COVER STORY: Great tastes

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In social networks, the theory is that six degrees separate us, but in the food world, we’re shooting for two.

When we cook at home, we want to raise the chickens laying our eggs, and we want to pick our own fruits and veggies. We want to know the farmer growing our soybeans and then the people who make them into tofu. We want to know the artisans (and the animals) making our cheese and the winemakers, cidermakers, chai-makers and kombucha-ers fermenting our brews.

When we eat out, we want to get to know our chefs and cooks, and see what’s in their fridge. We want to watch them cook our food and we want them to use local foods whenever possible.

We have a long way to get back to the start, but just as three square meals have become five small ones, the pyramid’s become a plate, and the food chain’s become a web, we’re changing the shape of our food industry with every turn of the soil and each lift of our forks.

Our town, so rich in agriculture, is ripe with talented people who raise it, cultivate it, kill it, source it, make it, sell it, and cook it. In these pages, we dish up some of our favorite foods, but we also connect the dots between your food and the people and places that put it on your table. Tis a tangled web we weave, but it’s a might tasty one too. 

By Chiara Canzi, Andrew Cedermark, Brendan Fitzgerald, Megan Headley, Erika Howsare, Giles Morris and Caite White

 

 

Victory, sweet victory
As the story goes, a young woman once ate 30 two-ounce cups of Splendora’s Gelato
during a chilly winter Wednesday. That’s nearly two quarts of decadent flavor combinations—chipotle chocolate and dulce de leche, salted caramel and Chinese five-spice. How long did it take her? How deft was her feat, and how delicious her triumph? The record still stands. But, every Wednesday night in January and February, the truly daring can devour all they can for a fixed price at our Downtown gelato spot. “Stuff yourself silly,” urges the store’s Facebook page. “Just don’t make yourself ill.” No—make yourself immortal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 
 
FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Romeo loves Jinx
One Friday at noon I walked into a smoke-filled room. The walls were covered with pinup girls, movie stars and cola ads. A black and white movie played on the TV. A group of older men sat at two vinyl covered booths, at ease, with a platter of sandwiches between them.
 
I’d found the Romeo (Retired Old Men Eating Out) gang at Jinx’s Pit’s Top on Market Street, not a time portal. As I stood there staring at the hand-drawn menu that advertises barbeque sandwiches for $4.79, $15.79 if you want slaw, Jinx said, “Don’t look at that, just say sammitch.” I did and there it was, a barbeque sandwich devoid of ceremony: perfectly cooked meat—“pork roasted very slowly and gently over live coals,” in his words—between two pieces of white bread and adorned with a very little sauce, just enough so it doesn’t stick in your gullet. The Romeo gang was founded by Tovi Kratovil, David Funk, Sandy Von Thelen and John Marr last year, and is comprised of doctors, lawyers, brokers and professors, some retired and others still plugging away. Men’s lunch groups are a longstanding tradition, and while this one is new, you wouldn’t ever know it. That Friday the fellas worked over a platter of sammitches, a course of barbequed chicken thighs, some onion rings, peach ice tea and lemon meringue pie. “Sandy, put your skirt on and be a waitress,” Jinx said, at dessert. Afterwards, the guys rolled dice to see who’d pick up the drinks. One tie, all tie.—G.M.

  

 

 

 

A taste of culture
Ethan Zuckerman has a great relationship with his bacteria. Nine years ago, when a roommate in Northern California brought a batch of kombucha home, Zuckerman tried the stuff—basically, fermented, probiotic tea—and quickly took to it.

“The result that it was having in my body and those around me won me over,” says Zuckerman, a Western Albemarle High School grad who grew up in the area. “Before I knew it, I was brewing something very tasty.”

The same bacteria culture in Zuckerman’s tea nearly a decade ago is alive and well in Barefoot Bucha, his business with fiancée Kate Hallahan. “The scoby”—symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast—“that came into my life nine years ago is still the one I use,” said Zuckerman. “It’s amazing, the history that’s there.”

With kombucha, history butts against science. Brewers and fans have praised the tonic for allegedly slowing hair loss, relieving arthritis and controlling weight. Zuckerman makes no such claims, but says that Barefoot Bucha might contain organic and amino acids as well as B vitamins—in differing amounts, depending on the batches.

