75+ Charlottesville foods (and drinks!) we’re devouring right now

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You could try the Neapolitan wallet, but most Lampo diners opt for sharing (awww...). Photo: Rammelkamp Foto You could try the Neapolitan wallet, but most Lampo diners opt for sharing (awww…). Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

What’s big right now? In Charlottesville, it’s everything from gas station grub to veggie plates to beer. This year’s annual Food & Drink issue puts it all on the table, including an inside look at Wood Ridge Farm, one of two breweries to open in our area in the last month, a discussion of five local chefs’ favorite flavor profiles and a final word on the proper way to eat a pizza (according to both an etiquette expert and the guys at the oven). Dig in.

By Samantha Baars, Shea Gibbs, Tami Keaveny, Micah LeMon, Jessica Luck, Erin O’Hare, Dan Testa, Mary Shea Valliant and Caite White


Wood Ridge Farm has been in brewery owner Barry Wood’s (with girlfriend Lisa Harbin) family since the 1800s. Photo: Tom McGovern
Wood Ridge Farm has been in brewery owner Barry Wood’s ( below, with girlfriend Lisa Harbin) family since the 1800s. Photo: Tom McGovern

From dirt to glass

Nelson County farm brewery raises grain to brew beer

Barry Wood pads barefoot around his 300-acre Nelson County farm during a downpour, the hem of his jeans dragging through puddles pooling in the red clay. Under the brim of his baseball cap—he’s eschewed an umbrella—his eyes dart from barn to barn, from the barley field to the rye field, from the Indian corn to the fog-hidden treetops. He says he always likes to have a project going.

Photo: Tom McGovern
Photo: Tom McGovern

Wood Ridge Farm has been in his family since the 1800s, he says, and its soil has raised everything from tobacco to tomatillos, alpacas to freshwater prawns. Wood has been here for about 16 years; before that, he ran Wood’s Farm Market—a farm and produce shop in Centreville—for 20 years. But his latest project is Virginia beer.

About five years ago, Wood started experimenting with grains to supply Virginia product to local breweries and distilleries. “Then my tunnel vision went into the brewery side,” Wood says, and he built a malting facility, intending to supply malt as well.

It was only a matter of time before he tumbled further down the rabbit hole and got curious about the brewing process.

“One day—seriously, there were no plans for this whatsoever—I got on the backhoe and dug the footers” for the taproom and brewery, Wood says. That was in April 2015. He felled some of the farm’s cedar, cherry and white oak trees, dragged them to the farm’s sawmill and cut every board and log (except for the interior floorboards) that he and a few area carpenters used to erect a double-decked, log cabin-style building.

“It’s dirt to glass on this farm,” Wood says. People can stand on the taphouse deck and see next year’s beer growing in the fields nearby. “They can smell it, roll in it, whatever they want to do, knowing that that’s what they’ll be drinking next year,” Wood says. It adds a sense of place, a terroir, to the beer.

Wood Ridge Farm Brewery grows, malts and roasts 100 percent of the grains—rye, wheat, barley and oats—used in its beers. They grow hops, too, but the humid Virginia climate isn’t very hop-friendly, so they do outsource some of their hops. Same goes for yeast, and Wood says they’re working with RVA Yeast Labs on developing native yeast strains that they’ll use to brew, say, sour beers and barrel-aged Scottish-type ales in Virginia whiskey barrels.

The grains are planted in fall and early winter and harvested the following spring. The grain comes straight off the combine harvester into the malt house, where maltster Cory Hall cleans it before putting it into tanks of water for hydration, which prompts the grain to germinate. Hall then spreads the grain out on the malt house floor and leaves it to germinate for about four days before putting it into a hot, dry kiln for 24 to 36 hours to halt germination; at this point, Hall might roast the grain to create a specialty malt. Then the grain is debearded, cleaned and milled before it’s hauled just a few yards to the brewery to be combined with yeast and hops and turned into beer by head brewer Nicholas Payson, formerly of Winnetou brewery in Mount Airy, North Carolina.

They’ve worked through hundreds of test batches, and, so far, Payson’s developed a kolsch, IPA, pale ale, coffee porter, blonde ale and a lemon-lime shandy. He’ll add new beers —like his favorite, a mocha porter—in time.

Wood says there are plans for a barley wine, wheat wine, ginger beer and gluten-free beers. “Since this is a farm and we can grow whatever we want, we can try anything…including some off-the-wall stuff,” Wood says.

Like recreating the beer made by Virginia settlers. Wood grew Indian corn expressly for use in this beer, which will come on to the taps around Thanksgiving. Wood, Hall and Payson won’t replicate it exactly—they’ll clean up the yeast a bit—but they’ll use the recipe and try to match methods as best they can.

