Root Gourmet is a restaurant in Rehoboth, DE that specializes in healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals. Open since Memorial Day, the establishment has seen a steady flow of traffic through their cafe, has been consistently busy catering events, and offers extreme sensory overload.

The bold and bright colors of Root Gourmet are eye catching; lime green, tangerine, and rusted red are incorporated throughout the café. A stocked pantry area showcases honeys, jams, bagged coffee beans, jellies, and spices. Glass cases are filled with healthy dining options ready to be boxed, bagged, and consumed.
The aroma of freshly baked bread, or bread still in the oven, fills the air and is accented by whiffs of brewing ginger root and Costa Rican organic roasted coffee. Just then, the oven door drops open and the heat can be felt by those standing in front of resident pastry chef, Keith Irwin.

It isn’t until Irwin and the apron-wearers of Root Gourmet place the still-warm bread, loaves, and baguettes into the open baskets that you can actually hear the crackling sounds of the fresh bread cooling. Did you even know that bread could make a noise?

“I’ve been doing pastry for over 20 years. Bread is a specialty that I enjoy. Now, I have a place to do it,” said the baker while extending his arms and directing attention to the baskets full of fresh bread and an oven filled with lumps of dough.
Irwin then added, “I’ve been baking for a long time – mostly pastry, though.”
On any particular day many different types of bread are being made at Root. Long, slender French baguettes are distributed at Nage and the Back Porch Café of Rehoboth. Other loaves and buns will be used at Root Gourmet and a(MUSE.) Restaurant. On an average day, Irwin bakes anywhere from 50 to 250 loaves of bread.
The bread is made with the simplest of ingredients: King Arthur flour, yeast, water, and salt. All ingredients use only all all-natural products. The expert chef prefers to use a longer fermentation process while making the bread in order to achieve rich flavors while using only basic ingredients.
“We try to do all things locally and sustainably,” said Chrissy Sarro, Nage and Root Gourmet’s Catering Director, “Fresh herbs, local eggs, and vegetables from the farmers’ market…”
One locally produced item that often makes its way into recipes at Root Gourmet is beer. This season it’s Harvest Ale from 16 Mile Brewing Company of Georgetown, DE. Irwin uses 16 Mile brews to coat his specialty hamburger buns and loaves of dark beer bread. Thick molasses is often added to the hamburger buns to make them a little sweeter.
Currently, Irwin's delicious hamburger buns are only made for use at local restaurants. The chef hopes to go wholesale with the buns in the upcoming months. He also hopes the buns will be available for public purchase at Root Gourmet soon.
“I was always sneaking into the bake shop,” said Irwin as he talked about his baking background at the Keystone Resort in Colorado. He explained how, while searching for a job and attending the Culinary Institute of America, he was taken under wing by a pastry chef at the Colorado resort. From there, Irwin went on to create and own his own wedding cake business.
“I’ve always had a passion for cooking and baking,” he commented.
Perhaps that’s why the ambitious chef created roughly 40 wedding cakes last year; his passion fuels his creativity in the kitchen. As a company, Nage and Root Gourmet catered 450 events, 80 being weddings, last year.
Root Gourmet offers menus for those who want to serve delicious specialty foods at their events or parties. During the upcoming holiday season, Root Gourmet and Nage will be offering set promotions for Thanksgiving dinner, holiday parties, and Christmas events. Root Gourmet’s most popular special, available year-round, is their 4/$44 dinner offer. The $44 gourmet dinner for four includes an entrée, two hand-crafted side dishes, a farm fresh family salad, and a fresh loaf of artisan bread.
“We want to provide the community with meal options. If you don’t feel like cooking or going out, we hope that people come to Root Gourmet. Our already prepared meals are always an option,” said Rich Garrahan, Root Gourmet’s General Manager.
On Saturday, December 1st, Irwin will be instructing a Bread Baking Class at Nage Restaurant, Root Gourmet’s sister establishment. For $50, individuals will have an opportunity to learn the basics of bread from the experienced pastry chef. The class will be immediately followed by a special lunch (included in the price of the course). Registration for the course can be completed online. Nage offers other cooking classes throughout the year, too.
Root Gourmet is open every day of the week (from 11 am to 8 pm) and Keith Irwin can be found, covered in flour, manning the large bread ovens most days of the week. Since you’re reading ShoreBread and we are bread aficionados – we highly suggest you stop by Root Gourmet during your next visit to Rehoboth to taste some of the best bread on the shore!

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Photos by Ami Reist. View photo stream below for more…