The fermentation process also generates ethyl alcohol, which led some retailers to pull the beverage from shelves last year once the Food and Drug Administration caught wind.

However, Zuckerman says his brew cleared the necessary hurdles with the FDA and state Department of Agriculture, and can be sold as a raw, probiotic beverage. In September, Barefoot Bucha made its way to taps at Blue Mountain Brewery, and also announced an impending partnership with local snack entrepreneurs Carpe Donut—all while keeping a super-small footprint and relying on regenerative bacteria.

 


 

 

 

Here, fishy fishy fishy
There may be other fish in the sea, but we’re loving what the local seafood scene is bringing to the table. Here, our five favorite fishy dishes.

Mussels at The Shebeen Pub & Braai. A giant pile of perfectly steamed mussels in a creamy onion-garlic sauce. Go ahead and ask for extra bread for sopping.

Tempura nori roll from Bang!. Melty cream cheese and sweet salmon meets a crispy fried exterior. Pair it with the wasabi-laced cabbage salad for an extra kick.

Crab cakes at Hamiltons’ at First & Main. This light, fresh lunch dish boasts jumbo lump crab over jasmine rice and a sauté of corn, tomato and basil.

Fish and chips at Rapture. A classic dish at a Downtown institution. Deliciously greasy Guinness-battered fish topped with a heaping mound of the spot’s signature fries.

Gambas al’ parilla at MAS. Catalan-style (that’s in the shell) jumbo shrimp served with garlic aoili and grey salt.
 

 

 

 

 

 

A mother grain occasion
Sacred to the Incas, who called it “mother grain,” quinoa was virtually not produced outside of Central America as recently as 20 years ago. Today you can find it at health food stores like Rebecca’s, Integral Yoga and Whole Foods.

Pronounce it “keen-wah,” be prepared to pay more than you do for rice, and feel free to stuff your face. (Though it’s a grain, this stuff’s also related to leafy greens.) Make a gluten-free quinoa cereal with it in the morning, quinoa and black bean chili for lunch and quinoa puttanesca for dinner. What can’t this mother grain do?

 

 

 

 

 

FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Serves six
Raspberries & Ruminations was born out of the love of food and competition. A six-member group (including yours truly), R&R is not your typical foodie experience. Rather, it’s a complex experiment in human creativity. We set a task, shop for ingredients, get together and cook. Then, we taste each other’s food and discuss the dishes, one by one, much like on Bravo’s “Top Chef”…only more supportive.

Our first challenge involved going back to our childhood and preparing the dish that defined it. The results were astounding: a deconstructed eggplant Parmesan, risotto with saffron and sausage, ham biscuits, an oven-roasted tomato tarte and, for dessert, an impressive Pavlova.
But it gets harder. For the most recent task, each of us was assigned an ingredient picked by the rest of the team. Sweet potatoes turned into sweet potato gnocchi, carrots made for a killer carrot and habanero soup and Blue Hubbard Squash was transformed into a galette with caramelized onions. In this challenge, everyone wins.

Keep up with R&R at raspberriesandruminations.com.—C.C.

 

 

 

 

Merrily hashing along
When a group of English officers and expatriates living in the rubber jungles of Malaysia dreamt up a kind of race based on a traditional British paper chase intended to help them sweat out the weekend’s excesses, little did they know that by the turn of the century, there would be nearly 2,000 clubs on seven continents devoted to Hashing.

The original group, which still exists in Kuala Lumpur, is sometimes known as “Mother Hash” and lists in its constitution the group’s objectives, including, “To get rid of weekend hangovers,” “To acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer”—rules that the Charlottesville chapter follows assiduously at its weekly races. Its slogan: “A drinking club with a running problem.”

Here’s how it works. The “harriers” wait as a “hare” lays a trail, sometimes with flour, sometimes with scraps of paper. Anything, really. And trails can be anywhere—recent hashes have passed through places like Belmont and, um, the Sam’s Club parking lot. The harriers run in pursuit of the hare, historically about five kilometers (that’s three miles to us Americans).

The group’s reward for successfully following the trail to its end? A big, icy bucket of cheap beers. Check out the Charlottesville Hash House Harriers’ website at CHHH.org.

