The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Petit Pois

Takeout But Still Cooking Strong: Chef Jose de Brito Thrives in the Culture of Takeout

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“Takeout but still cooking strong.”

That’s how Chef Jose de Brito punctuates his social media posts during the Culture of Takeout. The acclaimed chef who once helped The Alley Light become Charlottesville’s first James Beard semifinalist for the nation’s best new restaurant has not allowed the pandemic to plague his passion and creativity. Officially Pastry Chef at Fleurie, but filling various roles for the restaurant and its sister Petit Pois, de Brito has been busy. For one, he launched a “Bake Sale” of pastries like Tartes aux Fraises, Gateau de Voyage, Tarte Saint Louis, Gateau a la carotte, and Le Homard dans sa Tarte. He also prepares pop-up family-style meals to-go, like Duck a L’Orange – a whole Polyface Farm duck stuffed with Autumn Olive Farms pork, duck, walnuts, and figs, with candied orange sauce and pickled oranges. For Easter, our gratin of lamb shoulder and potato was the type of dish that is so delicious you feel sad when it’s gone. And, in the height of asparagus season, he created one of the most beautiful things I have ever eaten.

Yet, though de Brito’s dishes often look like works of art, his own view is that eye-appeal can be overrated. While de Brito’s fuse is longer than it once was, he still has little patience for chefs who elevate appearance or concept above taste. To de Brito, food — all food — should be yummy. The pleasure of one bite should make you eager for another.

It was de Brito’s fondness for yumminess, in part, that prompted me to ask him to cook  takeout for a guys’ night this week. Socially distanced, we gathered on a friends’ patio for drinks and dinner. Under the circumstances, yumminess was paramount. So, I asked de Brito to make whatever he wanted.

He chose Les Farcis de Provence — a summery Provencal dish of vegetables stuffed with ground meat and rice. As a child in France, de Brito admits, he disliked the dish. Intensely. Recently though, “I finally beat my fears and achieved a really tasty farcie,” says de Brito. First, he confits the vegetables in olive oil and coats their inside with a marmalade of tomato and shallots. Next he stuffs them with a mixture of ground beef, ground Autumn Olive Farms pork, herbs, and rice. Finally, he tops them with garlic breadcrumbs, and into the oven they go.

The result? Yumminess achieved.

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Petit Pois Auction: Autumn Olive Farms, Nose-to-Tail

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Here is your chance to experience Petit Pois like you never have before, while helping to feed the area’s hungry: The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions. Along with all of the other restaurants in The Charlottesville 29, Petit Pois has created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for whoever pledges the highest donation to The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. Thanks to the generosity of Petit Pois and Autumn Olive Farms, the entire winning bid goes directly to the food bank. And, thanks to the efficiency of the food bank, each dollar donated creates four meals for the area’s hungry.

The Petit Pois signature experience for The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions:

Autumn Olive Farms, Nose-to-Tail

Petit Pois owner Brian Helleberg is so committed to supporting local producers like Autumn Olive Farms that he buys whole hogs at a time, which his kitchens break down for nose-to-tail cooking with magnificent results, like the 2018 Dish of the Year.

The auction winner and up to 24 guests will get a first hand look at why Helleberg finds Autumn Olive Farms to be so special: a nose-to-tail experience of the farm and its product, which is so revered, by chefs, diners, and award committees. Upon the group’s arrival, farm owners Clay and Linda Trainum will treat the group to an educational tour of the beautiful farm. Then, the group will sit down for a farm feast prepared by Helleberg and Petit Pois chef Brian Jones. Helleberg will buy an entire Autumn Olive Farms half-hog for the experience, and, for the feast, will roast larger cuts like shoulder. The remainder – loin, rib, chops, etc. – Helleberg will cryovac and freeze for the auction winner, so they may enjoy Autumn Olive Farms pork all year long. Plenty of local beer and wine will wash down the farm feast.

“I hope that this event will help illuminate the relationship between chef and farmer and showcase the importance of truly great ingredients,” Helleberg says. 

It’s a culinary experience of a lifetime: Autumn Olive Farms, Nose-to-Tail.

Note: The auction winner will schedule the dinner at a mutually convenient time for Autumn Olive Farms and Petit Pois.

