The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Prime 109

Best Thing I Ate All Year 2019: The Charlottesville food industry names the year’s best

Each December we celebrate the Charlottesville food year by asking: what was the best thing you ate all year? Here are the picks from 2018, 20172016 and 2015. And, below are this year’s picks in our food community’s annual tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty. Meanwhile, check back soon for The Charlottesville 29 pick for 2019 Dish of the Year.

Dylan Allwood (Tavola)

Little Gem Salad at Oakhart Social. “I don’t think I’ve ever craved a salad, and I think about that one every day. The poppy seed dressing and everything bagel seasoning set it off.”

littlegem

Jason Becton (MarieBette)

Beef Cheeks at Lampo. “Patrick and I have a weekly lunch date at Lampo, usually on Tuesdays, and one day Mitch happened to be there and was running a beef cheek special. So freakin good.”

cheek

Mitchell Beerens (Lampo and Prime 109)

Menudo from La Michoacána. “It might be the best thing I’ve eaten in Charlottesville ever. I love tripe and theirs has such a clean flavor, and there’s a piece of trotter in there for richness, and the broth tastes like a hug from someone’s abuela. It’s supposed to be a perfect hangover cure, so plan ahead and go nuts at the bar the night before for the full effect.”

menudo

Tim Burgess (Bang!, Bizou and The Space)

Grilled Cactus at Comal. “This is easy this year. Comal. Jesus, everything. I love the grilled cactus dish.”

Travis Burgess (Bang!, Bizou, and Luce)

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup at C&O. “I debated in my head for about thirty minutes, but this is undoubtedly it. I can’t tell what it is, maybe it’s the gruyere cheese mix, maybe the the extra buttery perfectly crisped bread, or maybe it’s just the two Goosehounds I down before it. But anyways, it hits the spot every time. So, shout-out to whoever is working that late-night station and consistently crushing it.”

Melissa Close-Hart (Junction)

Spinach Saag, Sundried Tomato Oil, Cauliflower and Paneer Pizza from Pye Dog Pizza. “Always a tough question, because there are so many to choose from with all the talent in this town. So, I guess I will go with the first thing that pops in my head: Pye Dog Pizza. I believe Matthew and I made it to The City Market on the second week that Pye Dog was there and grabbed some breakfast. In typical form, we had to have a bit of everything — two different pies and a biscuit. Everything was fantastic from the pulled pork pie to the house made sausage, egg & Korean pepper jelly biscuit, but the big winner in my opinion was the curried cauliflower, spinach saag, and paneer pie. It was a huge surprise that this was our favorite, but all the flavors were perfect together and the crust was perfection. I’m so proud of my friends and colleagues, Anna and Kelsey, for pursuing their dreams.”

pizza

Ryan Collins (Little Star)

Tostones Rellenos at Guajiros. “Favorite thing I ate in Cville this year is the tostones with pork at Guajiros. They are sweet, savory, sour and rich.  Pair it with a colada, and it’s a great lunch. Love that place.”

tostones

Jose de Brito (Fleurie and Petit Pois)

Mole Negro con Pollo at Comal. “So I went to dine at Comal with curiosity, having heard that it was authentic. And decided that the mole negro con pollo is my favorite dish this year. The chef at Comal made a sauce with the spirit of chocolate, lightly seasoned with spices and peppers. It was restrained. The use of chocolate and spices was austere but elegant and generous, deep in flavor, lifted up with a hint of acidity. Christine, my wife, who has much deeper knowledge of Mexican food, having traveled in Mexico, agrees. Comal is a wonderful, authentic small Mexican restaurant, and the kitchen is talented. The pork ribs guajillo were a very close second. Vive la cuisine Mexicaine.”

pollo

Kate Collier (Feast!)

Chicken Katsu from Mochiko. “When we are dog tired after a long days work in specialty food retail, nothing tastes better than the chicken katsu take home dinner from Mochiko. We love the light and crispy panko fried chicken cutlet with steamed sushi rice and sides of macaroni salad and sautéed watercress with sesame seeds. It’s our go-to place for take out.”

Katsu

Patrick Evans (MarieBette)

Bolo from Luce. “All three pastas that we tried were amazing, but I especially liked the Bolo.”

bolo

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Oyster Mushrooms at Little Star. “The best thing I ate all year was the oyster mushroom dish from Little Star. Oyster mushrooms, cinco chiles salsa, avocado, lime dressing, Mahon cheese, and chicharrones. I like to be surprised by food, and I will be the first to admit I am just not the biggest fan of oyster mushrooms. So when this dish came out, I simply thought: ‘Ehhh, I will try it.’ The layering of textures and flavors is amazing. It hits all of the important aspects of a wonderful dish. The citrus, heat, salt, and crunch complement the meatiness of the oyster mushroom in a beautifully harmonious way. Well done Little Star.”

mushroom

Craig Hartman (The BBQ Exchange)

