The Charlottesville 29

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

Five Finds on Friday: Brooke Ray

Brooke Ray Photo_coffee addict

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Brooke Ray, manager of the New Roots program for the International Rescue Committee. Working with sixty refugee families, New Roots establishes urban farming locations which aid in refugees’ community transition through gardening, education, local food access initiatives, and small business farming. On May 30, one of its farms – New Roots Farm – suffered extensive damage from a severe flash flood, and the twenty families that grow food there were devastated by the loss of most of their crops.

“Our hearts are hurting for all the work and money the families have put into their gardens,” says Ray, “as well as the fact that such a special place that was brimming with life and beauty and joy was so damaged.” The families now hope to reclaim what they can of the season and they need your help. Funds are needed to repair the farm, replant and rebuild beds, and relocate market crops to a safer location for the season. To help the families’ recovery, you can donate here

As usual, the Charlottesville food community has rallied in a time of need. On July 30, the event company Hill & Holler is organizing a Donor Appreciation Party for anyone who donates $100 or more to the cause. There will be food from Ivy Inn, Orzo, and A Pimento Catering, a wine bar from Blenheim Vineyards, beer from Reason Beer, live music, and more. Details on how you can donate and attend this special event.

Ray’s picks:

1) Som Tum at Pad Thai. “I love Santi’s version of papaya salad. It’s fresh and bright and spicy. The papaya, peppers and peanuts pack so many textures and flavors into one refreshing little salad. I like it with a cold beer and a Tom Yum Noodle Bowl. Pad Thai is so under-rated and I kind of hate to blow it up, but it’s my secret go-to for a good selection of well-priced draughts and take-away beer. And Jay, Santi’s son, has great taste in music to boot.”

2) Super-Style Tacos at La Michoacana. “I usually order the vegetarian tacos super-style from Edgar, but if you are so inclined the meat tacos are all also stupid good. The super style come topped with chopped onions, cilantro, cheese, sour cream and lettuce. They are bursting with flavor without being soggy or overly-loaded. I always order the spicy pickled onions and carrots to load on top and add a splash of their avocado salsa.”

3) Tomato Bisque at Orzo. “I have to say, I have loved every meal I have ever eaten at Orzo and really appreciate that the team puts as much care into their salads as they do into their main dishes. If I had to mention one thing though, it would be the tomato bisque made with lamb broth. Eating it was a revelatory food experience for me. Tomato bisque is something we’ve all had and we expect it to taste a certain way. But this one (which I think is a seasonal offering) is so comforting and rich and unexpected. It’s an adult version of one of my favorite, childhood, rainy day meals.”

4) Mango Chili Popsicle at La Flor Michoacana. “Can you tell I like spicy food? Our farm crew often makes a detour for this spot on the hottest days. The popsicle selection is extensive- I recommend making your way through all of them. The Mango chili is sweet and fresh in the right way with a pleasant heat.”

5) The Bellissima at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “My favorite Sunday ritual is to go biking at Walnut Creek and then head over to Dr. Ho’s for their Bellissima pizza. The crust is flavorful and perfectly crunchy-chewy and it’s topped with so much good stuff- roasted tomatoes, shaved ham, aged parmesan. But most importantly they pile and entire arugula salad on top of it.  And it is REAL arugula – spicy and bold and often local – not the California clamshell stuff that has no flavor. I don’t know what they add to that vinaigrette in the salad but I can’t get enough of this pizza. It’s a good thing it’s 40 minutes from my house.”

MarieBette Coming to the Downtown Mall

bread

An entrant in The Charlottesville 29 is expanding and coming to the downtown mall. MarieBette Cafe & Bakery, the beloved home of the “bronut,” plans to open a branch on Water Street, beside Roxie Daisy.

Co-owner Jason Becton says that the bakery was not actively seeking a second location, but that an opportunity fell into their lap that just felt right. A recent re-design and downsize of Roxie Daisy left a next-door space that checked all of the boxes: “It is not too big, has charm, and is just off of the mall,” says Becton. The offshoot will serve MarieBette’s bread and pastries, with an increased emphasis on coffee, to fuel downtown workers and residents. Unlike MarieBette, itself, there will not be restaurant table service at the offshoot, but there will still be seating, as well as breakfast and lunch items, which customers may eat-in or take to-go. With Roxie Daisy and The Flat right next door, Becton says, the corner of Water Street is becoming “a little French-inspired enclave.”

