, you can head out to the creamery itself for a fresh cone. Just head out Route 9 west of Lewes and look for the silo with the ice cream cone painted on it.

Needless to say, you can feast like a king or queen on the bounty of delectable goodies produced by these and other companies right here in the beach region. And with the continued support of local merchants, area folks will continue to feast for a long time to come.

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