The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Ivan Rekosh

“Best Thing I Ate All Year” 2017

No matter what else may be going on in the world, every year is a good food year. Each December we celebrate the Charlottesville food year by looking back at our latest trip around the sun and asking top area chefs: what was the best thing you ate all year? Here are the picks from 2016 and 2015. And, below are this year’s picks in chefs’ annual tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty. Meanwhile, check back here next week for The Charlottesville 29 pick for 2017 Dish of the Year.

Mitchell Beerens (Lampo)

Crispy Lamb Shank at Oakhart Social. “The lamb shank at Oakhart Social was the best thing I ate all year. Crispy crust that gave way to super succulent meat. I’m pretty sure it was served with hummus and harissa. Super simple and super soulful. That’s what I love about Tristan and Ben’s spot.”

Shank

Tim Burgess (The Space, Bang!, and Bizou)

Biscuits at Floozie’s Pie Shop. “I had the garden omelette, grits and biscuit at Floozie’s Pie shop in Louisa last February.  The omelette was really good, fluffy farm egg goodness, but not the star here. The biscuit took me back to my childhood, the best I’ve ever had and I’ve made a lot of biscuits in my day.  Then the grits, stone ground, salty, cheesy, buttery boom. I was floored by the meal, but shouldn’t have been, Jade and Debbie can flat out cook. Their pies are the real deal too.”

floozie

Jose de Brito (Fleurie)

Cotoletta di Maiale Alla Milanese at Tavola. “My dining etiquette is that when I return dining in a same establishment I rarely reorder the same dish except in extraordinary circumstances, and that would be when I was presented with a good dish. Tavola’s pork a la Milanese is the one dish that breaks my code of conduct. It never miss, I tried to break from my bad habit; once or probably twice I did order another dish. Although the restaurant is tasty across the line, when the pork is executed flawlessly it is close to saintliness. The other day, a guest of Fleurie asked me after service what was my favorite dish in Charlottesville. Before answering her I asked her the same question and we both answered simultaneously, the pork milanese at Tavola! You see when the breading on the cutlet is perfectly breaded, the sear is of the right color, neither too light or too dark, the capers have been slightly sautéed to take out the rawness, the tomatoes roasted a la perfection and the baby arugula wilted with kindness, the sum of all those delicate little details added to a butter emulsion laced with a drop of Meyer lemon, when that emulsion has the right body, the perfect amount amount of butter to cling to the breading, it is definitely, without any doubt my choice for best dish in C-ville. (Although, after reflection, the porchetta sandwich at Lampo is a close one and another dish that has made me break my rules, I usually never eat sandwiches , but I guess I am off subject, sorry!) And now to finish my little pamphlet. Let ourself ponder about what the French Chef Joel Robuchon once said: ‘What makes a good cook from a great cook, it is all about the details.’ The Milanese at Tavola has all the right details. Arrivederci, good people.”

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Smoked Jerk Jackfruit by Prime 109. “I had the pleasure of judging food for a cook-off at Highland Orchard Farms and Lampo participated by debuting some of the items that will be on their new menu at their downtown steak house Prime 109. Their lamb and duck kielbasa and dry aged Szechuan peppercorn pastrami were out of this world. Amazing flavors. Amazing textures. But the standout dish that blew me away was actually their young smoked jerk jackfruit. I taste a lot of things all year long but this is the first thing this year that actually surprised me, which is what I look for in new dishes. The flavor is perfect, sweet and spicy. The texture was similar to meat and I am sure it will actually fool people into thinking they are eating some sort of jerk meat. Hats off to those gentlemen. I look forward to seeing what else will come from that restaurant!”

Jackfruit

Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms at Ivy Inn. “Angelo Vangelopoulos created a tasting menu for our 31st anniversary. It was world class. Our first meal with Angelo was in 1993, and watching his growth as a chef has been a real joy. He really has grown in a great direction! The whole meal was stellar but the crab stuffed squash blossoms with sweet corn sauce was unforgettable, and his father’s tomato-braised pole beans were life changing! Then, not to forget the pig brain amuse bouche, which was genius.”

squash

Michael Keaveny (Tavola)

Short Rib at The Coat Room at Brasserie Saison.  “I had a short rib with carrot ‘BBQ’ sauce in The Coat Room at Brasserie Saisson that was pretty memorable. It was crispy on the outside and tender inside. Great contrast in texture, and the sauce was surprisingly delicious. Great dish! I will miss Tyler’s food, though all indications are the new chefs are killing it!”

shortrib

Michael McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s)

Chocolate Croissant from Little Hat Creek Farm. “Spectacular if not amazeballs! I’m good for one or two every time I visit the Nelson county farmers’ market.”

choc-croissant-1911

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Braised Beef and Macaroni at The Alley Light. “I have to say, it’s sooooo difficult to pick a ‘best.’ I think a ‘best’ is so often situation specific. Was it who I was with on a perfect evening after a very, very long work week? Then it would be the comfort of the Braised Beef with Mac at The Alley Light.”

