The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Now & Zen

Five Finds on Friday: Chrissy Benninger and Kyra Miller

Bluegrass

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come Chrissy Benninger and Kyra Miller – the mother-duo daughter behind Bluegrass Grill & Bakery, which Benninger owns and Miller manages. They have both joint and separate picks:

1) Princess Cake at Albemarle Baking Company (both). “This cake has been our family’s favorite for years, especially for birthdays, and it even made an appearance as Kyra’s wedding cake. I would break my strict autoimmune diet any day of the week for a piece of Princess Cake.”

2) Volcano Roll at Now & Zen (both). “Now & Zen is one of our ‘special dinner’ places to go. We’ve had numerous plates there but the one we love the most is the Volcano Roll. Everything there is fresh and huge, and the staff is amazing.”

3) Cinnamon Maple Twist at Paradox Pastry (Kyra). “I have had the pleasure of working with Jenny, and was able to try many of Paradox’s buttery, sweet, delicious pastries. The cinnamon maple twist is incredible and possibly one of the best sweets I’ve ever had.”

4) Campechano Tacos at Tacos Gomez (Kyra). “The closest you’ll get to a traditional Mexican street taco. The homemade tortillas and sauces are amazing! My husband I always order the campechano tacos. And make sure to get a horchata, if you’re lucky enough to go when they are serving them.”

5) Roasted Chicken at Al Carbon (Chrissy). “I had a different choice in mind and then, for some reason, I thought about this chicken. It is literally the best chicken I have ever had. The. Best. I can eat half a chicken by myself. Whatever they do to that chicken is something blessed by culinary angels.”

Al Carbon Rotisserie Chicken, Charlottesville, VA 10/05/2015

Photo by Tom McGovern

Five Finds on Friday: Natalie Siler

nataliejune

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Natalie Siler, the woman behind Charlottesville’s favorite chocolate peanut butter balls. After a decade in the Pittsburgh restaurant industry, the Charlottesville native returned home in 2012 in search of a job with a more traditional schedule, when fate and Charlottesville generosity intervened. A “friend of a friend” asked if Siler would like to carry on the peanut butter ball recipe she had been making for Feast!. Siler accepted, and when she took her first batch to Feast!, she recalls, “the woman at the counter popped one in her mouth, and said: ‘Great! We will need 300 more.” Six years later, the peanut butter balls remain a sensation, as she now makes 600 per week to meet holiday demand. Available only at Feast!. Siler’s picks:

1) Black Bean Nachos at Continental Divide. “On paper, they might not sound like anything out of the ordinary, but when you add the squeeze bottle of Wait a Minute sauce and one of Matt’s margaritas, it is unpretentious and wonderful. If I have room, one of the daily specials from Seven Hills never lets me down. I like to sit at the curve of the bar and come early.”

2) Italian Sub at Anna’s Pizza #5.  “I grew up in Charlottesville and many of my favorite dishes and spaces exist only in memory now, but 34 years later, the Italian Sub at Anna’s Pizza #5 has stayed happily identical to how I remember it tasting after a swim meet on a Wednesday night. A satisfying crunch, the tangy house dressing and one of the best beer pitcher deals in town. Don’t change, Anna.”

3) Honey Ginger Martini at Bang!. “This drink makes me think of my sister. Her name is Ginger and she lives in Austin, which is where I was first introduced to Tito’s Vodka. (My dad claims to have played cornhole with Tito himself). And, this drink is perfect for a kick in the pants to get you going for a show downtown. House pickles and sweet potato gnocchi always follow.”

4) Cheese from Caromont Farm and Our Lady of the Angels. “I’m a sucker for a cheese plate. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite one, but Pippin Hill and The Local come to mind. I’m always excited to see Caromont Farm on the menu. After my snuggle session with the goats last year, I always like to think I played some tiny part in making it taste so good. But I’m always looking for that bright red wax wheel that covers the gouda from of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. It’s made in the mountains near Crozet and if anyone is not sure what I might want as a gift, the two pound wheel will do just fine.”

5) Tuna Avocado Carpaccio at Now & Zen. “The first time I ordered this and the almost-table length salad was placed in front of me, I giggled like a small child. It hit all the marks for me. Protein. Spice. Greens. Texture. I always over order here, but I can never not get this salad.”

Five Finds on Friday: Gisela Carradero Rivera

Gisela

Today’s Five Find on Friday come from Gisela Carradero Rivera, Chef de Cuisine of Oakhurst Inn Cafe and Espresso Bar, where she has just introduced new fall menus. For breakfast, there are pumpkin waffles with whipped cream cheese, spiced rum syrup, and candied pumpkin seeds. But, don’t worry, the coconut grits are still there, too, though now they come with house smoked maple glazed pork belly and baked apples. For lunch, there’s a sandwich de pernil, with local braised pork, salsa criolla, and avocado aioli on an olive oil baguette. And, a harvest greens salad, with butternut squash, apples, fried Caromont Farm chevre, and lemon vinaigrette. See the full menus here. Rivera’s picks:

1) Aburi Salmon at Now & Zen. “A former chef of mine introduced me to Now & Zen back in my Keswick days and I can’t seem to stop going back, definitely a go to. The Aburi Salmon was on of his favorites and my husband and I always get it. Never changes and it is always delicious.”

2) Num Tok and Thai Tea at Monsoon Siam. “Can’t ever go wrong with cilantro, red onions, basil and all of the amazing ingredients in the Num Tok dish. Or any dish at the restaurant. Definitely my favorite Thai spot in town.”

3) House Sausage Pizza at Oakhart Social. “Let’s be honest, I love every dish I’ve ever had at that place. I think they do an amazing job! But the one thing I always get is the house sausage pizza. Love it.”

4) Mary Lou Mule at The Alley Light. “I love Mules, but the Mule at The Alley Light has been number one for me since the first time I drank it.”

5) Chocolate Praline Crunch Cake at Albemarle Baking Company. “It’s amazing. I find any reason to try and buy it for someone’s birthday although I try to eat it by myself.”