After several runner-up finishes in prior years at The Cheesemonger Invitational, Flora Artisanal Cheese’s Chouaf was starting to earn a reputation as the Susan Lucci of cheesemongering. But, yesterday he won. “You are the best cheesemonger in America,” the event’s organizer told Chouaf late last night.
Chouaf defeated top cheesemongers from around the country in a series of tests like blind taste identification, written tests, cutting, speed-wrapping, and a mock sale. But, the test that has become a favorite of cheesemongers and spectators alike is the “perfect bite,” where mongers combine cheese with other ingredients to create an ideal morsel of food. To help plan his perfect bite, Chouaf called on the talent of Ian Redshaw of Lampo, creator of Charlottesville’s 2015 Dish of the Year. Together, Redshaw and Chouaf devised a bite inspired by the snack food Bugles. In this case, the bugles were made of Redshaw’s own dehydrated lamb mortadella, baked and stuffed with Kunik cheese, and topped with a pudding of garlic scapes and spruce tips, and pomegranate aril.
Charlottesville continued its streak of amazing showings at the Cheesemonger Invitational, as Sara Adduci was again a runner-up. With Adduci at Feast! and Chouaf at Timbercreek Market, two of the nation’s top three cheesemongers work less than a mile from one another right here in Charlottesville.
To excel at the competition’s rigorous tests requires a belief in oneself that can come only from years of practice and study. And, Chouaf has just that. Before he left for the Cheesemonger Invitational last week, Chouaf told me that he expected to win. Where were we? Champion, of course.
With the opening of Timbercreek Market just weeks away, chef Allie Redshaw has moved beyond behind-the-scenes practicing and honing dishes for the menu to full-fledged dress rehearsal. Starting today at The Whiskey Jar, Redshaw will be offering items she has planned for Timbercreek Market. Today’s dish is a gussied-up grilled cheese called Straight Outta Comté.
On two slices of brioche from Albemarle Baking Co., Redshaw spreads her own bone marrow torchon made from Timbercreek’s bones. Next comes the Comté, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese from eastern France sourced by award-winning cheesemonger, and Timbercreek Market partner, Nadjeeb Chouaf. The Comté, Chouaf said, is from Marcel Petite in the Jura, with notes of hazelnut, fried onion, ripe berry and grass. “Its sweetness and briny flavor blend well with the bone marrow,” said Redshaw, who then takes the whole thing and fries it in butter. Voila.
“Decadent” as she puts it. I think that means fat-free.
The first food tenant at the historic Coca-Cola building is set to open. And, it’s no joke.
Timbercreek Market, an offshoot of Timbercreek Farm, will house a butcher shop, cheese shop, and casual restaurant, all in one. For years, Timbercreek Farm products have been on menus of the area’s top restaurants, on shelves at select retail outlets, and available for purchase from the farm itself. Now, Timbercreek is poised to remove altogether the middle men from the “farm-to-table” process. The farm will bring its products literally to guests’ tables.
Sara Miller, who owns Timberbreek with her husband Zach, said that the idea behind the market is to “answer demand from both our customers and chefs that has been increasing over the years . . . for a place where they can gather to enjoy, shop for, and learn about the local foods we grow at the farm as well as those grown at other farms in the area.”
Given how esteemed Timbercreek Farm is throughout the food community, it’s no surprise that an all-star cast has flocked to help out. Will Richey and Josh Zanoff, of The Alley Light, The Whiskey Jar, and Revolutionary Soup, have been overseeing planning. “I have worked with Timbercreek since the very beginning,” said Richey. “With this new project, Timbercreek can extend their best practices in rearing animals to the best practices in handling the meats they produce.” Richey says that while the market will have “all the things you expect from a top notch butcher shop,” what will make it special is that “you’ll know exactly where all of the meat is coming from — the farm less than seven miles from where it is being sold.” Chefs and customers can inspect the daily offerings, select exactly the cut of meat they want, and know its source.
Beyond Timbercreek’s own beef, pork, lamb, chicken, duck, rabbit, eggs, and produce, the market will also offer products from other top local food businesses, including other farms, Shenandoah Joe, The Pie Chest, and more. Meanwhile, The Wine Guild will provide a selection of wines, which can be enjoyed both on premise and off. The idea, Richey said, is to be a one stop shop for whatever’s needed for a great local meal.
Running the cheese counter will be Nadjeeb Chouaf, who last year was named second best cheesemonger in the country. The market will be the new home of his Flora Artisanal Cheese. “I’m really excited about partnering with Zach and Sara,” said Chouaf who expects the new, larger space for his cheese shop to allow expanded selections, and also regular cheese classes, events, and even pop-up dinners.
Manning the butcher counter will be Adam Lawrence, a ten year veteran of Whole Foods Market. “I am truly passionate about meat cutting,” said the Earlysville native. “It is an art not commonly practiced in this day and age.”
And, heading the kitchen will be Allie Redshaw, sous chef of Pippin Hill Farm. Anyone who has enjoyed a meal recently at Pippin Hill knows that this is a good thing. A very good thing.
Redshaw, whose husband Ian co-owns Lampo, plans an array of prepared food items to eat at the market or take home, as well as sandwiches stuffed with Timbercreek products. We got a sneak peek at the menu and its a doozy, with options like a 120-day Dry Aged Ribeye Philly Cheese on ABC Ciabatta or a Brioche Grilled Cheese with Bone Marrow. But, the sandwich that Redshaw is most excited about is her riff on a banh mi, which she says will include “an assortment of Porky goodies, pickled vegetables, and seasonal pates.” Instead of the traditional crusty baguette, Redhsaw will serve the sandwich on Tigelle – a delicious bread from Emilia Romagna that is notoriously difficult to perfect. Redshaw has been working hard to do just that, and Timbercreek Market will make theirs fresh daily.
Most of the rest of the sandwiches will be served on bread from Albemarle Baking Company, which drives home how intertwined our local producers and purveyors are. Timbercreek provides its farm’s eggs to the bakery, which uses them to make bread, which the bakery provides to Timbercreek to make sandwiches. “A full circle,” said Miller.
Last but not least, there will of course be steak! Customers can pick any steak they like and, for a small fee, have it grilled for them on the spot. Richey is high on this option. “I am personally ecstatic about the chance to walk into the shop, point at a perfectly cut steak in the case and say, ‘Grill that for me, medium rare’, and then sit down with a beer to wait for my steak – any time of the day.” Beer and steak any time of day sounds good to us.
Timbercreek Market plans for a June opening, with hours 10-7, Monday through Saturday. In the historic Coca-Cola building at 722 Preston Avenue.