The Charlottesville 29

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

Five Finds on Friday: Bridget Meagher


Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Bridget Meagher of Catbird Kitchen, a new craft sauce company, where the longtime chef and owner of Roanoke’s Alexander’s restaurant uses ingredients from her Ivy farm to create small batch sauces, like Vahotcha Hot Sauce, Vahotcha BBQ Sauce, and Double Chocolate Caramel. Stop by the City Market Holiday Market tomorrow to sample her sauces and create custom gift boxes. Or, find them at Feast! and Greenwood Gourmet. An active supporter of nonprofits that benefit women and children, Meagher is helping members of the Charlottesville Women in Food provide meals for the homeless through PACEM. Details on how you can help or donate are here. Meagher’s picks:

1) Skillet Roasted Mussels at Tavola. “I’m not the first person to say these guys have the corner on quality mussels and a la minute preparation. The simplicity of the ingredients belies the pure magic as they come together with high heat, technique and timing. I wish it weren’t so hard to get a table.”

2) Ham Biscuit at J.M. Stock Provisions. “As a New Orleanian by birth with deep SW LA roots, I’m kind of skeptical about guys in Virginia taking the leap into tasso, of all things. It’s sad to say, but so many folks just don’t get Cajun charcuterie right, but J.M. Stock has done it. Not only are the smoky flavors spot on, the quality of the cut puts it into premium category. And shaved onto that warm biscuit—it is heavenly.”

3) Fried Oysters with Aioli at Duner’s. “Long before I met and got to know the talented Laura Fonner, Duner’s was our go-to for fried oysters – plump bivalves, perfectly breaded and fried. In LA (that’s Louisiana not the other LA), fried oysters are a daily staple and these can compete with the best. Since Duner’s is only 5 minutes from our little farm, this is neighborhood comfort food at its best. But now I’m looking at her Parmesan Bread French Toast, Steak, and Tomato Hot Sauce Beurre Blanc-yum! Maybe she might consider using Vahotcha Sriracha for that sauce?”

4) Local Rabbit, Andouille & Chipotle Étouffée, Dirty Rice, Crispy Crawfish Tails, Fried Okra at Junction. “Ok, so I’m on a Gulf Coast roll here. Melissa creates magic with any dish, but smothered rabbit is a favorite of mine and this dish really shines.”

5) Shenandoah, Light Roll, and Baguette from Albemarle Baking Co. “To me, these are some of the standouts in a solid line up of superior baked goods. The Shenandoah, with the pears, is just sublime. The baguette has been such a mainstay in town for so long that people might forget that there was a time when real baguettes were hard to come by, and Gerry changed all that. I’ll take one home to break and enjoy with my stash of Caromont Esmontian. The light roll, buttered and toasted on the flat top, rounds out one of the best burgers you’ll ever taste. Made with Seven Hills ground beef and doused with my Vahotcha BBQ Sauce, I call it The Catbirger.”



Help Charlottesville Women Feed the Homeless


Duner’s Chef Laura Fonner is leading an effort by Charlottesville Women in Food to help feed the homeless this winter, and you can help. Every Tuesday through March, Fonner and her team are providing dinners through PACEM, a local organization that coordinates space and volunteers to provide shelter for the homeless. The dinners will be served at a different church each week, with each one feeding approximately 80 people, plus volunteers.

Fonner says she became inspired to help earlier this year by people she met while serving a dinner for the homeless. “Being part of the Charlottesville Women in Food group,” thought Fonner, “this is the perfect opportunity to make this effort our first big thing as a group.”  And, it’s not just restaurant chefs, but women from all types of food businesses. “Take Nona’s pasta sauce and pair it with Mary Ann Valente’s homemade pasta, and all of a sudden you have an Italian dinner for the shelter,” Fonner says. “We are coming together as a group and using our culinary talents to pull together all of the meals.”

What makes it worthwhile, Fonner says, is seeing the direct impact on the lives of those in need. “It excites me,” Fonner  says, “because I will be able to hear all of their stories and how they got to be where they are and hopefully see some progress in their lives by the end of this season.”

Members of Charlottesville Women in Food do all of the cooking and provide all of the ingredients, and you can support their efforts. “Every donation of money, food, or physical help is going to be greatly appreciated,” says Fonner. To donate or volunteer, contact Fonner at

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