Readers' night out: Books for food lovers


(Photo by Andrea Hubbell)

Book clubbers know that the ante’s been upped in terms of food. No longer does slapping a brie wheel and some boxed wine down on the coffee table suffice. Good books and good company deserve good food, so treat your monthly book club meet-up as a well-deserved night out and relish the eats at one of these local restaurants that hosts groups most graciously.

Upstairs at The Local gives readers room to spread out and speak up over delights like pomegranate gimlets and beef and pork empanadas with Caromont goat cheese, lime crema, and heirloom tomato relish. Share a banana split if the conversation’s on a roll.

There’s nothing like a big pot of melted cheese to bring a group together. The Melting Pot’s large tables and perfectly shareable fondue requires little decision-making beyond wine color. The chocolate fondue will provide a happy ending even if your book doesn’t.

Maya’s second floor space, specialty cocktails, and à la carte sides makes for an ideal place for members of a group to come and go ordering in stages without spending a lot. Keep the Moonshine Punch flowing and the hushpuppies coming and you’re bound to inspire a passionate discussion.

Two bars and three floors give West Main plenty of nooks and crannies for groups to convene (and even get a little rowdy) over beers and casual fare like veggie quesadillas, a sampler of sides (like fried okra and sweet potato fries), or multiple takes on a crave-worthy burger.

A large brick oven at Fry’s Spring Station means 22 pizzas can cook at once so book worms will have slices of the wild mushroom and carnivore pies in their hands before they even get to Chapter Two. Specialty martinis and well-priced wines will keep the chat well-lubricated.—Megan Headley

Eat these words
Virginia Festival of the Book dives into the culinary realm at noon on Friday, March 23 at New Dominion Bookshop when two authors discuss their books about great restaurants, great chefs, and great food.

Margo Solod’s Cuttyhunk: Life On The Rock: A Memoir with Recipes details her 15-year stint as chef and innkeeper of The Allen House Inn on the tiny island off the Massachusetts coast. From fish tales to staff folly, she writes with a narrative voice as appetizing as the recipes she includes. As for her favorite coastal meal? “I suppose it would be almost any fish caught within three hours of cooking, prepared simply, and not overcooked. Which means I almost never eat fish—except on my trips back to Cuttyhunk,” she said.

N.M. Kelby’s Truffles In Winter is a poetic, epicurean love story that speculates on the final year of legendary gourmet Auguste Escoffier’s life, as he pens his memoir and tries to recapture the love of his wife, Delphine, through the creation of a namesake dish. When asked about our present chef-dom, Kelby said, “Thomas Keller honors food in the same way Escoffier did. His dishes illuminate food. Each plate is elegant—a seemingly simple presentation—and elevates the purity of the ingredients into the divine.”—Tami Keaveny

Best sellers
If you’re hosting book club at home, take some help from take-out and get creative by matching your book’s theme to your spread.

The Help: Mix up a pitcher of mint juleps and serve Wayside’s fried chicken, green bean casserole, and cornbread with (or without) Chandler’s chocolate cream pie.

Eat Pray Love: Offer flutes of prosecco with a spread of antipasti and fresh ravioli from Mona Lisa Pasta with a pint or two of Spendora’s gelato for dessert.

The Joy Luck Club: Pick up a few bottles of Virginia Viognier to offset the heat of Peter Chang’s fragrant and fiery cuisine.

The Kite Runner: Kabob Palace (where Carmello’s used to be) will deliver the most authentic Afghan food around, and either abstain from alcohol (as the Muslims do) or go with beer.

Julie & Julia: All of HotCakes gourmet-to-go offerings would make Julia Child proud, and take a page out of Julie’s book by shaking up her favorite gimlets.—M.H.

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