The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Duner’s

Five Finds on Friday: Laurel Bennett

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from someone without whom this week’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship by the University of Virginia would not have happened. In March 2009, when Washington State men’s basketball coach Tony Bennett picked up the phone to call Virginia and decline its offer to become its men’s basketball coach, his wife Laurel suggested he put down the phone and give the decision more time. The next day, Tony called to accept the Virginia job. And, the rest is history. Laurel’s picks:

1) Pappardelle Bolognese at Tavola. “If you haven’t had it, just go get it.”

2) Any Meal at Pico Wrap. “My most frequented restaurant. Any meal, make it your way. My vote for friendliest, too.”

3) Trout and ANY Two Sides at Maya. “Eat every bite. Makes me feel right at home with my southern roots.”

4) Grilled Sea Scallops at Duner’s. “They are always cooked to perfection. And there’s room for dessert.”

5) Brownie A La Mode at Continental Divide. “Confession: I often make a pit stop here just for dessert. Amen.”

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Laurel Bennett and family, April 1, 2009, at the press conference introducing Tony Bennett as UVa Men’s Basketball Coach

 

Five Finds on Friday: Sarah Humphrey

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Sarah Humphrey of Fellini’s, which was among the picks this week in chefs’ Best Thing I Ate All Year. Fellini’s now hosts weekly Martini Wednesdays, with martini specials and Sinatra-era classics by decked out pianist Sammy Horne. And check Fellini’s Facebook page for updates about their special celebrations on Christmas Eve and NYE. Humphrey’s picks:

1) English Muffins from The Bread Basket. “Ginny from The Bread Basket has a lot of fans. She is particularly known for her beautifully twisted baguettes which are featured in several restaurants. But have you tried her English muffins?  Heavens to Betsy!  They have the same glutinous, dense quality as some of her other breads, and are slightly salty, and just wonderful.  I adore the whole wheat version. My husband and I have used them in the past for brunch, and they are a fantastic foundation for all sorts of Eggs Benedict dishes.  They make a great egg sandwich.  They are perfect for big, gloppy burgers because they stand up to all the juices and goo without breaking down like brioche. And I love them with just a little unsalted butter and blackberry jam.”

2) Almond Pave from Patisserie Torres. “I love most almond desserts, but this is my new favorite.  It’s made with cake soaked in almond syrup, and the interior is light and fluffy but soooo soft and moist. The exterior is slightly crackly, with almond cream coated in sugar and sliced almonds.  t’s a sweet pastry, for sure, but not cloyingly so. It’s more decadent and less messy than an almond croissant. This new patisserie has a lot of gems and I’m excited to have them here!”

3)  Chicken Liver Mousse (or any appetizer) at Petit Pois. “I mean, I’d be content to sit inside or outside of this charming restaurant with a glass of sparkling wine and just eat Albemarle Baking Co. baguette and butter. The service is always perfect.  And the appetizers!  If they have steak tartare available, order it!  It is sublime.  The French Onion Soup is nearly over the top, it’s so thick and rich and flavorful. The mussels are always plump and perfectly cooked and there’s a ton of mirepoix left in the bowl for you to spoon up. The escargots are exactly what you’d hope for, bathing in butter with a generous amount of parsley and garlic.  I have to get them almost every time I’m there.  My favorite might, however, be the chicken liver mousse.  It’s served with crostini, but it’s so rich I prefer it with plain baguette.  The mouse is gorgeously seasoned with cognac and it’s impossibly smooth and refined,  It’s practically a condiment.  Have you tried it on corn on the cob?  Seriously, I brought some home and it was awesome. Sorry, Chef.”