While many of the beers are a work-in-progress—full control over their grains and malts offers endless combinations, some better than others, Wood and Hall say—the goal of the farm brewery is to see what they can use from Virginia to make good beer.

But Wood’s already darted an eye to his next endeavor: farm-grown, Mexican-style food to feed the beer crowd. That’s a while off, since beer is the focus right now, but he says he’ll go about it like he does everything else: “Jump in, hang on and see what happens next.”—E.O.


Tap into these house pours

Seasonals, award-winners, classic picks—at each of our 11 local breweries, these pints are winning the popular vote.

Beer


ABC-beer-BL

Beer-battered

Turns out, beer isn’t just for drinking. At Albemarle Baking Co., it’s also for bread-baking. The bakery makes a sourdough bread using Champion Brewery’s Falconer Pale Ale.

“Bread is the simplest of things,” says ABC owner and baker Gerry Newman: flour, water, salt, yeast, time. “In our style of bread baking, we try not to add too many other things to the bread. If we do, we want them to be things that enhance fermentation, not hide it. A nice long, slow fermentation of bread dough gives a sweet wheat taste,” and beer can give a rounder flavor to that wheat taste.

If you’re thinking about incorporating beer into your home baking, Newman suggests you choose carefully: Select a beer whose flavor compliments the flours, seeds and grains you’re using; don’t use a high ABV beer; and only use a beer you’d drink yourself.—E.O.

Albemarle Baking Co.’s beer bread

Pre-ferment

2 1/4 cups bread flour

1 1/4 cups water

1/8 tsp. instant dry yeast

Mix until smooth. Cover with plastic and let stand for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature.

Final dough

3 5/8 cups bread flour

1 1/2 cups
whole-wheat flour

1/8 cup water

1 3/8 cups beer

1 tbs. salt

1 1/4 tsp. yeast

1/4 cup malted barley

Pre-ferment (from above)

Roast barley for five minutes at 350 degrees until light brown. Cool and grind. Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix using a dough hook until it’s smooth and elastic. Let rest at room temperature for two hours, folding once at one hour. Divide in two, into round or oval shapes. Let rise at room temperature for approximately one hour to an hour and 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 460 degrees and bake bread on a pizza stone until loaves show color, about 20 minutes. Vent the oven for another 15 minutes or until bread is finished baking.


Sip easy

5 ways to better understand cocktail menu-ese

You walk into a fancy cocktail bar where you are greeted by a thickly bearded, apron-clad “mixologist” who hands you a cocktail list. By the time you’ve made it to the description of the third one, you realize you have absolutely no idea what any of the listed items are or might taste like.

The frequency of unusual cocktail items is equal parts bartenders being excited about introducing you to new ingredients and the age-old human tendency of narcissism: They want to impress their guests with what they know. Here are a few suggestions to help sort the bona fide excitement from the vanity.

Have a Carpano Antica before dinner. Carpano Antica, the poster child of quality sweet vermouth, is rich, vanilla/caramelly and bittersweet, and was made for whiskey and other aged distillates. Carpano and other sweet vermouths lengthen, flavor, sweeten and provide pleasant bitter-balance to cocktails when used correctly. (Other worthy sweet vermouths popping up again and again on menus include Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, Punt e Mes, Contratto Rosso and Dolin Rouge.)

Don’t like vermouth? Have a Cocchi Americano instead. Vermouth is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to wine-based aperitifs. There are a myriad of other styles of aperitif wines that are fortified with sugar and alcohol and flavored with different herbs. Cocchi Americano is one of these, and it has much more of a white wine flavor with grapey sweetness balanced by a bitter herbal finish. Bartenders love adding Cocchi Americano and its cousins into cocktails for complexity and a pleasantly bitter finish: Cocchi Rosa, Lillet Blanc, Bonal, Contratto Americano, Byrrh, Cocchi Barolo Chinato.

Have a nip of Pedro Ximénez (PX) sherry. Sherry is like vermouth in that it’s a fortified wine, but sherry isn’t flavored with herbs. PX is a great beginner sherry that is rich, raisiny, sweet and immediately accessible and delicious. Oloroso, amontillado and manzanilla are graduate-level styles of sherry that can be much more dry, and feature notes of nuts, tart apple and even salinity. Sherries are good in cocktails for adding length, complexity and either sweetness or tartness.

