The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Fleurie

Takeout But Still Cooking Strong: Chef Jose de Brito Thrives in the Culture of Takeout

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“Takeout but still cooking strong.”

That’s how Chef Jose de Brito punctuates his social media posts during the Culture of Takeout. The acclaimed chef who once helped The Alley Light become Charlottesville’s first James Beard semifinalist for the nation’s best new restaurant has not allowed the pandemic to plague his passion and creativity. Officially Pastry Chef at Fleurie, but filling various roles for the restaurant and its sister Petit Pois, de Brito has been busy. For one, he launched a “Bake Sale” of pastries like Tartes aux Fraises, Gateau de Voyage, Tarte Saint Louis, Gateau a la carotte, and Le Homard dans sa Tarte. He also prepares pop-up family-style meals to-go, like Duck a L’Orange – a whole Polyface Farm duck stuffed with Autumn Olive Farms pork, duck, walnuts, and figs, with candied orange sauce and pickled oranges. For Easter, our gratin of lamb shoulder and potato was the type of dish that is so delicious you feel sad when it’s gone. And, in the height of asparagus season, he created one of the most beautiful things I have ever eaten.

Yet, though de Brito’s dishes often look like works of art, his own view is that eye-appeal can be overrated. While de Brito’s fuse is longer than it once was, he still has little patience for chefs who elevate appearance or concept above taste. To de Brito, food — all food — should be yummy. The pleasure of one bite should make you eager for another.

It was de Brito’s fondness for yumminess, in part, that prompted me to ask him to cook  takeout for a guys’ night this week. Socially distanced, we gathered on a friends’ patio for drinks and dinner. Under the circumstances, yumminess was paramount. So, I asked de Brito to make whatever he wanted.

He chose Les Farcis de Provence — a summery Provencal dish of vegetables stuffed with ground meat and rice. As a child in France, de Brito admits, he disliked the dish. Intensely. Recently though, “I finally beat my fears and achieved a really tasty farcie,” says de Brito. First, he confits the vegetables in olive oil and coats their inside with a marmalade of tomato and shallots. Next he stuffs them with a mixture of ground beef, ground Autumn Olive Farms pork, herbs, and rice. Finally, he tops them with garlic breadcrumbs, and into the oven they go.

The result? Yumminess achieved.

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Jose de Brito Returns to Charlottesville

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Photo by Tom McGovern

Though the origin of Charlottesville’s nickname “The Hook” is uncertain, one theory is that the city’s allure hooks roving residents to return. Not even world class chefs, it seems, can resist its charms.

Jose de Brito has returned to Charlottesville. Again.

De Brito first left Charlottesville in 2016, after helping The Alley Light earn a James Beard semifinalist nod for Best New Restaurant in the country. After a year in Washington, Virginia at The Inn at Little Washington, he returned to Charlottesville in 2017 to head the kitchen at Fleurie. In 2018, it was back to Washington for a stint at Foster Harris House. And now, he is home again, in Charlottesville.

What brought de Brito back this time? Brian Helleberg, owner of Fleurie and Petit Pois, who contacted de Brito about rejoining the team after pastry chef Serge Torres’ departure earlier this year.

Given de Brito’s great respect for Helleberg, he of course listened. “I have known Brian for 18 years,” said de Brito. “We share the same love of cooking, and he can get as excited as I can in front of a plate of food – a rare quality in my eye.” De Brito especially credits Helleberg for his commitment to buying from local farmers “quietly and extensively . . . long before it was marketable.”

Officially, de Brito will be Pastry Chef for Fleurie and Petit Pois, but his impact will extend further, as we will be charged with helping both restaurants excel and improve. “Just like the first time Chef José returned to us, he’ll be re-joining a better team, restaurants and infrastructure than when he left,” says Helleberg. “As we add him as pastry chef and a catalyst of our culinary ecosystem, I’m looking forward to seeing him and the businesses thrive.”

Perhaps most exciting for de Brito’s fans is that he will be responsible for a new series of Sunday dinners at Fleurie, each with a different theme. Details to come.

Welcome back, Jose.

Five Dining Experiences of a Lifetime

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The 2019 Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions will culminate August 20 at Prime 109’s “One Night Only” celebration of restaurants’ generosity, where bidding will end for five remaining dining experiences of a lifetime. Online bidding continues now, and every dollar of each winning bid goes directly to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

Life is about experiences, not things. So, help feed our area’s hungry and enjoy one of these unforgettable experiences. From Parallel 38, you can win a package that includes more than $5,000 in rare wine, a wine dinner for eight, a wine class and brunch for eight, and free corkage for life. From Fleurie, you can win a luxurious wine dinner of a lifetime with twenty guests at Lovingston Winery, where Fleurie owner Brian Helleberg will serve some of his most exclusive wines. With Ivy Inn, you can be sous chef to Michelin Star winner Jeremiah Langhorne in the Ivy Inn kitchen, and help prepare a spectacular tasting menu for ten friends, while a professional photographer captures the memories. Lampo will build you a replica of its pizza oven at your home, throw a pizza party to teach you how to use it, and provide free dough for life. And, with Bodo’s, you can win lunch with University of Virginia Men’s Basketball coach Tony Bennett in his office at John Paul Jones Arena.

Bidding is ongoing. For more information and to place your bids, see the links below.

Parallel 38:  A Wine Lover’s Dream Quartet

Fleurie: Wine Dinner of a Lifetime

Ivy Inn: Be a Michelin Star Sous Chef

Lampo: Lampo for Life at Home

Bodo’s: Lunch of Champions with Tony Bennett