29 lists to recap what was great (and not so great) about 2012

A triumphant Teresa Sullivan addresses a cheering crowd on the Lawn on June 26 after the UVA Board of Visitors voted unanimously to reinstate her as president of the University. Photo: Cole Geddy/UVA Public Affairs

4 stories we didn’t see coming
Every year, there are stories that take us by surprise, some because of who did what, others simply because we wouldn’t have thought they’d have so much staying power.
1. One minute we’re eating lunch at Bodo’s, reading an e-mail from a UVA friend saying that President Teresa Sullivan has resigned. The next, we’re on the floor of the Rotunda at 2am, playing 20 questions and waiting for the Board of Visitors to open its 12-hour meeting to the media. We spent weeks eating, breathing, sleeping UVA, and are still covering the fallout six months later.
2. Press releases detailing the latest doings of the Albemarle County Supervisors are rarely very newsworthy, but the one we got the morning of October 19 sure was. That’s how we learned 27-year-old Scottsville representative Chris Dumler was arrested the night before on a forcible sodomy charge. Dumler was released on bond, and his preliminary hearing was recently pushed to January 31, so it will be a few more weeks before we find out the latest on the popular—and youngest ever elected—Albemarle supervisor.
3. Having never even heard the word “chloramine” before, we certainly had no idea we’d listen to residents argue at every public meeting for months about the inferior and potentially dangerous water filtration system.
4. The fact that slain UVA student Yeardley Love’s mother Sharon Love filed a civil suit against her daughter’s convicted killer George Huguely in May didn’t come as a surprise, but Love’s $30 million suit against Huguely’s former lacrosse coach Dom Starsia, assistant coach Marc Van Arsdale, and athletic director Craig Littlepage did. Love’s contention was that the coaches should have reported Huguely’s violent behavior prior to the murder.

King of cluck: Michie Tavern. Photo: John Robinson

12 reasons we loosened our belts in 2012
1. January: The lotus root at Peter Chang’s Chinese New Year celebration, stuffed with sticky rice, pan-fried, and baptized with Chang’s trademark scattering of garlic, cilantro, Sichuan peppercorn, and chiles, bounced from taste bud to taste bud like a pinball!
2. February: At the Ivy Inn, Angelo Vangelopoulos’s fork-tender osso buco came nestled upon olive oil-crushed potatoes with roasted Brussels sprouts and a generous pour of Gabriele Rausse’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007. The silky marrow in the bone is what my dreams are made of.
3. March: One morning this month, I ventured away from my usual scone at Albemarle Baking Company, opting instead for a hefty slice of blueberry focaccia. The intensely flavored wild blueberries, crumb topping, and powdered sugar offset the yeasty base that’s perfectly charred on the edges and a new “usual” was born.
4. April: What’s better than a Rock Barn bratwurst smothered in caraway-roasted onions and cider mustard? One griddled up by owner Ben Thompson and washed down with a Devil’s Backbone Eight Point IPA at the Blue Ridge Oyster Festival. The combination (and setting) couldn’t be beat.
5. May: Daniel Perry’s Jam According to Daniel’s strawberry-rhubarb jam is the simplest and most delicious example of the magic made by this spring duo. The promise of it spread on grainy toast or dolloped atop oatmeal made for mornings full of glory.
6. June: The summer’s day when you switch from hot to iced coffee is already exciting enough—especially when it was Shenandoah Joe’s smooth and nutty, freshly ground cup-at-a-time iced coffee (made by owner Dave Fafara himself) that ushered in my season.
7. July: A bucket full of crispy competitors clucked it out in our fried chicken contest, but winner Michie Tavern, with its darkly-colored crust and juicy, perfectly seasoned meat offered up the hands- (er, wings-) down favorite.
8. August: Dean Maupin’s cooking never fails to delight and at his new post at C&O Restaurant, an earthy potato-crusted Rag Mountain trout tasted dazzling over a verdant basil and dill salsa verde with smoky bell pepper coulis.
9. September: Figs were duly celebrated at tavola in a salad that served them lightly grilled over baby arugula dressed in a vincotto vinaigrette with a triangle of punchy gorgonzola acting as friend and foil.
10. October: The caramel apple went gourmet (and absolutely crave-worthy) at Gearhart’s when master chocolatier Tim Gearhart dipped a sweet and tart local golden delicious apple in house-made dark chocolate caramel, then in bittersweet chocolate before giving it a roll-around in spiced pecans.
11. November: Tasting other people’s Thanksgiving traditions was a treat at Beyond the Flavor’s first annual Friendsgiving, where our town’s food and drink-makers celebrated the holiday early with a potluck of epic proportions. Greg Hirson, assistant winemaker at Blenheim Vineyards, brought a Persian walnut, beef, and pomegranate stew called fesenjan that stole a mighty impressive show.
12. December: Jenny Peterson and her crew are always baking up something irresistible at Paradox Pastry, but the bite-sized sugar cookies with multi-colored sugar sprinkles will remind you of your childhood holidays when happiness was just this simple.—M.J.H.

7 stories that fell flat (but shouldn’t have!)
1. UVA lost a significant court battle in October when a federal judge found the University had violated the False Claims Act, which protects those who blow the whistle on the misuse of federal funds, in firing former psychiatry department researcher Weihua Huang. Huang claimed NIH funds he had been awarded were redistributed behind his back, and the court agreed, awarding him what could add up to $1.7 million.
2. Despite years worth of bad reviews from state auditors, Albemarle County Circuit Court Clerk Debra M. Shipp is still on the job, in part because voters put her there; the position is an elected office with an eight-year term. Our look back at the many problems in her office detailed in annual reports since 2007—including hundreds of thousands of dollars not disbursed properly—also examined whether electing clerks and other constitutional officers is really the right way to go.
3. We guess people can be forgiven for not going nuts over a story about alternative onsite septic systems. But the state’s decision a year ago to remove local governments’ authority to restrict the use of alternative septic could have a major impact on rural development.
4. Immigration issues get short shrift here in central Virginia, but they shouldn’t. As we pointed out in our cover story examining how locals view the political battle over immigration policy, Charlottesville and Albemarle County are home to about 7,000 Latinos—more than 5 percent of the total area population—and 40 to 60 percent of those are undocumented. Interviews with many in the community helped shine a light on the fact that there are as many opinions on policy as there are individual immigrants’ stories.
5. In the crush of coverage of George Huguely’s February trial, a side story was largely overlooked by most outside the media: access to evidence that was kept under wraps. Several media companies filed suit to gain access to the Huguely records. The court ultimately relented by showing Huguely’s interrogation tape and other evidence without being ordered to do so, but the fundamental question of whether it should have been released earlier was never resolved.
6. When a report came out in the spring showing that black youth are disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system, not many local media outlets noticed. Deirdre Gilmore’s grandson spent years in and out of juvenile detention for minor offenses and probation violations, and she agreed with a local attorney who said the justice system focuses too much on punishment and not enough on rehabilitation.
7. In June, roughly 2,000 public housing residents were overcharged for utilities by the Charlottesville Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The Legal Aid Justice Center filed a class action lawsuit against the CRHA, asking for three things: that the Housing Authority reevaluate its utility allowance and establish a new policy that will better accommodate the needs of its tenants, and that each tenant be reimbursed.