 

 

 

Rise & chai
Mornings can be rough.
There’s the whole waking up business and it’s usually only in order to go to work. A warm cup of spicy, aromatic Chai can help —especially if it happens to be Karine Morgan’s locally- made Morning Glory Chai. Sold at Carpe Donut, La Taza, and The Farm C-ville, and designed to strengthen the immune system, increase energy, and improve mental—um, oh yeah—clarity, this is one brew bound to add more glory to your mornings.

 

 

 

 

Show us your fridge
When considering a fridge’s duty, if it cools, most are considered equal. However, when it comes to its contents, not all fridges are the same—especially when that fridge belongs to a professional chef. We asked for a peek inside Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar Executive Chef/Co-Owner Charles Roumeliotes’ home fridge to see how the pros eat at home.

Spending most of his time at the restaurant, Roumeliotes tends to shop first and cook from his findings—especially easy for someone who works in Charlottesville food mecca, Main Street Market. What he always has is lots of dairy: butter, milk, half and half, parmigiano and halloumi, that incomparable squeaky cheese from Cyprus. Basics like mirepoix components (carrots, celery and onion), olives (he loves green Lucques from Provence), capers, lemons, wine, homemade chicken stock and ouzo speak to his Mediterranean heritage, but there’s also always Asian condiments for quick stirfrys and PB&J for midnight snacks.

 

 

 

 

 

FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Extra cheese, please
Farmstead cheeses are proteins of place. Made by hand with milk produced on site, a farmstead cheese reflects the singular character of farmer, pasture and herd. Flavors emerge from the specific grasses and vegetation of a hillside; from the animals bred, born and raised to impart particular qualities to the milk they produce; from the aging caves purposefully maintained to bring cheeses to a specific maturity and character. Add to those ingredients the creativity and persistence of the cheesemaker and, in the end, you get one of life’s supreme pleasures. Lucky for us, Virginia boasts some of the finest examples of this craft.

Meadow Creek Grayson: Rick and Helen Feete have been building their farm and herd of Jersey cows in Galax since 1980. Grayson is made using the same (shape) molds as Italy’s famous Taleggio. The rich, raw Jersey cow milk and the ongoing rinsing of the rind during aging result in a pungent, aromatic cheese that pairs perfectly with Virginia cabernet francs and robust viogniers.

Everona Piedmont: Pat Elliot of Rapidan originally got a few sheep to give her sheep dogs something to do. Soon she needed something to do with the sheep’s milk! Voila, Everona Piedmont. Among the first and finest American artisan cheeses, this raw sheep’s milk cheese has won countless awards over the years. Reminiscent of Spain’s Manchego (but better!) in its nuttiness, we find it particularly wine-friendly (try it with Jefferson Vineyards Pinot Gris or King Family Meritage) and a terrific grating cheese.

Caromont Esmontonian: Gail Hobbs-Page and her husband Daniel, longtime foodies in Charlottesville, have brought their ample energy, vision and palates to farmstead cheese-making at Caromont Farm in Esmont. Their lovingly tended goats browse the varied landscape of their farm and provide the rich and healthy milk that is essential to great cheese. To make Esmontonian, the curd is poured into baskets and bathed with Virginia viognier and vinegar and aged for three to four months. The cheese is tangy and slightly acidic with a sweet finish. Pairs magically with Thibaut Janisson’s sparkling Blanc de Chardonnay.—Eric Gertner, owner of Feast!

 

 

 

Dressings we’ll dip for
Be careful—these five salad toppers might upstage the first course.

(left to right) Escafé’s honey lavender vinaigrette. This sweet sauce takes your salad from “sensible lunch” to “sinful dessert.”

Blue Ridge Country Store’s summer tomato dressing. This’ll put the “garden” in your garden salad.

C&O Restaurant’s mustard dressing. A clean, tangy topper for a simple green salad.

Eppie’s champagne dressing. A creamy sweet sauce that pairs just as well with your Daily salad as your chicken salad sandwich.

Copacabana’s avocado vinaigrette. A rich complement to delicious Brazilian cuisine.
 

 

 

 

Essentially equipped
A well-stocked kitchen can make even the most cooking-challenged feel like a top chef. Invest in these five essential tools and spend the rest on food and wine!

