The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: North American Sake Brewery

Five Finds on Friday: Courtney Hildebrand

Courtney

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Courtney Hildebrand of The Catering Outfit, the full service caterer that recently launched pop-up lunches and dinners at its Carlton Road kitchen. Lunches are every Thursday, and the first dinner installment will be Saturday, August 18: Basque Seaside Dinner, with chef Tomas Rahal of Quality Pie. Details and reservations here. Meanwhile, The Catering Outfit’s sister restaurant, The Shebeen Pub and Braai, serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday, with house made Bloody Marys, acoustic music, and even outdoor patio seating on swings (yes swings). Hildebrand’s picks:

1) Mexican Street Corn at Junction. “In a town with lots of new street corn options, Melissa still has my favorite! It’s one of their shared plates so you can enjoy a small order by yourself or get a large to share with your friends. The chili-lime dressing is amazing.  Junction also has my favorite cocktails in town. I love to try anything Alec creates. My current favorite is Rum Communion with brown butter rum and notes of pineapple & lime. It’s hard to have just one of these yummy cocktails!”

2) Spicy Shrimp Dishes at The Local, Bang!, and The Shebeen Pub and Brai. “I am a sucker for a great shrimp dish. I have a three way tie for the best shrimp dish in town, as I will always order these if I am at one of these establishments. My picks are the Crispy Shrimp at The Local, the Firecracker Shrimp at Bang!, and the False Bay Crispies at The Shebeen Pub and Braai. They are all so tasty and it is just too hard to narrow it down to just one pick!”

3) Green Giant Roll at Now & Zen. “Now and Zen is one of my favorite spots to go to dinner with a small group of friends. Everything on the menu is mouthwatering, but the Green Giant Roll is always a pleasant surprise for friends who shy away from vegetarian dishes. This giant roll with sweet potato tempura, avocado & cream cheese stands up to any of their other signature big rolls.”

4) Vella Jack Cheese Fritters at Zocalo. “My sister and I love to go Zocalo for dinner when we can make time to have a night out together. We always start with the cheese fritters & raspberry-chili glaze, and then split the salmon dish for our entrée. The entire menu always sounds amazing, but we rarely stray from these picks on our sister dinner date. Zocalo also offers margarita flights which is always a good start to a night out!”

5) Big Baby Sake from North American Sake Brewery. “They have not quite opened their doors yet, but I have had a chance to try the new Big Baby Sake from the soon-to-be-open North American Sake Brewery. Andrew Centofante’s creation is one of the best sakes I have ever tried. I am excited for what he & Jeremy have in store once they open their doors next week.”

tco

Braised short rib sandwich, a recent pop-up lunch at The Catering Outfit

 

Introducing North American Sake Brewery

sake

Charlottesville is strong on adult beverages. We’ve got great wine. And cider. And beer. And spirits.

And, soon we will have sake. One of the nation’s first sake breweries, North American Sake Brewery, opens this month in IX Art Park. Popular in Japan, sake is rice wine made by fermenting rice that has been polished to remove the bran.

The project is the brainchild of two Certified Sake Professionals: award-winning filmmaker Jeremy Goldstein and longtime home brewer Andrew Centofante. “Sake was an instant love affair for us,” says Goldstein. “Once we had our first few glasses of good cold sake, the obsession couldn’t be stopped.” Centofante agrees: “The more I learned, the more my passion grew, and the deeper I wanted to go.” And so, after years of research and practice, that obsession has manifest itself in North American Sake Brewery.

Centofante will do the brewing. Having traveled the country and world to learn from master sake brewers, Centafonte’s focus at NAS is twofold: traditional sakes and modern riffs. “We aim to honor the tremendous Japanese lineage before us with our flagship filtered and unfiltered brews,” says Goldstein. But, he says, they also plan to “push boundaries,” with tasty experiments like fruit and herb infusions, exotic yeasts, and collaborations with local beer makers, cideries, and distilleries.

sakeglass

Among the initial releases, Centafonte’s favorite is “Big Baby” a “brewer’s style” sake, meaning it emerges straight from a fresh batch, raw and unrefined, and, in this case, at a whopping 18% ABV. Goldstein’s favorite, meanwhile, is Rosaké – a rosé blend sake to which unsweetened fruit and fresh farmed herbs are added during the final days of fermentation. “Notes of citrus zest, honeydew, and a young rose petal come together in a perfectly dry, alcohol-forward sake,” Goldstein says.”

Chef Peter Robertson

The huge brewery will have seating inside and out, including a bar and an elevated patio from which guests can enjoy Ix Art Park, with tasting flights, glasses, bottles, and food from a full-service kitchen. In fact, for food lovers, this may be a case of burying the lede, as the brewery has snagged one heck of a chef.

With wife Merrill, Culinary Institute of America graduate Chef Peter Robertson runs Côte-Rôtie, two time winner of Charlottesville’s Best Food Truck of the Year.  His food is outstanding. (Don’t worry, Côte-Rôtie fans, the truck isn’t going away, thanks to Merrill.) 

Goldstein says Robertson sealed the job with duck, of all things. “The first time Chef Peter had us over for dinner he made Peking Duck,” said Goldstein. “Who does that?” he said, recalling the fatty, rich, tender meat and delicate, crispy skin. “I’m just realizing it right now. We were totally seduced. And gladly complicit, at that.” 

While the brewery’s initial vision for food was modest, that changed with Robertson. “He opened our eyes to what the food could be,” Goldstein said. Just as Brasserie Saison features food suited for beer, Robertson describes his food as “sake cuisine” – dishes and flavors designed to pair with sake. This includes traditional Japanese pairings, like sushi-style items. 

Salmon sashimi

Salmon sashimi, carrot vinaigrette. and cucumber

But, it also includes new pairings from other cultures as well. In a 330 gallon smoker, for example, Robertson plans a rotating schedule of different smoked meats, like duck marinated in shio koji and then set to dry before being rubbed with szechuan and black peppercorns.

What is koji? A natural product in sake brewing, koji is a mold treasured for its transformative powers that is essential to making classic, umami-rich Japanese foods like soy sauce and miso. Used in Asian foods for thousands of years, it has seen a surge in popularity among American chefs. (Lampo’s Ian Redshaw recently made a koji-marinated steak that was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.) 

North American Sake Brewery will have its own cedar-lined culinary laboratory for producing koji, which it plans not only to use for sake making, but also to make available to select chefs across the country. Best of all, Robertson and other Charlottesville chefs will have access to it for one-off food experiments right here in Charlottesville.

koji

North American Sake Brewery plans to open by late July or early August. Follow along their Facebook page for details.