The Charlottesville 29

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

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Five Finds on Friday: Danielle Stein

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Danielle Stein, who has entertained and informed Charlottesville sports and food fans throughout her tenure at CBS19. Now moving on, Stein once said it was her dream to appear in Five Finds on Friday. Who are we to stand between a girl and her dreams? In honor of her work in Charlottesville, always with a smile, Danielle Stein’s Five Finds on Friday:

1) Key Lime Martini at Bang!. “There is no question that Bang! is my favorite restaurant in Charlottesville since the first week I came here. I love their rotating menu of small Asian-fusion tapas, and try to pick new things each time. While I do that, there is always one constant: the key lime martini. It’s the perfect balance of sweet and a little tart and a graham cracker crumb rim. Always fits perfect with any dish I order.”

2) Lamb Carpaccio at The Alley Light. “I dream about the lamb carpaccio at Alley Light. The most beautiful and intimate space features some of the more unique things I’ve ever tried. I’ve had other carpaccios like tuna and beef, but the flavor of the paper-thin lamb is so special and is such a star. So good on their bread with the aioli and arugula.”

3) Ka Pow Crispy Pork Belly at Monsoon Siam. “Anything with the words ‘spicy’ and ‘garlic’ in the description is going to call my name, and then with crispy pork belly? Game over. The sauce flavors and the spicy peppers make this dish great, and it packs some heat! Shout out to the Hell Fried Rice too.

4) Provoleta at South and Central. “It’s a skillet of hot, melty cheese that’s crispy and golden on top and makes for the ultimate cheese pull when you scoop it onto bread or with your insane steaks. Enough said. They have lunch special with the provoleta melted onto a steak as well for the best of both worlds. Beautiful space, and always check their steak special (if they have the bison ribeye, GET IT).

5) Cacio e Pepe Pizza at Luce. “Luce has changed me for the better. I love their pasta, but their pizza is just something else. You get all the joy of cacio e pepe pasta, but on a white pizza. This, quite literal, hole in the wall off the downtown mall makes for the perfect carryout meal, and I loved their tented live music summer series in the parking lot next door.”

New Star: Chef Reggie Calhoun Takes Little Star Helm

Reggie Calhoun

It can be a bittersweet moment in the career of a chef. On the one hand, it’s what many chefs work towards as they grow older: a restaurant that becomes so well-run that they feel freed to spend less time onsite and more time with family. On the other hand, stepping back from the kitchen can be difficult for someone who has spent so much of their life there.

Such is the crossroads for Ryan Collins. Most of his adult life has found him the kitchen, and, since opening Little Star in 2018, he has been involved in every aspect of it: design, management, cooking, and more. In many ways, the restaurant is Collins. But, the grind of the industry can take its toll, and at 39, the father of two has been feeling the pull to take a step back. The feasibility of such a move always turns on whether, in the founder’s absence, there are hands capable of sustaining the restaurant.

Enter Reggie Calhoun. With experience at places like Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar and Lampo, Calhoun joined Little Star soon after it opened and has been Collins’ right hand man ever since. As Calhoun’s responsibility grew in the kitchen, he eventually began creating his own dishes for the restaurant, like, on the current menu, Smoked Beets with cashew crema, green grapes, pistachio, and horseradish; Ember Roasted Carrots, with citrus mole, sesame brittle, coconut, scallion; and Grilled Tequila-Lime Shrimp, with peanut aioli, crispy shallots, and herbs.

Smoked Beets

Ember Roasted Carrots

Grilled Tequila-Lime Shrimp

As Chef de Cuisine, Calhoun is now poised to run the Little Star kitchen himself. “Reggie’s been with us since the beginning, and knows as well as anyone who we are as a restaurant,” said Collins. “His talent and hunger leave me with strong confidence that Little Star is in good hands.”

So, what will change?  Well, on the one hand, not much. The aim is for Little Star to remain the same great restaurant it always has been, grounded in Collins’ passions for Spanish and Mexican cuisine. But, on the other hand, over time regulars may notice more of a stamp from Calhoun himself. “Like Ryan, I plan on operating in the fairest and most ethical way,” Calhoun said. “While doing so, I also plan on making my own stamp on the menu with my inventive yet approachable flavors, while staying in the realm of our Spanish/ Mexican American fare.” Welcome the Calhoun era at Little Star.

 

Five Finds on Friday: Allen LeHew

School’s out for summer!

For many in Charlottesville, nothing says summer more than Duck’s Cottage Coffee & Books, the iconic OBX shop that fuels vacationing Charlottesvillians with waterfront coffee. It turns out the love affair is mutual, as longtime owner Allen LeHew loves Charlottesville, and makes frequent journeys to Charlottesville for food (and sports!). Quietly, he is also a regular contributor to fundraisers when members of the Charlottesville food community are in need. No wonder Charlottesville finds his shop such a pleasant place to be.

To kick off beach season, today’s Five Finds on Friday come from LeHew. Check out his great picks, and don’t miss Duck’s Cottage Coffee & Books this summer:

1) Seasonal Fruit Brioche at Albemarle Baking Company. “This delicate, light and fluffy brioche, filled with pastry cream and seasonal fruit, is perfect with your morning coffee, as an afternoon snack, or even for dessert.”

2) Jambon Beurre at Belle. “Belle’s take on this classic French sandwich is so simple yet so delicious. The house baked bread, using flour from Woodson’s Mill, is perfection. Finish your meal with one of Belle’s cinnamon rolls or chocolate chip cookies.”

3) Pig Mac at Little Star. “#11 on Simon’s 29 Sandwich list. A breaded pork cutlet with all the fixings to make it a Mac. Served on a brioche sesame seed roll. One of those thing I eat and days later think about and crave another.”

4) Quenelles de Brochet at Café Frank. “My wife Judy and I try to dine at Café Frank whenever we are in town. Nothing disappoints, but the standout so far has been the Quenelles. The pike dumpling practically melts in your mouth and the rich velouté is the perfect accompaniment.”

5) Ethiopian Qabballe Pourover at Mudhouse. “I’m partial to the fruit forward Ethiopian coffees and the pourover method really brings the fruit out. Leave the cream and sugar out, and enjoy the subtle nuances and mouthfeel of the coffee. You can’t go wrong with any of the single origin coffees Mudhouse has to offer.”

 

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