The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: The Alley Light

Best Thing I Ate All Year 2018

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

Jascon Becton (MarieBette) and Mitchell Beerens (Lampo and Prime 109)

Grilled Pork Steak at Oakhart Social.

Becton: “I love pork in most of its various forms and the grilled pork steak at Oakhart Social is a pretty phenomenal iteration. It is perfectly cooked and the flavors perfectly balanced. It reminded me a little of the flavors from Filipino BBQ but with pineapple. Delicious!”

Beerens: “Hands down, the best thing I ate this year is the pork blade steak at Oakhart Social. I’ve spoken with many local chefs about it and they all love it. Grilled blade steak with grilled pineapple, candy onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and peanuts. So so simple and so so good.”

pork steak

Melissa Close-Hart (Junction)

Ricotta Ravioli at Fellini’s and Parker House Rolls at Prime 109. “I had plenty of great dishes this year, but the best of the best is a tie. And both were at special occasion meals. Matthew and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary at Fellini’s with Chris and Sarah Humphrey taking great care of us. Out of the many amazing dishes, the stand out was a house made ricotta ravioli, with local butternut squash sauce, sautéed apples, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Some of my favorite flavors of Fall in one dish. The dish was a perfect balance of delicate pasta, rich savory flavors and a touch of sweet. The next dish came at my birthday dinner at Prime 109. The whole team went above and beyond to make my night special and the entire meal was fantastic, but what I can’t stop thinking about is their Parker House Rolls. I’m such a bread eater and these rolls are to die for. I ordered a second round before the first were even finished. I actually see myself stopping in just for an app and a whole pan of rolls just for myself. Don’t ask for me to share, because it won’t happen.”

Parker

Ryan Collins (Little Star)

Shrimp Toast at Oakhart Social.  “Super simple dish of perfectly griddled Pullman loaf from Albemarle Baking Company topped with a simple salad of poached rock shrimp, creme fresh dressing, pickled mustard seed and chives.  This summer I started every meal at Oakhart with it.”

Jose de Brito (Fleurie)

Chocolate Croissant at Albemarle Baking Company. “I did not have much time this year to dine out. Between the time in our house in Little Washington and my work at Fleurie, I am always busy. But before our weekly drive back to Washington my wife always stops by Albermale Baking Company to stock up on bread and viennoiserie. Their pain au chocolat is as good as any good pain au chocolat back in France. Voila c’est tout, good people!”

Pain au chocolat

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Green Pea Kofta with Feta Lebneh and Cucumber Salad at Peloton Station. “This place seems like a sports bar but the food has been elevated to a different level. Not your average sports bar food. Well thought out snacks and sandwiches, but this particular appetizer is one of my favorite flavor profiles: Middle Eastern. Traditionally done with ground meat and full of spices. Without meat, Chef Curtis was able to accomplish all of the same flavors and textures as the real deal. Great crunchy texture to compliment the beautifully spiced inside. The thick yogurt and pickled salad is the perfect accompaniment. It’s just all around a wonderful bite!”

kofta

Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Duck Plato del Dia at MAS Tapas. “Mas Tapas always makes me and Donna happy. The Jamon Iberico de Bellota is something that I could eat every minute of every day. Their puck plato del dia that was seasonally paired with fresh cherries and Vinagre de Jerez was beautifully prepared and super delicious. Mike Ketola and his crew (Keaton Contini) always go above and beyond to make us feel special and loved.”

duckmas

Christian Kelly (Maya)

Butter and a Baguette from Albemarle Baking Company. “As I’ve been thinking back over what I have eaten this year, it has been the simple foods that have really spoken to me. About a month ago, I texted my friend Gerry Newman of Albemarle Baking Company to say I had just eaten close to an entire baguette with butter. Way too much butter in one sitting but I was, ‘on a roll’ (ouch! Is that even funny?). Crispy, crunchy, spongy, sublime.”

bread and butter

Nancy McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie)