Look for an opening this fall.

Introducing North American Sake Brewery

sake

Charlottesville is strong on adult beverages. We’ve got great wine. And cider. And beer. And spirits.

And, soon we will have sake. One of the nation’s first sake breweries, North American Sake Brewery, opens this month in IX Art Park. Popular in Japan, sake is rice wine made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran.

The project is the brainchild of two Certified Sake Professionals: award-winning filmmaker Jeremy Goldstein and longtime home brewer Andrew Centofante. “Sake was an instant love affair for us,” says Goldstein. “Once we had our first few glasses of good cold sake, the obsession couldn’t be stopped.” Centofante agrees: “The more I learned, the more my passion grew, and the deeper I wanted to go.” And so, after years of research and practice, that obsession has manifest itself in North American Sake Brewery.

Centofante will do the brewing. Having traveled the country and world to learn from master sake brewers, Centafonte’s focus at NAS is twofold: traditional sakes and modern riffs. “We aim to honor the tremendous Japanese lineage before us with our flagship filtered and unfiltered brews,” says Goldstein. But, he says, they also plan to “push boundaries,” with tasty experiments like fruit and herb infusions, exotic yeasts, and collaborations with local beer makers, cideries, and distilleries.

sakeglass

Among the initial releases, Centafonte’s favorite is “Big Baby” a “brewer’s style” sake, meaning it emerges straight from a fresh batch, raw and unrefined, and, in this case, at a whopping 18% ABV. Goldstein’s favorite, meanwhile, is Rosaké – a rosé blend sake to which unsweetened fruit and fresh farmed herbs are added during the final days of fermentation. “Notes of citrus zest, honeydew, and a young rose petal come together in a perfectly dry, alcohol-forward sake,” Goldstein says.”

Chef Peter Robertson

The huge brewery will have seating inside and out, including a bar and an elevated patio from which guests can enjoy Ix Art Park, with tasting flights, glasses, bottles, and food from a full-service kitchen. In fact, for food lovers, this may be a case of burying the lede, as the brewery has snagged one heck of a chef.

With wife Merrill, Culinary Institute of America graduate Chef Peter Robertson runs Côte-Rôtie, two time winner of Charlottesville’s Best Food Truck of the Year.  His food is outstanding. (Don’t worry, Côte-Rôtie fans, the truck isn’t going away, thanks to Merrill.) 

Goldstein says Robertson sealed the job with duck, of all things. “The first time Chef Peter had us over for dinner he made Peking Duck,” said Goldstein. “Who does that?” he said, recalling the fatty, rich, tender meat and delicate, crispy skin. “I’m just realizing it right now. We were totally seduced. And gladly complicit, at that.” 

While the brewery’s initial vision for food was modest, that changed with Robertson. “He opened our eyes to what the food could be,” Goldstein said. Just as Brasserie Saison features food suited for beer, Robertson describes his food as “sake cuisine” – dishes and flavors designed to pair with sake. This includes traditional Japanese pairings, like sushi-style items. 

Salmon sashimi

Salmon sashimi, carrot vinaigrette. and cucumber

But, it also includes new pairings from other cultures as well. In a 330 gallon smoker, for example, Robertson plans a rotating schedule of different smoked meats, like duck marinated in shio koji and then set to dry before being rubbed with szechuan and black peppercorns.

What is koji? A natural product in sake brewing, koji is a mold treasured for its transformative powers that is essential to making classic, umami-rich Japanese foods like soy sauce and miso. Used in Asian foods for thousands of years, it has seen a surge in popularity among American chefs. (Lampo’s Ian Redshaw recently made a koji-marinated steak that was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.) 

North American Sake Brewery will have its own cedar-lined culinary laboratory for producing koji, which it plans not only to use for sake making, but also to make available to select chefs across the country. Best of all, Robertson and other Charlottesville chefs will have access to it for one-off food experiments right here in Charlottesville.

koji

North American Sake Brewery plans to open by late July or early August. Follow along their Facebook page for details.