The Charlottesville 29

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

Fruitbasket Arrives at Champion on January 23

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Big hype beers are dying.

With so much good beer available these days, rare is the occasion when special releases  generate the mania they once did. Some consumers even suspect breweries of artificially suppressing supply of some beers to manufacture scarcity and the hype it can yield.

In many cases, though, there are good reasons for supply of a great beer to be so limited. Like hard work. Take Fruitbasket, by Champion Brewing Company. First released in 2014, Fruitbasket is an IPA with extravagant amounts of Mosaic hops, and, to complement the hops’ natural fruitiness, actual fruit. That fruit is what creates the hard work: zesting and juicing by hand 4,000 pounds of blood orange and grapefruit, and then adding the zest and juice to the beer as it nears the end of fermentation. With all that work, Champion has limited Fruitbasket to a once-a-year release, each January.

For this year’s iteration, though, the team took a slightly different approach. “We are always searching for ways to innovate and streamline our process while improving the quality of our beer,” says Josh Skinner, Champion’s Lead Brewer. That led them to aseptic fruit puree. “We have been playing around with adding purees to beers at the taproom for a couple of years now,” says Skinner, “and have been really impressed with their consistency and the quality of the beers made with them.”

So, for Fruitbasket this year, instead of all that zesting and juicing by hand, the Champion team added aseptic puree of blood orange and red grapefruit. The result: “the best Fruitbasket yet,” says Skinner. That’s high praise for a beer once called the best beer made in Virginia.

A 70 IBU, 8 % ABV Double IPA, 2019’s Fruitbasket will be released at the Champion tap room in Charlottesville on Wednesday, January 23 at 4 pm.

Five Finds on Friday: Sarah Sargent

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Sarah Sargent of The Catering Outfit, which is joining this week’s Restaurant Week with its own pop-up restaurant, Foodbar, where Sargent will be maitre ‘d. Foodbar is a seven-seat, copper bar overlooking Chef Walter’s open kitchen, with additional seats at tables for a few more guests. The menu is no joke. (North American Sake Brewery sake-poached monkfish, horseradish parsnip puree, fermented beech mushrooms, grilled scallions, beet and plum.) Full menu and details here. Plus, after Restaurant Week ends, on Sunday, January 27 industry folks are invited to Foodbar to unwind with a special $20 menu just for them. Sargent’s picks:

1) Nutter Butters from Found. Market. “When I discovered Found. Market on the other side of our parking lot, I was beyond thrilled. And I started shopping for larger pants. If you haven’t been before, you must check it out for lunch. The quiche of the day or the turkey & muenster on house focaccia with pickled onions are my favorites, followed of course with that darn, dream worthy Nutter Butter. I’ve known the owners of Found. Market for quite a while, as chef Walter has bought lamb from their family farm (Retreat Farms) for years. The entire family (I think!) owns and operates this thoughtful market  and bakery. Son Elliot makes the most amazing treats, like apple crumb coffee cake and chocolate cake with chocolate merlot ganache icing . . . Are you still reading this, or driving there now?!”

2) HAY! Straws at Continental Divide. “First and foremost, I’m a California girl. A couple years ago, San Diego county passed a law making people pay ten cents for a plastic bag at local retailers, encouraging the community to use reusable bags and kick that nasty plastic to the curb. This past year they passed a measure outlawing straws in restaurants. We’ve all had that uncomfortable, soggy, wet, paper straw in our mouths at some point and I think we can all agree – it’s no fun. So when I wrapped my lips around the HAY! Straw poking out of my house margarita at Continental Divide the other night – I was thrilled. Plus Continental Divide has my other California staple: good Mexican food. It took a minute, but I’ve officially embraced Tex- Mex instead if wishing it was Baja Med. The spinach and mushroom enchiladas with smoked gouda are always on point, and you can’t lose when ordering the carnitas. Throw in a house margarita with that wonderful sea-turtle-lovin’ HAY! Straw, and you got yourself a fiesta.”

3) Witchcraft at Tavola’s Cicchetti Bar. “Steve Yang has made such a lovely cocktail menu at the cicchetti bar. It is one of my favorite places to just take a breath after work on a weekday, especially a Monday. Many of us in the industry take Mondays off, but not all of us. After I survive a Monday like a boss, I like to slip around the corner for a slow drink and bite. I’m not always a gin fan, but the liquore strega, sesame falernum, house tonic, and pretty lime garnish makes for a very revivifying mouthful. I love the cicchetti bar’s food specials too. The other night I enjoyed polenta fries with a spicy marinara. It is definitely my spot to experience la dolce far niente.”