Tarta de Santiago at Quality Pie. “The best thing that Donna and I ate in 2019 in Charlottesville was the Tarta de Santiago from Tomas Rahal and Quality Pie. This Almond cake named after St. James is super revered in Spain and is one of their national dishes. The Tarta at Quality Pie is so good that we could not stop going beck for more. It literally draws us to Quality Pie. Pair it with one of the sherrys from Tomas’s collection.”

tarta

Brian Helleberg (Fleurie and Petit Pois)

Banchan at Sussex Farm (at Sussex Farm’s The Charlottesville 29 Auction dinner). “Jen’s banchan was clearly the plate of the year for me. The flavors, colors and textures framed a fascinating collage that helped make a memorable evening at Sussex Farm. As Jen spoke and revealed herself and her values to us, I realised that the foundations of hospitality were on on display:

    • Hard work – “If it is not earned, it is not valued.”
    • Family – “Everyone here on the farm is my daughter.” (Including her actual daughter.)
    • Cuisine – Not only does her aunt still send the peppers for her kimchi, but her mother taught her how to cook.
    • Love of the land – “I love this country.”  Not only did Jen feed us persimmons from her property and delicious fried quail eggs from her birds, but she showed us what it looks like to realise a dream of having a family farm.”

Banchan

Banchan menu

Christian Kelly (Maya)

Pan Fried Chicken Dumplings at Duner’s. “There were lots of memorable dishes this year. Cville is definitely full of talented chefs and dining establishments. True to form, my choice goes back to a Cville classic, Duner’s. Chef Laura Fonner and her crew continue to plate some of the best food this side of the BRP. My particular favorite came out of her kitchen only a few weeks ago when my bride Jennifer and I were at Duner’s for an impromptu date night. The place was packed as always. We lucked out with a small table that had just opened up. We were not there ten minutes when food was on the table. Chef Laura sent out pan fried chicken dumplings with pickled Asian pear slaw and ginger aioli. Bam! So good! Chef John Haywood used to describe dishes that he could not stop eating ravenously ‘like a fried egg and cheese sandwich. You eat it and want another.’ (Imagine Yorkshire accent) Jen tried to act like she didn’t want to wrestle me for them but it was obvious when she rolled up her sleeves that fork jousting was about to go down. All silly comments aside, Laura is a very talented and hard working chef. Her dumplings were incredible, as are all of her tasty creations on her menu. Well done Laura!”

dumplings

Loren Mendosa (Lampo and Prime 109)

Masa Gnocchi in Mole at Comal.  “Emily and I were so pleasantly surprised to find so many veggie options on that menu that we ordered everything. The tamales, the tacos, everything was great, but the crispy gnocchi in mole was the best thing I ate this year. We’ve been back several times and each time that dish is a must order for us.”

gnocchi

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Dark Chocolate Wedding Cake from Paradox Pastry. “Best thing I ate all year? No question. A dark chocolate cake with whipped ganache and Amarena cherries made by the Sugaristas at Paradox Pastry. Yes, it ‘may’ have been our wedding cake. It was delicious.”

Wedding Cake_Jen-Rob

Ian Redshaw (2019 James Beard Semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year)

Pizza Dough from Pye Dog Pizza. “Even for just starting, you can tell the crumb structure is proper. Those ladies do it right.”

pye

Ivan Rekosh (Zocalo)

Prime 109 Burger at Prime 109. “After work, sometimes I walk across the street to Prime 109 and have an aged burger with fries. In that moment, with jazz in the background – it’s the best thing I’ve eaten all year. On Sundays I sit down for dinner with my kids. No screens, all together, and we talk. In that moment, whatever is on the plate, it’s the best thing I’ve eaten all year. I could go on and on. We are all fortunate to be able to have food when we want it and even be picky about it. This said, every meal I’ve actually taken the time to stop and enjoy and be grateful for is the best I’ve eaten in 2019.”

Burger

Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Cacio at Luce. “Soooo good. This is the sort of pasta you would pay $30 for as an entree at a fine dining restaurant. The best part is the quality of the pasta itself but the classic sauce is also done to perfection here. I’m so excited that something this good has become the street food of downtown Charlottesville. I could eat a cup of this every day.”

cacio

Merrill and Peter Robertson (Cote-Rotie)

Double Bacon Cheeseburger at Riverside Lunch. “In our honest opinion, it’s the best food in town. Only place we really go. We love everything about it.”

double

John Shanesy (Commonwealth Restaurant)

Peach from Manakintowne Specialty Growers. “The peach was so perfectly ripe and juicy I don’t know how it even held its mass. Texture like ice cream but still warm from its life void of refrigeration. I promptly did the opposite of what a chef should do in terms of margins and gave all of my kitchen staff one and we all enjoyed those peaches in perfect quiet for the next few minutes. Barring the ahhs and incessant slurping.”

peach

Hunter Smith (Champion Brewing Company)

Queso Frito at Guajiros. “So hard to pick, but the queso frito at Guajiros caught and kept my attention. So simple, and so sublime. I find that amazing execution of simplicity always wins me over novelty.” 

queso

Angelo Vangelopoulos (The Ivy Inn)

Grilled Avocado at Kama. “Chef Dave Morgan cooked a tasting menu for me and my family on my birthday this year. One of our opening courses was his wood grilled avocado. I’ve never eaten grilled avocado or even thought to grill one myself so I was very curious about it. It’s grilled over his custom blend of hickory, white oak, and applewood until well charred, filled with ponzu sauce, and finally sprinkled with togarashi spice. It’s creamy and delicious, and it feels like culinary decadence even though it’s not — one of those unique creations where humble ingredients and technique combine to make something sublime.”