Tomas Rahal (MAS)

Soft-poached Duck Egg with Perigord Truffles, asparagus, moliterno di tartuffo at MAS tied with Mike Ketola’s Salt-citrus Cured Albacore Loin with grapefruit and Brussels leaves salad, also at MAS. “JF Legault’s soft-scrambled farm egg with Alba truffles was a close third. I’d love to give props to other spots, but these dishes were transcendent.”

Duckegg

Ian Redshaw (Lampo)

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup at Cafe 88. “Available Friday and Saturday, dine-in only, this hidden gem is worth every last drop.”

Noodlesoup

Ivan Rekosh (Zocalo)

Roast Beef Panuozzo at Lampo.  “If I had to choose one thing, it’d probably be the aged roast beef sandwich with provolone at Lampo. I remember eating it and thinking this is the best sandwich I’ve had in a long ass time.”

beef

Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Crispy Scallops at Brasserie Saison. “I know you are not supposed to pick your own restaurants, but Tyler really nailed that dish and I just can’t make something up. The textures are one of the most stand out parts of the dish: the crunchy exterior, the creamy puree beneath it, and the crisp celery root on top. It’s just perfectly balanced flavor and texture. There are a lot of things going on. I could eat those scallops every night.”

scallops

Andrew Silver (Roots Natural Kitchen)

Ma Po Tofu at Taste of China. “I have discovered that I really like soft tofu (Zzzam also has really good soft tofu). It is spicy, numbing, hot, aromatic and tender. Pairs perfectly with stir fried snow pea shoots and a cold Tsingtao.”

tofu

Angelo Vangelopoulos (Ivy Inn)

Sourdough Bread by Tucker Yoder at Timbercreek Market. “I was lucky enough to have Tucker gift me a loaf (I think he owed for some truffles or something), and my family and I ate it for days. The crust is thick, it’s full of grains (I think his wife grinds the wheatberries?), has amazing chew and long lasting flavor. My son’s eyes lit up when he tasted it for the first time and he asked ‘WHERE did you get this?! It’s AMAZING!'”

sourdough1

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Foie Gras with Passion Fruit Gelée at Fleurie. “Hot Damn. Those guys are actually cooking, and well. You don’t see real cooking all that much these days.”

foiegras

Tucker Yoder (Back 40)

Persimmons from Edible Landscaping. “These persimmons right here from my man Dan. Chased with a shot of tequila or mezcal.”

Persimmon

Thank You, Andrew Silver, for Zocalo

IvanandAndrew

Andrew Silver (right) with Ivan Rekosh. (Photo by Jen Fariello.)

Andrew Silver, the first ever participant in Five Finds on Friday, and co-founder of Zocalo, is moving on. Since opening Zocalo together fourteen years ago, Silver and Ivan Rekosh have been virtually attached at the hip. After meeting on the first day of culinary school in 1998, the two became fast friends, sharing both passion and talent for food. But when they moved to Charlottesville in 2002 to open a restaurant with Peter Castiglione, they could not have imagined the fixture it would become.

With the founding philosophy “Happy People Unite,” Zocalo is one of the great successes of the current era of Charlottesville dining. In 2012, Zocalo was the first entrant into The Charlottesville 29, and has remained there ever since. Beloved by chefsfootball legends, writers, and others, the restaurant at the heart of our downtown mall has a been a model of consistency in an industry where change is constant. Is any Charlottesville restaurant more reliable? When you go to Zocalo, you know that the Chili Broth Steamed Mussels are going to be great. As is the Spicy Tuna Tartare. And the Vella Jack Cheese Fritters. And the Key Lime Free Range Chicken. And the Black Bean and Corn Relleno. And the service. And the experience. Silver’s relentless commitment to his work has been a huge part of that.

