The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Guajiros

Five Finds on Friday: Noah Comarovschi

Charlottesville lost a beloved member of its food community this week. Noah Comarovschi cooked all over Charlottesville, at places like Oakhart Social, Public Fish & Oyster, Bizou, and Brookville. In memory of Noah, today’s Five Finds on Friday are some of his favorites, as remembered by friends and family. Noah leaves behind his seven-year-old son Isaac, who suddenly finds himself without a father. As Isaac was the light of Noah’s life, in tribute to Noah, friends have established a fund for Isaac’s education and well being. Help Isaac here.

1) Cabeza Tacos at El Tako Nako and Tacos Gomez. “We all loved Noah and we are all heart broken. He was such a fun, loving person and truly part of our Oakhart family and DNA. He was the kind of guy who let everyone know how much they meant to him. When I think about Noah, I think about us laughing a lot. I think about us arguing about whether El Tako Nako or Tacos Gomez has the better cabeza. I think about listening to the Jesus Lizard way too loud and sharing a hidden a box of cornstarch in the walk-in (IYKYK). I think about us having a couple too many shifties after long, hot services. One particular memory that stands out, because of how it encapsulated his love of family and of food, was the day that he brought in a few beautiful Cherokee Purple tomatoes from his dad’s garden. He was so proud of these tomatoes and of his dad who he was very close with. Honestly we all agreed that they were the best tomatoes we had all tasted that summer. He cut them up, sprinkled a little Maldon, cracked a little black pepper on them and insisted that we all try them. Then there was the mayo pairing. Hellmans? Not a f-ing chance. Dukes or Kewpie, nothing less. He beamed with pride sharing his dad’s ‘maters and it was a really happy afternoon. He is loved and missed.” – Tristan Wraight

2) Bagels with Lox and Herb Cream Cheese from Bodo’s. “We are far from a religious family, but Sunday meal was always sacred to us. As Pops always says, ‘It is not a Comarovschi get-together unless there is too much food.’ Those family dinners are some of my favorite memories with my brother. It didn’t matter what we were noshing on, as long as we were all together. The simple stuff like a spread of Bodo’s bagels with herb schmear and lox, or a heaping pile of all beef Hebrew National hotdogs were just as enjoyable as a decadent pork belly or butter braised ribeye. 
I think at times he saw being the chef in the family as a blessing and a burden. He always volunteered to man the grill, or slice the turkey and ham at Thanksgiving, or pick the restaurant that we would go to when he and I went to shows in other cities. And even when his annoyance at a request to cook our step-mom’s steak to well done was palpable, Noah still did it because he knew we appreciated his culinary prowess and he just wanted to contribute something that everyone could enjoy.” Anna Comarovschi

3) Sesame Chicken at Ming Dynasty. “The classic Ming Dynasty of the 1990s was a favorite spot for Noah and I back in the day. I remember he always got the sesame chicken. We would go there after we got paid working at Cooper and Seacrest doing political surveying. All the old crew worked there at one time or another.” Jaison Burke

4) Empanadas at Guajiros Miami Eatery. “We went later in the evening towards their closing time. No one was in there but us. We pored over the menu and couldn’t decide, so naturally we ordered half of the menu. While we were waiting we began to chat with the owner. Noah may have been a chatterbox — never met a stranger — but I am certainly not. The owner was so friendly and kind that we ended up just talking for another thirty minutes after our order was ready. Even though we ordered half the menu, I forgot to try their fried cheese, and upon mentioning this the owner went and dropped some in the fryer for us to munch on while we waited. Noah was very excited about the Maduros served with crème fraiche, and they were great. We also got the Cuban and Pan Con Croqueta, all great. But what really blew us away were the empanadas. What makes these empanadas truly spectacular is that they are both crispy on the outside but the dough remains perfectly soft. The texture, filling and the house made sauces are all flawlessly executed and wonderfully brought together to bring the best empanada I have ever had, and one Noah could not work out an equal. Truly a rare feat. – Robbie Hall

5) Traditional Chinese at Yuan Ho. “Noah absolutely loved Yuan Ho when we lived together in the early 2000’s. They were the first Chinese restaurant where I ever encountered the ‘Non-Western’ menu. Noah knew the owners personally, and they would let us in the back area where the kitchen was. It was my first time seeing a few traditional Chinese dishes and my first time seeing chefs use a wok station and a cleaver. That sparked my obsession with Asian culture and cuisine, and I’ll always remember that day.” – Mitchell Beerens