Avocado

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Smoked Mushroom Toast at Common House. “The smoked mushroom toast from Matt Greene at Common House was the best thing I ate in Charlottesville in 2019. Super yummy and comforting. Cured and smoked mushrooms sautéed with tons of sherry, caramelized shallots and a deep mushroom stock. Real Frenchy and cheffy but totally unstuffy. The different varieties of mushroom (lions mane, cremini and oyster) provided great textures and flavors. The house made sourdough got all gooey with jus, and that’s what I like.”

Smokedtoast

 

pollo

 

Chef Ian Redshaw Leaves Prime 109

ian

If the adage is true that there can be “too many cooks in the kitchen,” the Lampo/Prime 109 team defied it for years. Even from the time they opened Lampo in 2014, some wondered how three of Charlottesville’s top chefs could survive together in such a small restaurant. In the five years since, the three not just survived, but thrived — each separately winning C-VILLE’s annual Best Chef award: Loren Mendosa in 2015, Ian Redshaw in 2018, and Mitchell Beerens in 2019.

But, as successful as the trio has been, it could not last forever, as eventually one or more of them would want to pursue their own vision. For Prime 109 Executive Chef Ian Redshaw, that time has come, as the chef parted ways with the restaurant this month. A chef of boundless creativity, the 2019 James Beard award semifinalist says he has reached a point in his career where is ready to explore that creativity to the fullest, something the confines and demands of a Neapolitan pizzeria and steakhouse do not always allow. While Redshaw’s long term plans are still in the works, in the short term the father of two says he looks forward to more time with his family, while also planning a private dining series, launching soon. Stay tuned for dates and venues. 

As for Prime 109, Redshaw says he leaves in good hands the winner of 2019 Best New Restaurant. “I am confident that Prime 109 will grow under the talented hands of the kitchen staff and remaining partners,” Redshaw says. Stepping in to run the kitchen is Mendosa, who says he has no plans to change what Redshaw helped to build.

Mendosa also says that, though sad to lose a business partner, he is excited to experience Redshaw’s food as a customer again. “I’ll always remember the first meal that Ian made for me at L’Etoile: fried sweetbreads with Brussels sprouts and capers, and from that point on I’ve been blown away by his creativity and passion,” said Mendosa. “His pure enthusiasm for food is contagious and makes everyone around him want to be a better chef.”

Five Finds on Friday: Matt Beck

beck

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Matt Beck of Oakhart Social, which this weekend hosts an event to help Tavola’s Rebecca Edwards prepare for the Diageo National Finals in the United States Bartenders’ Guild annual World Class bartending competition. (That’s Charlottesville for you. One restaurant celebrates the success of another.)  This Sunday June 2, at 4 pm, Oakhart Social is opening its private event space to the public for Sunday/Funday, offering a menu of cocktails that Edwards will bring to next week’s National Finals competition. Details here. Beck’s picks:

1) Uni, Ankimo and Otoro Nigiri at TEN. “The quality of the fish and the temperature of the rice are just a few of the small details that make sushi extraordinary, and the crew at Ten always nails it. If I had to pick three pieces that they do exceptionally well I would always choose Uni, Ankimo and Otoro, but you really can’t go wrong regardless of what you order.”

2) Dealer’s Choice at Tavola. “Rebecca and Steve and the rest of the wonderful staff do an excellent job of serving delicious seasonal cocktails without unnecessary pretense. It’s always a pleasure to pick their brains. I generally get a Dealer’s Choice and let them have some fun.”

3) Bamboo Pork at Cafe 88. “It’s not on the regular menu, but if it’s being run as a special it’s a must get. A delicious stir fry of pork, bamboo shoots, chilies and ginger. It’s probably one of my favorite lunches in town.”

4) Porky Things at Little Star. “I’ve tasted most of the menu, and everything is delicious and thoughtful and you should order it all. But, I always get charcuterie from Sylvanaqua. Chris from Sylvanaqua is raising and curing some excellent products. Try to save a little room for dessert though.”

5) Wednesday Night Bar Menu at Prime 109. “The price and ambiance on Wednesday night are pretty great. Eat a sandwich or another of the specials that they offer at the bar, listen to some live jazz, and order a cocktail, and you’re bound to have a good time.”

primebar

Prime 109 bar Photo by Kailee Taun