Dining with the 'Masters'

Want a recipe for weekend fun that blends food, wine and philanthropy? Head to Wilmington, Del., and join acclaimed chefs and dining trendsetters for the "Meals From the Masters" foodie extravaganza.

The annual fundraiser benefits Meals on Wheels food delivery programs for Delaware seniors. Over the past 14 years, it's grown into a highly anticipated event that draws big crowds.

Gourmands can expect two days of culinary delights on Friday and Sunday. Think gourmet tastings, a wine auction, celebrity chefs' brunch, live music and more.

"This is a great charity event that I've done for many years," said Mark Salter, chef and proprietor of the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford. "The chefs give 110 percent. And it's not just any chef. They're invited."

Top culinary talent hailing from the U.S., Mexico, India, parts of Europe and the Caribbean will dish up their favorite specialties.

In addition, contestants from past seasons of Bravo's "Top Chef" and the Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef," will also be at the table.

Chefs Stephanie Izard of Girl & the Goat (Chicago), Holly Smith of Cafe Juanita (Washington state) and Lee Anne Wong of the Cooking Channel are just some of the well-known names slated to participate.

The party kicks off on Friday with what's billed as an "Evening With the Masters." It will feature hands-on demos and food stylings from some 30 Delaware restaurants, plus beer and wine selections from Chaddsford Winery, Dogfish Head and other regional distributors.

That same evening, the Cellar Masters' Wine Auction will show off fine and rare wines, complete with exclusive pours from Napa Valley's Bouchaine Vineyards and Moore Brothers Wine Co. A selection of hors d'oeuvres, cheeses and desserts will be provided by the Columbus Inn and the Hotel DuPont.

On Sunday, some two dozen world-class chefs will assemble for the Celebrity Chefs' Brunch. Besides multiple stations with gourmet fare, the event includes a silent auction with dining and travel packages, cooking tools, fine art and jewelry.

"We all bring a course," said Salter. "It's very organized. The chefs enjoy being together."

A British master chef who has been a Chesapeake Bay resident since 1993, Salter plans to highlight Maryland seafood at the brunch.

He said he expects to whip up a fresh bluefish and crab claw cake, with Meyer lemon remoulade. Besides the requisite Maryland crab meat and fish, the recipe's ingredients include Yukon gold potatoes, goat cheese, heavy cream, red pepper, fresh basil and panko bread crumbs. The cake is seared in olive oil.

"This is on the menu at the inn, and it's quite popular with guests," said Salter. "I look forward to everyone [at the event] having a taste."

If you go

Where to stay

Hotel du Pont: 11th and Market streets, 800-441-9019. http://www.hoteldupont.com: Historic luxury hotel in downtown Wilmington built by Pierre S. du Pont.

The Sheraton Hotel and Marriott Courtyard: The downtown Wilmington locations will offer special hotel rates for attendees. http://www.mealsfromthemasters.com/travel-hotel-specials.html

What to see/do

World Cafe Live at the Queen: 500 N. Market St., 302-994-1400: Restaurant and live entertainment showcases a diverse mix of music. queen.worldcafelive.com

Delaware Art Museum: 2301 Kentmere Parkway, 302-571-9590: World-renowned collection featuring pre-Raphaelite and American art and illustration. http://www.delart.org

Longwood Gardens: 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, Pa., 800-737-5500. http://www.longwood.org: Industrialist Pierre S. du Pont's horticultural gem is located about 12 miles from Wilmington. It features 20 outdoor gardens on 1,000 acres, plus a glass-covered conservatory.

Getting there

Wilmington is a short drive — about 1 hour and 15 minutes — from Baltimore. Head north on Interstate 95. Get off at Exit 7 for downtown Wilmington.

Event and ticketing information

Evening With the Masters: 6 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday, Chase Center on the Riverfront, Downtown Wilmington. $75

Cellar Masters' Wine Auction: 6:30-10 p.m. Friday, Chase Center on the Riverfront. $100 (includes entry to Evening with the Masters)

Celebrity Chefs' Brunch: 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sunday, Bank of America, Bracebridge III, 1100 N. King St., Wilmington. $175.

An all-access pass (for three events) is available for $250. Tickets can be purchased online. A complete list of participating chefs is also available at http://www.mealsfromthemasters.com

For more information, contact the Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau at visitwilmingtonde.com.

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