Five Finds on Friday: Norkeita Goins

norkeita

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Norkeita Goins of Caked Up, a custom cake and cupcake baker with new flavors weekly. As a Black-owned Restaurant and Food Business, Goins says she is amazed by how much support Caked Up has received the last few weeks. “I’m so blessed right now,” said Goins. Want to spread love and cupcakes to your friends while supporting a local business? Buy e-gift cards here. Goins’ picks:

1) Frozen Lime Margarita at Guadalajara Downtown. “Hold the salt! One of life’s happiest moments in a glass. The lime flavor is so sweet, bitter, and sour. Plus tequila. It pairs so well with their Burrito California (with steak).”

2) Queso Frito at Guajiros Miami Eatery. “Sweet, crispy fried cheese that will melt in your mouth served with the best dipping sauce. They are so amazing. Don’t plan on sharing these because you will want them all to your self.”

3) Pecan Bun at MarieBette Cafe and Bakery. “This is my go-to treat from MarieBette. It’s so buttery, flaky, and sweet with just the right amount of pecans.”

4) Blueberry Pancake Bake from Plenty Cville. “OH MY GOSH! When the blueberry pancake bake was an item on Della’s weekly menu I had to try it. I’m not a huge fan of blueberries, but Plenty Cville has changed this for me. Moist, tender, cake like pancake with fresh blueberries and drizzled blueberry maple syrup. The berries were so sweet and that sauce was fire. If it’s ever placed back on the menu, you will not be disappointed.”

5) Double Stuffed Baked Potato at Royalty Eats. “There’s so much that goes into this ginormous potato. It’s loaded with your choice of meat (chicken, steak, or shrimp), broccoli florets, loads of cheese, and sour cream.  It’s so good on a comfort food day.”

potato

Double Stuffed Baked Potato, Royalty Eats

 

 

 

Best Thing I Ate All Year 2019: The Charlottesville food industry names the year’s best

Each December we celebrate the Charlottesville food year by asking: what was the best thing you ate all year? Here are the picks from 2018, 20172016 and 2015. And, below are this year’s picks in our food community’s annual tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty. Meanwhile, check back soon for The Charlottesville 29 pick for 2019 Dish of the Year.

Dylan Allwood (Tavola)

Little Gem Salad at Oakhart Social. “I don’t think I’ve ever craved a salad, and I think about that one every day. The poppy seed dressing and everything bagel seasoning set it off.”

littlegem

Jason Becton (MarieBette)

Beef Cheeks at Lampo. “Patrick and I have a weekly lunch date at Lampo, usually on Tuesdays, and one day Mitch happened to be there and was running a beef cheek special. So freakin good.”

cheek

Mitchell Beerens (Lampo and Prime 109)

Menudo from La Michoacána. “It might be the best thing I’ve eaten in Charlottesville ever. I love tripe and theirs has such a clean flavor, and there’s a piece of trotter in there for richness, and the broth tastes like a hug from someone’s abuela. It’s supposed to be a perfect hangover cure, so plan ahead and go nuts at the bar the night before for the full effect.”

menudo

Tim Burgess (Bang!, Bizou and The Space)

Grilled Cactus at Comal. “This is easy this year. Comal. Jesus, everything. I love the grilled cactus dish.”

Travis Burgess (Bang!, Bizou, and Luce)

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup at C&O. “I debated in my head for about thirty minutes, but this is undoubtedly it. I can’t tell what it is, maybe it’s the gruyere cheese mix, maybe the the extra buttery perfectly crisped bread, or maybe it’s just the two Goosehounds I down before it. But anyways, it hits the spot every time. So, shout-out to whoever is working that late-night station and consistently crushing it.”

