The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Nadjeeb Chouaf

Splendora’s Pint Club

 

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This may be the best Charlottesville gift idea ever. Put a huge dent in your holiday gift list in a matter of seconds by registering friends for Splendora’s Pint Club. Each month for six months, your friend will receive a whole pint of an exclusive gelato flavor, available only to Pint Club members. At each pick-up, they also receive a free small gelato or medium latte.

Splendora’s gelato wizard PK Ross uses the Pint Club as her chance to experiment with unusual flavors, and the results are outstanding. Each month there is a new flavor, never available before, typically presented with accoutrements. Plus, she always has a story behind the creations, which she shares with Pint Club members. In a previous iteration of Pint Club, for example, Mother’s Day inspired her to create hibiscus tequila gelato with a cayenne ginger cookie. In honor of her father, she made coffee and Laphroiag Quarter Cask with sunflower brittle. A cheese plate by Nadjeeb gave life to a flavor of candied blood orange, served with a side of rosemary infused olive oil. And, a candy bar she had in Michigan led to a flavor of Esmontonian cheese from Caromont Farm, with bitter chocolate flakes. You get the idea. This is special stuff.

Memberships are very limited. And, at just $60 each, they are sure to go fast. Email splendora@splendoras.com to buy yours and clear out your holiday gift list.

 

 

Charlottesville Says Farewell to Nadjeeb Chouaf

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Fresh off his ground-breaking success at the world cheesemonger competition and interview on NPR, Nadjeeb Chouaf has closed Flora Artisanal Cheese. Housed first at Milli Coffee and then at Timbercreek Market, for years Chouaf’s cheese shop was beloved in Charlottesville and beyond, even making Eater’s Charlottesville Heat Map.

What’s next for the man whose cheese career began at Charlottesville’s Whole Foods? The Big Cheese is moving to The Big Apple. (Mmm, cheese and apple.) There, Chouaf will join the sales team of importer Columbia Cheese, both selling cheese and helping to develop a monger education series called The Barnyard.

“I really just want to thank everyone for having had the opportunity to share my love of cheese over the past four years with Charlottesville,” says Chouaf.  “I have always wanted to focus on selling my favorite cheeses and with Columbia I get that opportunity.  I will miss Charlottesville, but couldn’t pass up an opportunity at this time in my life.”

Here in Charlottesville, Chouaf will be missed, too, having enriched the lives of so many with expert recommendations, sourcing, and education. The tireless cheese apostle also leaves a trail of special experiences all over town – a cheese cart at The Alley Light, cheese plates at The Wine Guild, raclette and grilled cheeses at Champion, cheese dinners at restaurants like Lampo, vineyard cheese service, and a “perfect bite” tasting to celebrate being crowned the nation’s best cheesemonger.

But, Chouaf’s greatest value was providing us access to a world class cheesemonger whenever we wanted it. My favorite time to drop in on Chouaf was weekdays after work. “I need just one cheese to have for dinner tonight,” I’d tell him. Add a baguette and – voila! – a world class dinner every time.

Chouaf’s pairing expertise was also invaluable. While wine and beer are the most common accompaniments, one of my favorite Flora memories is when Chouaf suggested something even better. The cheese was Wrangeback, a hard, washed-rind cheese from Sweden, dating back to the 1800s. What should I drink with it? Bourbon, Chouaf said. You got it!

And so, while Charlottesville wishes Chouaf well in the big city, let’s hope he comes back one day.  World class cheesemongers who recommend bourbon with your cheese don’t grow on trees.

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Farewell, NaCheese.

Nadjeeb Chouaf Among the World’s Best

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Being crowned the nation’s best cheesemonger was one thing. Now, Charlottesville’s Nadjeeb Chouaf has been named one of the world’s best. Yesterday in Paris, the founder of Flora Artisanal Cheese finished third overall in the Mondial du Fromage world cheesemonger competition, the best result ever for an American.

Just to qualify for the event was an honor. Chouaf earned a spot by winning the U.S. Cheesemonger Invitational last year, giving him a chance to compete against the world’s best in two grueling days of competition. Saturday, each contestant received 150 euros and two hours to spend at the world-famous Les Halles de Tours market to buy ingredients for Sunday’s events. Then on Sunday, beginning at 8 am, contestants faced nearly ten straight hours of tests. In the morning, there was a theory exam, blind tasting, and a five-minute presentation of a cheese to the panel of cheese expert judges.

In the afternoon, first competitors had to assemble a cheese plate from five cheeses revealed to them by the panel. Next came “perfect bite,” where each competitor was challenged to create the best morsel of food from the same cheese, fourme d’Ambert. Chouaf’s was a ball of fourme rolled in peanut nougatine in a Chinese soup spoon of peanut oil jam and reduced raspberry vinegar, topped with a tiny bit of raspberry jam.

Next was “cheese dish,” where contestants again were challenged to create the best dish from the same cheese: brie fermier. Chouaf made a frisée salad with cider vinegar and hard boiled egg with the yolk removed and replaced with a mixture of duxelles, riced egg yolk and brie, topped with ramp powder and lardons.  Chouaf credits Timbercreek Market chefs Tucker Yoder and Shelby Park with inspiring the development of his bite and dish.

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Photo by Sara Adduci

Next, contestants had to create a themed cheese display on a one meter square board, using 50 kilo of cheese determined by the panel. This year’s theme: The Alchemy of Cheesemongering.

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Chouaf’s themed display: The Alchemy of Cheesemongering

Finally, contestants had to create a cheese sculpture using three cheeses determined by the judges.

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An American Breakthrough

Chouaf’s third place finish marks the first time an American has ever reached the podium at the competition, which has been dominated by Europeans. “It’s a huge accomplishment,” Chouaf said of the breakthrough, noting that many French cheese professionals still look down upon U.S. cheese and cheesemongering. “Many thought an American would never even place,” said Chouaf. “The fact that any of us succeeded continues to help push the needle and validate our industry on the world stage.”

And, it’s not too shabby for Charlottesville, either. Well done, Nadjeeb.

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