The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Sussex Farm

Five Finds on Friday: Jessica Fake

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Jessica Fake, of award-winning Sussex Farm. Read the amazing story of how winning Sussex Farm’s offering in The 2019 Charlottesville Restaurant Auctions eventually landed Fake a job there. Fake’s picks:

1) Spinach Saag, Sundried Tomato Oil, Cauliflower and Paneer Pizza from Pye Dog Pizza. “They regularly change their offering at each farmers market, so it’s always interesting, but also near impossible to pick a favorite. I have to call out their spinach saag pizza, which has spinach saag, paneer, cauliflower, and sun-dried tomato oil. Also, their mojo pork pizza, which has mojo pork, red curry bbq, pickled onion and queso fresco. It’s hard to go wrong with any of their pizzas, especially with their crusts, which are the true stars of the show.”

2) Greg Brady from Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint. “My favorite burger in town. This yummy comfort meal comes with wagyu beef, mac n’ cheese, and bbq chips to add the perfect crunch.”

3) Hazelnut Latte and a Pastry from Petite MarieBette. “I say Petite rather than the original, because both will blow you away with pastries, but Petite MarieBette makes their hazelnut lattes with real nutella and it is delicious. Add an everything pretzel croissant, pain au chocolat, or petite canelés to that latte order, and treat yourself.”

4) Fried Rice at Kama. “If you go to Kama on Sundays you’ll be treated to a chef’s special of fried rice. It’s everything you want fried rice to be, chock full of flavor and ingredients. The rice itself has a wonderful texture, somehow managing to be both soft and perfectly crisped. If you aren’t able to make it on Sundays, you can’t go wrong with their house-made udon noodles.”

5) Almond Dark Chocolate Macarons from Bowerbird Bakeshop. “They’ve completely converted me. I was not a particular fan of macarons before, but I think it is because I haven’t truly had good ones prior to theirs. My favorite so far was their almond dark chocolate ganache with sea salt macaron. I’m always looking forward to what flavors they are bringing to the market each week.”

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Pain au chocolat

Bidding for a Job: How a Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auction Win Turned Into Employment

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Jessica Fake and Camie Mess

During last year’s The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, where Charlottesville restaurants created once-in-a-lifetime experiences for whoever pledged the largest donation to the food bank, a common theme emerged: kindness is contagious. Time and again during the auctions, one act of kindness would lead to another. And another. Even now that bidding has ended, the theme has continued as auction winners enjoy their prizes. In fact, one pair of winners wound up with not just a spectacular experience, but a job.

Throughout the auctions, Jessica Fake was one of their biggest supporters. “When my fiancée Camie Mess and I learned about the auctions,” said Fake, “we immediately fell in love with the idea of supporting local restaurants while supporting the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.” Fake bid on several items along the way, but it was not until an unexpected late addition that her enthusiasm peaked.

The award-winning Sussex Farm operates a food stand at area farmers’ markets, serving kimchi and other Korean cuisine prepared by Korea native Jen Naylor, aka Mama Bird. Among the stand’s loyal following is Fake, who is half-Korean. “Camie and I looked forward each week to saying the very few Korean words I know, such as 안녕하세요 (hello), 감사합니다 (thank you) and the most appropriate for the situation 맛있어요 (delicious) — to express our gratitude for Jen and her food.”

And so, when Fake learned that Sussex Farm would be offering an auction experience, she swooned. Fake placed a bid right away, and with it, wrote: “Just when my fiancée thought I’d stop being obsessed with these auctions, and having been knocked out of the ones where we thought we had a shot, and bidding away money that we should be saving, you come in with this awesome item. Well done.”

The item? “Kimchi Forever!“: free kimchi for a year, a hands-on kimchi lesson at Sussex Farm, and a multi-course Korean feast served outdoors beside the farm’s bonfire.

Fake’s only concern was that the Sussex Farm auction was set to end with live bidding at Prime 109’s celebration of the auctions, which Fake could not attend due to a conflict. And so, Fake instead bid by proxy, submitting a maximum bid, and hoping for the best.

Unfortunately, Fake’s bid fell just short. But when Naylor learned that the runner-up had come so close to winning, she offered to double up: create the same auction experience for the runner-up – another year of kimchi, another kimchi lesson, another Korean feast. Combined, the donations from the two winners were enough to create more than 8,000 meals for the area’s hungry.

Fake could hardly believe it. “The generosity of Jen in doubling her offering blew us away,” said Fake. “She’s a tiny local business that just operates at the farmers market, so to give away so much means that her heart is larger than life, and her own wallet.”

And so, this past fall, Fake, Mess, and some friends drove out to Naylor’s farm in Esmont to learn to make kimchi.

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When it came time for their Korean feast, Fake’s group pulled up a second table so that Naylor and her family could join. Over dinner, as Naylor described her love of farming, cooking, and sharing food with others, she mentioned her plans to prepare 600 pounds of Winter Pogi Napa Kimchi. “Wow, that’s a lot,” said Fake. “Do you need help?”

A few weeks later, Fake and Mess found themselves taking a day off from their real jobs to help make 600 pounds of kimchi at the farm. There, they learned of Naylor’s expansion plans, and more work to be done at the farm, which Fake and Mess returned to help with over the course of several weekends: painting, shelving, moving supplies and more. Before they knew it, they were even spending the holidays with the Naylors at the farm.

Now, Fake and Mess still work for Sussex Farm, helping with the food stand each week. Mess, who has long had a love of cooking, works side-by-side with Naylor, learning and preparing the food, while Fake helps with the front of the house, taking orders and hawking kimchi. “Somehow,” Fake said, “through the magic of kimchi, we found ourselves included in the circle of Mama Bird’s love.”

Kindness is contagious, no?

Charlottesville 2020 Best Food Truck/Stand: Sussex Farm

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In the food world, standards matter. That may explain why the food from Sussex Farm is so darned good. If it doesn’t meet the high standards of owner Jen Naylor’s discerning palate, you will not find it at the Sussex Farm food stand, which Naylor operates at area farmers’ markets, while selling kimchi and produce from her farm.

Korea native Naylor learned from the best cook she has ever known: her mother, and Naylor insists that her own cooking pales in comparison. That seems hard to imagine after tasting creations like Naylor’s bulgogi slider and her kimchi pancake wrap – a pancake studded with kimchi, folded around bulgogi and greens from her farm, with a drizzle of gochujang sauce.

A hug-addict, Naylor is beloved in the food industry. Top chefs have been known to make cameos in Sussex Farm’s portable kitchen at City Market. Brian Helleberg, owner of Fleurie and Petit Pois, called her food the best thing he ate all year. And, when Prime 109 hosted a food court of our area’s best artisans to celebrate The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, they asked Sussex Farm to preside over the grill.

Charlottesville is blessed with many great food trucks and stands. Among them, the winner of the 2020 Best Food Truck/Stand is Sussex Farm.

Through March, you may find Sussex Farm Saturdays at IX Art Park, from 9 am – 1 pm, before resuming at City Market in April.

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