Melissa Close-Hart (Junction)

Spinach Saag, Sundried Tomato Oil, Cauliflower and Paneer Pizza from Pye Dog Pizza. “Always a tough question, because there are so many to choose from with all the talent in this town. So, I guess I will go with the first thing that pops in my head: Pye Dog Pizza. I believe Matthew and I made it to The City Market on the second week that Pye Dog was there and grabbed some breakfast. In typical form, we had to have a bit of everything — two different pies and a biscuit. Everything was fantastic from the pulled pork pie to the house made sausage, egg & Korean pepper jelly biscuit, but the big winner in my opinion was the curried cauliflower, spinach saag, and paneer pie. It was a huge surprise that this was our favorite, but all the flavors were perfect together and the crust was perfection. I’m so proud of my friends and colleagues, Anna and Kelsey, for pursuing their dreams.”

pizza

Ryan Collins (Little Star)

Tostones Rellenos at Guajiros. “Favorite thing I ate in Cville this year is the tostones with pork at Guajiros. They are sweet, savory, sour and rich.  Pair it with a colada, and it’s a great lunch. Love that place.”

tostones

Jose de Brito (Fleurie and Petit Pois)

Mole Negro con Pollo at Comal. “So I went to dine at Comal with curiosity, having heard that it was authentic. And decided that the mole negro con pollo is my favorite dish this year. The chef at Comal made a sauce with the spirit of chocolate, lightly seasoned with spices and peppers. It was restrained. The use of chocolate and spices was austere but elegant and generous, deep in flavor, lifted up with a hint of acidity. Christine, my wife, who has much deeper knowledge of Mexican food, having traveled in Mexico, agrees. Comal is a wonderful, authentic small Mexican restaurant, and the kitchen is talented. The pork ribs guajillo were a very close second. Vive la cuisine Mexicaine.”

pollo

Kate Collier (Feast!)

Chicken Katsu from Mochiko. “When we are dog tired after a long days work in specialty food retail, nothing tastes better than the chicken katsu take home dinner from Mochiko. We love the light and crispy panko fried chicken cutlet with steamed sushi rice and sides of macaroni salad and sautéed watercress with sesame seeds. It’s our go-to place for take out.”

Katsu

Patrick Evans (MarieBette)

Bolo from Luce. “All three pastas that we tried were amazing, but I especially liked the Bolo.”

bolo

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Oyster Mushrooms at Little Star. “The best thing I ate all year was the oyster mushroom dish from Little Star. Oyster mushrooms, cinco chiles salsa, avocado, lime dressing, Mahon cheese, and chicharrones. I like to be surprised by food, and I will be the first to admit I am just not the biggest fan of oyster mushrooms. So when this dish came out, I simply thought: ‘Ehhh, I will try it.’ The layering of textures and flavors is amazing. It hits all of the important aspects of a wonderful dish. The citrus, heat, salt, and crunch complement the meatiness of the oyster mushroom in a beautifully harmonious way. Well done Little Star.”

mushroom

Craig Hartman (The BBQ Exchange)

Tarta de Santiago at Quality Pie. “The best thing that Donna and I ate in 2019 in Charlottesville was the Tarta de Santiago from Tomas Rahal and Quality Pie. This Almond cake named after St. James is super revered in Spain and is one of their national dishes. The Tarta at Quality Pie is so good that we could not stop going beck for more. It literally draws us to Quality Pie. Pair it with one of the sherrys from Tomas’s collection.”

tarta

Brian Helleberg (Fleurie and Petit Pois)

Banchan at Sussex Farm (at Sussex Farm’s The Charlottesville 29 Auction dinner). “Jen’s banchan was clearly the plate of the year for me. The flavors, colors and textures framed a fascinating collage that helped make a memorable evening at Sussex Farm. As Jen spoke and revealed herself and her values to us, I realised that the foundations of hospitality were on on display:

    • Hard work – “If it is not earned, it is not valued.”
    • Family – “Everyone here on the farm is my daughter.” (Including her actual daughter.)
    • Cuisine – Not only does her aunt still send the peppers for her kimchi, but her mother taught her how to cook.
    • Love of the land – “I love this country.”  Not only did Jen feed us persimmons from her property and delicious fried quail eggs from her birds, but she showed us what it looks like to realise a dream of having a family farm.”

