The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Area Restaurants Create 315K+ Meals for Hungry

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Even if you’re not a money manager, you may have heard of ROI, a business term creeping into everyday conversation. Short for “return on investment,” it’s a simple metric to evaluate the efficacy of an investment – comparing the value of what you put in to the value of what you get out.

Over the past two months, in McGuireWoods’ The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, area restaurants have offered thirty-one separate once-in-a-lifetime experiences to entice donations to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Those 31 restaurant experiences yielded more than 315,000 meals for the hungry. How’s that for ROI?

The Auctions’ Heroes

Of course, many others have contributed to the cause as well. McGuireWoods LLP underwrote the entire thing, with a donation to cover residual expenses. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank provided indispensable help. Elite University of Virginia coaches joined auction experiences as special guests. And, vendor, after vendor, after vendor came forward with generous donations of time, products, and services. One vendor donated coaster and poster design services and even threw in cash to pay for production.

Then there are the bidders. In some cases, an auction was won by a single individual with the resources and passion to make an enormous difference. In other cases, groups of friends pooled their funds to win restaurant auction experiences. In all, more than sixty bidders were among the winning donors.

It’s not just winners that helped, though. The unsung heroes of the auction were the runners-up, whose generosity and interest was essential to drive up winning bids, thereby creating more meals for the hungry.

The Right Thing at the Right Time: Moments of Kindness

At times I have wondered whether The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions did not belong in a year as unsettling as 2016. But when I thought about it more, I realized the auctions could not have been timed better. To combat the year’s repeated attacks on our confidence in human decency, the auctions have countered with reminders that, at their core, people are fundamentally good. There were too many heart-warming moments of kindness to document them all, so here are just a few.

After UVa’s second leading tackler in history won a fiercely competitive auction to have dinner at with UVa Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall, the runner-up insisted on making a generous donation anyway. When one food business owner learned she had outbid another food business owner to win a restaurant’s auction, she invited him to join her for the experience she won. A group of husbands won an auction for their wives as a ladies night out. A chef postponed a career move so that a bidder could surprise his wife with a birthday dinner. The two largest donors in all of the auctions – $8,150 for The Ivy Inn and $6,500 for Fleurie – asked not to be identified, choosing generosity over notoriety. A restaurant owner sparked a bidding war for his auction after vowing to volunteer one hour of service at the food bank for every 100 meals it yielded. And, even after the auctions ended, a restaurant not in the auctions created a dinner to reward a multi-time runner-up, creating even more meals for the hungry.

A Special Food Community

Earlier this year, I asked the restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 if they would be willing to create a VIP experience to auction off to the highest bidder, in support of the food bank. They all said yes. A few months later, we have more than 315,000 meals for the hungry.

How is that possible? It is possible when you have a food community as special and compassionate as Charlottesville’s. Entering the auctions, my goal for total donations was $29,000. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the restaurants, the total amount raised, including supplements to the winning donations, is $79,730. This is because each restaurant created an amazing experience that would never be available to a typical customer, and donated the entire thing, allowing every dollar bid to go directly to the food bank. I first arrived in Charlottesville nearly twenty five years ago, and I’ve never seen a greater outpouring of generosity by our food community.

If you’re like me, you may be wondering how you can show your appreciation for the food community’s generosity. The greatest tribute would be to enhance the fruits of their labor, and create even more meals for the area’s hungry. In short, you can thank the restaurants for their efforts by improving their already amazing ROI. Below is how to make a donation to the food bank in gratitude for our food community’s amazing work.

Thank you in advance for your support. Let’s help the restaurants feed even more of the area’s hungry.

  • Online (3% fee): On the Donate page. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may “dedicate” your donation to “The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.”
  • By Phone: (540) 213-8406. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may state that your donation relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.
  • By Check: Payable to “Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.” BRAFB, PO Box 937, Verona, VA 24482. Again, please note on your check that it relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.