Boat Noodle Soup at Thai Cuisine and Noodle House. “I’m sure I’m not the only one to choose this, but the boat noodle soup with fresh tofu at Thai Cuisine and Noodle House is my go to dish. I love the slight crunch of the Chinese broccoli and the fermented hot sauce complemented by their salty sweet bone broth, basil, and of course rice noodles. Comfort food at its best: satiating but doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed. Add on a Thai Beef salad with toasted rice and a bowl of P7 for my husband and that’s a solid lunch date.”

boatnoodles

Loren Mendosa (Lampo and Prime 109)

Celery Root Pappardelle at C&O. “Matt Boisvert made me and Emily a truly stellar meal at C&O. One of the courses was particularly impressive, though: Dean’s celery root pappardelle. So hard  — though getting easier — to find vegan foods that people really put love and attention into. The meal was one of my favorites of my life.”

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Ricotta Toast at Oakhart Social. “Ahhh! Perfect. And, maybe even more surprising, the gin and tonic slushie. Because it was blisteringly hot and Todd told me to get it, but I hesitated because I don’t like gin and tonic.  Well…. I liked THAT gin and tonic. Whoa.”

ricotta

Ian Redshaw (Lampo and Prime 109)

Lamb Ribs at Oakhart Social. “The first time I had the lamb ribs at Oakhart, it was straight up like tasting Mr. Holland’s opus. Tristan really nailed it with this dish.”

lamb ribs

Ivan Rekosh (ZoCaLo)

Gazpacho Anadaluz at Quality Pie. “One of the most delicious gazpachos I’ve ever tasted. It could have been the beautiful fall day or the super friendly service that made it so great but I think it was the simple and straightforward preparation that really showcased the tomato flavor. Tomas perfectly balanced the sweetness and acidity of the tomatoes. Paired with a truffle grilled cheese and you have a winning lunch!”

gazpacho

Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Bavette at Prime 109.  “Prime has been a tremendous addition to the eating experiences in this town. There are so many reasons to dine there, the burger is incredible, the ambiance is gorgeous, and the drinks delicious. But one of my favorite reasons to go is the steak, specifically the bavette! This is my favorite cut of those I have sampled yet. In Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest, M. Gustave says: ‘When you’re young, it’s all filet steak, but as the years go by, you have to move on to the cheap cuts. Which is fine with me, because I like those. More flavorful, or so they say.’ I love the quote and share the sentiment. Perhaps it explains why I love bavette so much. Personally, I don’t get anything with the steak. I love all the sides and accouterments, but when it comes to steak, give it to me well seasoned and perfectly cooked and I want for nothing. At Prime it is both.”

PK Ross (Splendora’s)

Kumamoto Oysters at The Alley Light. “The best thing I ate all year is also the simplest. The Alley Light, way back in January, had Kumamoto oysters on special. Dollop of caviar and paper thin lemon slices, with the absolute coldest vodka to pair. Clean, fresh, but decadent.”

Kumamoto

John Shanesy (Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar)

Ham Biscuit with Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard from JM Stock Provisions. “Family tradition when my brothers and father visit. Better housemade biscuits or ham can be found nowhere in Charlottesville. ‘Nuff Said.” (Note: Shanesy takes the biscuits home to add the mustard himself.)

biscuit

Angelo Vangelopoulos (Ivy Inn)

German Chocolate Cake Ice Cream with Donut Holes at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “Michael hosted an Oktoberfest dinner at Dr. Ho’s, a four course chef’s menu tasting. We were stuffed beyond capacity, but still found room to eat the dessert, ‘German Chocolate Cake’ Ice Cream with donut holes. It was worth the suffering of being over served and earns its place as the best thing I ate all year. (You might have to make a special request, I don’t think it’s on the menu!)”

angelochocolate

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Tasting Menu at Back 40. “The pea salad with perfectly sweet and fresh peas was out of this world. The tempura fried baby carrots with ramp kimchi was inspiring. Tucker really knows how to make veggies do what they do and just lets them shine. That is skillful and confident. It was pretty heart-breaking when they shut Back 40 down.”