Settle your stomach with a Ramazzotti after a big meal. Ramazzotti is a lot like vermouth, except instead of being wine-based it is spirit-based. The extra bump in alcohol content is necessarily accompanied by a bump in sugar content and bitterness. Ramazzotti and other bittersweet cordials are frequently used in small amounts to add an extra dimension of flavor and a mild, pleasantly bitter finish to shaken cocktails. Look for Ramazzotti and its many bittersweet cousins: Cynar, Fernet-Branca, Chartreuse, Bénédictine, Campari, Becherovka, Luxardo Maraschino, etc.

Have a Martinez with Ransom Old Tom Gin. Back in the heyday of the American cocktail movement of the late 1800s (you read that correctly—the 1800s), the most common style of gin was barrel-aged gin. Barrel aging was a pragmatic decision, as barrels were the inglorious, multi-purpose receptacles of the day. Some of these gins had a bit more of a raw grain base/bite to them, and distillers of the day sometimes chose not only to age their gin, but also to soften it with just a pinch of sugar. Today the label Old Tom refers to a gin that has been barrel-aged, sweetened or both. Bartenders are big fans of the following, especially in a Martinez cocktail: Bluecoat Barrel Gin, Smooth Ambler Barrel Gin, Hayman’s Old Tom and Barr Hill Tom Cat Barrel Gin.—M.L.

Micah LeMon is the bar manager at The Alley Light.

The Alley Light's Martinez. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
The Alley Light’s Martinez. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

The Alley Light’s Martinez

1 1/2 oz. Ransom Old Tom gin

1 1/2 oz. Punt e Mes sweet vermouth

1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur

1 dash Angostura bitters

Build in a cocktail shaker, add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail coupe. Cut an orange peel and express the peel over the drink, then perch it in a twist on the lip of the glass.


Through pencil sketches drawn from photographs, artist/baker Molly Reeder documents local chefs in their kitchens. Photo: Amy Jackson
Through pencil sketches drawn from photographs, artist/baker Molly Reeder documents local chefs in their kitchens. Photo: Amy Jackson

Artist and baker Molly Reeder creates a feast for the eyes

Baking and drawing aren’t so different from one another. At least, not if you ask Molly Reeder. The local treat-maker/artist finds beauty in both.

“The part of baking that I like is the process of it—having to be patient and do things at certain times and how it all comes together into this final piece,” Reeder says. “Just like a drawing, where you’re doing parts of it and then you’re doing other parts of it, and then before you know it, you’re drawing lines and a person.”

Reeder has been combining her two passions since college, when she attended Loyola University New Orleans for studio art, and began working in bakeries from Melbourne, Australia, to Wellington, New Zealand, to Sofia, Bulgaria. These days, in addition to taking specialty cake orders, she’s focused on a kitchen series of a different kind: pencil drawings of local chefs, including fellow local baker Arley Arrington (right) of Arley Cakes and Greenwood Gourmet Grocery baker and food blogger Polina Chesnakova.

“It’s a part of the practice that people don’t normally get to see,” Reeder says. “I would love to draw someone like Alice Waters. She’s my hero. But you don’t ever get to see her cooking. You know she’s probably an amazing chef, but you never get to see that side of it, or her home environment where she feels most comfortable. That form of documentation became interesting to me.”

Reeder prefers pencil and paper for their simplicity, rawness, cleanliness and “lack of stuff.” In addition to her kitchen drawing series, Reeder is working on a series of commissioned illustrations of family recipes.

She sees her baking and drawing as acts of preservation and documentation of life’s precious moments. “It’s been really meaningful work in a surprising way.”—M.S.V.


ColorWheel

Taste the rainbow

A colorful diet equals a healthier you

It stands to reason that the more colorful your diet, the more diverse it is, says Kate Bruno, a registered dietitian and personal trainer with On Track! Nutrition & Fitness Consulting. “You’re providing your body with plenty of options to meet its metabolic
and overall physical needs.”

But color also changes the experience of taste. “We associate certain colors with certain types of foods and tastes,” Bruno says. We might be drawn to an orange carrot, say, rather than a purple one, and we might expect a purple carrot to taste different, even if it doesn’t. But a dish of nicely seasoned, roasted purple carrots could be an unexpected delight for your dinner guests. From pink salt to black pasta, Charlottesville’s food scene has it covered.—E.O.

Pink

Iron oxide (yes, the rust compound) is what gives pink salt, mined from Pakistan, its color. While Peg’s Salt owner Cass Cannon can’t say that pink salt has a different flavor or offers particular health benefits, she says it does have a different texture and that some “super tasters”—people with highly sensitive palates—insist they taste a difference.

