The Charlottesville 29

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

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A Pandemic Escape: Evenings on the Hill at Pippin Hill

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In normal times, Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is not open for dinner. The vineyards’ events schedule is so jam packed that, at 5 pm each day, staff usher out guests, leaving only to their imagination what it might be like to dine as the sun sets on the vineyards’ stunning grounds.

But, we are in a pandemic. And, for all the devastation COVID-19 has wrought, there are a few silver linings — opportunities that would not exist but for the unprecedented times. With the pandemic wiping out Pippin Hill’s events calendar, the vineyard is now open for dinner on select evenings. As we dined last night on the vineyards’ veranda with a group of friends – socially distanced from one another – the same comment recurred: “Why would we go anywhere else?”

It’s not just the setting — though that alone would be reason enough to spend an evening on the hill. It’s the entire experience. If not for servers’ masks and the fact that food and wine are delivered to a table next to your table, you would hardly know there was a pandemic. During a time when the virus seems to consume our psyches every minute, that escape is priceless.

Service hasn’t missed a beat. The decades of experience in the hospitality industry of owners Dean Andrews and Lynn Easton still show. And, the food is as good as ever, too. With sister restaurant Red Pump Kitchen temporarily closed, the vineyard has reinforced its kitchen and front of the house with staff from Red Pump. It’s a team that is capable of leaving you thinking, if just for a moment: “Pandemic? What pandemic?”

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The kitchen takes the “ugly” tomatoes from the vineyard’s own garden and blends them into a vinaigrette to bathe the pretty ones in a salad of heirloom tomatoes, grilled cucumber, and burrata, topped with garlic crumb

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Sauteed peach and shishito pepper with goat cheese, toasted pecan, and honey

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Five Finds on Friday: Martha Stinson

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Martha Stinson, of Stinson Vineyards, which allows several ways to enjoy its wine through the pandemic. Reserve online for outdoor bottle service and wine flights at the vineyard. Shop online for curbside pick-up or free delivery within 20 miles. Have it shipped to you, with free shipping for 4+ bottles. Or, best of all, escape to the vineyards’ Inn at Stinson Vineyards, including a free wine tasting, hot breakfast, and stunning views from the patios and swimming pool. Stinson’s picks:

1) Hunt Brother’s Thin Crust Pizza from Piedmont Store in “downtown” White Hall. “You can add toppings such as pepperoncinis, but plain cheese is great. Perfect for pool days at the Inn.”

2) Collard Greens at Smoked Kitchen & Tap. “Practically a whole meal by itself. Cooked in the Southern style, with a mix of their meats.”

3) COVID-19 Wine Flights at Stinson Vineyards. “These were a group design effort – we used my husband’s architectural drawing software to make the printouts.

4) Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese at Bodo’s. “Warm, soft and chewy. Would make New York jealous.”

5) Soup of the Day from l’étoile Catering. “My all-time favorite is the seafood bisque – every bite is different.”

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Thyme for Love: When Tomato Season and a Thyme & Co. Fundraiser Meet

Lunch required some creativity this week.

On the one hand, when Virginia’s ever-too-brief tomato season come around, local tomatoes are a must for almost every meal. Whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, a simple tomato sandwich usually does the trick, with as few adornments as possible to detract from the tomatoes’ flavor. This year’s harvest from Whisper Hill Farm seems even better than usual.

On the other hand, this week Thyme & Co. launched a fundraiser for victims of the massive explosion in Beirut: From Charlottesville to Beirut, with Love. Rami Daniel opened Thyme & Co. last year to bring a taste of Beirut to Charlottesville, reflecting the generosity and hospitality of the Lebanese culture, he says. In the aftermath of last week’s devastating explosion, Thyme & Co.. is now sending love back from Charlottesville to Beirut. Even as Thyme & Co.’s business suffers the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, proceeds from sales of Thyme and Co.’s Za’atar Manousheh will go to recovery efforts in Beirut.

There can be few more delicious ways to be charitable than eating Thyme and Co.’s Za’atar Manousheh. Daniel blends dried thyme, sesame and sumac with olive oil, and rubs the mixture on a disc of handmade flatbread dough. Then, it’s into the restaurant’s traditional basalt rock oven, which cooks the bread in a matter of seconds, sometimes charring the edges. Like Whisper Hill Farm tomatoes, Daniel’s Za’atar Manousheh needs no adornments.

But, with Thyme & Co.’s fundraiser coinciding with tomato season, how to avoid missing one or the other?

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