Foodie Friday: One Coastal


FENWICK ISLAND, Del. – At One Coastal, you’re not just getting a taste of delicious local ingredients. You’re also getting a unique experience in local culinary history.

Environmental Conservation Turned Tasty Feat

James Beard Award-nominated Chef Matt Kern has made it a personal mission to turn environmental conservation into a tasty feat. He says their Corn Fried Chesapeake Catfish dish represents the area, the restaurant, and their mission.

“The Chesapeake Blue Catfish is an invasive species. It’s eating up over 60% of the indigenous wildlife, just kind of wreaking havoc on the Cheasapeake, and it’s going unchecked as it has no predators,” said Chef Kern when the Foodie Friday team visited. “It’s eating our clams, our blue crab, our rockfish spawn. All the things that we depend on to enjoy at our table – this thing also eats. So, if we want to protect the things that we love so much, why not eat the thing that’s trying to beat us to it?”

Cooking the Fish

Preparing the dish starts with making sure there’s an even coating of buttermilk on the catfish.

Chef Kern then coats it in corn meal from Castle Valley Mill in Pennsylvania. He calls the sweetness of the corn meal “magical.”

“They grow their own corn and grain, they mill it right there on the spot, and we get it within a few days of being milled,” said Chef Kern as he prepared to gently lower the fish into the deep fryer. “We’re going to deep fry it. I’m in the business of making delicious food, not the healthiest food. But, it does taste incredibly delicious.”

Adding the Accoutrements

Next, Chef Kern turns his attention to all the accoutrements that make the dish well-balanced; first is baby kale grown by Chesterfield Heirlooms in Ocean City. “It’s nice and delicate. It doesn’t have the tough stems yet. We’re in the heat of spring, so we’re trying to show exactly what represents us in the season that we’re in,” said Chef Kern.

Then, come the leeks. “Anything from the allium family, or onions in general, is super important as far as an aromatic. It’s in at least, I would say, 90% of the dishes that people eat every day,” said Chef Kern.

And finally, pepper butter with Muddy Pond Sorghum, pepper mash preserved from last season, and Sea Island Red Peas from Anson Mills.

“They’re grown in Charleston, South Carolina by Anson Mills – another mill that grows organic grains and legumes. Beautiful food products, and they’re bringing back a lot of these grains in the south that our country was built on,” said Chef Kern. “When you eat these, not only are you getting filled with nutrition that you don’t get from most beans you buy in the store. But, the flavor alone is just so paramount to their message.”

Finishing Up

It’s all bound together by pot liquor; the product of the peas slowly cooking down. “It’s all the natural proteins that were in that pot of beans. So, it’s a whole lot of added flavor,” said Chef Kern.

The dish is finished with sunflower shoots, also from Chesterfield Heirlooms, atop the delicately fried catfish, and dots of vibrant chive oil over a sweet potato puree.

“You have to offer all the things at once: crunch, sweetness, a chew, a velvety texture,” said Chef Kern. “When somebody eats it, all of a sudden, they’re like ‘Wait a minute. This is something special.'”

“I feel like I’ve been wrapped up in a warm blanket, and given a hug.”

As the Foodie Friday team prepared to try out the dish, they couldn’t help but pause and admire its aesthetics.

“You’ve thought very carefully about how you’re constructing this dish, because you want people to have fun eating it, and eat it in the best way possible. But, it’s beautifully appealing, too,” said Foodie Friday host Hannah Cechini. “You’re really drawing people in with the contrast between the green and the yellow, and the nice warm brown of the beans underneath.”

After diving a fork into the dish and taking a bite, Hannah said “I feel like I’ve been wrapped up in a warm blanket, and given a hug. This is so beautiful. I love it.”

“The puree has that really nice sweetness to it. And, it’s not overwhelming to begin with. Then you add that chive oil on top, and it’s got that nice burst of freshness that kind of comes through at the very end,” said Hannah. And of the sunflower shoots, “They’re so subtle, but you kind of almost need that subtlety with the little crunch, the little freshness on top of it, because again, it is a very warm, and hearty dish. But, it’s balanced really well by things like this.”

Italian-Americans might raise an eyebrow at Foodie Photog Mike Lawrence’s description of the peas; but, it’s dead on.

“I never expected to describe a legume as al dente. But, that’s definitely a good al dente bean. It’s soft, but crunchy, which is kind of an interesting thing to say to yourself. And that kale is just so tender,” said Mike.

Next, Mike tried the catfish.

“This is such a lovely piece of fish, and it’s been treated so minimally, but so effectively. The crunch is there. The flesh is just so so clean, and not a hint of oil. Incredible,” said Mike.

One Coastal

One Coastal is located at 101 Coastal Highway, Fenwick Island, Del. You can call them at 302-537-4790. If you go to check it out, tell the team that you saw them on Foodie Friday.

Categories: Delaware, Foodie Friday, Local News, Top Stories