Red

Red foods—think tomatoes, watermelon—contain lycopene, a phytochemical that may help protect against certain types of cancers, Bruno says. At Shebeen Pub & Braai, you can build your own red-hot drink for Sunday brunch slow slipping. Spice up the tomato juice, lime juice, horseradish, Sriracha, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper base with Tabasco or Old Bay; choose your vodka (or tequila, if you’re going for a bloody Maria); add bacon, shrimp, olives, peppadew, jalapeños or even a pickle. It’s more like a meal than a drink, really.

Orange

Revolutionary Soup’s spicy Senegalese peanut tofu soup is a flavor bomb of liquid comfort (if you’re into hot stuff, that is) made with peanut butter, carrots, coconut milk, ginger, jalapeños, garlic and various spices. It’s vegan and gluten-free, too.

Yellow

Cornbread, says Tia Walker of Mel’s Café, is all about “the ingredients, the love, the care” that goes into baking a perfectly moist, fluffy, sweetly flavored golden pillow of a side dish. “You don’t need to say much more about cornbread,” Walker says with a laugh. Many yellow and green vegetables—corn, artichokes, squash, turnips—are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, phytochemicals that Bruno says accumulate in the eyes and help prevent age-related macular degeneration.

Green

Mom always told you to eat your veggies, but she’d probably be okay with you drinking them, too. There’s more than two pounds of fruits and veggies in one 17 oz. bottle of Juice Laundry juice, and while they’ve got plenty of green options, you’ll find an entire juice rainbow (plus nut milks) in the coolers.   

Blue

Butterfly pea flower is what gives the blue mango sticky rice at Monsoon Siam its pale, sky-blue hue. Cooks soak the butterfly pea flower in water to remove the blue pigment, then soak the rice in the water, which turns the rice blue. The color brings nothing to bear on the flavor, restaurant management says.

Indigo

Studies have shown that purple-fleshed potatoes are an abundant source of anthocyanins, which further studies have declared possibly helpful in protecting against various human diseases. In short, they’re healthier than—but just as starchy as—the more commonly used white-fleshed potatoes. So, it’s a good thing for us that Southern Crescent’s kitchen staff hand-slices between 125 and 150 pounds of purple potatoes each week to make their Cajun-seasoned potato chips. “Really, that’s how I justify eating potatoes every day,” says the restaurant’s owner, Lucinda Ewell.

Violet

Peter Piper picked a peck of purple peppers, and so can you at the City Market (these are from Radical Roots). A purple bell pepper is usually a young bell pepper—it’s the youngest level of maturity suitable for harvest. If left longer on the vine, it’ll ripen into a red or orange color.

colors2

White

Go ahead, eat the rind. It’s only mold. Or, “fluffy, beautiful wraps of different microflora,” says Flora Artisanal Cheese cheesemonger Nadjeeb Chouaf. The white rinds found on Brie and Camembert bloom when mold bacteria Penicillium candidum or Penicillum camemberti, respectively, interact with yeasts and fungi on the exterior of a ripening cheese. The patches grow together and are later patted down into a singular skin. Unless it’s cloth, plastic or wax, the rind gives a little more flavor and texture to your soft cheese. Some white foods, like garlic, onions, potatoes and mushrooms, are packed with quercetin, a flavonoid (a plant pigment and class of nutrient) with anti-inflammatory properties. These foods can help lower blood pressure and are high in potassium, selenium and many other vitamins, Bruno says. “Then, of course, there’s milk and even cauliflower, which are powerful sources of calcium.”

Black

Squid ink adds a “bullet-driving, new-age look” to the tagliatelle that Red Pump Kitchen chef Lee Hendrickson makes in-house. The ink adds more than just color, Hendrickson says. It gives the pasta a lightly salty, briny taste reminiscent of the sea, and gives the noodles a bit of grit, a bit of crunch.

Brown

Caramels: Stephanie Williams of La Vache Caramels makes her caramels with ingredients of a few different colors—there’s organic cane sugar, organic brown rice syrup and water to start. At 230 degrees, the light golden yellow mixture begins to bubble as the water evaporates and the molecules in the sugar break down; by 320 degrees, it turns a coppery brown, that quintessential caramel color, before Williams adds heavy cream, butter, salt and vanilla, and continues to cook the mixture to make the fleur de sel caramels.


The Trading Post. Photo: Tom McGovern
The Trading Post. Photo: Tom McGovern

Gas and grub to go

From gyros to gelato, several local service stations double as culinary destinations

Albemarle County has no shortage of places where you can both fill ’er up and eat your fill. Fried chicken is a gas station favorite—see standard-bearer Brown’s up on Avon—and several other spots are slinging top-shelf edibles along with their ethanol.

