The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: C&O

Best Thing I Ate All Year 2018

Each December we celebrate the Charlottesville food year by asking: what was the best thing you ate all year? Here are the picks from 20172016 and 2015. And, below are this year’s picks in our food industry’s annual tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty. Meanwhile, check back here next week for The Charlottesville 29 pick for 2018 Dish of the Year.

Jascon Becton (MarieBette) and Mitchell Beerens (Lampo and Prime 109)

Grilled Pork Steak at Oakhart Social.

Becton: “I love pork in most of its various forms and the grilled pork steak at Oakhart Social is a pretty phenomenal iteration. It is perfectly cooked and the flavors perfectly balanced. It reminded me a little of the flavors from Filipino BBQ but with pineapple. Delicious!”

Beerens: “Hands down, the best thing I ate this year is the pork blade steak at Oakhart Social. I’ve spoken with many local chefs about it and they all love it. Grilled blade steak with grilled pineapple, candy onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and peanuts. So so simple and so so good.”

pork steak

Melissa Close-Hart (Junction)

Ricotta Ravioli at Fellini’s and Parker House Rolls at Prime 109. “I had plenty of great dishes this year, but the best of the best is a tie. And both were at special occasion meals. Matthew and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary at Fellini’s with Chris and Sarah Humphrey taking great care of us. Out of the many amazing dishes, the stand out was a house made ricotta ravioli, with local butternut squash sauce, sautéed apples, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Some of my favorite flavors of Fall in one dish. The dish was a perfect balance of delicate pasta, rich savory flavors and a touch of sweet. The next dish came at my birthday dinner at Prime 109. The whole team went above and beyond to make my night special and the entire meal was fantastic, but what I can’t stop thinking about is their Parker House Rolls. I’m such a bread eater and these rolls are to die for. I ordered a second round before the first were even finished. I actually see myself stopping in just for an app and a whole pan of rolls just for myself. Don’t ask for me to share, because it won’t happen.”

Parker

Ryan Collins (Little Star)

Shrimp Toast at Oakhart Social.  “Super simple dish of perfectly griddled Pullman loaf from Albemarle Baking Company topped with a simple salad of poached rock shrimp, creme fresh dressing, pickled mustard seed and chives.  This summer I started every meal at Oakhart with it.”

Jose de Brito (Fleurie)

Chocolate Croissant at Albemarle Baking Company. “I did not have much time this year to dine out. Between the time in our house in Little Washington and my work at Fleurie, I am always busy. But before our weekly drive back to Washington my wife always stops by Albermale Baking Company to stock up on bread and viennoiserie. Their pain au chocolat is as good as any good pain au chocolat back in France. Voila c’est tout, good people!”

Pain au chocolat

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Green Pea Kofta with Feta Lebneh and Cucumber Salad at Peloton Station. “This place seems like a sports bar but the food has been elevated to a different level. Not your average sports bar food. Well thought out snacks and sandwiches, but this particular appetizer is one of my favorite flavor profiles: Middle Eastern. Traditionally done with ground meat and full of spices. Without meat, Chef Curtis was able to accomplish all of the same flavors and textures as the real deal. Great crunchy texture to compliment the beautifully spiced inside. The thick yogurt and pickled salad is the perfect accompaniment. It’s just all around a wonderful bite!”

kofta

Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Duck Plato del Dia at MAS Tapas. “Mas Tapas always makes me and Donna happy. The Jamon Iberico de Bellota is something that I could eat every minute of every day. Their puck plato del dia that was seasonally paired with fresh cherries and Vinagre de Jerez was beautifully prepared and super delicious. Mike Ketola and his crew (Keaton Contini) always go above and beyond to make us feel special and loved.”

duckmas

Christian Kelly (Maya)

Butter and a Baguette from Albemarle Baking Company. “As I’ve been thinking back over what I have eaten this year, it has been the simple foods that have really spoken to me. About a month ago, I texted my friend Gerry Newman of Albemarle Baking Company to say I had just eaten close to an entire baguette with butter. Way too much butter in one sitting but I was, ‘on a roll’ (ouch! Is that even funny?). Crispy, crunchy, spongy, sublime.”

bread and butter

Nancy McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie)

Boat Noodle Soup at Thai Cuisine and Noodle House. “I’m sure I’m not the only one to choose this, but the boat noodle soup with fresh tofu at Thai Cuisine and Noodle House is my go to dish. I love the slight crunch of the Chinese broccoli and the fermented hot sauce complemented by their salty sweet bone broth, basil, and of course rice noodles. Comfort food at its best: satiating but doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed. Add on a Thai Beef salad with toasted rice and a bowl of P7 for my husband and that’s a solid lunch date.”

boatnoodles

Loren Mendosa (Lampo and Prime 109)

Celery Root Pappardelle at C&O. “Matt Boisvert made me and Emily a truly stellar meal at C&O. One of the courses was particularly impressive, though: Dean’s celery root pappardelle. So hard  — though getting easier — to find vegan foods that people really put love and attention into. The meal was one of my favorites of my life.”

