The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Fleurie

Five Finds on Friday: Nick Leichtentritt

Nick

Nick Leichtentritt (February 21, 1984 – February 17, 2019) with son, Jesse

This week the Charlottesville food community lost a friend, far too soon. Nick Leichtentritt, owner of Milli Coffee Roasters and Sicily Rose, would have turned 35 yesterday. In memory of Nick and his love of Charlottesville food, today’s Five Finds on Friday are some of his favorites, as remembered by friends. In addition to his wife Niki, Nick leaves behind four-year-old son Jesse, who suddenly finds himself without a father. The Charlottesville food community has rallied to Jesse’s support, with a fund for his immediate and long term needs. Please visit here to help Jesse.

1) Lamb Carpaccio at Fleurie. “A couple of years ago when I worked at Fleurie, I’d be sitting near the window in the afternoon, preparing for service. Every day around 3:30, I’d see Nick walk by with Jesse on his shoulders. Once in a while, they’d come back for a snack when we opened for dinner. Even as a 2 year old, Jesse was a foodie. His favorite thing on the Fleurie menu? Lamb Carpaccio with Haricot Vert and Cumin Oil! (My child pretty much only eats mac n cheese). It was precious watching Nick and Jesse enjoy that dish. Another time, Nick had arranged for us to prepare Lobster Bisque at three different temperatures— too hot, too cold, and just right, to really drive home the Goldilocks story Jesse has just learned.” — Erin Scala

2) Beef Cheeks at The Alley Light.  “In the last year or so, most of my meals and discussions with Nick were when we were cooking together. He was one of my group of ‘wine guy’ friends and we met quite often on the weekends to cook, eat and drink great wine. But I remember first getting to know Nick, too. He was one of the first regulars at The Alley Light when it opened. He came all the time, often alone. I loved to watch him eat because when he really loved a dish it was like a religious moment for him. He would take a bite and lean back a little and sort of close his eyes in awe and nod and then simply hover over the dish for a while before slowly going back to it. If you stopped him to ask if everything was alright he would pause before saying, ‘This is incredible, I can’t believe it.’ Once, in our first three months, Jose’s entire kitchen staff called out sick so I was going to cook with Jose and it was going to be barely doable with just the two of us. I had only just gotten to know Nick, but when he came in early for a drink and I told him what was happening, he asked if I would like for him to cook with us and I said yes. The three of us put out a flawless service, and I actively pursued him as a friend ever since. I remember the beef cheeks dish as one that was particularly amazing to Nick. Jose made it quite often. It had a rich and wonderful sauce that he would spend days on. One couldn’t help but be carried away by the dish, and Nick understood every nuance. He was one of the few people who really took the time to appreciate what went into the food. We will miss him dearly.”- Will Richey

3) Grilled Octopus at Parallel 38. “‘Let’s try to cook octopus,’ he said as he mopped up the last bit of sauce with hot bread freshly made from the oven of Parallel 38. Exotic, challenging, and high-risk high-reward all fit Nick. He introduced me to the grilled octopus at Parallel 38. We talked about it as a metaphor for how we like to function. We shared it carefully. Thoughtfully. Perhaps selfishly. That plate is a simple but balanced dish that makes a difficult thing look easy. We cooked a few octopuses together at my house with great joy and a grand sense of mischief reminiscent of boys trying to catch fish with their hands. But we came back to Justin Ross to understand octopus, And with each bite, try to understand ourselves a little more.” – Jake Busching

4) Amari at Brasserie Saison. “We ate decadent, over-the-top meals together that themselves are worthy of an entry, but I keep coming back to the quiet, the end of the meal, the end of the night, the contemplative moments we shared over a glass of something bitter. Late nights on the patio, talking about life, talking about family, complaining about the industry, complaining about how much we loved the industry, those are the moments that I carry with me. Nick loved all sorts of amari, loved how the various flavors came together to become more than the sum of their parts and that’s how I’ll remember him: father, husband, community pillar, friend. Much more than the sum of his parts.” – Will Curley

5) Squid Ink Risotto with Chorizo at Fleurie. “Nick and I met about ten years ago in Tidewater Virginia where we shared a similar job and a love for food and wine. Over the years we’ve shared wonderful meals and fellowship. Whether it was a home made paella, fresh Chesapeake oysters from probably every raw bar between Va Beach and Charlottesville, or four courses at a fine restaurant, I knew we would be enjoying a great meal and lots of laughs whenever we got together. A few weeks ago, I took my family skiing at Wintergreen. We decided to stay the night in Charlottesville rather than up on the mountain. I’m so glad we did. I called Nick to see if he wanted to meet up. It was Saturday night of restaurant week. Everywhere was packed. Nick seemed to know everyone in the Charlottesville food scene. He managed to get us a 10 pm seating at the bar at Fleurie. Nick recommended the first course, a squid ink risotto with chorizo, paired perfectly with a wine by the fine staff at Fleurie. Our last supper together was a memorable one. Eat, drink and be merry my friend.” – Javier Fuentes

 

Five Finds on Friday: Stephanie DeVaux

holmesdinnerclub-11.10-18

Photo by Tiffany Sun.

