Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Elizabeth Pelly, Co-owner and Creative Director of Merrie Mill Farm & Vineyard, which opens today in Keswick. Though the industry’s historic 2020 frost wiped out the vineyard’s initial vintage, that hasn’t stopped it from opening, serving the excellent wines of nearby True Heritage until its own wines are ready. And, the frost did no harm to the beautiful view and setting. Pelly’s picks:
1) Everything Baguette from MarieBette Café & Bakery. “This baguette is literally everything to me. Crunchy and flavorful on the outside, soft and light in the inside. I rarely make it out to the car without having a bite or home without eating half of it. It is even great the day after, if there is any left, toasted with a thin layer of cream cheese and avocado.”
2) Carciofo at Tavola (fried artichokes with whipped goat cheese and garlic aioli). “The ‘last supper’ my husband and I had before my second daughter was born was at Tavola. It was the only time I have eaten in the restaurant. We had a lovely dinner and then during COVID – while we have not been out much – we ordered take-away for our seventh wedding anniversary dinner. It can be risky ordering anything ‘fritti’ to take away but the artichoke was absolutely perfect and the goat cheese dipping sauce is divine.”
3) House Dressing from Take It Away. “Does a condiment count in this exercise? Doesn’t matter because I don’t care. First discovered in my university years, it is too good not to mention. A delightful mix of tangy and creamy, this is the perfect companion to a deli sandwich, and I have been known to dip plain bread in the house dressing as a snack.”
4) Princess Cake from Albemarle Baking Company. “I have only had two birthdays in our new home in Keswick, but the princess cake has featured at both. This cake is heaven. Who wouldn’t love marzipan with light fluffy white cake and decadent whipped cream filling? It is perfect for any special occasion, or actually I might have to order one now.”
5) Fried Chicken from Michie Tavern. “For the soft launch of our tasting room at Merrie Mill, we had tons of friends and neighbors come visit. A pretty big contingency stayed for dinner up at our house. I ordered fried chicken from Michie Tavern and everyone, including me, was blown away. If I had a dime for every time someone told me ‘this is the best fried chicken I have ever had,’ I would be buying a lot more fried chicken.”
Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from reader Mary Bridget Kane. In celebration of the Culture of Takeout, Five Finds on Friday has been featuring readers selected at random in weekly drawings. Also part of the prize is a $100 restaurant gift certificate, like Kane’s certificate to Conmole. Kane’s picks:
1) Ham Biscuits from JM Stock Provisions. “Absolute perfection and my favorite way to start a weekend morning. Also everyone who works there is just fantastic.”
2) Wessex from Greenwood Gourmet Grocery. “One of my favorite things about the Charlottesville area is that there are at least a half dozen truly fantastic sandwich places. After years of taste tests and an extensive Google Doc ranking system, I’ve concluded that Greenwood Grocery tops the list. It’s tough to choose just one from their menu but I keep coming back to the Wessex.”
3) Turkey and Swiss on Sourdough from Take it Away. “Couldn’t pick just one Cville sandwich. My go to is turkey and Swiss on their homemade sourdough with arugula, pickles, roasted tomatoes and of course extra house dressing.”
4) Shaved Salad at Oakhart Social. “Perfect combination of sweet, savory, crunchy. I think it’s the dates that make it.”
5) Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup from C&O. “Best served with a dirty martini and some late night gossip. Makes me feel like I’ve traveled back in time.”
It’s something I’ve heard often. And, there’s good sense to it. Food halls and public markets have exploded in recent years in other food-loving parts of the country, like New York, Napa Valley, Portland, and Atlanta. Why not us? The food-centric nature of a food hall seems a natural fit for a city like Charlottesville – passionate about food, but not fussy about it.
So, would a food hall work in Charlottesville? Next year we will find out.
In Spring 2020, Dairy Market will launch in the historic Monticello Dairy building on Grady Avenue, once home to businesses like McGrady’s Tavern, Three Notch’d Brewing, and Harvest Moon Catering. Renovation of the 1936 building is well underway, and once complete, the market will put side-by-side purveyors, chefs, and artisans in a single, open-market space, hosting up to fourteen stalls around communal dining areas. Employees of Dairy Market’s developer, Stony Point Design/Build, have traveled to dozens of food courts around the world and aim to bring to their hometown the best of what they’ve found.
The site is an appropriate one. Designed by local architect Elmer Burruss, the Monticello Dairy building was not just a production facility of milk, butter, and cheese, but also a gathering place, known for its event space and ice cream parlor. Keeping intact much of the original construction, Dairy Market aims to revive the building’s historic use as a gathering place.