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Ricotta Toast at Oakhart Social. “Ahhh! Perfect. And, maybe even more surprising, the gin and tonic slushie. Because it was blisteringly hot and Todd told me to get it, but I hesitated because I don’t like gin and tonic.  Well…. I liked THAT gin and tonic. Whoa.”

ricotta

Ian Redshaw (Lampo and Prime 109)

Lamb Ribs at Oakhart Social. “The first time I had the lamb ribs at Oakhart, it was straight up like tasting Mr. Holland’s opus. Tristan really nailed it with this dish.”

lamb ribs

Ivan Rekosh (ZoCaLo)

Gazpacho Anadaluz at Quality Pie. “One of the most delicious gazpachos I’ve ever tasted. It could have been the beautiful fall day or the super friendly service that made it so great but I think it was the simple and straightforward preparation that really showcased the tomato flavor. Tomas perfectly balanced the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes. Paired with a truffle grilled cheese and you have a winning lunch!”

gazpacho

Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Bavette at Prime 109.  “Prime has been a tremendous addition to the eating experiences in this town. There are so many reasons to dine there, the burger is incredible, the ambiance is gorgeous, and the drinks delicious. But one of my favorite reasons to go is the steak, specifically the bavette! This is my favorite cut of those I have sampled yet. In Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest, M. Gustave says: ‘When you’re young, it’s all filet steak, but as the years go by, you have to move on to the cheap cuts. Which is fine with me, because I like those. More flavorful, or so they say.’ I love the quote and share the sentiment. Perhaps it explains why I love bavette so much. Personally, I don’t get anything with the steak. I love all the sides and accouterments, but when it comes to steak, give it to me well seasoned and perfectly cooked and I want for nothing. At Prime it is both.”

PK Ross (Splendora’s)

Kumamoto Oysters at The Alley Light. “The best thing I ate all year is also the simplest. The Alley Light, way back in January, had Kumamoto oysters on special. Dollop of caviar and paper thin lemon slices, with the absolute coldest vodka to pair. Clean, fresh, but decadent.”

Kumamoto

John Shanesy (Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar)

Ham Biscuit with Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard from JM Stock Provisions. “Family tradition when my brothers and father visit. Better housemade biscuits or ham can be found nowhere in Charlottesville. ‘Nuff Said.” (Note: Shanesy takes the biscuits home to add the mustard himself.)

biscuit

Angelo Vangelopoulos (Ivy Inn)

German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream with Donut Holes at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “Michael hosted an Oktoberfest dinner at Dr. Ho’s, a four course chef’s menu tasting. We were stuffed beyond capacity, but still found room to eat the dessert, ‘German Chocolate Cake’ Ice Cream with donut holes. It was worth the suffering of being over served and earns its place as the best thing I ate all year. (You might have to make a special request, I don’t think it’s on the menu!)”

angelochocolate

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Tasting Menu at Back 40. “The pea salad with perfectly sweet and fresh peas was out of this world. The tempura fried baby carrots with ramp kimchi was inspiring. Tucker really knows how to make veggies do what they do and just lets them shine. That is skillful and confident. It was pretty heart-breaking when they shut Back 40 down.”

Tucker Yoder 

Potatoes from Sweet Greens Farm. “Some beautiful end of the season potatoes from Sweet Greens Farm. Roasted, with butter and flaky salt.”

potatoes

Five Finds on Friday: Francesca Black

francesca

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Francesca Black, chef of Continental Divide, which has been closed for two weeks after water damage related to Hurricane Michael, but is poised to re-open next week. Black’s picks:

1) Late Night Burger with a Salty Dog at C & O. “I usually get fixated on one aspect or one ingredient of a dish so, for me, an exceptional food experience happens when that fixation isn’t easy to discern — a temporary whirlwind sets in because it is that good. C&O late night does that for me. I am rarely free during regular dinner hours, so after work we sometimes head over for that divine burger. The crispy bun, the crunchy lettuce, that perfect first bite. It all becomes complete with their salty dog, the delicious classic with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and a salted rim. It’s a great way to end a long work day.”

