The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: The Charlottesville 29 Auction

Dr. Ho’s Rewards Auctions’ Unsung Heroes


Among the unsung heroes of The Charlottesville Restaurant Auctions were the auction runners-up, whose participation was vital to the auctions’ success. For each restaurant’s auction, after public bidding closed I would email all of the bidders to invite further bidding until only one remained. Some dropped out quickly. But, in almost all cases, at least two bidders battled back-and-forth with repeated bids. Runners-up drove up bids thousands of dollars for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, creating tens of thousands of meals for the hungry that would not have existed without their support.

Dr. Lisa Hardy was a runner-up an amazing six times. Often, she was the only significant competitor for the winner, meaning that, if she had not participated, winning bids would have been much lower, and the benefit to the hungry diminished. Even though bids kept sailing just north of her grasp, her own bidding created literally thousands of meals for the hungry. Given her obvious love of good food and support of the food bank, I did not want her to go away empty handed.

So, after the auctions ended, I contacted Michael McCarthy, chef-owner of the outstanding Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie. Since Dr. Ho’s does not have a Charlottesville address, it is not technically one of The Charlottesville 29, but instead is a “Worth the Drive” restaurant – a designation for restaurants outside Charlottesville worthy of the 29. I explained the situation to McCarthy and asked if he might consider creating a special meal for Hardy, if she were to donate to the food bank.

He responded almost immediately: “Sounds like a plan.”  He proposed an “esoteric Baltimore style Bull & Oyster Roast for 10 people.” (Evidently great feast ideas are just lying around in chefs’ imaginations.) It would include “roast pit beef, oysters served a dozen different ways, steamed shrimp, oyster stew, Chesapeake inspired nosh and nibbles, beer, and wine.”

When I pitched it to Hardy, she was elated. “Wow, that sounds great!” she said, and pledged a $1,500 donation to the food bank on the spot. In addition to the meals her runner-up efforts helped to create, her donation will provide another 6,000 meals to the area’s hungry.  Thank you to Hardy and Dr. Ho’s for their tremendous generosity, another reminder of how special our food community is.

Auctions End with Maximum Vangelopoulosity


While the The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions have had many heroes, none has been bigger than Ivy Inn owners Angelo and Farrell Vangelopoulos. There is generosity. And, then there is Vangelopoulosity. As anyone who knows them knows, the latter is another thing altogether. I owe them a huge debt of gratitude for helping to make these auctions such a success.

Earlier this year, when I first wondered if restaurants would participate in a series of auctions of special dining experiences, I decided to proceed in two steps. First, I thought, I would ask each restaurant if they would commit generally to the idea of the auctions, without requiring details of their experiences. Then, I would circle back, to learn what each restaurant wished to offer.

For the first step, I knew just where to start. Many regard Angelo as not just the best chef in the area, but also the kindest. And so, I was hopfeul that Angelo would say yes. Just as Tyrion drinks and knows things, Angelo says yes. That’s what he does. When I emailed him to pitch the idea, he responded immediately. “Yep, I’m in. I love the idea. – ang!”

Then, once all of the restaurants of The Charlottesville 29 were on board, Angelo was one of the first to submit his experience to me. And, though I am accustomed to Angelo’s generosity, it still astonished me. Angelo offered A Greek Taverna Experience for 20, in which he would turn the inn’s patio into a pop-up taverna for the auction winner and nineteen guests. Angelo’s parents are Greek, and he grew up working in their restaurants. For the auction winner, Angelo said, he and his father would prepare an enormous feast of traditional and modern Greek dishes, wines, and ouzo, with a wide variety of meats, seafood, and vegetables. Wow. “What a wonderful idea and how extremely generous,” I replied to Angelo. “Thank you so much.”

His response, in toto: “it’ll be a blast :).”

Next, I sent The Ivy Inn’s auction item as one of several examples to other restaurants still working on their auction experiences. While I have no doubt that restaurants would have created spectacular experiences regardless, Angelo’s generosity set the bar early on, and likely inspired others. In fact, when I circulated the list of auction examples, including The Ivy Inn’s, one restaurateur wrote back simply: “Damn it Angelo!”

Indeed, Angelo’s early example may have been responsible for thousands of meals for the area’s hungry. And, this morning, he and Farrell became responsible for thousands more. The Ivy Inn auction, the final one in The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, was won by a bid of $8,150, which will provide more than 32,000 meals to the area’s hungry. Thank you to the Vangelopoulos’ and the bidder for their tremendous generosity.

Bizou Auction Experience Gets Even Better


Already spectacular, the Bizou auction experience just got even better.  A Sparkling Parisian Brunch for ten people, it features an array of sparkling wines chosen by one of Charlottesville’s biggest oenophiles, Bizou co-owner Vincent Derquenne. But, man cannot live on champagne alone, and so the auction winner’s party now will also enjoy a special Parisian blend of coffee, created just for the occasion and donated by the acclaimed local roastery Shenandoah Joe. What’s more, guests of the Bizou brunch will not just enjoy this exclusive coffee at brunch, but will also each receive a bag of it to take home, which, ahem, could come in handy the next morning.

Thank you to Dave Fafara and Shenandoah Joe for their tremendous generosity and support of the food bank, yet another local vendor offering to help with The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions.

Great food, great sparkling wine, and great coffee. It’s the ultimate Sparkling Parisian Brunch.

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