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” 2017

No matter what else may be going on in the world, every year is a good food year. Each December we celebrate the Charlottesville food year by looking back at our latest trip around the sun and asking top area chefs: what was the best thing you ate all year? Here are the picks from 2016 and 2015. And, below are this year’s picks in chefs’ annual tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty. Meanwhile, check back here next week for The Charlottesville 29 pick for 2017 Dish of the Year.

Mitchell Beerens (Lampo)

Crispy Lamb Shank at Oakhart Social. “The lamb shank at Oakhart Social was the best thing I ate all year. Crispy crust that gave way to super succulent meat. I’m pretty sure it was served with hummus and harissa. Super simple and super soulful. That’s what I love about Tristan and Ben’s spot.”

Shank

Tim Burgess (The Space, Bang!, and Bizou)

Biscuits at Floozie’s Pie Shop. “I had the garden omelette, grits and biscuit at Floozie’s Pie shop in Louisa last February.  The omelette was really good, fluffy farm egg goodness, but not the star here. The biscuit took me back to my childhood, the best I’ve ever had and I’ve made a lot of biscuits in my day.  Then the grits, stone ground, salty, cheesy, buttery boom. I was floored by the meal, but shouldn’t have been, Jade and Debbie can flat out cook. Their pies are the real deal too.”

floozie

Jose de Brito (Fleurie)

Cotoletta di Maiale Alla Milanese at Tavola. “My dining etiquette is that when I return dining in a same establishment I rarely reorder the same dish except in extraordinary circumstances, and that would be when I was presented with a good dish. Tavola’s pork a la Milanese is the one dish that breaks my code of conduct. It never miss, I tried to break from my bad habit; once or probably twice I did order another dish. Although the restaurant is tasty across the line, when the pork is executed flawlessly it is close to saintliness. The other day, a guest of Fleurie asked me after service what was my favorite dish in Charlottesville. Before answering her I asked her the same question and we both answered simultaneously, the pork milanese at Tavola! You see when the breading on the cutlet is perfectly breaded, the sear is of the right color, neither too light or too dark, the capers have been slightly sautéed to take out the rawness, the tomatoes roasted a la perfection and the baby arugula wilted with kindness, the sum of all those delicate little details added to a butter emulsion laced with a drop of Meyer lemon, when that emulsion has the right body, the perfect amount amount of butter to cling to the breading, it is definitely, without any doubt my choice for best dish in C-ville. (Although, after reflection, the porchetta sandwich at Lampo is a close one and another dish that has made me break my rules, I usually never eat sandwiches , but I guess I am off subject, sorry!) And now to finish my little pamphlet. Let ourself ponder about what the French Chef Joel Robuchon once said: ‘What makes a good cook from a great cook, it is all about the details.’ The Milanese at Tavola has all the right details. Arrivederci, good people.”

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Smoked Jerk Jackfruit by Prime 109. “I had the pleasure of judging food for a cook-off at Highland Orchard Farms and Lampo participated by debuting some of the items that will be on their new menu at their downtown steak house Prime 109. Their lamb and duck kielbasa and dry aged Szechuan peppercorn pastrami were out of this world. Amazing flavors. Amazing textures. But the standout dish that blew me away was actually their young smoked jerk jackfruit. I taste a lot of things all year long but this is the first thing this year that actually surprised me, which is what I look for in new dishes. The flavor is perfect, sweet and spicy. The texture was similar to meat and I am sure it will actually fool people into thinking they are eating some sort of jerk meat. Hats off to those gentlemen. I look forward to seeing what else will come from that restaurant!”

Jackfruit

Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms at Ivy Inn. “Angelo Vangelopoulos created a tasting menu for our 31st anniversary. It was world class. Our first meal with Angelo was in 1993, and watching his growth as a chef has been a real joy. He really has grown in a great direction! The whole meal was stellar but the crab stuffed squash blossoms with sweet corn sauce was unforgettable, and his father’s tomato-braised pole beans were life changing! Then, not to forget the pig brain amuse bouche, which was genius.”

squash

Michael Keaveny (Tavola)

Short Rib at The Coat Room at Brasserie Saison.  “I had a short rib with carrot ‘BBQ’ sauce in The Coat Room at Brasserie Saisson that was pretty memorable. It was crispy on the outside and tender inside. Great contrast in texture, and the sauce was surprisingly delicious. Great dish! I will miss Tyler’s food, though all indications are the new chefs are killing it!”

shortrib

Michael McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s)

Chocolate Croissant from Little Hat Creek Farm. “Spectacular if not amazeballs! I’m good for one or two every time I visit the Nelson county farmers’ market.”

choc-croissant-1911

Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Braised Beef and Macaroni at The Alley Light. “I have to say, it’s sooooo difficult to pick a ‘best.’ I think a ‘best’ is so often situation specific. Was it who I was with on a perfect evening after a very, very long work week? Then it would be the comfort of the Braised Beef with Mac at The Alley Light.”

Tomas Rahal (MAS)

Soft-poached Duck Egg with Perigord Truffles, asparagus, moliterno di tartuffo at MAS tied with Mike Ketola’s Salt-citrus Cured Albacore Loin with grapefruit and Brussels leaves salad, also at MAS. “JF Legault’s soft-scrambled farm egg with Alba truffles was a close third. I’d love to give props to other spots, but these dishes were transcendent.”

Duckegg

Ian Redshaw (Lampo)

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup at Cafe 88. “Available Friday and Saturday, dine-in only, this hidden gem is worth every last drop.”

