The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: La Michoacana

Five Finds on Friday: Jeff White

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Blue Moon Diner has reopened, and today’s Five Finds on Friday come from a man who cooked there more than thirty years ago. Jeff White manned the grill of the Charlottesville icon from 1985-1987, married one of the waitresses, and, now, more than three decades later, is the top sports writer for the University of Virginia. For many UVa fans, his columns are daily must-reads. History class from White:

I started cooking for then-owner John Grier at the Blue Moon Diner late in my undergraduate days at UVa and continued working there (and down the street at the late, great Cotton Exchange, whose owners were Grier, John Hoy and Kirby Hutto) until moving to Richmond in 1987.

Back then, the Blue Moon’s grill was out front, a few feet from the counter, and the pressure of cooking in a packed diner ––– in full view of customers, with the jukebox blaring, while hungover on a weekend morning –– no doubt helped prepare me for the stress of writing newspaper stories on deadline.

Most important, the Blue Moon is where in 1986 I met Beth Pearce, whose brother Tom was a fellow cook. Beth later waitressed at the diner, and we were married in 1989.

It’s wonderful to see the Blue Moon open again, and it’s hard to go wrong with anything on its menu, which has expanded considerably since my time there. Here are five of my other favorites:

1) Hot Sicilian at Durty Nelly’s / Wayside Deli. “The GOAT when it comes to sandwiches. I’ve been placing the same order at Durty Nelly’s/Wayside Deli for 30-plus years and hope to continue doing so for another 30. It’s a heavenly combination of Genoa salami, turkey, provolone, onion, peppers and mayo on rye, all heated.”

2) Greg Brady at Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint. “The burgers at Jack Brown’s are, to me, the perfect size –– not too big, not too small ­–– and complementing the beef on this delicacy are mac and cheese, Martin’s BBQ potato chips, and a blend of American and cheddar cheeses. The fries are great, too, as is the selection of beers from around the world.

3) Burrito Michoacana at La Michoacana. “This low-key restaurant on East High Street was once a hidden gem, but its excellence has been common knowledge around town for years now. Keep the option of a post-lunch nap open after eating one of these burritos. You may need it.”

4) Ragin’ Cajun at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “I’m a sucker for andouille, and this pie also features Creole-spiced shrimp, green peppers, roasted red peppers and mozzarella. Dr. Ho’s, of course, has Blue Moon ties. Its founder, Jerry Danner, ran the diner after buying it from John Grier.”

5) Cookies and Cream Milkshake at Crozet Creamery. “A group of us in the athletic department has a tradition we hold dear. When one of the UVa teams we support (as writers, videographers, photographers, etc.) picks up a significant win –– almost any conquest of Virginia Tech qualifies as such – we celebrate by treating ourselves to milkshakes. My victory shake of choice is one of many fantastic offerings at my local ice cream parlor, whose other options include the (Jack) Salted Caramel.”

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Jeff White, Blue Moon Diner, 1985

Five Finds on Friday: Jamie Barrett

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CSA Farm Share season is here, and today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Jamie Barrett of Bellair Farm, which still has a few of this year’s CSA Farm Shares available. Short for “Community Supported Agriculture,” a CSA involves members paying for several months of a farm’s produce for the growing season early in the year, in shares. Once harvesting begins, each week members stuff their bags full of the farm’s current best fresh-picked produce. Bellair offers shares in two sizes, with five different pick-up locations around town. Details here. Barrett’s picks:

1) Shan City Chicken from Peter Chang’s.  “I love everything at Peter Chang’s but this dish is always part of my out-of-control take out order. Salty, spicy and perfectly crisped bits of chicken surrounded by chili peppers. I always try to taste just a little on the ride home and end up slopping the whole thing up by hand while I drive. It’s a spectacle.”

2) Cabrito Tacos Mexican Style with hot salsa from La Michoacana. “It’s so good and it’s hot enough to make me hiccup. I eat 4 of these on the ride back to the farm. See, there’s a theme.”