A large pot: You’ll need a vessel large enough to hold lots of water for cooking pasta and soup or blanching veggies.

Knives: Unless you plan to use your bare hands, you’ll need two good knives (a large chef’s knife and a small paring knife) to get every recipe started.

A cutting board: Position a large wooden one in between the sink and the stove so that you can go from rinsing to chopping to cooking efficiently.

A sauté pan: A 10" or 12" stainless or aluminum frying pan with sloped sides is a workhorse that handles everything from browning meat to finishing pasta dishes.

Tongs: They can stir, flip, toss and grasp, so they’re as good as a second pair of hands. 

 

 

 

 

Ass-kicking greens
In his book Eat to Live, Dr. Joel Fuhrman developed a system for measuring nutrient density in unprocessed foods, and ranked a market’s worth from zero to 1,000 points. At the top of the list? Kale.

Braise it with onion and garlic, then pile it atop rustic bread and finish with a fried egg. Or massage it with olive oil, avocado, red onion, bell pepper and lemon. For breakfast, sautéed kale with blueberries and peaches. The less processed, the more healthful. But a nutrient champion among lesser foods, all the same.

 

 

 


Yo, soy!
By the time you roll up to Bodo’s for your 9am bagel with Twin Oaks Tofu, the workers at the intentional community in Louisa have been awake for four-and-a-half hours, creating a slurry from a 120-gallon jug of soaked soybeans and hot water. While you’re lunching on Spicy Senegalese Peanut Tofu at Revolutionary Soup, the slurry has already been sent through a pipe and into a centrifuge, and the resulting soy milk has been mixed with nagari to make a kind of soybean curd.

And by the time you’re at C’ville Market or Whole Foods on the way home from work to pick up more tofu to cook for dinner, the curds have been poured into a box, covered with cheese cloth and mashed in a hydraulic press for 15 minutes.

Three things make any of the 10 varieties of Twin Oaks Tofu (Italian Herb, Spicy Thai, Garlic Shiitake…) worth eating three times daily. The producers use clean, crisp well water in the process, the same H2O the community’s inhabitants drink—not some big city’s municipal water. The organic, non-GMO beans are sourced from a man named Farmer Jay in Westmoreland County, who says he’ll have no problem keeping up when Twin Oaks expands its operation January 1, beyond the 12,000 pounds it produces weekly. And then there’s its biggest virtue, the firmness: Twin Oaks uses a higher bean-to-water ratio than most other tofu makers, and presses the hell out of it too, which pretty much takes away your excuse for not liking tofu (let us guess: the texture). It’s enough to fill our dreams with visions of soybeans soaking overnight.

 

 

 

 

Don’t leave home without your bottle
It’s worth a reminder that Virginia passed the “Corkage Bill” this summer, allowing us to bring our own wine to restaurants for a fee set by the restaurant. Restaurateurs view the law as a mixed blessing (they’ll lose some profit from traditionally large wine mark-ups, but they’ll gain some thrifty patrons who might not dine out otherwise), but retailers, local wineries, and, of course, us diners, see it as a coup in an economy that has yet to rebound.

The corkage fee per bottle (legally capped at $75) ranges between $15 and $35 here in town and varies based on the quality of the restaurant’s stemware and wine service. A promotional effort to waive the corkage fee on any Virginia wine brought into restaurants during Virginia Wine and Dine month in March 2012 will entice diners to enjoy local pours at our favorite spots.

Follow these etiquette tips when taking advantage of BYO, and remember that it’s a courtesy!

1. Call ahead to let the restaurant know you are bringing wine.
2. Find out the fee in advance.
3. Don’t bring cheap wine.
4. Offer a taste to your sommelier or server.
5. Consider buying a bottle for every bottle you bring.

 

 

 

So sushi
You could nosh on the ever-reliable California roll, or you could tempt your tastebuds with these local finds—exotic sushi rolls for every palate.

Uni at Ten: Among the shellfish and cooked seafood, this sea urchin dish hits the spot.

Ichiban roll at Sushi Love: Tuna, red snapper, salmon, yellowtail and avocado with a spicy tuna roll.

Crunch roll at Now and Zen: With tempura shrimp, avocado, crab sick covered with tempura flakes, eel sauce and spicy mayo.