Trading Post

Next time you’re cruising south on 29, stop as soon as you smell barbecue. You’ve reached the Trading Post.

Operated since 1986 by the Eckman family, the Trading Post makes comforting favorites with country store charm. The showpiece out front is the often-smoldering smoker holding pork and poultry treats, but the Post also throws a mean fish fry on Fridays and offers up oyster po’ boys, lamb gyros, deli sandwiches, sides like slaw and beans and fresh bread.

In the true country store tradition—get out of here with that Cracker Barrel knock-off—the Trading Post also sells items folks might need but don’t want to go to town for, like boots, hardware and automotive supplies. But since Johnny Eckman and his sister Christy took the place over 15 years ago, they’ve focused more and more on the food.

“I don’t know if it was in my blood or what,” Eckman says, “but my grandmother was a cook, and it is probably a portion of that along with my travels—I was in the Navy and then worked as a civilian in Saudi Arabia for almost six years—so I’ve always been into experimenting and trying different foods.”

Everyday Café

Ever wanted to eat as many crab legs as you can while filling your tank with 87 octane? Everyday Café on Pantops is probably the only place it’ll happen.

With rotating specials alongside a vast menu of sandwiches, salads, pizza, entrées like country fried steak and crab cakes, fried fish and chicken and gelato, Everyday was launched in a Rolkin Road service station in 2002 because the “original owner wanted to do something unique,” according to restaurant manager Jimmy Gilbert.

“We’ve got a really unique menu—it’s pretty extensive,” Gilbert says. “I did an update and added six or seven new sandwiches about a year ago, but I am a firm believer in, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’”

The Everyday plaza also houses a Growler Station for your fresh craft beer needs and a solid selection of wines. Now that’s good fuel.

Brown's. Photo: John Robinson
Brown’s. Photo: John Robinson

Brown’s

With much respect to the Preston Avenue Shell Station and Goco on Cherry, Mike Brown slings some of the most delicious petro-proximous fried chicken you’ll find anywhere in these United States. Starting at 10 in the morning and going till 9 at night, Brown’s has prepared pieces to go and will fry up fowl for call-in orders. For just $7, customers can treat themselves to crisp, perfectly spiced breasts, thighs and legs with a roll and two sides—choices include baked beans, mac ’n’ cheese, green beans, potato salad, tater wedges, tossed salad and (sometimes) collard greens.—S.G.


Defining combinations can elevate a restaurant menu

There’s a transformation that takes place when you walk through the door of a really good restaurant. Senses are lit up by mood lighting and décor, and along with the busy tinkle of glass and silverware, there’s an aroma that defines the place’s character.

Somewhere in that savory perfume is the root of the restaurant’s attraction, it’s flavor profile—as the fooderati like to call it—and it’s personal to the one with the tallest toque. There’s meaning, a connection to past and present, in the way dishes are selected for a menu. Look to the end ingredients listed in a dish’s description and there’s a pattern that can be linked to the culinary talent at play.—T.K.

“If there’s any one seasoning combination that defines our cooking it would be butter, thyme and garlic. We use these three things together more than anything else in our kitchen. One of my favorite examples is [the] bacon-wrapped scalloped potatoes with thyme, garlic and parmigiano.”—Angelo Vangelopoulos, Ivy Inn

“We’re always looking to incorporate glutamate-rich ingredients to achieve the savory taste known as umami. Soy sauce, kombu and katsuobushi are among the most frequently used. A recent example of an umami-packed dish would be our Wagyu beef tartare. Wagyu skirt steak is seasoned with shiro dashi and served on Parmesan brioche toast…alongside a dipping sauce which consists of soy sauce, mirin, kombu and a raw egg yolk.”—Pei Chang, Ten

“I can’t say there’s one—maybe pimentón dulce, amontillado or gray sea salt. [It] could be the Arbequina olive oil, the same oil we use to make our aliolis and mojos.”—Tomas Rahal, Mas

“Wild oregano and fish sauce—garum to be exact. Our D.O.C. marinara or D.O.C. Margharita would be the ideal dish to capture our flavor.”—Ian Redshaw, Lampo

“There are certain ingredients that form the foundation, the DNA, of a menu and that’s unique to each kitchen. [Chef] Caleb Warr has San Marzano tomatoes, Meyer lemon, parsley and Calabrian chilies in stock at all times…and we’re nothing without high quality Italian olive oil.”—Michael Keaveny, Tavola

Photo: Tom McGovern
Photo: Tom McGovern

Ivy Inn’s Scalloped Potatoes

4 cups thinly sliced potatoes

1 1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup grated parmigiano

3 tbs. butter

1 lb. bacon

2 tsp. fresh thyme

Salt and pepper to season potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Layer thinly sliced, seasoned potatoes in cream with butter, garlic, thyme and parmigiano. Wrap everything in slices of bacon and pack it in a terrine mold and bake it until the potatoes are tender (about 50 minutes). “We chill the whole thing, cut thick slices and sauté it to crisp the bacon and potatoes,” says Vangelopoulos. “It’s awesome.”