Noodlesoup

Ivan Rekosh (Zocalo)

Roast Beef Panuozzo at Lampo.  “If I had to choose one thing, it’d probably be the aged roast beef sandwich with provolone at Lampo. I remember eating it and thinking this is the best sandwich I’ve had in a long ass time.”

beef

Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Crispy Scallops at Brasserie Saison. “I know you are not supposed to pick your own restaurants, but Tyler really nailed that dish and I just can’t make something up. The textures are one of the most stand out parts of the dish: the crunchy exterior, the creamy puree beneath it, and the crisp celery root on top. It’s just perfectly balanced flavor and texture. There are a lot of things going on. I could eat those scallops every night.”

scallops

Andrew Silver (Roots Natural Kitchen)

Ma Po Tofu at Taste of China. “I have discovered that I really like soft tofu (Zzzam also has really good soft tofu). It is spicy, numbing, hot, aromatic and tender. Pairs perfectly with stir fried snow pea shoots and a cold Tsingtao.”

tofu

Angelo Vangelopoulos (Ivy Inn)

Sourdough Bread by Tucker Yoder at Timbercreek Market. “I was lucky enough to have Tucker gift me a loaf (I think he owed for some truffles or something), and my family and I ate it for days. The crust is thick, it’s full of grains (I think his wife grinds the wheatberries?), has amazing chew and long lasting flavor. My son’s eyes lit up when he tasted it for the first time and he asked ‘WHERE did you get this?! It’s AMAZING!'”

sourdough1

Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Foie Gras with Passion Fruit Gelée at Fleurie. “Hot Damn. Those guys are actually cooking, and well. You don’t see real cooking all that much these days.”

foiegras

Tucker Yoder (Back 40)

Persimmons from Edible Landscaping. “These persimmons right here from my man Dan. Chased with a shot of tequila or mezcal.”

Persimmon

Five Finds on Friday: Kelly Davidson

kelme

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Dr. Kelly Davidson, who fifteen years ago yesterday dashed the hopes of young men everywhere when she married me. It’s not easy being the spouse of a food freak, and her support over the years has allowed me to pursue my passion without limit. It can mean having to grow accustomed to answering not: “Which restaurant should we eat at tonight?” but rather “How many restaurants should we eat at tonight?” On the other hand, you do get to eat well. Happy Anniversary, little one. Kelly’s picks:

1) Italian Cream Cake at Paradox Pastry.  “Four layers of cake with coconut, pecans and a yummy cream cheese frosting. If you love coconut, this is the cake for you.”

2) Smokey Dokey at The Alley Light. “The mix of smoke from the mezcal plus a little heat and citrus is just right.”

3) Labneh at Parallel 38.  “I love, love, love this. I could and would eat it on almost anything. When P38 closed, I tried to make it . . big fail. Now that they have re-opened, I can’t wait to get my fix!”

4) Everything Bagel w/ Cream Cheese from Bodo’s with Face Bacon from JM Stock Provisions. “My traditional birthday dinner for years is a childhood favorite: a bagel with cream cheese and bacon. After many versions, I think we finally perfected it: Bodo’s everything bagel with plain cream cheese, topped with plenty of face bacon from JM Stock. Makes getting older a lot more bearable.”

5) The Fat and Sassy at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. “Sunday plan: wine at Pippin Hill followed by a stop at Dr. Ho’s for this delicious mound of cheese and garlic atop Dr. Ho’s pizza crust dipped in ranch. Not a day to wear your skinny jeans.”

 

 

 

Five Finds on Friday: Patrick Carruthers

carruthers

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Patrick Carruthers, the new sous chef of Junction, which has just released a new menu. A preview:

Pistachio Crusted Lamb Rack | Spice Roasted Parsnips, Herbed Cous Cous, Mint-Cilantro-Pistachio Chimichurri

Cowgirl Spiced Duck Breast | Sweet Potato-Duck Confit Hash, Shaved Cumin Dusted Brussels Sprouts, Dried Fig, Hatch Pepper Duck Demi-Glace

Chili Rubbed Grilled Atlantic Salmon | Jumbo Lump Crab-Avocado Salad, Coconut-Cilantro Rice, Roasted Chayote Squash,  Lime Buerre Blanc

Carruthers’ picks:

1) Burger at Riverside Lunch. “There is a lot of great food in Charlottesville but you can’t beat a fresh burger with bacon, lettuce, and mayo between two buns, especially when it comes with a basket of shoestring fries covered in Lawry’s seasoned salt.”

2) Ricotta Gnocchi with Duck Confit at C & O. “Served with duck cracklins, it is the perfect amount of savory and sweet. Just eating it will make you feel rich.”

3) Anything in a Crepe at The Alley Light. “Coming from someone who has personally rolled out more of theses crepes than I can count, I have never lost appreciation for how amazing each and every combination comes together from pigs head with mushrooms and sherry vinegar to guinea hen with salsify and parmesan cheese.”

4) Happy Hour at RockSalt. “$1 oysters with a shot of bourbon and a cider at their outdoor bar is a go-to for me and Nicole when we aren’t in the kitchen at Junction.”

5) Biscuits and Red-Eye Gravy at The Pigeon Hole. “When The Corner clears out for summertime, The Pigeon Hole is a great brunch spot to grab a bloody mary, a patio seat, and some fluffy biscuits smothered in gravy. Plus, there is a handsome bartender who works there with a phenomenal head of hair who I am lucky to call one of my close friends.”