The most anticipated opening of 2016 must be Junction, the first Charlottesville restaurant ever to open with a chef who is a four-time James Beard semi-finalist, Melissa Close-Hart. After a few unexpected delays, the restaurant should open this summer.
But you don’t have to wait that long. On March 15, The Local is hosting a preview dinner of the Junction, with all proceeds to benefit The Local Food Bank and The International School. Close-Hart will compete against her husband Matthew Hart, chef of The Local, in a course-by-course showdown, paired with cocktails. Charlottesville legend Craig Hartman will be on hand to emcee. Given the anticipation for the restaurant, and the fact that proceeds go to charity, tickets are sure to go quickly. Just $60 each, tickets go one sale Monday, February 15. Check back here next Monday.
On Fridays, we feature five food finds selected by local chefs and personalities. Today’s picks come from Matthew Hart, chef of The Local. In last week’s Five Finds on Friday, his wife Melissa Close Hart of Palladio included one of his dishes among her picks. This week, Hart sensibly returns the favor. Hart’s picks:
1) Sunday Lunch at Palladio. “Palladio was my favorite special occasion restaurant long before I married Melissa, their lovely and talented chef. Sunday is my favorite day to go, and not only because it is the only day I can manage to make it out there. After a busy weekend the perfect way to unwind is a leisurely lunch and glass of wine (okay, maybe a couple glasses of wine) and good company. Since my lovely wife is invariably cooking the food, I like to bring my ten year old son who is already smart enough to know good food when he tastes it, and loves Palladio as much as I do.”
2) Bacon, Egg, and Cheese on an Everything Bagel at Bodo’s. “Yummy. What kind of cheese? American. Don’t tell anyone please, because I know it is terribly unchefly, but when it comes to egg sandwiches and burgers, American cheese is gooey delicious. Being a chef, whenever I travel, I always try to eat the regional specialties in order to sample the best dishes as they are meant to be prepared. When I was younger and would find myself in New York, I would always ask around for the best bagel place because everyone always said that was where the best bagels were. Now, when in New York, I order whatever I am in the mood for because I had a lot of good bagels, but never one that was better than what Bodo’s serves all day, every day.”
3) Pork at BBQ Exchange. “Being outside of my regular stomping grounds, I don’t make it out to the BBQ Exchange as often as I would like. Fortunately, it is not too far out of the way for my wife to swing by and scoop some up on the way home. What do I like to eat there? Everything! As long as it is pork I am a happy camper. (I am sure that the non-pork meat offerings are good there as well, but I have not found a good reason to deviate.) Round it out with collard greens, macaroni and cheese (better get extra because my son can eat his own body weight in mac-n-cheese), some slaw, and some of the spicy pickles and that is about as good as it gets. Craig Hartman really shows that when a chef, who’s fine dining game is as good as anyone’s I know, turns his ambitions towards BBQ, then great things happen.”
4) Pizza at Ciro’s Pizza. “Ciro’s Pizza in Waynesboro is something I grew up eating and it is still my favorite pizza in the world. In my family, on your birthday, you get to pick what everyone eats, and we have been having Ciro’s Pizza since I was 12 years old. Judging by how old I feel, that is about 75 years of birthday dinners. My parents still live in Waynesboro, and Ciro’s Pizza helps ensure that I am a dutiful son and visit as often as I can.”
5) Blue Crabs on the Beach with my Family. “Every year my family gets to sneak away for a week and we go to the Outer Banks for some R&R. One of the highlights for me is getting a bushel of crabs, some potatoes, some corn, some shrimp, and whatever else looks good at the market and throwing together a crab boil. I literally look forward to this all year long. Dinner takes about three hours as we sit around and pick crabs and drink beer. I always get way more crabs than we can eat so that I can eat them for lunch the rest of the week. This is my favorite meal in the world and the crabs are only a small part of the recipe. Every year, I prepare this meal and sit down with my loved ones to eat it. The crabs taste great, but when mixed with the company and the memories of sharing this meal in years past, they become something indescribably delicious. This is what food and drink is all about. Making memories while breaking bread and sipping wine (or in this case beer).”