Tucker Yoder 

Potatoes from Sweet Greens Farm. “Some beautiful end of the season potatoes from Sweet Greens Farm. Roasted, with butter and flaky salt.”

potatoes

Five Finds on Friday: Gisela Carradero Rivera

Gisela

Today’s Five Find on Friday come from Gisela Carradero Rivera, Chef de Cuisine of Oakhurst Inn Cafe and Espresso Bar, where she has just introduced new fall menus. For breakfast, there are pumpkin waffles with whipped cream cheese, spiced rum syrup, and candied pumpkin seeds. But, don’t worry, the coconut grits are still there, too, though now they come with house smoked maple glazed pork belly and baked apples. For lunch, there’s a sandwich de pernil, with local braised pork, salsa criolla, and avocado aioli on an olive oil baguette. And, a harvest greens salad, with butternut squash, apples, fried Caromont Farm chevre, and lemon vinaigrette. See the full menus here. Rivera’s picks:

1) Aburi Salmon at Now & Zen. “A former chef of mine introduced me to Now & Zen back in my Keswick days and I can’t seem to stop going back, definitely a go to. The Aburi Salmon was on of his favorites and my husband and I always get it. Never changes and it is always delicious.”

2) Num Tok and Thai Tea at Monsoon Siam. “Can’t ever go wrong with cilantro, red onions, basil and all of the amazing ingredients in the Num Tok dish. Or any dish at the restaurant. Definitely my favorite Thai spot in town.”

3) House Sausage Pizza at Oakhart Social. “Let’s be honest, I love every dish I’ve ever had at that place. I think they do an amazing job! But the one thing I always get is the house sausage pizza. Love it.”

4) Mary Lou Mule at The Alley Light. “I love Mules, but the Mule at The Alley Light has been number one for me since the first time I drank it.”

5) Chocolate Praline Crunch Cake at Albemarle Baking Company. “It’s amazing. I find any reason to try and buy it for someone’s birthday although I try to eat it by myself.”

Five Finds on Friday: Kit Ashi

ashi

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Kit Ashi of Monsoon Siam, Monsoon Siam Togogo, and Urban Bowl, the downtown mall Thai/Vietnamese restaurant with a great weeknight deal on pho. Monday through Thursday night, Urban Bowl’s pho menu is just $7.99. Ashi’s picks:

1) Passion Fruit Cheesecake at The Alley Light by Chef Robin. “I like the softness and smoothness of the cream cheese, and the crust is perfect. The cream cheese is not too sweet, salty or sour. And, the lemon and orange zest on top goes well with the passion fruit aroma.”

2) Margarita Pizza at Lampo. “I love the thin pizza crust and the smoke from the charred dough. The sauce is perfect, too. I always have it with a spritz, which makes my lunch or dinner delightful. All of the chefs are so talented, and I can’t wait for their steakhouse to open.”

3) Lad Na at Thai Cuisine & Noodle House and Lemongrass. “This is a Thai’s dish. It is not a popular dish that people know here but it is one of my favorite dishes. I used to have it three time a week. We do not serve this at Monsoon Siam, but Thai Cuisine and Lemongrass are the places I go for it. It is wide noodles with bean gravy and Chinese broccoli. I love to order it with pork and add squid. The right way to eat it is to ask for the spice tray. Add one spoon of chili powder, three spoons of vinegar, mix it, and enjoy.”

4) Seafood Puttanesca at Bella’s. “I love seafood pasta in red sauce. The sauce here is not too thick, and its spicy and tart flavor goes really well with seafood. I can finish a family size by myself.”

5) Kao Mok Neua at Monsoon Siam. “It would be so wrong not to talk about this dish, my new favorite that I put on the menu. Meltingly tender braised beef in Thai southern style curry, rich in flavor and aroma. The sauce goes very well with jasmine rice stir fried in turmeric and curry powder. Crispy fried shallots add texture, while spicy mint sauce adds flavor contrast. It’s going to be the next best curry for Charlottesville.”

braise

Kao Mok Neua at Monsoon Siam