4) Flaming Boodie Sauce from Hip Hop Hill. “If you like hot sauce, this is your lover. I like me some hot wings now and then, but this honey hopenero hot sauce is one of my favs because it also doubles as a marinade. Last summer I spent many nights grilling under the stars, and this sauce made it onto a lot of my local chicken and steak. I also spent a good part of my summer trying new ways to use hops in the kitchen, like popping a few fresh nuggets into my homemade dill pickles. Hip Hop Hill is a hop farm out in Free Union (hence the honey “hop”enero) that is out to prove that hops aren’t just for beer. The Hill also happens to be the home of a fully licensed commercial kitchen and bottling warehouse. Owner Alessandro Valmarama has teamed up with Mad Hatter Foods, offering them a permanent home bottling facility, and I can’t wait to see what else these guys have in the works. You used to have to ‘know a guy’ to try this stuff, but luckily you can now pick up a bottle at Beer Run, JM Stock Provisions, or The Shebeen.”

5) Margherita D.O.C. at Lampo. “I know, it’s not that exciting. And there have been several late night, wine fueled arguments over the D.O.C. vs ‘regular’ margherita pizza–can you even taste the difference? My vote is, totes. And if there were ever a find to get excited about, it’s Lampo pizza. I don’t always have that much time to eat out, yet it’s one of my favorite things to do. Every time I get a night out with my girlfriends I want to go to Lampo. Something about sitting at a tiny table right off the sidewalk on a boisterous patio, sipping delicious Italian wine, picking at marinated olives, and giving ourselves the ‘go ahead’ to eat an entire loaf of bread before eating an entire pizza all to ourselves (it only comes in one size). Reminds me of vacations in Roma, where nights are long and the wine is endless. It’s just a perfect night out in my book.” 

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Five Finds on Friday: Stephanie DeVaux

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Photo by Tiffany Sun.

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from The Alley Light cook Stephanie DeVaux, who is also a private chef behind Holmes Dinner Club, which she calls an intimate, themed meal gathering “friends and strangers for an evening of food and drink – including a full hour of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a coursed dinner with beverage pairing.” Interested in becoming a member? Visit here. And for her private chef and catering services, visit here. DeVaux’s picks:

1) Tamarind Margarita at Milan. “Though I’m generally attracted to a more bitter profile when ordering cocktails, the Tamarind Margarita at Milan remains my most marvelous exception. It’s a wonderful balance of sweet and sour and provides an ultra-refreshing respite to some of the heat from my favorite Indian dishes there.”

2) La Chicana Burger at The Bebedero. “I have a thing for burgers, and after a personal, multi-year-long journey of citywide consumption, I really do have to settle on the La Chicana Burger at The Bebedero as the top of my list. It just gives me everything I want in a burger: locally sourced beef from Timbercreek, just enough spiciness without being overwhelming, lots of fat (in the form of guacamole and a super creamy mayo), acidic pickled veg to balance it out, and a generous dose of cheese.”

3) Mr. Rech at The Alley Light. “I may be biased since I’ve also worked in Chef Robin’s kitchen, but the Mr. Rech objectively remains the best dessert I’ve ever eaten in Charlottesville. Two dacquoise cookies surround a hazelnut semifreddo and the entire thing is drenched in hot chocolate sauce. It is the most elevated ice cream sandwich in town, and hands down the most delicious.”

4) Reserve Wine Pairing at Fleurie. “Most people already know that Fleurie is French fare at its best, but what I find even more standout than their food alone is its added nuances alongside the perfectly paired beverage. The reserve wine pairing option with their tasting menu is nothing less than a transformative experience, which I think most wine pairing programs try to be, but few actually succeed. In this case, the wine is excellent and the food is excellent, but together they change so much in their depth and intensity in the most stunning ways.”

5) Two Poached Eggs with Home Fries and Toast at Tip Top Restaurant. “There are a seemingly unlimited number of amazing breakfasts in Charlottesville, but I never crave anything like I crave a classic diner-style breakfast, so Tip Top is a frequent stop on my weekly breakfast rotation. It’s exactly what you expect it to be, so it’s partly the casual consistency I love most, but it’s also the buzzing, no-nonsense atmosphere there on weekend mornings. I will unabashedly push my breakfast partner into getting the biscuits and sausage gravy (so I can steal a bite), but my tried-and-true is the classic: two poached eggs with home fries and toast with butter.”