But, time waits for no one. Now a father of two, Silver is ready for the next phase of his life – a job with Roots Natural Kitchen, the growing franchise that Silver and Rekosh helped launch in 2015. As Roots’ new Corporate Chef, Silver will help the company continue its rapid growth, while maintaining the high food standards that has made it so popular in Charlottesville, where lines out the door form daily. Silver’s initial focus will be Roots’ new catering space in the former home to St. Maarten Cafe, which will be a template for future Roots’ locations.

There is good news, though, for Charlottesville diners – a silver lining in Silver’s leaving. Thanks to Rekosh, Zocalo is not going anywhere. While regulars can expect more of the same, Rekosh does have some interesting tweaks planned, too. Stay tuned for details of those.

Meanwhile, Silver will be missed. Thank you, Andrew, for fourteen great years and for creating something special for Charlottesville.

earlysilver

Rekosh, Castiglione, and Silver, in 2003.

In the kitchen, duos are rare. Egos leave little room for both Abbott & Costello. Rather, it’s just Batali, or Jeon Georges, or Wolfgang Puck. Anyone who wonders how Rekosh and Silver pulled it off need only read their own words as they turn the page:

Silver:

It has been an inside joke at Zocalo for some time now that Ivan is “Dad” and I am “Mom.” While at first the moniker did not sit well with me, I soon realized its true meaning. Ivan has always been the “fix it” guy, and I have been more more of the nurturer to the staff.  While I am proud of the business accomplishments that Ivan and I have achieved over the past fourteen years, our greatest accomplishment has been creating an atmosphere for our staff that feels like home, like a family. It is to this family that I am forever grateful for being such pros that I have been able to be a good father and husband to my family in a business that is supposed to make that impossible. Zocalo will always be my home and I will always be its “Mom.” As my fingers press these keys, it dawns upon me how lucky I have been to have something that is so hard to say goodbye to.

Rekosh:

I need to speak of Andrew with two different hats on. First as a business partner and second as a friend. Andrew’s commitment to Zocalo and our community are inspiring. His loyalty to his staff and customers was visible in every decision he made. I will continue to carry on in the tradition of “customer and staff above self.”  I know he will take these traits with him on his next venture as well. I am very excited to see what Andrew creates.

And now, with a tear in my eye . . . Andrew as a human. One of the kindest, most giving, sincerest men I know. I am grateful to have the honor to call a him friend, a brother, and a partner. His commitment to his family, my family, our Zocalo family and really all families everywhere is at the root of the kind of man he is. While Zocalo will miss Andrew’s sense of humor and bad jokes and general zest for life, we all feel very lucky to have had him in our lives for as long as we have.

Man I feel like I’m writing an obituary . . . bottom line here: Andrew is awesome. I love him and am grateful for what we’ve created and continue to create. While our partnership may be over on paper it will continue for the rest of our lives.

Wow. Good thing that Atlanta pizza shop never panned out.

“Best Thing I Ate All Year” 2016

Looking back at 2016, what stands out as the best thing you ate all year?  Top area chefs provide their answer. (Here are last year’s picks.) A tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty:

Mitchell Beerens (Lampo)

Agedashi Tofu at Now & Zen. “The silken tofu is made crispy by dusting it in potato starch and frying it. Then, it’s set in a spa of tentsuyu broth made smoky from the katsuobushi and a little sweet from mirin. Perfect balance of big flavors.”

tofu

Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana at Parallel 38. “When restaurants around the world jumped to support the town of Amatrice in Italy after it was devastated by an earthquake, we were fortunate enough to experience a version of Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana at Parallel 38. Their version was almost exactly the same as what we experienced in Italy. It was also so delicious that we went back the next night to have it again.”

p38spag

Brian Jones (The Alley Light)

Brebirousse from Flora Artisanal Cheese in Timbercreek Market with Seeded Roll from Albemarle Baking Company.  “The seeded roll is a beautiful roll, made from baguette dough,  crusted in fennel seeds, poppy seeds and white sesame seeds. What a yummy combination of flavors. Brebirousse is a soft, smooth, creamy, buttery sheep’s milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes region of France. Not to take anything away from these two ingredients, but food memories often have more to do with the eater’s condition at the time of the meal than the actual meal itself.  Food always tastes better when you are hungry!  I have eaten at some amazing restaurants in my life but I the best meal I ever had in my life was on a backpacking trip when our rations were low and our calorie output far exceeded our calorie intake. We savored every last morsel, scraped our cooking vessel clean, so clean that there was nothing left to wash. Possibly food is at its best  when the aromas or tastes remind you of a forgotten memory lost somewhere in the back of your mind. Think Ratatouille the movie when the food critic Anton Ego bites into Chef Remy’s ratatouille.”

