Coffee clash

 “I think coffee’s fun and let’s get this party started.” That’s what Mudhouse Director of Operations Dan Pabst told judges a few weeks ago when he participated in the South East Regional Barista Competition. The event gives baristas 15 minutes to create three cups of coffee for each of the four sensory judges—one espresso, one cappuccino and one signature beverage, which, for Pabst, was a lavender chocolate espresso. “I used a lavender infused chocolate ganache and melted/mixed it with a shot of espresso,” he says. While Pabst says he was a crowd favorite, he was “not so popular with the judges.” He placed out of the top six, after which the judges stop ranking. 

Mudhouse Director of Operations Dan Pabst plans to compete at the United States Barista Championship in April. 

Still, Pabst says he was happy with his overall performance and has plans to take one of the wild card seats in the upcoming United States Barista Championship, held in Anaheim, California. “This year, they’ve indicated that they will open up registration to anyone who has competed before,” he tells Restaurantarama. “In which case, I’m eligible.” 

For the regional competition, Pabst was one of only three baristas from Virginia and the only barista from Charlottesville. If he makes it to States, he’ll be up against more than 60 baristas for a chance to represent the U.S. in the national competition in London come June.

For now, Pabst says, he’s practicing and perfecting his routine to prepare for that event. He’s been experimenting with different ingredients—like honey and sweet cream—to increase the complexity of his signature beverage. In the meantime, you can watch Pabst’s February performance at

Here we go again

We’ve been hearing a lot of rumors—including an anonymous tip from a former restaurant employee—that Blue Light Grill is missing a very important ingredient in its operation: a chef! This runs counter to what Blue Light’s Stu Rifkin told us last week. “At this point, no,” he said, when asked if the Downtown seafood joint was searching for a new chef. And while Rifkin declined to comment on these new developments, a quick call to Blue Light—to ask the name of the restaurant’s chef—yielded this answer from the restaurant’s manager, Jeff Mattie: “It hasn’t been announced yet. Until we have documents signed, we don’t have any information to release at this point.”

Newfound Changians

After all the media coverage of roving restaurateur Peter Chang last week, Restaurantarama stopped into his Albemarle Square restaurant, Taste of China, to see what all the fuss was about. Color us not surprised: The man can cook. While we didn’t get a chance to spot Chang in the kitchen, we feasted our eyes on Scallion Bubble Pancakes—literally, a blown-up pancake that tasted pleasantly like roasted marshmallows—and a beef with vegetables stir fry served in a fiery hot pot. Our only complaint: Getting seated was exhausting. It seems like the restaurant is hearing our cries, though —a March 2 Craigslist post calls for applications for Mandarin-speaking waitstaff (who, when Restaurantarama was there, were also responsible for seating patrons).

The search is on

In other restaurant hiring news, Michael Keaveny’s Italian bistro, Tavola, is looking for a new manager. “Our current manager is going toward a sales position,” he says. “He wants more daytime hours.” A restaurant manager can log up to 60 hours per week; the position at Tavola requires the manager to be in the dining room each night, plus bookkeeping and the training and scheduling of other staff members. Sixty hours? That’s almost as much time as Restaurantarama spends doing field research (read: using this column as an excuse not to make dinner at home). 

Care for a coupon?

Good news for your wallet: Retail Me Not, a website for frugal shoppers, is currently featuring more than 20 coupons that you can print out and redeem at local restaurants. You can find deals from 12th Street Tap House, McGrady’s Irish Pub, Revolutionary Soup and more. Talk about a way to whet your appetite. Go to http://tr. im/QCkI for a complete list.


Albemarle County resident Yolondo Arvizu was arrested and charged with malicious wounding Saturday night after stabbing a patron of The Box outside the restaurant. Arvizu and the victim were in an argument, according to city police Sergeant. F. Ocheltree. 

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