The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Planet Earth Diversified

Five Finds on Friday: Francesca Black

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Francesca Black, chef of Continental Divide, which has been closed for two weeks after water damage related to Hurricane Michael, but is poised to re-open next week. Black’s picks:

1) Late Night Burger with a Salty Dog at C & O. “I usually get fixated on one aspect or one ingredient of a dish so, for me, an exceptional food experience happens when that fixation isn’t easy to discern — a temporary whirlwind sets in because it is that good. C&O late night does that for me. I am rarely free during regular dinner hours, so after work we sometimes head over for that divine burger. The crispy bun, the crunchy lettuce, that perfect first bite. It all becomes complete with their salty dog, the delicious classic with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice and a salted rim. It’s a great way to end a long work day.”

2) Masala Dosa from Desi Dosa with Turmeric Lassi from Planet Earth Diversified at the City Market. “If I can make it Saturday morning, the City Market rules. I love the Southern Indian vendor Desi Dosa. They focus on letting the intensity of their spices speak for themselves in simple dishes like the masala dosa, a thin stuffed pancake. Speaking of bold spice, the turmeric lassi from Planet Earth Diversified really wakes you up and goes great with spicy the food.”

3) Octopus Tempura and Hot Sake at Now & Zen. “Although hard to choose food favorites, octopus is absolutely up there, and when tempura fried, it’s a whole different level! I could eat Now & Zen’s octopus tempura everyday — it’s perfectly fried, salted and served with spicy mayo. Then with some hot sake — enough said.”

4) Half Chicken and Green Rice with Aji Sauce at Al Carbon. “I was definitely late to the game to visit Al Carbon on 29 but a friend got some take out one night, let me taste it, and I was instantly hooked. The flavors, especially in the homemade sauces, are unbelievable. I like to get the half chicken, break it up into the green rice and cover it in aji sauce, their medium, garlicky wonder.”

5) Fried Chicken and/or Meta’s Burger with Crushed Ice Soda at Mel’s Cafe. “Of all the delicious restaurants in Charlottesville, I think Mel’s might take the cake. Mel’s cures a bad day and makes a good day that much better. I can never choose between the chicken or Meta’s burger, both of which instantly fuel a tingling sensation even at the thought. Continental is so close, too –we are very proud and lucky to have them as our neighbors!”

Two for Tuesday: October 2, 2012

1)  Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil at Gingko.  When it comes to “Chinese” food, Charlottesville has come a long way.  Years ago, there was nothing beyond the standard Chinese-American places where the menus are all the same.  Sure, every now and then we get a hankering for a cloying, glowing mess like General Tso’s Chicken at a shopping mall.  Usually, though, we prefer something more refined.  Thankfully, Charlottesville has seen a proliferation of restaurants that are daring not to dumb it down.  Taste of China, Peter Chang’s, and Cafe 88 come to mind.  Now another restaurant appears poised to join them.  Gingko, recently opened just off The Corner, supplements a menu of standard Chinese-American fare with authentic Sichuan options.  The Pork Dumplings in Chili Oil are a good place to start.  Handmade dumplings swim in a pool of oil seasoned with just enough Sichuan chilis to create the desired numbing effect.

2)  Quiche at Paradox Pastry.   Yes, the egg is custardy.  And, yes the ever-changing fillings always seem fresh and flavorful.  But, as you might expect at a bakery, the crust of these personal-sized pies steals the show.  Flaky, buttery, and rich, it has the unmistakable stamp of a professional baker.  The quiches are so rich in fact that we like to take them home to pair with something acidic.  We’ve had luck with Planet Earth Diversified greens tossed in a French vinaigrette from Feast!, or a crisp white like the Blenheim Vineyards Chardonnay.