You could try the Neapolitan wallet, but most Lampo diners opt for sharing (awww...). Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
You could try the Neapolitan wallet, but most Lampo diners opt for sharing (awww…). Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Eat with your hands!

Wings to oysters, restaurateurs weigh in

To earn instant credibility at Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria, when you get your pie, fold the whole thing in half, then quarters and eat your way down, starting with the cornicione and working toward the center. This style, known as the “Neapolitan wallet,” is common in Naples, the birthplace of pizza.

Mitchell Beerens, a partner at Lampo, recommends squeezing the bottom of the wallet so the sauce, cheese and basil on a margherita pizza rise and distribute through the four layers of chewy dough. While it’s delicious, the wallet has not caught on in Charlottesville, according to Lampo’s pizzaiolos, because, in America, we share our pizza, so the restaurant provides shears to cut slices.

We eat with our hands because it’s informal and often communal. But these dishes aren’t fancy, so it’s easy to overlook how much care, expertise and tradition goes into their preparation.

The simplicity of foods we eat with our hands can be deceptive. At Brazos Tacos, founder and owner Peter Griesar’s team obsesses over taco construction. “A lot of our tacos have a base of mashed potatoes or beans,” he says. “That doesn’t just act as something to eat, but it also almost acts like a protectant of the tortilla.”

Devising its meat-based tacos, Brazos used a “drip test” to assess when it would be too sloppy. “Basically the drip test is like down to the edge of your hand,” he says. “Any taco that was going to drip down your arm was a little too much.”

The traditions and etiquette that attend dishes we eat with our hands also contribute to the experience. There is no wrong way to eat oysters, according to Daniel Kaufman, the owner of Public Fish & Oyster and Public West Pub & Oyster Bar in Crozet. But there is a right way, beginning with the presentation: a bed of crushed ice.

“You pick up your oyster, you slurp it, you turn the shell over and you put it back on the tray,” Kaufman says. “That is generally the right way to do it.” Traditional accoutrements include a mignonette sauce, cocktail sauce or lemon squeeze.

Some European customers like their oysters served with only the top shell removed, leaving the bottom adductor muscle intact so the oyster stays alive. “We’re happy to do it, but generally in the United States we cut both muscles so they’re ready to be slurped down,” Kaufman says.

Etiquette and rituals aside, we eat with our hands because it’s fun. Wild Wing Cafe owner Chad Ragland has served possibly millions of wings. The true masters can eat the chicken wing in a single bite, a technique that works better with the wingette than the drumette. “You just use your lips really, your teeth and your lips and you just pull it out and it’s all bone,” Ragland says. On the other end of the spectrum are those who attempt to use a fork. “It works,” he says, “but it can take them an hour to eat 10 wings.”

As for the messiest customers, Ragland doesn’t hesitate. “The teenagers are the messiest because they don’t care. I mean, it’s all over their face, because they’ll usually get the barbecue style,” he says.

Across town at Spudnut Shop, the youngest patrons are also the messiest and among co-owner Mike Fitzgerald’s favorite customers. A popular technique for kids, Fitzgerald says, is to eat the chocolate frosting first.

“They’re fun to watch. They’ll hold it up and just like a beaver or something, eat the chocolate layer off the top and then eat the donut,” Fitzgerald says. “Oh yeah, they have a good time when they’re here.”—D.T.


Perfectly improper

Just because you ordered a cheeseburger or wings doesn’t mean manners go out the window. Certain guidelines apply even in casual settings, according to Patty Hughson, president and founder of Etiquette Empowerment, if only out of consideration to others: “Think of how you look to the people around you as you’re eating,” she says.

When eating a burger with coworkers, consider cutting it. “You’re supposed to cut it in half, at least in half, if not in quarters,” she says. “It achieves eating it without having a total mess, because hamburgers are not small anymore.” Condiments should be poured onto the plate, then applied to the burger with your knife. For French fries in any kind of business setting, use a fork.

