The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Little Star

New Star: Chef Reggie Calhoun Takes Little Star Helm

Reggie Calhoun

It can be a bittersweet moment in the career of a chef. On the one hand, it’s what many chefs work towards as they grow older: a restaurant that becomes so well-run that they feel freed to spend less time onsite and more time with family. On the other hand, stepping back from the kitchen can be difficult for someone who has spent so much of their life there.

Such is the crossroads for Ryan Collins. Most of his adult life has found him the kitchen, and, since opening Little Star in 2018, he has been involved in every aspect of it: design, management, cooking, and more. In many ways, the restaurant is Collins. But, the grind of the industry can take its toll, and at 39, the father of two has been feeling the pull to take a step back. The feasibility of such a move always turns on whether, in the founder’s absence, there are hands capable of sustaining the restaurant.

Enter Reggie Calhoun. With experience at places like Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar and Lampo, Calhoun joined Little Star soon after it opened and has been Collins’ right hand man ever since. As Calhoun’s responsibility grew in the kitchen, he eventually began creating his own dishes for the restaurant, like, on the current menu, Smoked Beets with cashew crema, green grapes, pistachio, and horseradish; Ember Roasted Carrots, with citrus mole, sesame brittle, coconut, scallion; and Grilled Tequila-Lime Shrimp, with peanut aioli, crispy shallots, and herbs.

Smoked Beets

Ember Roasted Carrots

Grilled Tequila-Lime Shrimp

As Chef de Cuisine, Calhoun is now poised to run the Little Star kitchen himself. “Reggie’s been with us since the beginning, and knows as well as anyone who we are as a restaurant,” said Collins. “His talent and hunger leave me with strong confidence that Little Star is in good hands.”

So, what will change?  Well, on the one hand, not much. The aim is for Little Star to remain the same great restaurant it always has been, grounded in Collins’ passions for Spanish and Mexican cuisine. But, on the other hand, over time regulars may notice more of a stamp from Calhoun himself. “Like Ryan, I plan on operating in the fairest and most ethical way,” Calhoun said. “While doing so, I also plan on making my own stamp on the menu with my inventive yet approachable flavors, while staying in the realm of our Spanish/ Mexican American fare.” Welcome the Calhoun era at Little Star.

 

Five Finds on Friday: Allen LeHew

School’s out for summer!

For many in Charlottesville, nothing says summer more than Duck’s Cottage Coffee & Books, the iconic OBX shop that fuels vacationing Charlottesvillians with waterfront coffee. It turns out the love affair is mutual, as longtime owner Allen LeHew loves Charlottesville, and makes frequent journeys to Charlottesville for food (and sports!). Quietly, he is also a regular contributor to fundraisers when members of the Charlottesville food community are in need. No wonder Charlottesville finds his shop such a pleasant place to be.

To kick off beach season, today’s Five Finds on Friday come from LeHew. Check out his great picks, and don’t miss Duck’s Cottage Coffee & Books this summer:

1) Seasonal Fruit Brioche at Albemarle Baking Company. “This delicate, light and fluffy brioche, filled with pastry cream and seasonal fruit, is perfect with your morning coffee, as an afternoon snack, or even for dessert.”

2) Jambon Beurre at Belle. “Belle’s take on this classic French sandwich is so simple yet so delicious. The house baked bread, using flour from Woodson’s Mill, is perfection. Finish your meal with one of Belle’s cinnamon rolls or chocolate chip cookies.”

3) Pig Mac at Little Star. “#11 on Simon’s 29 Sandwich list. A breaded pork cutlet with all the fixings to make it a Mac. Served on a brioche sesame seed roll. One of those thing I eat and days later think about and crave another.”

4) Quenelles de Brochet at Café Frank. “My wife Judy and I try to dine at Café Frank whenever we are in town. Nothing disappoints, but the standout so far has been the Quenelles. The pike dumpling practically melts in your mouth and the rich velouté is the perfect accompaniment.”

5) Ethiopian Qabballe Pourover at Mudhouse. “I’m partial to the fruit forward Ethiopian coffees and the pourover method really brings the fruit out. Leave the cream and sugar out, and enjoy the subtle nuances and mouthfeel of the coffee. You can’t go wrong with any of the single origin coffees Mudhouse has to offer.”

 

#11: Pig Mac – Little Star

The Pork Sandwich

Some chefs love food unconditionally.

Take Ryan Collins of Little Star. Collins’ taste for refined cooking is not surprising, given his eight years working for one of the most famous chefs in the world. But, his love for food does not stop there, as his heart is open to deliciousness in any form — and from any source, whether a Michelin starred restaurant, the taco trucks he chases around town, or anywhere really.

And so, on his restaurant’s menu, alongside fancy fare like beef tartare and seared tuna with foie gras, you will find a sandwich inspired by the plebeian pleasures of fast food. McDonald’s Big Mac famously combines (sing it) two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun. Replace the beef patties with a pork cutlet and you have Little Star’s Pig Mac.

Collins pounds the cutlet thin, breads it, and fries it, just as is done with the tenderloin sandwiches of the Midwest, one of America’s most beloved pork sandwiches. Then come all of the Big Mac toppings, yet, unlike at a fast food franchise, Little Star’s has the attention detail of a chef whose love of food runs deep. Collins is a sandwich fiend, and once he gets fixated on a sandwich, he cannot relent until he feels he has gotten it right. His passion and talent drive him to obsess over every aspect of its preparation, as he has done in the past with deli-style subs. And, now he has done it again. The Pig Mac captures what people love about the fast food icon, and takes it to even greater heights.

#11: Pig Mac – Little Star
The Charlottesville 29 of Sandwiches

Others of Note: Dave’s Roast Pork at Chickadee, The Squeal at Kitchen(ette). Vegetarian Alternative: Grilled Broccolini and Mozz at The Fitzroy

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