Early next year, one of Richmond’s hottest new restaurants will open a sibling in Charlottesville. Pasture, which specializes in small plates of Southern cuisine, is under construction at The Shops at Stonefield, the new development at the corner of Route 29 and Hydraulic Road.
Some might find odd the marriage of Pasture and Stonefield. Pasture focuses on local and sustainable ingredients. Stonefield, a corporate development of national chain stores, theaters, and restaurants, has met some skepticism from the “local and sustainable” crowd. The first two restaurants to open at Stonfield are both corporately owned: Burton’s Grill and Noodles & Company.
Yet, as Pasture chef/owner Jason Alley recently explained, the development company behind Stonefield, EDENS, is very serious about food and sustainability. EDENS includes sustainability as one of the company’s “foundational values.“ And, they are so serious about food that they even employ a full-time director of culinary strategies, which Alley says speaks volumes. Richie Brandenburg, a chef whose resume includes jobs at Le Benardin and Jose Andres’ Think Food Group, recently oversaw development of food operations at EDEN’s much-touted Union Market in Washington, D.C., and is now doing the same at Stonefield, in Charlottesville. (Check back soon for more on Brandenburg’s efforts.)
Alley himself is a Virginia native who entered the restaurant world by washing dishes after dropping out of James Madison University. He soon worked his way into food preparation and, by age 21, was already running the kitchen at a place called the Blue Fox Cafe. He next spent a few years in Illinois, where his wife was pursuing a masters degree, before moving to Atlanta. There, Alley became Executive Sous Chef at the acclaimed 1848 House (now closed), an old school Southern restaurant on a plantation north of Atlanta.
Finally, it was back to Virginia, where Alley spent a year at Richmond’s Europa before opening his own restaurant. Comfort, which Alley co-owns with Chandler Dawson, has served comforting Southern classics to happy Richmond residents for more than a decade. Then, last year, Alley opened Pasture, which focuses on small plates of Southern food, built with local ingredients. On the strength of Comfort and Pasture, Alley was recently named Best Chef in Richmond in Style Weekly.
Now, Alley is poised to bring Pasture to Charlottesville. The spin-off will have many similarities to its older sibling in Richmond. The Richmond menu has included such items as crispy barcat oysters with cilantro tartar and slaw, as well as fried Carolina Gold rice, with house cured tasso, vegetables, and clams.
But, Charlottesville’s Pasture won’t be a carbon copy of Richmond’s, as Alley wants to tailor it to the people of Charlottesville. Alley says there are many advantages to being in Charlottesville. He sees Charlottesville diners as being particularly open to the small plate concept, as well as being enthusiastic about local and sustainable ingredients. Moreover, Alley says, Charlottesville is closer than Richmond to many of his favorite farms and purveyors.
Pasture aims to open early in 2013. If our recent meal at Richmond’s Pasture is any indication, it will be an excellent addition to Charlottesville dining.