Chef Patrick O’Connell brings his new book to Charlottesville and more local restaurant news

The Inn at Little Washington’s Patrick O’Connell will be at Caspari on October 1 to sign his new book, Magnificent Obsession. Photo: Courtesy subject The Inn at Little Washington’s Patrick O’Connell will be at Caspari on October 1 to sign his new book, Magnificent Obsession. Photo: Courtesy subject

Chef Patrick O’Connell brings his new book to Charlottesville

You may have heard the name Patrick O’Connell, the self-taught chef who’s received international accolades for The Inn at Little Washington, which he opened in an old garage in 1978. O’Connell has been referred to as “the Pope of American Cuisine,” and he and the inn have won several awards from the James Beard Foundation, including restaurant of the year in 1993. So it’s no surprise that the release of his latest book, Magnificent Obsession, is sending him all over the country for events and signings, including Charlottesville.

On Thursday, October 1, O’Connell will make an appearance on the Downtown Mall for a book signing at Caspari beginning at 5pm. We had a chance to chat with O’Connell prior to his arrival to learn a little more about this book that’s already made the New York Times Best Seller list.

“The book is really a retrospective of a life’s work,” O’Connell says. “I tend to say that it’s pretending to be a design book, but it’s really a modern day fairy tale. It’s a dream book.”

The 250-page book, complete with photographs, watercolor renderings, blueprints and recipes, reflects on the process of transforming a space, which O’Connell says is strikingly parallel to cooking. It’s about making something out of nothing, he says, which is exactly what he did with the little garage space in the middle of nowhere that has evolved into a destination inn with a world-class restaurant.

“It’s about listening to a room or a building and intuiting what it wants to be transformed into,” O’Connell says. “It’s very much akin to looking at ingredients, vegetables and creating a dialogue with them.”

The book also features details about the dinner party O’Connell and his team put on for Queen Elizabeth when she was in Virginia for the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. It was the first and only dinner party held in the Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and Magnificent Obsession includes the event’s menu so you can recreate the royal meal yourself.

“It stimulates people to get ideas,” O’Connell says. “I’ve received some of the most wonderful letters from people who felt that it inspired them to act on and explore a dream that they had that they were sort of fearful of jumping into. Reading those letters is actually better than reading somebody’s glowing review in the newspaper.”

To reserve your space to meet O’Connell and have a copy of his book signed, contact Caspari’s Adrienne Parker at 817-7880 (x5106).

Decadent developments

It’s been 15 years since Tim Gearhart opened his artisan chocolate shop in the Main Street Market, and he’ll be the first to admit he’s not one for change.

“When you make thousands and thousands of chocolates every single day, change isn’t really something that you do,” Gearhart says.

But it’s time. He recently announced his plan to move Gearharts Fine Chocolates’ production to a new spot (next to Staples in the Vinegar Hill shopping center, across from the Downtown Mall), and he promises it will absolutely be worth the change in venue.

The most frequent feedback he’s received since opening the shop in 2001, Gearhart says, is, “I wish I had somewhere to sit and eat this,” and “Can I see the kitchen?”

Not only will you be able to sit down and enjoy whatever treat you’re indulging in, but you can pair that with a mug of “the most decadent hot chocolate in town,” a glass of wine or a local beer. The new space will feature a private event room with a giant window to the kitchen. His plan is to incorporate hands-on demonstrations, birthday parties, classes and summer camps (for kids and adults) into the business.

As for the menu, expect to see all your old favorites, plus chocolate cake, torte and other pastries that Gearhart has spent the last couple months developing.

He and the team are hoping to have the new space up and running in time for the holidays. Keep an eye on the Gearharts Fine Chocolates Facebook page for updates.

German-inspired

We may be a few thousand miles away from the original Oktoberfest in Munich, but some of our local breweries are doing their best to recreate the multi-day beer-centric folk festival.

Beginning on Thursday, October 1, and running through Sunday, October 11, Blue Mountain Brewery  will offer German food specials every day, plus live music, games and other “special activities.” If you want to feel authentic in your celebration of Oktoberfest, consider popping in on Monday for a free German lesson. Other activities will include a local sausage tasting on Tuesday, cornhole tournament on Wednesday and keg toss competition on Thursday, which, yes, is exactly what it sounds like.

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, Three Notch’d Brewing Company is gearing up for a one-day Oktoberfest celebration on Saturday, October 3. Ten bucks at the door will get you a beer and a brat, and for another $10 you get a glass liter mug that you can use all day for $6 refills. And, according to the website, there will be polka music and lederhosen.