Charlottesville’s Signature Dish Revealed
Thank you, Charlottesville, for all of your help in our search for Charlottesville’s signature dish. It has been an honor to work with three of our region’s greatest culinary minds on Charlottesville food past and present. Craig Hartman is the acclaimed chef-owner of The BBQ Exchange, who founded the restaurant at Clifton Inn, and has studied Virginia cuisine for decades. Dr. Leni Sorensen is the retired African American Research Historian at Monticello, who still lectures and writes on food history, and may know as much about our region’s food as anyone alive. And, Ira Wallace is the co-owner of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange who also serves on the boards of the Organic Seed Alliance, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and the Virginia Association for Biological Farming.
We began months ago with one question: among the great bounty our region has to offer, what dish distinguishes us most? We consulted menus, clippings, history books, and cookbooks by influential Virginians like Mary Randolph and Edna Lewis. We heard from chefs, home cooks, servers, historians, writers, consumers, local food enthusiasts, and more. And, while we have received many great ideas, there is one dish we never could escape.
In Charlottesville, ham biscuits are wherever you turn: from the humblest dives to the most sophisticated restaurants, and everywhere in between. We find them in country stores, gas stations, butchers, farms, church suppers, picnics, cookouts, weddings, funerals, coat pockets, and car seats. We eat them to celebrate, we eat them to mourn, and we eat them for no particular reason at all. Enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the Charlottesville ham biscuit knows no boundaries – not race, creed, color, nor size of bank account.
Our region’s famous ham dates back centuries, which has allowed plenty of time for home and restaurant cooks to develop myriad ham biscuit recipes. On Monday April 9, please join us to sample just a few of them at a Community Potluck, as we come together to celebrate our region’s signature dish: the Cville ham biscuit.