The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Back Pocket Provisions

Five Finds on Friday: Jenny Paurys

On Fridays, we feature five food finds from local chefs and personalities.  Today’s picks come from Jenny Paurys, author of The Virginia Table, the new book about Virginia’s great food and drink created by Our Local Commons in collaboration with Early Mountain Vineyards. You can still order copies for delivery by Christmas at virginiatable.com.  Paurys’ picks highlight some of her favorites from the book:

1)  Hop Cider from Potter’s Craft Cider.  “The cider chapter showcases ciders from across the state, and Potter’s Craft chose to highlight their new Hop cider. I admit, I was both curious and nervous to try it. Cider is my jam, and I wondered how hops, which I am not particularly fond of in beer, would affect my beloved Farmhouse Dry. The answer: perfection. Floral, aromatic, divine. I grab mine from Beer Run.”

2)  McLaurin from Spring Mill Farm. “Spring Mill Farm is the artisan featured in the cheese chapter. HB Hunter is creating some excellent goat’s milk and cow’s milk cheeses at his farm in Concord, Virginia, near Lynchburg. The pimento chevre is addictive, and the McLaurin — a tomme — makes my toes curl. Cheesemonger Nadjeeb Chouaf at Timbercreek Market can hook you up with this goodness.”

3) Andouille Sausage from JM Stock Provisions. “The meat chapter includes a list of artisanal butchers across the Commonwealth, and products they carry that are raised in Virginia. Charlottesville’s JM Stock chose to highlight their 60 rotating varieties of house-made sausage, featuring pork from Autumn Olive Farms. I am especially fond of the Andouille, which has a full, yet balanced flavor.”

4)  Oysters at ROCKSALT.  “Each chapter includes chef-authored recipes, and for the wine chapter, ROCKSALT Executive Chef Dylan Allwood created oysters three ways — baked, fried and raw, each paired with white and sparkling wines from Virginia. The Rappahannock River Oysters served at ROCKSALT are a fabulous example of how Virginia producers can leverage the state’s natural resources to produce incredible food and support rural communities.”

5) Three-Grain Pancake Mix from Woodson’s Mill.  “For the grain chapter, we visited Woodson’s Mill in Nelson County, where they are producing flours, cornmeal and grits from Virginia-grown grain. Their pancake mix includes wheat, corn and buckwheat — the latter grown at Steadfast Farm, just south of town. My children love pancakes, but if you had asked me if they would ever eat anything labeled “three grain” I would have questioned your sanity. Yet, when I brought home a bag and whipped up a batch, they ate every last morsel. The pancakes are rich and so very satisfying, even the baby loves them. I get the mix from Foods of All Nations — and I now make a double batch each time, so I have a better chance of scoring one or two for myself.”

Bloody Brilliant Bloody Brilliant

Large Tomato

For the spectacular oyster roast that has long been a November tradition in my wife’s family, I am tasked with the Bloody Mary bar.  Years ago, when I first began making my own Bloody Marys, I spent hours researching what makes a great one.  After lots of reading and experimenting, I reached a firm conclusion: the key to a good Bloody Mary is good tomato juice.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, a Bloody Mary is mostly tomato juice.  Just as good water makes good coffee, good tomato juice makes good Bloody Marys. But, for whatever reason, a myth has grown that other mysterious, secret ingredients are essential to a great Bloody Mary.  Classic 80s sitcoms did nothing to quash the myth, like the Cheers episodes about Bloody Mary contests against Gary’s Old Towne Tavern.

In my view, all you need for a great Bloody Mary is great tomato juice and decent Vodka.  After that, it’s just a matter of personal taste.  Do you like it heavy on the umami?  Add extra Worcestershire sauce, or something more exotic like anchovies, beef consomme, soy sauce, or fish sauce. Perhaps you like spice. Then add your favorite hot sauce, cayenne pepper, and/or lots of horseradish or even wasabi.  And, finally, if you’re like me, you’ll want a healthy dose of lemon or lime juice for some acidity to thin it out and liven the flavors.  Season to taste.

But, all those things are beside the point unless you start with great tomato juice. This is one reason that I’ve never found a bottled Bloody Mary mix that rivals the ones we make at home.  They’re doomed from the start.

Until now.

Bloody Brilliant is just that.  It’s a mix from a new company called Back Pocket Provisions, founded by former The Rock Barn employee Will Gray and his sister. “To make a better Bloody Mary mix, you need a better tomato,” touts their website, speaking my language. Thus, they start with pressed locally grown Virginia tomatoes.  Partners from the 2015 growing season include Critzer Family Farm, Dodd’s Acres Farm, Double H Farm, Shady Lane Family Farm, The Local Food Hub, and Virginia Food Works.

Sure, they’ve got some other ingredients in there, like horseradish, anchovies, and cayenne pepper. But, the local tomatoes are the stars of the show.

I served it at the oyster roast last weekend, and what a hit.  Raves all around. Guest after guest asked about it. Keeping the pitcher full seemed a task for poor Ali Sard.  The faster he fills it, the faster he empties it.

Look for it at Ivy Provisions, Feast!, and Timbercreek Market.  Or, order it online from Relay Foods.  Or, if you don’t want to pour your own, buy one at Rapture and The Ivy Inn.  But, whatever you do, try it.