The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: Auction

Milan Auction Dinner

Milan

The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions brought so many special moments and now continue to bring more. First, there was the extraordinary generosity of the restaurants in creating the experiences to be auctioned, and the vendors who lined up to help. Next was the bidding, which blew away expectations, totaling nearly $80,000 in donations to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, enough to provide more than 315,000 meals to the area’s hungry. And now that the auctions have ended come reports from auction winners about their amazing experiences. What a pleasure it is to receive all of these emails, providing vicarious enjoyment of auction winners’ once-in-a-lifetime meals.

Take Milan’s “Dream Feast Around India,” which Randy Huwa won with a donation of $1,000 to the food bank, enough to provide more than 4,000 meals for the area’s hungry. Billed as a “feast showcasing the many different regional cuisines of India, highlighting owner Charanjeet Ghotra’s favorite dishes from each region,” the family-style meal was “to include Ghotra’s regional favorites from the regular menu, plus some off-menu surprises. With plenty of wines and beers to accompany the food, it’s an all-inclusive Dream Feast Around India.”

Huwa and his guests had their feast Tuesday night. And, from his email to Ghotra after the meal, it is clear that is was special. Also below is the menu which, at Huwa’s request, was vegetarian.

Thank you to Milan and Randy Huwa for your tremendous generosity.

Chef,

I really cannot find the words to express my appreciation and gratitude for the EXTRAORDINARY dinner that you presented for us last evening. The menu was outstanding; each and every dish was terrific … and you and your great staff were so accommodating to the special diets of our group.

My wife and I are frequent diners at Milan — we love your food! — and I came into last night with high expectations.  Those expectations were SHATTERED.  Truly a memorable evening.

Thank you!

My very best,

Randy

milanmenu

Area Restaurants Create 315K+ Meals for Hungry

Charlottesville29_Cover_D1-01

Even if you’re not a money manager, you may have heard of ROI, a business term creeping into everyday conversation. Short for “return on investment,” it’s a simple metric to evaluate the efficacy of an investment – comparing the value of what you put in to the value of what you get out.

Over the past two months, in McGuireWoods’ The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, area restaurants have offered thirty-one separate once-in-a-lifetime experiences to entice donations to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Those 31 restaurant experiences yielded more than 315,000 meals for the hungry. How’s that for ROI?

The Auctions’ Heroes

Of course, many others have contributed to the cause as well. McGuireWoods LLP underwrote the entire thing, with a donation to cover residual expenses. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank provided indispensable help. Elite University of Virginia coaches joined auction experiences as special guests. And, vendor, after vendor, after vendor came forward with generous donations of time, products, and services. One vendor donated coaster and poster design services and even threw in cash to pay for production.

Then there are the bidders. In some cases, an auction was won by a single individual with the resources and passion to make an enormous difference. In other cases, groups of friends pooled their funds to win restaurant auction experiences. In all, more than sixty bidders were among the winning donors.

It’s not just winners that helped, though. The unsung heroes of the auction were the runners-up, whose generosity and interest was essential to drive up winning bids, thereby creating more meals for the hungry.

The Right Thing at the Right Time: Moments of Kindness

At times I have wondered whether The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions did not belong in a year as unsettling as 2016. But when I thought about it more, I realized the auctions could not have been timed better. To combat the year’s repeated attacks on our confidence in human decency, the auctions have countered with reminders that, at their core, people are fundamentally good. There were too many heart-warming moments of kindness to document them all, so here are just a few.

After UVa’s second leading tackler in history won a fiercely competitive auction to have dinner at with UVa Football Coach Bronco Mendenhall, the runner-up insisted on making a generous donation anyway. When one food business owner learned she had outbid another food business owner to win a restaurant’s auction, she invited him to join her for the experience she won. A group of husbands won an auction for their wives as a ladies night out. A chef postponed a career move so that a bidder could surprise his wife with a birthday dinner. The two largest donors in all of the auctions – $8,150 for The Ivy Inn and $6,500 for Fleurie – asked not to be identified, choosing generosity over notoriety. A restaurant owner sparked a bidding war for his auction after vowing to volunteer one hour of service at the food bank for every 100 meals it yielded. And, even after the auctions ended, a restaurant not in the auctions created a dinner to reward a multi-time runner-up, creating even more meals for the hungry.