Calamari roll at Miyako: Spicy fried squid is tempered by fresh cucumber.

Vegetarian’s Rainbow roll at Tokyo Rose: Red bell pepper, avocado, oshinko, mango, cucumber and mushrooms—everything but the kitchen sink.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eating with the chef
As dining experiences go, Clifton Inn’s Chef’s Counter option might just be TV worthy. The lucky seven who get a spot at the table in the newly renovated kitchen (better call in advance for reservations) can experience the restaurant’s menu from seats directly in front of Clifton’s culinary team. Did we mention the privilege is the same price as the regular menu? Win-win.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The house that Mud built
Some people say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Certainly, there was nothing broken with the Downtown Mudhouse, but we’re thanking the java gods that owners John and Lynelle Lawrence launched a full-scale renovation this summer anyway.

They were able to see a need for upgrades that our coffee-buzzed eyes just didn’t notice. The new space, designed by local architecture firm Formworks, features shorter countertops for more interaction with baristas, new flooring, new bathrooms (there are two!) and a highly navigable floor plan. The menu also got an upgrade, with new coffee brewing options and extra offerings of baked goods. In other words, job well done. We’ll take that coffee for here, thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Chickenomics
Why backyard hens aren’t egg-zactly free
What’s it cost to keep chickens, anyway? Here’s how it’s worked out for us. The initial outlay (get it?) for our chicken setup was surprisingly expensive. Even though we salvaged the floor, windows and roof, we spent somewhere around $200 for the materials to build a coop—much of that in hardware, such as hinges. But buying a fancy new coop can cost a pretty penny—an Eglu Cube Green Run is $1,500, for example. Living amongst predators like raccoons and fox, we wanted to protect our hens with an electric fence (not necessary for you urban types). 164′ of fence: $160. Charger: $85. Solar panel: $85. Battery: $25. A few last things completed our setup. Water dispenser: $10. Feed trough: $2. And oh yeah, five chickens: $10 apiece for laying hens (not chicks) from a local farm. These days, we’re spending around $21 per month on non-GMO feed for our girls. (You can spend less, or more, depending on your pickiness.) They need oystershell too, for calcium. We were buying five-pound bags for $6 before we discovered the 25-pounder, which lasts the better part of a year, for $10. Score! The only remaining expense is bedding to line the coop. A bale of pine shavings costs $6, and lasts us two months. (If our hens didn’t roam, and do most of their pooping in the grass, we’d go through shavings faster, as well as feed. But then, we wouldn’t have needed the fence.) So, what do we get for this $617 investment, plus $25 monthly expense? We get eggs—a dozen a week during slow times, nearly twice that when the girls are feeling perky. At $4.50 a dozen from the farmer’s market, fresh local brown eggs are kinda valuable. Plus, it’s hard to name a price for fertilization and aeration in the garden, education for our daughter and the satisfaction of cracking our own eggs in the pan.—E.H.

 

 

 

 

 

Take it with a grain of…
We can’t restrain ourselves around the salt bins at Whole Foods. We run our fingers along the glass jars, gawk at the spectrum of colors—pearl, ruby, dusty rose. And, when no employees are watching, we lift the lids off the bins, one by one, and take a deep sniffle-snort of each complex scent. Black truffle salt. Chipotle pepper salt. Himalayan pink salt.

“People eat much less salt than they did in previous centuries when there was no refrigeration and salt was the primary way of preserving food,” Mark Kurlansky, author of Salt: A World History, told the New York Times last year. Savory foods of yore are now “less salty because we can refrigerate them.” Which means that, nowadays, the best reason to buy colorful, fragrant salts is purely an aesthetic one.
 

 

 

 

 

Festivals of food
Every day feels like a food celebration in our eats-inspired town, but food festivals give us an extra excuse to gorge on our favorites.

African-American Festival: Twenty-two years and going strong, this late-July celebration of African-American arts and culture in Washington Park serves up plenty of ethnic favorites.
Apple Harvest Festival: A beloved apple-picking destination, Carter Mountain Orchard dedicates October weekends to live music, hayrides, cider, warm cider donuts, jams and butters.

Blackberry Harvest Festival: The dog days of summer ripen the blackberries at Hill Top Berry Farm in Nellysford by early August. Go prepared to get stained and sticky and then relax with BBQ, fruit wine and mead.

