The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: Five Finds on Friday

Five Finds on Friday: Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Tavola Cichheti Bar’s Rebecca Edwards, creator of one of the best cocktails of the year. With several great bartenders in town now, “Dealer’s Choice” reaped rewards all year long in 2018. Even among that elite group, though, Edwards’ Smoke & Ashes stood out. Edwards stirs together Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Meletti Amaro, Cocchi Dopo Teatro, and a pinch of salt, before placing the glass under a glass dome filled with applewood smoke. Edwards’ picks:

1) Wedge Salad at Oakhart Social. “I walk into Oakhart and I’m immediately in my happy place. Most of the time I’m there with my coworkers to get drinks after a Saturday night shift, but when I do get in there at normal people dinner hours, the wedge salad is an absolute must. The combination of the creamy poppy seed dressing with the everything bagel spice is heaven when paired with the pickled red onion and the crunch of baby gem lettuce. My fiancé, Steve, is essentially a carnivore and even he consistently craves this salad, so this dish is kind of a miracle.”

2) K.I.S.S. Caprese at Ivy Provisions. “As a vegetarian in a super meat-loving town, I eat A LOT of caprese sandwich variations. The K.I.S.S. Caprese is the one I consistently crave—even though I sometimes eat it multiple times in one week! Their fresh mozzarella is buttery and melts in your mouth, and it perfectly contrasts with the bitter kick of the arugula. I like to add avocado; it makes for a messy and delicious lunch feast.”

3) Vesper Martini at Lost Saint. “Colin and his team have a wonderful cocktail menu all around, but one of my favorite aspects of this place is their huge foundation of classic cocktails. Vespers have kind of fallen out of style in recent years (maybe because they’re shaken instead of stirred) but as far as martinis go they’re my absolute favorite. Boozy yet deceptively smooth, a Vesper is always a great end to a long bar shift. I usually leave the gin choice up to Colin—he almost always has a new product I’m excited to try.”

4) Burrata and Artichoke Ravioli at Tavola. “This one might be cheating because it’s a special and Chef Dylan only runs it once every few months, but I’m including it because this is truly one of the best dishes I’ve ever tasted. (I’m not the only one—my mom has me text her every time it’s on the specials board!) House-made ravioli stuffed with burrata cheese and artichokes, topped with truffle butter, roasted artichokes, grana padano and chives. It’s a dish that reads as incredibly rich, but it ends up being decadent yet light at the same time. Paired with a glass of Catarratto, every bite is an absolute dream.”

5) Tofu and Veggie Drunken Noodles at Pad Thai. “This is another one I’ll sometimes order multiple times a week. When I eat Thai food I usually prefer a sinus-clearing level of spice, and this dish definitely delivers. The noodles are cooked perfectly and there are a generous variety of veggies to add crunch. Definitely my favorite Thai food in town!”

Smoke & Ashes

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Five Finds on Friday: Bridget Meagher

Bridget

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.”

catbirger

Catbirger

Five Finds on Friday: Natalie Siler

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Natalie Siler, the woman behind Charlottesville’s favorite chocolate peanut butter balls. After a decade in the Pittsburgh restaurant industry, the Charlottesville native returned home in 2012 in search of a job with a more traditional schedule, when fate and Charlottesville generosity intervened. A “friend of a friend” asked if Siler would like to carry on the peanut butter ball recipe she had been making for Feast!. Siler accepted, and when she took her first batch to Feast!, she recalls, “the woman at the counter popped one in her mouth, and said: ‘Great! We will need 300 more.” Six years later, the peanut butter balls remain a sensation, as she now makes 600 per week to meet holiday demand. Available only at Feast!. Siler’s picks:

1) Black Bean Nachos at Continental Divide. “On paper, they might not sound like anything out of the ordinary, but when you add the squeeze bottle of Wait a Minute sauce and one of Matt’s margaritas, it is unpretentious and wonderful. If I have room, one of the daily specials from Seven Hills never lets me down. I like to sit at the curve of the bar and come early.”

2) Italian Sub at Anna’s Pizza #5.  “I grew up in Charlottesville and many of my favorite dishes and spaces exist only in memory now, but 34 years later, the Italian Sub at Anna’s Pizza #5 has stayed happily identical to how I remember it tasting after a swim meet on a Wednesday night. A satisfying crunch, the tangy house dressing and one of the best beer pitcher deals in town. Don’t change, Anna.”

3) Honey Ginger Martini at Bang!. “This drink makes me think of my sister. Her name is Ginger and she lives in Austin, which is where I was first introduced to Tito’s Vodka. (My dad claims to have played cornhole with Tito himself). And, this drink is perfect for a kick in the pants to get you going for a show downtown. House pickles and sweet potato gnocchi always follow.”

4) Cheese from Caromont Farm and Our Lady of the Angels. “I’m a sucker for a cheese plate. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite one, but Pippin Hill and The Local come to mind. I’m always excited to see Caromont Farm on the menu. After my snuggle session with the goats last year, I always like to think I played some tiny part in making it taste so good. But I’m always looking for that bright red wax wheel that covers the gouda from of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. It’s made in the mountains near Crozet and if anyone is not sure what I might want as a gift, the two pound wheel will do just fine.”

5) Tuna Avocado Carpaccio at Now & Zen. “The first time I ordered this and the almost-table length salad was placed in front of me, I giggled like a small child. It hit all the marks for me. Protein. Spice. Greens. Texture. I always over order here, but I can never not get this salad.”