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from The Alley Light cook Stephanie DeVaux, who is also a private chef behind Holmes Dinner Club, which she calls an intimate, themed meal gathering “friends and strangers for an evening of food and drink – including a full hour of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, followed by a coursed dinner with beverage pairing.” Interested in becoming a member? Visit here. And for her private chef and catering services, visit here. DeVaux’s picks:

1) Tamarind Margarita at Milan. “Though I’m generally attracted to a more bitter profile when ordering cocktails, the Tamarind Margarita at Milan remains my most marvelous exception. It’s a wonderful balance of sweet and sour and provides an ultra-refreshing respite to some of the heat from my favorite Indian dishes there.”

2) La Chicana Burger at The Bebedero. “I have a thing for burgers, and after a personal, multi-year-long journey of citywide consumption, I really do have to settle on the La Chicana Burger at The Bebedero as the top of my list. It just gives me everything I want in a burger: locally sourced beef from Timbercreek, just enough spiciness without being overwhelming, lots of fat (in the form of guacamole and a super creamy mayo), acidic pickled veg to balance it out, and a generous dose of cheese.”

3) Mr. Rech at The Alley Light. “I may be biased since I’ve also worked in Chef Robin’s kitchen, but the Mr. Rech objectively remains the best dessert I’ve ever eaten in Charlottesville. Two dacquoise cookies surround a hazelnut semifreddo and the entire thing is drenched in hot chocolate sauce. It is the most elevated ice cream sandwich in town, and hands down the most delicious.”

4) Reserve Wine Pairing at Fleurie. “Most people already know that Fleurie is French fare at its best, but what I find even more standout than their food alone is its added nuances alongside the perfectly paired beverage. The reserve wine pairing option with their tasting menu is nothing less than a transformative experience, which I think most wine pairing programs try to be, but few actually succeed. In this case, the wine is excellent and the food is excellent, but together they change so much in their depth and intensity in the most stunning ways.”

5) Two Poached Eggs with Home Fries and Toast at Tip Top Restaurant. “There are a seemingly unlimited number of amazing breakfasts in Charlottesville, but I never crave anything like I crave a classic diner-style breakfast, so Tip Top is a frequent stop on my weekly breakfast rotation. It’s exactly what you expect it to be, so it’s partly the casual consistency I love most, but it’s also the buzzing, no-nonsense atmosphere there on weekend mornings. I will unabashedly push my breakfast partner into getting the biscuits and sausage gravy (so I can steal a bite), but my tried-and-true is the classic: two poached eggs with home fries and toast with butter.”

Chef Jose de Brito Bids Adieu

Fleurie plating

Photo by Tom McGovern

And just like that, he’s gone again.

The man behind the 2018 Dish of the Year (and the 2014 one), Chef Jose de Brito is again bidding adieu to Charlottesville, this time to return to his home in Washington, Virginia. Since leaving The Inn at Little Washington for Fleurie last year, de Brito has split time between Charlottesville and Washington. Now, he has made the quality-of-life decision to end the long commute and return home. De Brito says he looks forward to slowing down and spending more time with his beloved wife and dogs. Like his time at Ciboulette and The Alley Light, it was another great run. He will be missed.

“Of course I was disappointed when Chef Jose told me he was leaving Fleurie,” says owner Brian Helleberg, “but I’m happy that he’ll be able to spend more time at his idyllic farmhouse in Little Washington.”  When Helleberg visited de Brito and his wife in Washington last summer, he says, he didn’t want to leave. “The porch and the town were so quiet and peaceful that I was even a little surprised that Jose accepted my offer to return!” Helleberg says. “Jose hasn’t let the commute or anything else get in the way of making Fleurie better, and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

What’s next for a restaurant faced with the task of replacing a former James Beard semifinalist? “I’ve always said that when the restaurant stops getting better that I’d like to go coach baseball,” says Helleberg. “It’ll certainly be tough to keep the arrow pointing up after losing a chef of Jose’s caliber, but that’s the plan. Jose is leaving the kitchen in great hands.”

Taking over as Chef de Cuisine is Joe Walker, who followed de Brito from The Inn at Little Washington last year to become sous chef at Fleurie. The 28-year-old Culinary Institute of America graduate spent a year-and-a-half at Washington’s Blue Duck Tavern and four-and-a-half years at The Inn at Little Washington, eventually becoming Chef de Partie. He came to Charlottesville specifically to continue working with de Brito. “I already knew he had a wealth of knowledge of French food,” says Walker, “and after spending a day staging with him at Fleurie, I knew the position was what I had been looking for.”

Helleberg says he cannot imagine a better chef to take over than Walker, who he calls smart, focused, and tough as nails. “He’s the first person I’ve seen in 18 years not to even break a sweat working the Fleurie hot line,” says Helleberg. De Brito, who admits to being not easily impressed, echoes Helleberg’s praise. “Joe has the background, work ethic, discipline and intelligence to step in and be a successful Chef,” says de Brito. “Fleurie is in good hands.”

De Brito’s last day at Fleurie is Monday, December 31, 2018.