Chocolate Festival: The chocolate part of this October festival in Lee Park pretty much sells itself, but in addition to chocolate treats, there’s also a 5K and a pancake breakfast to raise money for various charities.

Heritage Harvest Festival: Organic gardening and heirloom plants are the focus of this weekend-long September festival held at Monticello, where Virginia’s “first foodie” Thomas Jefferson sowed the land.

Vegetarian Festival: Every year in late September, 6,000-plus veggie-lovers descend upon Lee Park to sample healthful foods and drinks from more than 100 vendors.

Strawberry Festival: The Stanardsville United Methodist Church in early June is the place to worship the ripe and rosy strawberry. Go for breakfast at 7am, stay for the 11am lunch, and then cap the day at 3pm with strawberry cake, pie, crepes, or shortcake and some live music, clogging, and square dancing.
   

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery meats
There’s a theory about how the Chinese mystery snail, a 3"-long invasive critter, found its way into American waters. They were imported for sale in California markets and then found in the San Francisco Bay. Maybe they were intentionally dumped to create a rapidly repro-
ducing food source. Maybe a few aquariums were errantly tossed. The latter might also explain how they turned up in a few local bodies of water in the last year.
There’s also a theory about how we can use the unwelcome snails to our advantage: Eat them.

“Yes, you can eat them,” blogs Jackson Landers, a locally based hunter, eater and writer whose first book, The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting Deer for Food, was picked for distribution by big-time outdoor retailer Cabelas. “I pan-seared them in garlic, butter and onions and ate them on crackers.”

Landers spent the last year putting more than 15,000 miles on his car and a few unlikely meals on his plate for Eating Aliens, his next book on locally sourced food. The book is part travel narrative and part biology, with a touch of logical (albeit surprising) flavor: Landers hunts, prepares and eats invasive species.

Which means different things in different places. In Florida, for instance, Landers caught and then cooked black spiny tailed iguana. In Eleuthera, Landers ate lionfish—a predator to native fish, with venomous spines and, according to Landers, “bright, clean flavors.” Asked whether he was resistant to any of his meals, Landers said, “Once you’ve got it butchered, and you sprinkle on your first sauce, it’s just food.”

In Central Virginia, an invasive diet might include the Chinese mystery snails, starlings, pigeons and wild pigs. And someday, those dishes might be replaced with others. The benefit of eating invasive species? There’s always plenty to go around.

After his deer hunting book, local writer and hunter Jackson Landers traveled to find and feast on invasive species for Eating Aliens. Meals included the black spiny tailed iguana and the lionfish (above).   

 

 

 

 

Dinner, drinks and a movie
The Paramount Theater and C-VILLE’s Food, Wine & Film series highlights Charlottesville’s extraordinarily rich culinary scene. In April, it was Big Night followed by an Italian feast at tavola. In June, Taste 434 was shown before an all-local dinner at Brookville. In September, a dim sum brunch at Peter Chang’s preceded Eat Drink Man Woman. On October 30, Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert—two famous chefs with two very different voices—will talk food and then sign books at Ten. Stay hungry for more events in 2012! 

 

 

 

 

 

FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

Better late than never
At 10pm on a Wednesday, Peking Restaurant’s lighted sign casts a neon gaze onto Fourth Street. Inside, the proprietress says hello, and shows that she remembers me. “Beer, right?” she asks. I look at the menu —17 chef specialties, 64 dinner specials, 10 types of chicken wings. I weigh dishes based on their seductive names: “Dragon and Phoenix,” or “Rainbow Beef”? Ah, that’s a tough decision. An easy one? Going to the Downtown Chinese restaurant that’s open more than 80 hours each week, ’til 11 every night.—B.F.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Life’s just a bowl of chili
Even if the strict “No pets allowed” rule posted on the James River Runners Great Chili Cookoff’s website evokes some horrifying mental images, its flier does not: 25 secret ingredients, one rockin’ band, 2,500 supporters, one good cause and four bloated judges (O.K., so maybe that last one’s a little horrifying).