3) Bloody Mary at Hamiltons’. “This is my wife, Kelly’s, favorite Charlottesville restaurant. A Bloody Mary is like a whole farm season crammed into a glass with vodka and anyone who’s been through a farm season knows that a little vodka never hurt. It’s got the right amount of grit and pep without being over the top.”

4) Bellissima Pizza at Dr. Ho’s. “This is a farm crew favorite and on special occasions we’ll make the trek over there together, us and about ten pounds of Bellair dirt. We’re a motley crew but the folks at Dr.Ho’s have always treated us right.”

5) Creamed Spinach at Downtown Grille. “I’m a sucker for creamed spinach and I love the big booths at the bar here. My three girls and I like to sit in the booths and watch people walk on the mall. They love the Shirley Temples.”

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Five Finds on Friday: Brooke Ray

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Brooke Ray, manager of the New Roots program for the International Rescue Committee. Working with sixty refugee families, New Roots establishes urban farming locations which aid in refugees’ community transition through gardening, education, local food access initiatives, and small business farming. On May 30, one of its farms – New Roots Farm – suffered extensive damage from a severe flash flood, and the twenty families that grow food there were devastated by the loss of most of their crops.

“Our hearts are hurting for all the work and money the families have put into their gardens,” says Ray, “as well as the fact that such a special place that was brimming with life and beauty and joy was so damaged.” The families now hope to reclaim what they can of the season and they need your help. Funds are needed to repair the farm, replant and rebuild beds, and relocate market crops to a safer location for the season. To help the families’ recovery, you can donate here

As usual, the Charlottesville food community has rallied in a time of need. On July 30, the event company Hill & Holler is organizing a Donor Appreciation Party for anyone who donates $100 or more to the cause. There will be food from Ivy Inn, Orzo, and A Pimento Catering, a wine bar from Blenheim Vineyards, beer from Reason Beer, live music, and more. Details on how you can donate and attend this special event.

Ray’s picks:

1) Som Tum at Pad Thai. “I love Santi’s version of papaya salad. It’s fresh and bright and spicy. The papaya, peppers and peanuts pack so many textures and flavors into one refreshing little salad. I like it with a cold beer and a Tom Yum Noodle Bowl. Pad Thai is so under-rated and I kind of hate to blow it up, but it’s my secret go-to for a good selection of well-priced draughts and take-away beer. And Jay, Santi’s son, has great taste in music to boot.”

2) Super-Style Tacos at La Michoacana. “I usually order the vegetarian tacos super-style from Edgar, but if you are so inclined the meat tacos are all also stupid good. The super style come topped with chopped onions, cilantro, cheese, sour cream and lettuce. They are bursting with flavor without being soggy or overly-loaded. I always order the spicy pickled onions and carrots to load on top and add a splash of their avocado salsa.”

3) Tomato Bisque at Orzo. “I have to say, I have loved every meal I have ever eaten at Orzo and really appreciate that the team puts as much care into their salads as they do into their main dishes. If I had to mention one thing though, it would be the tomato bisque made with lamb broth. Eating it was a revelatory food experience for me. Tomato bisque is something we’ve all had and we expect it to taste a certain way. But this one (which I think is a seasonal offering) is so comforting and rich and unexpected. It’s an adult version of one of my favorite, childhood, rainy day meals.”

4) Mango Chili Popsicle at La Flor Michoacana. “Can you tell I like spicy food? Our farm crew often makes a detour for this spot on the hottest days. The popsicle selection is extensive- I recommend making your way through all of them. The Mango chili is sweet and fresh in the right way with a pleasant heat.”

5) The Bellissima at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “My favorite Sunday ritual is to go biking at Walnut Creek and then head over to Dr. Ho’s for their Bellissima pizza. The crust is flavorful and perfectly crunchy-chewy and it’s topped with so much good stuff- roasted tomatoes, shaved ham, aged parmesan. But most importantly they pile and entire arugula salad on top of it.  And it is REAL arugula – spicy and bold and often local – not the California clamshell stuff that has no flavor. I don’t know what they add to that vinaigrette in the salad but I can’t get enough of this pizza. It’s a good thing it’s 40 minutes from my house.”