Darden students launch Caribbean-inspired juice line, boutique wine bar replace Toro’s Tacos and more local restaurant news

Laka Richardson and Julian Wright give out samples of Caribe Juice, which is made with fruits imported from the Dominican Republic. Photo: Michael Johnson. Laka Richardson and Julian Wright give out samples of Caribe Juice, which is made with fruits imported from the Dominican Republic. Photo: Michael Johnson.

Darden students and Dominican Republic natives team up to create line of Caribbean-inspired juice

Why did the Darden students cross the border? To bring back tropical fruits for a new line of local juice, obviously.

When Luis Solis took a trip back home to the Dominican Republic earlier this year, his buddy and Darden classmate Julian Wright came along with him and raved over the fresh fruits and fruit juices that Solis grew up on. They both noted the lack of authentic Caribbean-style juice in the states, and a light bulb went off. A couple months later, after they teamed up with Dominican native Ramon Savinon and took a leave of absence from school to pursue a new company, bottles of Caribe Juice began hitting the shelves in Charlottesville.

Available at places like Whole Foods, the Blue Ridge Country Store and the Pie Guy, Caribe Juice is a cold-pressed juice made with fruits imported from the Dominican Republic. Each bottle contains only one type of fruit—either passion fruit, guava, acerola cherry or star fruit—and is 10 percent “miracle plant” aloe vera, which is known for helping digestion.

“We try to keep the flavor as authentic as we can,” said Laka Richardson, a Hawaii native who joined the team shortly after arriving in Charlottesville this summer. “They’re all single-fruit juices, made with tropical fruits that are hard to find in the states.”

Caribe certainly isn’t the first line of cold-pressed juices to originate in Charlottesville. But Richardson said they’re not competing with other Charlottesville-based juice companies like Lumi and Juice Laundry, which produce fruit-and-veggie combo juices that can serve as meal replacements.

“It’s more grab and go, have it with your meal or as a snack,” Richardson said of Caribe. “There’s been a shift from soda, and people want to know what they’re putting into their bodies. There’s so much nutrition to be gained from fruits, so if it can be consumed easily in a liquid, why not?”

The one thing they don’t love about the juices that remind them of home, Richardson said, is the sugar and calorie content. So they’ve been experimenting with natural sweeteners like stevia, and a few lower-calorie juices have made their way to the stores.

As for other products, Richardson said they’re focusing on the four original ones for now, but vegetable juices and smoothies could be in the future.

“The juice industry changes so often, so I can definitely see it,” she said.

Caturra’s out of the bag

While the mystery surrounding the closing of Toro’s Tacos on the Corner is no closer to being solved, the future of the space is becoming clear. Cafe Caturra, a boutique wine bar and small plates spot with current locations in Richmond, Midlothian and Cary, North Carolina, is moving in, according to a source at the Richmond location, though few details are available at this point and co-owner Dexter Brown did not return C-VILLE’s calls by presstime.

The menus at Caturra’s existing locations vary; all three offer sandwiches, salads, tacos and tapas, but the Cary outpost also serves up Neapolitan-style pizzas. Meanwhile, highly anticipated local Neapolitan pizza joint Lampo has yet to open for business.

The Toro’s Tacos storefront was unchanged at presstime, though several people were moving supplies out of the building. No one involved in the clean-up was willing to offer details.

Pantops panoply

The Starbucks-anchored development across Rolkin Road from the Giant-anchored shopping center on Pantops is on track for completion in February 2015, according to Edward Kimple, senior vice president of Thalhimer real estate development firm. Kimple said after the center is completed in mid-February, he expects both Starbucks and Chipotle to be operating in two to three months. No word on the timeline for the strip mall’s third food-service tenant, Jersey Mike’s Subs.

Kimple said the development, which has caught the requisite flack for contributing to traffic in an already heavily trafficked corridor, has also signed a fourth tenant. Kimple wouldn’t give the name of the store but said it was a “service-use retailer.”

What’s left after those four businesses take residence is about 3,500 square feet worth of space, which Kimple said could house one or two more tenants.

Giant cans of beer

For decades, only the biggest beer producers could produce the biggest cans of beer. If you saw someone sipping a 24-ounce brew, perhaps disguised by an ever-so-discreet paper bag, you pretty much knew it was a Bud or Natty Ice. How far canning technology has come.

Wild Goose Canning out of Boulder, Colorado, has custom-fabricated two automatic canning lines for small craft brewers. One of those is installed at Charlottesville’s own Champion Brewing Company. Champion’s new line can crank out the brewery’s flagship products in 12-, 16- or 24-ounce cans. Missile IPA, Killer Kolsch and Black Me Stout will continue to be available in the standard 12-ounce packaging, and the brewery has commemorated the installation by packaging its Stickin’ In My IPA, a rye India pale ale, in 24-ounce bomber cans. And just so craft beer lovers don’t feel left out, paper bags with the Stickin’ In My Rye logo are available for a limited time.