With pizza, Hughson advises cutting the tip of the slice off, then folding the remainder to minimize mess. When eating wings, avail yourself of the wet nap and don’t be afraid to wash your hands mid-meal. “You’re always able to excuse yourself from the table, especially between courses,” she says.

And even if you’re wearing your favorite shirt, leave the napkin on your lap. “I wouldn’t put a napkin in my collar,” Hughson says. “That’s a total no-no. That is only for a picnic or a lobster-eating festival.”—D.T.


Thirteen-year-old Leah Gunnoe, who attends summer classes at the Charlottesville Cooking School, says she’s always been an adventurous eater. Photo: Amy Jackson
Thirteen-year-old Leah Gunnoe, who attends summer classes at the Charlottesville Cooking School, says she’s always been an adventurous eater. Photo: Amy Jackson

A young chef working through a kids’ menu

This local chef has over 10 years of experience on her résumé—and she’s only 13.

Meet Leah Gunnoe, an eighth grade Tandem Friends School student who is known for being a creative thinker and a highly praised culinary artist.

“When I was about 2,” Gunnoe says, “my mom would go to her book club the first Monday of every month and my dad and I would make Chef Boyardee pizza together.”

Her interest didn’t stop there. Over the past few years, she has attended summer classes at the Charlottesville Cooking School, where she learned to make one of her favorite recipes: French crêpes.

“It’s fun to try different fillings inside of them,” she says, and adds that a mushroom filling with a bechamel sauce is likely her top choice.

Leah’s passion for cooking runs in the family. She says her grandmothers, aunts and father are some of her biggest inspirations.

“I always cook pork and pancakes with my grandma; that’s kind of our thing we do,” she says. “And with my gran, it’s just whatever she’s cooking or if I have a new idea for a recipe, she’ll help me with it.”

Her original recipe that takes the cake, she says, is a fruit pie layered with crust made from scratch, blueberries cooked with sugar, nectarines cooked like apples with butter and cinnamon and chopped strawberries served with homemade whipped cream. But some dishes don’t always turn out so well.

Cheeks flushing red, Gunnoe says, “I tried to make banana cookies once without any of the ingredients that you really need for banana cookies and they weren’t so good.”

Trecia Gunnoe, Leah’s mom, says her daughter isn’t afraid to admit her failures, and they’ve never deterred her from tossing out a failed recipe and starting over—occasionally even on the same day.

“Sometimes we have to leave a big chunk of time for her creations, but I love her desire to be brave and be reflective about it,” Trecia says. “It’s kind of her artistic outlet and one of the things she does to be creative, which, as a parent, is great to see—and eat!”

While Leah says she’s interested in pursuing a law degree or joining the CIA, her future plans might also include cooking. Leah and her dad have been planning to open a restaurant together for as long as she can remember, and the dynamic duo has already named it and planned a couple of menus.

Leda’s (a combo of the first two letters of her name and the word dad), will have an extensive menu for little ones.

“I’ve always been a very adventurous eater,” Leah says. “When I was really young, we both decided that we didn’t want the kids’ menu to just be chicken nuggets, hamburgers and hot dogs. We wanted it to be something special and something that wouldn’t normally be on a kids’ menu. So we picked shrimp Alfredo.”

Martha Stafford, owner of the Charlottesville Cooking School, says she hopes Leah will pursue a culinary career.

“I thought I was going to be able to hand this business off to her,” she jokes, adding that Leah is helpful in the kitchen and a fun student to teach. “Since she’s been coming, she’s always been so enthusiastic about everything we try.”

As for advice to people her age, Leah says this: “Cooking is fun, so even if you’re not good at it, you should try it and try new recipes and be creative.”—S.B.

For kids who cook!

The Charlottesville Cooking School’s Peanut or Almond Butter Sauce

1/2 cup smooth organic peanut butter or roasted almond butter

1/4 cup hot tap water

2 tbs. low-sodium soy sauce or low-sodium tamari

2 tbs. brown rice vinegar or regular rice vinegar

1 tsp. or more hot sauce or chili sauce like Sriracha (optional)

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil (optional)

Stir the nut butter and hot water together, add the soy sauce and vinegar. Stir in the hot sauce and sesame oil (if you are using them). Serve with steamed broccoli, carrots or green beans. It can also be paired with sliced cucumbers, red or yellow peppers or carrot sticks. In addition, it can be used to create peanut noodles by thinning it with a little water and tossing it with already cooked angel hair pasta or buckwheat soba noodles, shredded carrots and cilantro.