Banchan

Banchan menu

Christian Kelly (Maya)

Pan Fried Chicken Dumplings at Duner’s. “There were lots of memorable dishes this year. Cville is definitely full of talented chefs and dining establishments. True to form, my choice goes back to a Cville classic, Duner’s. Chef Laura Fonner and her crew continue to plate some of the best food this side of the BRP. My particular favorite came out of her kitchen only a few weeks ago when my bride Jennifer and I were at Duner’s for an impromptu date night. The place was packed as always. We lucked out with a small table that had just opened up. We were not there ten minutes when food was on the table. Chef Laura sent out pan fried chicken dumplings with pickled Asian pear slaw and ginger aioli. Bam! So good! Chef John Haywood used to describe dishes that he could not stop eating ravenously ‘like a fried egg and cheese sandwich. You eat it and want another.’ (Imagine Yorkshire accent) Jen tried to act like she didn’t want to wrestle me for them but it was obvious when she rolled up her sleeves that fork jousting was about to go down. All silly comments aside, Laura is a very talented and hard working chef. Her dumplings were incredible, as are all of her tasty creations on her menu. Well done Laura!”

dumplings

Loren Mendosa (Lampo and Prime 109)

Masa Gnocchi in Mole at Comal.  “Emily and I were so pleasantly surprised to find so many veggie options on that menu that we ordered everything. The tamales, the tacos, everything was great, but the crispy gnocchi in mole was the best thing I ate this year. We’ve been back several times and each time that dish is a must order for us.”

gnocchi

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Dark Chocolate Wedding Cake from Paradox Pastry. “Best thing I ate all year? No question. A dark chocolate cake with whipped ganache and Amarena cherries made by the Sugaristas at Paradox Pastry. Yes, it ‘may’ have been our wedding cake. It was delicious.”

Wedding Cake_Jen-Rob

Ian Redshaw (2019 James Beard Semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year)

Pizza Dough from Pye Dog Pizza. “Even for just starting, you can tell the crumb structure is proper. Those ladies do it right.”

pye

Ivan Rekosh (Zocalo)

Prime 109 Burger at Prime 109. “After work, sometimes I walk across the street to Prime 109 and have an aged burger with fries. In that moment, with jazz in the background – it’s the best thing I’ve eaten all year. On Sundays I sit down for dinner with my kids. No screens, all together, and we talk. In that moment, whatever is on the plate, it’s the best thing I’ve eaten all year. I could go on and on. We are all fortunate to be able to have food when we want it and even be picky about it. This said, every meal I’ve actually taken the time to stop and enjoy and be grateful for is the best I’ve eaten in 2019.”

Burger

Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Cacio at Luce. “Soooo good. This is the sort of pasta you would pay $30 for as an entree at a fine dining restaurant. The best part is the quality of the pasta itself but the classic sauce is also done to perfection here. I’m so excited that something this good has become the street food of downtown Charlottesville. I could eat a cup of this every day.”

cacio

Merrill and Peter Robertson (Cote-Rotie)

Double Bacon Cheeseburger at Riverside Lunch. “In our honest opinion, it’s the best food in town. Only place we really go. We love everything about it.”

double

John Shanesy (Commonwealth Restaurant)

Peach from Manakintowne Specialty Growers. “The peach was so perfectly ripe and juicy I don’t know how it even held its mass. Texture like ice cream but still warm from its life void of refrigeration. I promptly did the opposite of what a chef should do in terms of margins and gave all of my kitchen staff one and we all enjoyed those peaches in perfect quiet for the next few minutes. Barring the ahhs and incessant slurping.”

peach

Hunter Smith (Champion Brewing Company)

Queso Frito at Guajiros. “So hard to pick, but the queso frito at Guajiros caught and kept my attention. So simple, and so sublime. I find that amazing execution of simplicity always wins me over novelty.” 

queso

Angelo Vangelopoulos (The Ivy Inn)

Grilled Avocado at Kama. “Chef Dave Morgan cooked a tasting menu for me and my family on my birthday this year. One of our opening courses was his wood grilled avocado. I’ve never eaten grilled avocado or even thought to grill one myself so I was very curious about it. It’s grilled over his custom blend of hickory, white oak, and applewood until well charred, filled with ponzu sauce, and finally sprinkled with togarashi spice. It’s creamy and delicious, and it feels like culinary decadence even though it’s not — one of those unique creations where humble ingredients and technique combine to make something sublime.”

Avocado

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Smoked Mushroom Toast at Common House. “The smoked mushroom toast from Matt Greene at Common House was the best thing I ate in Charlottesville in 2019. Super yummy and comforting. Cured and smoked mushrooms sautéed with tons of sherry, caramelized shallots and a deep mushroom stock. Real Frenchy and cheffy but totally unstuffy. The different varieties of mushroom (lions mane, cremini and oyster) provided great textures and flavors. The house made sourdough got all gooey with jus, and that’s what I like.”

Smokedtoast

 

pollo