What will the market hold? While not all tenants have been finalized, if the market’s Founding Merchants are any indication, expect a mix of local legends, rising stars, and a few imports. Stay tuned for news about additional merchants, including another addition that will go public next week. And, if you’re interested in running a stall yourself, email here.
Starr Hill Downtown
Anchoring the food hall will be a giant of local brewing: Starr Hill Brewery. Before moving to Crozet in 2007, Starr Hill first opened in 1999 in, well, Starr Hill. Now, in a homecoming of sorts, the brewery will add its newest location at Dairy Market, Starr Hill Downtown, just around the corner from its original site. The massive 4,200 square foot space with an additional 1,000 square foot patio will be home to what Starr Hill is calling a “pilot brewery and taproom.” While the taproom will offer the brewery’s standard line of favorites brewed in Crozet, a 5-barrel onsite brewing system will also allow experimentation with small batch beers, and interactive customer feedback. As for grub with the beer, guests can enjoy food from any of the Dairy Market’s food stalls, so not everyone in your group needs to be in the mood for the same cuisine when you go out for a beer and a bite. Starr Hill Downtown will also revive the live music for which its original Charlottesville location was known. “We have been looking to find a great location in Downtown Charlottesville for many years,” says Starr Hill’s Duke Fox. “We are thrilled to partner with the Stony Point team to bring their vision of a local food hall to our home town.”
First a catering company and then a food truck, Angelic’s Kitchen will find a brick and mortar home at Dairy Market. Owner Angelic Jenkins is excited not just to have her own restaurant, but also to be part of history, she says. “This is a milestone for Charlottesville and it feels amazing to be a part of it,” says Jenkins, who made news last year when a crowd-fundraiser helped her replace a stolen generator in just hours.
In addition to the fried fish for which Angelic’s is known, the Dairy Market location will offer an expanded menu of barbecue chicken leg quarters, homemade macaroni and cheese, collard greens, candied yams, corn pudding and more. Jenkins envisions her place as more of Mom’s kitchen than Grandma’s kitchen. “When people think about soul food, they sometimes think about eating at their Grandma’s house, but for my customers it will be a more of a contemporary look, with that feeling of being in Mom’s kitchen,” says Jenkins. “I always think about when my son was in high school and he would come home with all his friends – and teenage boys are always hungry. I would start cooking for everyone, and they would call me Mama Angelic.”
Take It Away
Famous for its house dressing, Take It Away sandwich shop has been a UVa tradition for nearly three decades. Yet, despite plenty of opportunities, it has never expanded in Charlottesville beyond its Corner location. What makes Dairy Market different? “I could see the potential to reach folks beyond our Corner district location,” says owner Thomas Bowe. “Even though we’ve been serving Charlottesville for 27 years now, a lot of folks still don’t know about us.” As for menu, Bowe says to expect something very similar to the original location’s menu: sandwiches built from all-natural ingredients, and, of course, house dressing. One addition for the new spot: hot sandwiches. Details to come on those, Bowe says.
If you want to be the gathering place that Dairy Market’s developers envision, you need coffee. For that, the developers turned to Eleva, a new Brooklyn-based, farm-to-cup company committed to connecting coffee drinkers with the small farmers who produce world-class coffees. After fifteen years as a global coffee trader, owner Emilio Baltodano could no longer turn a blind eye to living conditions of some of the small farming communities that produced the premium coffee beans he sold. He was determined to open a business that could serve outstanding coffee while also radically improving the standard of living of the farming communities from which the beans are sourced.
The close relationships Baltodano has cultivated with farmers during his fifteen years in the business are a win-win. Customers benefit from single origin coffees from the best small farms Baltodano has found, in top regions of Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Farmers benefit, meanwhile, from the duty Baltodano feels to help the communities of the farmers with whom he has become close — through direct trade coffee and infrastructure projects. “I just got back from Guatemala and Nicaragua, where we were refurbishing schools for local children,” says Balodano. “It’s the relationships we have with our farming communities that motivates everything we do.”
With just one other Eleva location in Brooklyn, Baltodano saw Charlottesville as the ideal next place to pursue his dual-vision of making great coffee and helping its farmers. “College towns really respond to Eleva’s great tasting coffee and social impact focus,” says Baltodano. “We hope that Charlottesville, which is home to a great mix of students and locals, will respond to Eleva’s uplifting message of bringing communities together through amazing coffee.”
While Eleva is serious about its coffee, it is not overly so. “We’re not about measuring grams to nth degree,” says Baltodano, who encourages baristas to have fun and experiment. One barrista creation, for example, – homemade blueberry lavender latte – has become a favorite of regulars.