Kinda Vegan burger at Citizen Burger Bar. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
Kinda Vegan burger at Citizen Burger Bar. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

This part is meat-free

A beet burger, crispy seitan, a plate of garlicky snow peas—these unique takes on standard-vegetarian fare will have even your most carnivorous of tablemates experiencing order envy.

The Duchess

Bluegrass Grill & Bakery

Every vegetarian who visits Bluegrass Grill & Bakery feels special, with tons of options to choose from, ranging from a simple pesto omelet to the zesty cilantro lime tofu hash. And the creative names don’t hurt either (Kevin Fakin’ Bacon Benedict, anyone?). But it’s The Duchess that makes vegetarians feel like royalty: A variation of The Duke, it features an English muffin topped with dill Havarti cheese, tomatoes, spinach and two poached eggs, all smothered in a light, creamy avocado hollandaise. Owner Chrissy Benninger says the dish came about years ago when the restaurant debuted its specials menu but realized they didn’t have a veggie-friendly option: By substituting the bacon and turkey sausage with meat-free accoutrements, a new dish was born.   

Kinda Vegan burger

Citizen Burger Bar

Most meat eaters will tell you they’re often searching for that perfect juicy burger with a perfectly pink, medium-rare center. And Citizen Burger Bar, known for its grass-fed beef from Timbercreek Farm, wanted herbivores to have a similar burger nirvana experience: Enter the Kinda Vegan burger. The whole-grain vegan patty nixes the tried-and-true but commonplace black bean patty for one made with quinoa, millet and beets, which provide that ideal red coloring. And for those who are beet adverse, don’t worry: The flavor is mild, and the savory patty with crispy edges provides the perfect base for the burger’s condiments: Boursin-style cheese, sprouts, tomato, onion, avocado, cucumbers and tarragon Vegenaise on a multigrain bun.

To make this burger truly vegan, swap the bun for the vegan roll, and hold the cheese. Owner Andy McClure says even meat-eaters are known to order this veggie burger—but they add bacon.

Snow peas at Taste of China. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto
Snow peas at Taste of China. Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Snow peas with fresh garlic

Taste of China

You won’t find this dish under the “vegetable tofu” section of the menu, which includes items such as tofu in casserole Szechuan style and eggplant with spicy garlic sauce. When you’ve undoubtedly tried every vegetarian dish on the menu, switch your gaze to the “meats” section, and you’ll find the beef and snow peas with fresh garlic dish. Ask the friendly wait staff to hold the beef, and you’ll get a fresh, light dish that features sautéed snow pea leaves in a rich soy sauce, studded with small pieces of fresh garlic.

Moroccan Vegetarian Tagine

Aromas Café

Nestled in Barracks Road Shopping Center, Aroma’s focuses on Mediterranean fare with a modern interpretation. Chef and owner Hassan Kaisoum’s Moroccan background influences many of his dishes, including the vegetarian tagine. Tagines, slow-cooked savory stews, are named for the earthenware pots with domed tops in which they are cooked. Aroma’s version uses a standard couscous base, then piles on a plethora of braised vegetables, like zucchini, eggplant, carrots and tomatoes, plus hearty chickpeas.

Crispy seitan with mushroom gravy

Maya

Finally! A meat-free meal that doesn’t rely on braised, fried or baked tofu, nor is it devoid of the meaty texture vegetarians sometimes crave. Maya owner Christian Kelly says the idea for a dish featuring seitan, a product derived from gluten, the main protein of wheat, came from a talented chef he worked with years ago who was a “ravenous carnivore” but well versed in all things vegetarian. The seitan is mixed with spices, mustard and hot water, then kneaded, sliced and boiled. After it’s been fully cooked it’s dredged and fried. It comes covered in a light mushroom sauce, made with Sharondale Farm mushrooms. Kelly says they tried to take the dish off the menu after two years to mix things up, but protests from the vegetarian community—one woman even cornered him at church—grew to be too loud and back on the menu it went.

Vegetarian sandwich

Sultan Kebab

This vegan sandwich is one both meat-eaters and veg-heads rave about. Sultan Kebab co-owner Serhat Peker says although Turkey is a meat-loving country, it’s also a “vegetarian heaven,” and most dishes contain more vegetables than meat. For this sandwich they start with traditional, pillowy lavash bread then stuff it with Southern Turkish-style hummus, kisir (tabbouleh made with bulgur, cucumber, parsley, Turkish tomato paste, onion and pomegranate molasses), lettuce, tomato and—the surprise ingredient—two dolmas (grape leaves stuffed with rice and herbs). It’s like a vegetarian smorgasbord in a wrap—in fact, all the items in the sandwich also appear on the restaurant’s vegetarian plate.—J.L.

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