Five Finds on Friday: Melissa Close Hart

by Charlottesville29


On Fridays, we feature five food finds selected by local chefs and personalities.  Today’s picks come from four-time James Beard award semi-finalist Melissa Close Hart, chef of Palladio Restaurant at Barboursville Vineyard.  On June 9, Palladio will be celebrating the release of Barboursville’s 2012 Vermentino Reserve with a multi-course dinner with guest chef Roberto Donna, who Esquire Magazine last year named national Chef of the Year.  Hart’s picks:

1)  Crispy Shrimp with Pickled Ginger-Sesame Aioli & Honey Sambal Drizzle at The Local.  “The chef, Matthew Hart, who also happens to be my husband, jokes that customers may revolt if he takes these delicious crispy shrimp off the menu.  Truth of the matter is he knows that I might revolt.  Just kidding, honey.  I love to sit at the bar with a cocktail and these shrimp!  It makes for a happy wife!”

2)  “Family Dinner” at The BBQ Exchange.  “Since I work out in Barboursville and live in Charlottesville, I can stop by and see my mentor, Craig Hartman, at his now famous BBQ joint.  His pork is perfect.  Everytime!  And he’s smoking a lot of pork – thousands of pounds a week, I’m sure.  But back to the Family Dinner: 1 pound of pork, 3 sides (we choose Mac & Cheese, Southern Slaw & Collards), 2 sauces (we go for Hog Fire & Craig’s Carolina), 4 buns and 4 pumpkin muffins.  And you can’t forget those muffins!  Yum.  And all for less than $25.  Can’t beat it!  Pick up a six pack of Blue Mountain brew on the way home and life is good!”

3)  Drunken Noodles with Chicken, Spicy at Pad Thai.  “From the first time I had their noodles, I was sold.  The balance between the spice, the acidity, the sweetness and the herbs is just perfect.  Plus I really love how crispy they let the noodles get.  I have to admit I get noodles from them almost every week!  Pairs very well with a nice cold sweeter wine, like Barboursville’s Riesling or even the Dry Rose (not as sweet but works well with the spice).”

4)  Any of the Southern Creations at Rapture.  “Chris Humphrey and I are cut from the same cook’s cloth.  We grew up on southern soul food and his interpretations always please me, my palate and my belly.  Last time I was there we had Cherry Coke Braised Pork Cheeks over Grits.  What the bleep!  I was in pig heaven.  And that’s a place I like to go often.  Have some gumbo and fried green tomatoes to start and some draft beers and you will feel transported to the deep South, y’all!”

5)  Donuts at Spudnuts.  “Jacob, my stepson, likes when I drive him to school, because he knows that I can be talked into stopping by for a donut.  I couldn’t tell you which is my favorite because that would be like picking a favorite child.  They are all great in each of their own ways.  But if I HAD to pick, I’d have to say the basic glazed, especially if they are warm.  But you can’t go wrong with the apple fritter either.  The kitchen and office crew at work like when I go because I’ll usually pick up an extra dozen to share.  Got to share the donut love.  The hardest part is waiting the 30 minutes it takes to get  to work at Barboursville so I can have a cup of Shenandoah Joe’s Palladio Blend with my donut.  Well to tell you the truth, I usually have one on the way.  I have no self control!”