cheese seeded

Christian Kelly (Maya)

Duck Liver Terrine at The Ivy Inn.  “This pâté en terrine is a slice of art. The perfect suspension of fat in meat wrapped in what appeared to be paper-thin cured duck breast slices and served with traditional pommery mustard and pickled vegetables. Angelo’s food is truly inspiring. The work of his kitchen is a delight to the taste buds. Well done.”

ivyduck

Tommy Lasley (Fry’s Spring Station, Ivy Provisions)

Live Scallop with Uni Broth at Mican (now closed). “The best thing I ate this past year was way too much amazing sashimi at Mican Japanese Restaurant, which unfortunately is no longer open! Everything I had was the best example I have tried in years, Charlottesville or otherwise. If I had to pick one bite it was the live scallop with uni broth.” [Note: Mican’s owners are now serving sushi at Lemongrass.]

Thomas Leroy (Kardinal Hall)

Pork Belly at BBQ Exchange. “I went there and ordered  the meat combo plate of course. The ribs were outstanding, but that pork belly with a fried crispy finish to balance the smoking flavor was amazing. I topped it with their bacon bbq sauce of course. Next time I go, that’s all I’m ordering.”

pickles-belly-and-ribs

Michael McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie)

Salt Honey Pie from Greenwood Gourmet by Polina Chesnakova. “Nuff said.”

Loren Mendosa (Lampo)

Olive Oil Gelato from Splendora’s. “I don’t know if PK’s running it regularly, but it was truly fantastic. She used our Mosto olive oil from Liguria and we topped it with sea salt and a drizzle of the Galardo olive oil that Hodges and Jill Myers are importing. It was the perfect combination!”

gelato

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Roasted Chicken and Street Corn Off the Cob at The Fitzroy. “Holy moly! Food tends to be an ‘in the moment’ experience for me, and that chicken and corn just hit the spot at the right time, and it was so comfy and cozy in there.”

chicken corn

Ian Redshaw (Lampo)

Sunchokes from Wayside Produce. “Any vegetable from Wayside Produce, especially the sunchokes. These are the best vegetables I have been able to find thus far in my career.”

chokes

Ivan Rekosh (ZoCaLo)

Flank and Brisket Pho at Thai Cuisine & Noodle House. “This time of year I’m loving the pho from Thai Cuisine. I usually opt for the flank and brisket but sometimes add the tendon. The broth is amazing. I love to stick my whole face in the bowl and breathe in the steam while I’m slurping the noodles. Really warms you up from the inside out on these cold days. Also a great family runs it.” 

pho

Wilson Richey (co-owner, The Alley Light, The Bebedero, The Pie Chest, Revolutionary Soup, The Whiskey Jar)

Chicken Liver Mousse Tart at Timbercreek Market. “Just redefined what can be done with chicken liver, so smooth and elegant. I would eat the whole tart if it were not frowned upon to do things like that.”

mousse

John Shanesy (Petit Pois)

Black Bean and Corn Relleno at ZoCaLo. “It hits on every texture, and all the flavors are very well pronounced but at the same time all working in unison to be a joy to eat. They’ve been great new neighbors to get to meet and have greeted me so warmly as well.”

stuffed

Andrew Silver (ZoCaLo)

Polpettine Panuozzo at Lampo. “Meatball parm sub was my go-to late night, altered state, munchie meal.  Lampo’s is the refined, grown up version.  Plus the fact that the bread is baked ‘a la minute’ seals the deal.”

meatball

Angelo Vangelopoulos (The Ivy Inn)

Petit Kouign-aman from MarieBette. “I found this gem at the city market. Will Darsie filled my request for a mixed bag of goodies while I picked up my veggies from Susan and Wally Parks at Broadhead Mountain Farm. It’s an over the top decadent croissant dough masterpiece with apples and a metric ton of butter and sugar. My market visit is no longer complete without one of them.”

petit

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

170 Dry Aged NY Strip at Lampo. “Ridiculously delicious. Cast iron crispy and served with a head of roasted garlic. Not even fair.”

strip

Tucker Yoder (Timbercreek Market)

I Don’t Even Own a Gun by Twenty Paces.  “I Don’t Even Own a Gun and Noah’s Arcade are some of the best cheeses I have ever tasted. Could easily rival European cheeses. Great funky cheeses. All their cheeses have been a revelation this year but the soft gooey ones are a Yoder family favorite.”

paces