Five Finds on Friday: Jeff Deloff

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Jeff Deloff, chef of Threepenny Cafe, which has recently partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, assuring that all seafood it serves is approved for sustainability by Seafood Watch. Deloff’s picks:

1) Berkabaw from Autumn Olive Farms. “With an excellent ratio of meat to fat, it offers meat with lots of intramuscular fat. The fat is a meal in itself, either render it down for cooking or leaving it on to give the pork a succulent flavor.”

2) Beef from Wolf Creek Farm. “What more is there to say about grass fed beef that’s raised humanely, and sustainably? Nothing. Wolf Creek is an excellent example of farm stewardship, which offers a superior product to corn fed beef.”

3) Ducks from Free Union Grass Farm. “Pastured raised ducks that offer crispy skin and beautifully rendered fat, as well as hearty breast meat and flavorful leg meat.”

4) Bone Marrow from The Alley Light. “With everyone’s desire for high priced steaks it’s nice to see a place offer bone marrow. And to top it off, it comes with braised snails! A rarity in itself to see on a menu, but prepared beautifully.” (Note: this was the 2014 Dish of the Year.)

5) Skate Wing from Fleurie. “It’s not everyday you see skate. So when I read it was on their menu, I was more than excited to have it!”

Milan Auction Dinner

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The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions brought so many special moments and now continue to bring more. First, there was the extraordinary generosity of the restaurants in creating the experiences to be auctioned, and the vendors who lined up to help. Next was the bidding, which blew away expectations, totaling nearly $80,000 in donations to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, enough to provide more than 315,000 meals to the area’s hungry. And now that the auctions have ended come reports from auction winners about their amazing experiences. What a pleasure it is to receive all of these emails, providing vicarious enjoyment of auction winners’ once-in-a-lifetime meals.

Take Milan’s “Dream Feast Around India,” which Randy Huwa won with a donation of $1,000 to the food bank, enough to provide more than 4,000 meals for the area’s hungry. Billed as a “feast showcasing the many different regional cuisines of India, highlighting owner Charanjeet Ghotra’s favorite dishes from each region,” the family-style meal was “to include Ghotra’s regional favorites from the regular menu, plus some off-menu surprises. With plenty of wines and beers to accompany the food, it’s an all-inclusive Dream Feast Around India.”

Huwa and his guests had their feast Tuesday night. And, from his email to Ghotra after the meal, it is clear that is was special. Also below is the menu which, at Huwa’s request, was vegetarian.

Thank you to Milan and Randy Huwa for your tremendous generosity.

Chef,

I really cannot find the words to express my appreciation and gratitude for the EXTRAORDINARY dinner that you presented for us last evening. The menu was outstanding; each and every dish was terrific … and you and your great staff were so accommodating to the special diets of our group.

My wife and I are frequent diners at Milan — we love your food! — and I came into last night with high expectations.  Those expectations were SHATTERED.  Truly a memorable evening.

Thank you!

My very best,

Randy

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Brookville Shifts to Breakfast and Lunch

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This Saturday, September 24, is the final dinner service of Brookville, the hyper-local restaurant on the downtown mall run by Harrison and Jennifer Keevil. After that, beginning October 4, Brookville will be open Tuesday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, and Saturday and Sunday for their popular brunch. The Brookville breakfast and lunch menu will combine items from the Keevils’ recently launched Keevil & Keevil Grocery & Kitchen, plus Brookville-only items including old favorites like The Clyde’s Big Easy – a Virginia Muffaletta.

Through running their grocery and kitchen, the Keevils say that they have rediscovered their love of sandwiches. “I want to bring that same love to the mall,” said Harrison, who calls sandwiches his “dessert island food.” As anyone who has had one of his sandwiches knows, this is a very good development for workers and residents near the downtown mall.

For those still wishing to eat dinner at Brookville, it will be available evenings as an “event space for hire.”