But what makes the long-running festival, which has raised over $250,000 for the Scottsville Fire Department, truly special is what it doesn’t advertise—eating a plastic bowl of chili served by a biker dude in drag; eating chili served out of an old washing machine; or napping in a foldout chaise lounge gorging yourself with (you guessed it) more chili. This year’s winner? Smokin’ Chicken Chili, whose chefs told the Rural Virginian it was made with marinated chicken and kidney beans. 

 

 

 

 

Doctor recommended
Hospitals don’t have the best reputation when it comes to food, but that’s not really why you’re there. With help from the Local Food Hub, UVA Hospital has become a leader in the farm-to-institution movement in an effort to improve the health and taste of hospital food all while supporting the local economy. The hospital regularly incorporates locally-grown, seasonal produce into their menu and cafeteria offerings, and even offers a Farmer’s Market every Thursday and Friday throughout the summer from 11am-2:30pm. Patients, staff and visitors can stock up on fresh fruits and veggies, get information about the farms and chat with dietitians about healthy choices right there in either of the hospital’s two cafeterias. That ought to make you feel better already.
 

 

 

 


  

 

 

 

 

Got cider?
Virginians have been making hard cider since Jamestown, and Albemarle County produced Newtown Pippins so tasty that Queen Victoria dropped an import tax on them. But after World War II, heritage apple varieties and local cider-making gave way to high production orchards geared to supplying supermarkets with glossy looking produce. Spurred, in part, by a project to recreate Thomas Jefferson’s apple orchards at Monticello in the mid-1990s, heritage apples and Virginia hard cider are making a comeback in Virginia’s piedmont.

Charlottesville now has two regional cider makers—Albemarle Ciderworks, Foggy Ridge Cider and one more, Castle Hill, is set to join them—selling their wares in local wine and beer sections. This is not the stuff you used to have on hayrides. It’s a light, sophisticated drink that pairs incredibly well with food (cheese!). Try Foggy Ridge’s Serious Cider and Albemarle Ciderworks’ Jupiter’s Legacy and discover why Ashmead’s Kernel, Hewes Crab and Virginia Staymans put the old Red Delicious to shame.


 

 

 

 

Pick your way through VA
Apples
Mid-August to late November
Carter Mountain Orchard, Dickie Brothers Orchard, Drumheller’s, Mountain Cove Orchard

Peaches
July and August
AmFOG, Chiles Peach Orchard, Critzer Family Farm, Drumheller’s Orchard, Dickie Brothers Orchard

Blackberries
June through August
Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery

Blueberries
June through August
Berry Patch of Free Union

Strawberries
Mid-May to June
Critzer Family Farm, Seamans’ Orchard

Cherries
Late June to July
Hartland Orchard (in Markham), Spring Valley Orchard

Pumpkins
Mid-September through October
Belvedere Plantation, Chesterfield Berry Farm, Dickie Brothers Orchard, Seamans’ Orchard

 

  

 

 

 

Sweets for the sweet
“Desserts” may be “stressed” spelled backwards, but you’ll feel nothing more than warm fuzzies as these delicious morsels make their way to your tummy. Feel free to lick the plate—we don’t judge.

Grilled banana bread with vanilla ice cream from Bizou: A twist on a classic and then some, this dessert is a complete surprise. The crunchy bite from the warm, fried slice is complemented by the pliant pleasure of the rich ice cream. A perfect combo.

Triple chocolate cake from Commonwealth Restaurant & Skybar: This is everything but your ordinary chocolate treat. Warm chocolate syrup is drizzled on a rich chocolaty bite. Chocolate lovers, search no more.

Sticky English toffee pudding from The Ivy Inn Restaurant: A diners’ favorite, the warm toffee cake is in perfect harmony with dates, pecan pralines and vanilla ice cream.

Semisweet chocolate pot de crème from Orzo: A delicate mousse topped with shaved chocolate and espresso whipped cream hits all the right spots.

Warm caramel apple crisp from Duner’s Restaurant: A simple classic gets fancy with local Crozet apples and toasted pecan streusel. This crisp is a must-try.

Maple bacon waffles with grilled peaches from Brookville Restaurant (right): Whoever said bacon doesn’t marry well with fruit has, evidently, never tried this spectacular dessert. Part breakfast, part guilty pleasure, this unusual pairing satisfies the sweet- and meat-toothed.

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