The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: News

Zocalo Introduces Jazz Nights

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When news broke that co-founder Andrew Silver had left Zocalo, his longtime business partner Ivan Rekosh assured regulars that the restaurant would continue largely unchanged, although he did say that he had some interesting tweaks planned as well. First up, weekly jazz nights.

Starting October 24, Zocalo will host live jazz every Tuesday night from 7:30 – 11:00. The relatively early start time is by design, to allow folks other than night owls to catch some good live music. For the first set, from 7:30 – 9:00, music will be on the quieter side, Rekosh says, so guests can enjoy jazz during dinner from one of Charlottesville’s most reliably excellent kitchens. Then, from 9:30 – 11:00, they’ll turn up the volume. The jazz is the brainchild of Zocalo staff members Peter Larson and Jack Sheehan, both graduates of the Berklee College of Music. Larson and Sheehan wanted to provide guests a way to enjoy some of the great local jazz scene, without having to stay up into the wee hours of the night. Stalwarts like John D’earth and the Kane-West Organ Trio are already on the schedule, which launches in just two weeks.

Jose de Brito Joins Fleurie

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Jose de Brito is back.

The James Beard semifinalist whose two decades in Charlottesville included Ciboulette and a magical run at The Alley Light skipped town last Spring for the Inn at Little Washington, leaving his Charlottesville fans wondering if they would ever enjoy his food again. Now he is returning to Charlottesville as Chef de Cuisine of Fleurie and consultant at Petit Pois.

Both restaurants are owned by Brian Helleberg, who employed de Brito from 2008 to 2011 as a cook and Pastry Chef at Fleurie, a time Helleberg remembers fondly. “Jose’s knowledge, palate, work ethic, and enthusiasm brought lasting improvements,” says Helleberg, who sounds like he can’t wait to get started. “I am excited and honored to collaborate with such a talented chef,” Helleberg says. “His passion for great food is contagious, and I’m looking forward to learning from him and bringing our food to the next level.”

A fixture in The Charlottesville 29, Fleurie’s food has long been beloved by regulars. So, what might de Brito have planned? “I have always considered Fleurie to be among the great restaurants of Charlottesville, and they happen to do French cooking which is what I do best, so there is no better match,” says de Brito. “French food is very diverse and when done well it can be really tasty, so I will push and build all our flavor profiles to make each dish as tasty as I can.”

While de Brito enjoyed his time away, part of what brought him back was the lure of Charlottesvulle. “My wife and I like this place very much, so there is no better place to cook great food,” says de Brito. “I have a lot of regulars, and many seem to like what I do.”

Yes, yes we do.

 

Nadjeeb Chouaf Among the World’s Best

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Being crowned the nation’s best cheesemonger was one thing. Now, Charlottesville’s Nadjeeb Chouaf has been named one of the world’s best. Yesterday in Paris, the founder of Flora Artisanal Cheese finished third overall in the Mondial du Fromage world cheesemonger competition, the best result ever for an American.

Just to qualify for the event was an honor. Chouaf earned a spot by winning the U.S. Cheesemonger Invitational last year, giving him a chance to compete against the world’s best in two grueling days of competition. Saturday, each contestant received 150 euros and two hours to spend at the world-famous Les Halles de Tours market to buy ingredients for Sunday’s events. Then on Sunday, beginning at 8 am, contestants faced nearly ten straight hours of tests. In the morning, there was a theory exam, blind tasting, and a five-minute presentation of a cheese to the panel of cheese expert judges.

In the afternoon, first competitors had to assemble a cheese plate from five cheeses revealed to them by the panel. Next came “perfect bite,” where each competitor was challenged to create the best morsel of food from the same cheese, fourme d’Ambert. Chouaf’s was a ball of fourme rolled in peanut nougatine in a Chinese soup spoon of peanut oil jam and reduced raspberry vinegar, topped with a tiny bit of raspberry jam.

Next was “cheese dish,” where contestants again were challenged to create the best dish from the same cheese: brie fermier. Chouaf made a frisée salad with cider vinegar and hard boiled egg with the yolk removed and replaced with a mixture of duxelles, riced egg yolk and brie, topped with ramp powder and lardons.  Chouaf credits Timbercreek Market chefs Tucker Yoder and Shelby Park with inspiring the development of his bite and dish.

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Photo by Sara Adduci

Next, contestants had to create a themed cheese display on a one meter square board, using 50 kilo of cheese determined by the panel. This year’s theme: The Alchemy of Cheesemongering.

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Chouaf’s themed display: The Alchemy of Cheesemongering

Finally, contestants had to create a cheese sculpture using three cheeses determined by the judges.

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An American Breakthrough

Chouaf’s third place finish marks the first time an American has ever reached the podium at the competition, which has been dominated by Europeans. “It’s a huge accomplishment,” Chouaf said of the breakthrough, noting that many French cheese professionals still look down upon U.S. cheese and cheesemongering. “Many thought an American would never even place,” said Chouaf. “The fact that any of us succeeded continues to help push the needle and validate our industry on the world stage.”

And, it’s not too shabby for Charlottesville, either. Well done, Nadjeeb.

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