A Special Food Community

Earlier this year, I asked the restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 if they would be willing to create a VIP experience to auction off to the highest bidder, in support of the food bank. They all said yes. A few months later, we have more than 315,000 meals for the hungry.

How is that possible? It is possible when you have a food community as special and compassionate as Charlottesville’s. Entering the auctions, my goal for total donations was $29,000. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the restaurants, the total amount raised, including supplements to the winning donations, is $79,730. This is because each restaurant created an amazing experience that would never be available to a typical customer, and donated the entire thing, allowing every dollar bid to go directly to the food bank. I first arrived in Charlottesville nearly twenty five years ago, and I’ve never seen a greater outpouring of generosity by our food community.

If you’re like me, you may be wondering how you can show your appreciation for the food community’s generosity. The greatest tribute would be to enhance the fruits of their labor, and create even more meals for the area’s hungry. In short, you can thank the restaurants for their efforts by improving their already amazing ROI. Below is how to make a donation to the food bank in gratitude for our food community’s amazing work.

Thank you in advance for your support. Let’s help the restaurants feed even more of the area’s hungry.

  • Online (3% fee): On the Donate page. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may “dedicate” your donation to “The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.”
  • By Phone: (540) 213-8406. To show your appreciation for the food community’s efforts, you may state that your donation relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.
  • By Check: Payable to “Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.” BRAFB, PO Box 937, Verona, VA 24482. Again, please note on your check that it relates to The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.

Auctions End with Maximum Vangelopoulosity

Angelo

While the The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions have had many heroes, none has been bigger than Ivy Inn owners Angelo and Farrell Vangelopoulos. There is generosity. And, then there is Vangelopoulosity. As anyone who knows them knows, the latter is another thing altogether. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for helping to make these auctions such a success.

Earlier this year, when I first wondered if restaurants would participate in a series of auctions of special dining experiences, I decided to proceed in two steps. First, I thought, I would ask each restaurant if they would commit generally to the idea of the auctions, without requiring details of their experiences. Then, I would circle back, to learn what each restaurant wished to offer.

For the first step, I knew just where to start. Many regard Angelo as not just the best chef in the area, but also the kindest. And so, I was hopfeul that Angelo would say yes. Just as Tyrion drinks and knows things, Angelo says yes. That’s what he does. When I emailed him to pitch the idea, he responded immediately. “Yep, I’m in. I love the idea. – ang!”

Then, once all of the restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 were on board, Angelo was one of the first to submit his experience to me. And, though I am accustomed to Angelo’s generosity, it still astonished me. Angelo offered A Greek Taverna Experience for 20, in which he would turn the inn’s patio into a pop-up taverna for the auction winner and nineteen guests. Angelo’s parents are Greek, and he grew up working in their restaurants. For the auction winner, Angelo said, he and his father would prepare an enormous feast of traditional and modern Greek dishes, wines, and ouzo, with a wide variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Wow. “What a wonderful idea and how extremely generous,” I replied to Angelo. “Thank you so much.”

His response, in toto: “it’ll be a blast :).”

Next, I sent The Ivy Inn’s auction item as one of several examples to other restaurants still working on their auction experiences. While I have no doubt that restaurants would have created spectacular experiences regardless, Angelo’s generosity set the bar early on, and likely inspired others. In fact, when I circulated the list of auction examples, including The Ivy Inn’s, one restaurateur wrote back simply: “Damn it Angelo!”

Indeed, Angelo’s early example may have been responsible for thousands of meals for the area’s hungry. And, this morning, he and Farrell became responsible for thousands more. The Ivy Inn auction, the final one in The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, was won by a bid of $8,150, which will provide more than 32,000 meals to the area’s hungry. Thank you to the Vangelopoulos’ and the bidder for their tremendous generosity.