4)  A tie (Thai! no pun intended!) between Yum Woon Sen and Guay Tiew
Tom Yum at Thai Cuisine & Noodle House. “This is my favorite cuisine, and my favorite Thai place in town. I cannot decide between these two dishes, but I feel that both of them are often overlooked. For appetizers, people gravitate toward fried items or fresh rolls, but Yum Woon Sen is a great cellophane noodle salad. It strikes the perfect balance or sour, sweet, and spicy, with ground pork, cilantro, red onions, peanuts, and fish sauce. I love it hot, cold, or room temperature. My other choice is a Thai noodle soup.  It is so, so elegant. If you wanna be really cool, ask for sen mee instead of the rice noodles. This broth is pretty sweet, so I add a lot of sambal and jalapenos in vinegar. It’s great with meat, but I also enjoy it vegan with fresh (not fried) tofu and vegetarian broth, and I add extra veggies. Almost nothing makes me happier.”

5) Chocolate Truffle Torte at Duner’s. “Pastry Chef Linda Steiner is amazing, and Duner’s is so lucky to have her. Everything she makes blows me away. This dessert is not always on the menu, but it can be found fairly often. It is a great gluten-free dessert option to those who are tired of crème brulee. It’s super rich and fudgy, like the interior of a chocolate truffle. The best part, really, is the crust–it’s all nuts and I’m wild about it.  There’s a touch of cinnamon which really elevates this torte. Duner’s serves it with whipped cream, berries, crème anglaise, and raspberry coulis, but all you really need is two bites of the torte. I can’t rave about it enough.  If you’re full from dinner, get a slice to go.”

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Chicken Liver Mousse at Petit Pois

Five Finds on Friday: Bridget Meagher

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Bridget Meagher of Catbird Kitchen, a new craft sauce company, where the longtime chef and owner of Roanoke’s Alexander’s restaurant uses ingredients from her Ivy farm to create small batch sauces, like Vahotcha Hot Sauce, Vahotcha BBQ Sauce, and Double Chocolate Caramel. Stop by the City Market Holiday Market tomorrow to sample her sauces and create custom gift boxes. Or, find them at Feast! and Greenwood Gourmet. An active supporter of nonprofits that benefit women and children, Meagher is helping members of the Charlottesville Women in Food provide meals for the homeless through PACEM. Details on how you can help or donate are here. Meagher’s picks:

1) Skillet Roasted Mussels at Tavola. “I’m not the first person to say these guys have the corner on quality mussels and a la minute preparation. The simplicity of the ingredients belies the pure magic as they come together with high heat, technique and timing. I wish it weren’t so hard to get a table.”

2) Ham Biscuit at J.M. Stock Provisions. “As a New Orleanian by birth with deep SW LA roots, I’m kind of skeptical about guys in Virginia taking the leap into tasso, of all things. It’s sad to say, but so many folks just don’t get Cajun charcuterie right, but J.M. Stock has done it. Not only are the smoky flavors spot on, the quality of the cut puts it into premium category. And shaved onto that warm biscuit—it is heavenly.”

3) Fried Oysters with Aioli at Duner’s. “Long before I met and got to know the talented Laura Fonner, Duner’s was our go-to for fried oysters – plump bivalves, perfectly breaded and fried. In LA (that’s Louisiana not the other LA), fried oysters are a daily staple and these can compete with the best. Since Duner’s is only 5 minutes from our little farm, this is neighborhood comfort food at its best. But now I’m looking at her Parmesan Bread French Toast, Steak, and Tomato Hot Sauce Beurre Blanc-yum! Maybe she might consider using Vahotcha Sriracha for that sauce?”

4) Local Rabbit, Andouille & Chipotle Étouffée, Dirty Rice, Crispy Crawfish Tails, Fried Okra at Junction. “Ok, so I’m on a Gulf Coast roll here. Melissa creates magic with any dish, but smothered rabbit is a favorite of mine and this dish really shines.”

5) Shenandoah, Light Roll, and Baguette from Albemarle Baking Co. “To me, these are some of the standouts in a solid line up of superior baked goods. The Shenandoah, with the pears, is just sublime. The baguette has been such a mainstay in town for so long that people might forget that there was a time when real baguettes were hard to come by, and Gerry changed all that. I’ll take one home to break and enjoy with my stash of Caromont Esmontian. The light roll, buttered and toasted on the flat top, rounds out one of the best burgers you’ll ever taste. Made with Seven Hills ground beef and doused with my Vahotcha BBQ Sauce, I call it The Catbirger.”

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Catbirger