2) Masala Dosa from Desi Dosa with Turmeric Lassi from Planet Earth Diversified at the City Market. “If I can make it Saturday morning, the City Market rules. I love the Southern Indian vendor Desi Dosa. They focus on letting the intensity of their spices speak for themselves in simple dishes like the masala dosa, a thin stuffed pancake. Speaking of bold spice, the turmeric lassi from Planet Earth Diversified really wakes you up and goes great with spicy the food.”

3) Octopus Tempura and Hot Sake at Now & Zen. “Although hard to choose food favorites, octopus is absolutely up there, and when tempura fried, it’s a whole different level! I could eat Now & Zen’s octopus tempura everyday — it’s perfectly fried, salted and served with spicy mayo. Then with some hot sake — enough said.”

4) Half Chicken and Green Rice with Aji Sauce at Al Carbon. “I was definitely late to the game to visit Al Carbon on 29 but a friend got some take out one night, let me taste it, and I was instantly hooked. The flavors, especially in the homemade sauces, are unbelievable. I like to get the half chicken, break it up into the green rice and cover it in aji sauce, their medium, garlicky wonder.”

5) Fried Chicken and/or Meta’s Burger with Crushed Ice Soda at Mel’s Cafe. “Of all the delicious restaurants in Charlottesville, I think Mel’s might take the cake. Mel’s cures a bad day and makes a good day that much better. I can never choose between the chicken or Meta’s burger, both of which instantly fuel a tingling sensation even at the thought. Continental is so close, too –we are very proud and lucky to have them as our neighbors!”

Five Finds on Friday: Gay Beery

Gay Beery

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from chef Gay Beery, of A Pimento Catering, a guest on the latest episode of the Charlottesville-based podcast Edacious, where you can learn all about her career and why she considers her catering jobs like “her babies.” Beery’s picks, “with implied apologies.” she says “to all the wonderful things I’ve missed here – I love you all still”:

1) Whole Grain Rye from Little Hat Creek Farm. “A recent pleasure of mine (or should I say obsession) is the whole grain rye from the kind people at Little Hat Creek Farm. I think of this bread as more of a kornbröt, dense with moist grain, hinting at a custard-like texture, just crying out for butter (I oblige). Though, I also slather it with fromage frais from Caromont Farm (thank you, Gail). I do love all slow-risen, high-moisture breads and this provides. This is definitely one of my ‘desert island’ foods – it could keep despair at bay for at least a week or two, and conveniently would likely be almost as good the fourteenth day.”

2) Funghi Pizza at Lampo. “Does this really need any explanation? Probably not. But I will say that no matter how many times I’ve had this, I still want more. Thankfully, Lampo has a wine list that always entices and I’m pretty sure I’ve never ordered the same wine twice – so there’s that. And I’ll order escarole off any menu that offers. Glee.”

3) Coupe Maison at C&O. “C&O has owned a piece of my heart for one reason or ten for the last two decades. In their care, I’ve celebrated weddings and funerals (yes, they were celebrations), birthdays and just having seen the baddest band at The Rose (it was always okay to arrive here at 1:30 AM and know you could stay a while). For all those years, the C&O has offered some comfort and love on white china and white linen. Respect. Their bartender roster is as notorious – if more skill-based – as the Parking Lot, with some overlap. Out of everything on the menu, I think the most lasting impression has come served in a tall glass – the Coupe Maison. Too much for me, but I like to watch.”

4) Vegetables at Oakhart Social. “So far, Oakhart Social has yet to leave me NOT amazed. The thrill of reinvention is alive and well in this kitchen, especially if you like to dig into a meal rich in vegetables. Crisp or fork tender, braised or fried, with or without the adornment of animal protein, every dish from this kitchen sings. I always order the flatbread special, I never tire of their shaved salad (dates, yes), and whatever they do with a carrot, you know it’s going to exceed your expectations. (I’ve had a real thing for carrots this year, the high of which I experienced at the eponymous Via Carota in NYC. If you’re in the city, just do it.) Their meat dishes are all fabulous, indeed, but I most often eat just the veg here, because there is more than one could want, and that is a sincere pleasure. Great cocktails! But as someone who can really only manage one and a half glasses of the average wine pour, I love the incremental ways you can order wine here, without the emotional burden of waste or overindulgence.”

5) Fried Chicken from Wayside Takeout . “My husband, who is sitting with me right now, is demanding I include the Wayside, as their fried chicken (and my favorite, fried gizzards) are our last-minute go to when we are too tired to cook and teetering over the hangry edge of a day. We recently learned the limits, though, on a sad Sunday when we both had to work and each held out the carrot (there’s the carrot again, ha), and discovered, mid chicken skin fantasy, that they are civilized and observe their Sundays away from the shop. Bless ‘em.”

“Why does any of this matter? Because food is love. It’s true.”