The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: News

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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Parallel 38 is Back!

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When Parallel 38 announced in January that it was closing, regulars were devastated. In its three years at Stonefied, the restaurant earned a spot on The Charlottesville 29, was named C-VILLE’s Best New Restaurant, won raves from Tom Sietsema, and developed a loyal following that even included many top chefs. In 2016, for example, former Clifton Inn chef Craig Hartman said the best thing he ate all year was at Parallel 38, while in 2015 another former Clifton Inn chef, Christian Kelly, said the same thing. Among those lamenting the loss of their favorite restaurant was food podcaster Jenée Libby, who penned a heartfelt eulogy.

Well, now they have reason to rejoice. Parallel 38 is re-opening at 817 West Main Street. Co-owner Justin Ross admits he considered other projects after a lease disagreement forced the January closure. But, in the end, the pull of Parallel 38 was too strong, particularly after finding what Ross deems to be a perfect location on West Main, the former home of L’Etoile.  “We took one look at the new space and it screamed Parallel 38 to us,” Ross says.

Guests can expect a similar menu of mezze from Parallel 38’s same chef as before closing, Johnny Garver. “We will still have our core menu items,” Ross says, “but our new location will allow us to be more adventurous, so expect this menu to be a bit more fun.”

For the restaurant’s rebirth, Parallel 38’s customers have themselves to thank, at least in part. “The support that this community showed us in our final weeks was one of the more amazing things I have witnessed,” says Ross. “It showed us that we had accomplished our goal to become a part of this amazing community, and we can’t wait for our new opportunity to do it all over again.”

Check back for an opening date, which should be next month. And, welcome back Parallel 38.

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Brian Jones Joins The Alley Light

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Already a talented bunch, The Alley Light‘s kitchen staff just got even better. Earlier this year, Brian Jones, who ran Petit Pois’ kitchen for more than a decade, decided it was time to move on. His new project was to oversee the kitchen of Timberwood Tap House, the restaurant from the Timberwood Grill team which opened in October, across from Wegmans. Now that Timberwood Tap House is up and running, Jones is returning to more sophisticated culinary arts.

In mid-December, he will join The Alley Light’s kitchen, led by Executive Chef and co-owner Robin McDaniel. “Robin and I are excited to bring aboard Brian Jones,” said McDaniel’s husband Chris Dunbar, also a co-owner. “Having both worked with Brian for a number of years at both Petit Pois and Fleurie,” said Dunbar, “we have first hand knowledge of his work ethic, attention to detail, organization, and creativity.”

It was difficult for Jones to leave Timberwood Tap House, which he says is off to a great start and in very good hands. “I had a wonderful time with the Timberwood family,” Jones said, “but, I realized that being behind the range, cooking, was where I wanted to be.”  Jones is excited to have the chance to do that at The Alley Light, while reuniting with McDaniel and Dunbar.

The restaurant does not expect any significant menu changes resulting from the hire. Instead, McDaniel will just have one of the best assistants a chef could hope for. Jones has worked with some of the nation’s most decorated chefs chefs, such as Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert and Jean Georges Vongerichten. “Personally and professionally, we couldn’t imagine a better fit here,” said Dunbar.

Congrats to Jones and The Alley Light.