Bidding

Bidding has ended for the Petit Pois experience. Winning bid: $3,000

Five Finds on Friday: Sarah Humphrey

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Sarah Humphrey of Fellini’s, which was among the picks this week in chefs’ Best Thing I Ate All Year. Fellini’s now hosts weekly Martini Wednesdays, with martini specials and Sinatra-era classics by decked out pianist Sammy Horne. And check Fellini’s Facebook page for updates about their special celebrations on Christmas Eve and NYE. Humphrey’s picks:

1) English Muffins from The Bread Basket. “Ginny from The Bread Basket has a lot of fans. She is particularly known for her beautifully twisted baguettes which are featured in several restaurants. But have you tried her English muffins?  Heavens to Betsy!  They have the same glutinous, dense quality as some of her other breads, and are slightly salty, and just wonderful.  I adore the whole wheat version. My husband and I have used them in the past for brunch, and they are a fantastic foundation for all sorts of Eggs Benedict dishes.  They make a great egg sandwich.  They are perfect for big, gloppy burgers because they stand up to all the juices and goo without breaking down like brioche. And I love them with just a little unsalted butter and blackberry jam.”

2) Almond Pave from Patisserie Torres. “I love most almond desserts, but this is my new favorite.  It’s made with cake soaked in almond syrup, and the interior is light and fluffy but soooo soft and moist. The exterior is slightly crackly, with almond cream coated in sugar and sliced almonds.  t’s a sweet pastry, for sure, but not cloyingly so. It’s more decadent and less messy than an almond croissant. This new patisserie has a lot of gems and I’m excited to have them here!”

3)  Chicken Liver Mousse (or any appetizer) at Petit Pois. “I mean, I’d be content to sit inside or outside of this charming restaurant with a glass of sparkling wine and just eat Albemarle Baking Co. baguette and butter. The service is always perfect.  And the appetizers!  If they have steak tartare available, order it!  It is sublime.  The French Onion Soup is nearly over the top, it’s so thick and rich and flavorful. The mussels are always plump and perfectly cooked and there’s a ton of mirepoix left in the bowl for you to spoon up. The escargots are exactly what you’d hope for, bathing in butter with a generous amount of parsley and garlic.  I have to get them almost every time I’m there.  My favorite might, however, be the chicken liver mousse.  It’s served with crostini, but it’s so rich I prefer it with plain baguette.  The mouse is gorgeously seasoned with cognac and it’s impossibly smooth and refined,  It’s practically a condiment.  Have you tried it on corn on the cob?  Seriously, I brought some home and it was awesome. Sorry, Chef.”

4)  A tie (Thai! no pun intended!) between Yum Woon Sen and Guay Tiew
Tom Yum at Thai Cuisine & Noodle House. “This is my favorite cuisine, and my favorite Thai place in town. I cannot decide between these two dishes, but I feel that both of them are often overlooked. For appetizers, people gravitate toward fried items or fresh rolls, but Yum Woon Sen is a great cellophane noodle salad. It strikes the perfect balance or sour, sweet, and spicy, with ground pork, cilantro, red onions, peanuts, and fish sauce. I love it hot, cold, or room temperature. My other choice is a Thai noodle soup.  It is so, so elegant. If you wanna be really cool, ask for sen mee instead of the rice noodles. This broth is pretty sweet, so I add a lot of sambal and jalapenos in vinegar. It’s great with meat, but I also enjoy it vegan with fresh (not fried) tofu and vegetarian broth, and I add extra veggies. Almost nothing makes me happier.”

5) Chocolate Truffle Torte at Duner’s. “Pastry Chef Linda Steiner is amazing, and Duner’s is so lucky to have her. Everything she makes blows me away. This dessert is not always on the menu, but it can be found fairly often. It is a great gluten-free dessert option to those who are tired of crème brulee. It’s super rich and fudgy, like the interior of a chocolate truffle. The best part, really, is the crust–it’s all nuts and I’m wild about it.  There’s a touch of cinnamon which really elevates this torte. Duner’s serves it with whipped cream, berries, crème anglaise, and raspberry coulis, but all you really need is two bites of the torte. I can’t rave about it enough.  If you’re full from dinner, get a slice to go.”

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Chicken Liver Mousse at Petit Pois