Archive for the ‘ Virginia Restaurants ’ Category


Charlottesville is foodie paradise

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Charlottesville, Virginia this summer for Rand McNally and USA Today’s, “Best of the Road.” Our mission was to find the “best food” in small town America.  What we found in Charlottesville was simply a foodies paradise. We sampled nearly twenty different Charlottesville restaurants, and, we were only scratching the surface. Below is a list of all the different places we visited, along with the videos we produced from Charlottesville.  If you have a favorite restaurant that’s not on this list, please leave a comment below and include them.

Before our Charlottesville restaurant tour even began, we visited the weekly public market where many of the local chef’s get their fresh ingredients. The “farm-to-table” moment is a mantra you’ll hear a lot of in Charlottesville.

1) Our first stop was Brookville Restaurant, where Chef Harrison prepared one of his signature dishes…fried green tomatoes.  The Brookville is closed for lunch, so we had the place to ourselves and were able to watch Chef Harrison in action.

2) After a tour of the University of Virgina campus, we headed to a great sandwich shop that caters to students, Take it Away Sandwich Shop.

3) Next was a visit to “Peter Chang’s”, where we enjoyed a signature dish made with Asian eggplant. There is an interesting story behind this elusive chef,  click here to read about it.

4) Bacon wrapped dates with some fine wine…oh my!  This was one of the dishes we had at chef Thomas Rahal’s  MAS.

5) Just a block away we hit “The Local,” which made my “Top-5 culinary picks in Charlottesville” post with its array of dining options and amazing contemporary American menu.

6) Across the street we went to a modest little place called “Belmont BBQ,” serving a catchy dish called, the “Slop Bucket.” It’s a large cup layered with comfort goodness.  First is a layer of au gratin potatoes, then a layer of baked beans, a layer of pulled bbq pork, topped off with cole slaw.  This was comfort heaven in a bucket.

7) Next door to “Belmont” was Tavola, a cozy and rustic restaurant serving Italian fair with a variety of seafood and local wines.

8. We then visited C&O where the kitchen crew works tirelessly cultivating relationships with local farmers, cheese makers, vintners and ranchers bringing the best of what’s available.

9) Across the way was “Tempo,” a chic upscale restaurant/lounge. Here we tried a variety of things, from the Lemongrass Scallops Lafayette, Spicy Tempo Shrimp to the Roasted Beets.

10) Splendora’s was a wonderful reprieve from all the eating…here we indulged in a tasty gelato palate cleanse.

11) We enjoyed some light fare at Petit Pois, with a bowl of their signature pea soup.

12) Positively 4th Street had some tasty sliders, shrimp and grits and a roasted beet salad with arugula on tap for us.

13) At Bizou we tried pan seared trout and another sampling of shrimp and grits…a southern favorite.

14) It was time for a spirit break at 9 1/2 Speakeasy, an authentic 1930s, secret prohibition-style lounge.  We tried a couple of their specialty drinks…one was called the “Betty White,” the other, the “Smokey Gentleman.”

15) The Whiskey Jar lined up three flights of varying types of Virginia whiskey for us to try. If that didn’t send us over the edge, the scrumptious freshly baked peach cobbler did the trick.

16) We had the most fantastic breakfast at the Boar’s Head Inn.  They offer an outstanding buffet as well as signature dishes presented in culinary elegance.  We indulged in the Eggs Chesapeake, Pan Roasted Salmon and the Blue Ridge Eggs Benedict.

I should mention that we also enjoyed paired Virginia wine and beer with nearly every meal. Amateur and professional foodies alike will rejoice in the vast selection and high quality culinary options in Charlottesville, Virginia.  If you’ve been to, or live in Charlottesville, leave a comment below and let my readers and me know what your favorite spot is?

Click the following link to see area and food pictures of Charlottesville.

Five top culinary picks in Charlottesville, VA

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Thomas Jefferson portrayed by: Steve Edenbro

Charlottesville, Virginia is a community rich in history, dating back to the earliest years of our fine nation.  Thanks in part to one of its most famous residents, Thomas Jefferson, Charlottesville has a vibrant culinary scene today. President Jefferson was a voracious traveler and a botany enthusiast; he established relationships around the world that ultimately created a network for seed exchange, thus making the area a hub for farming.

Mr. Jefferson is also credited for getting Americans to start eating tomatoes.  During his presidency he learned that folks feared the fruit of a nightshade plant, so he made a concerted effort to eat the versatile fruit while in public, eventually changing the unfounded perception.

Charlottesville (aka C’Ville) and the surrounding area has very fertile land, which makes it perfect for cultivating an array of crops and produce—the foundation for its “farm-to-fork” movement that the restaurant community is proud to support and embrace.

With over two hundred restaurants to choose from in this relatively small community, there can be no question these folks love good food.  During my time in C’Ville for “Best of the Road,” I had an opportunity to eat at a wide selection of restaurants…here are my top-five to try the next time you visit this culinary community.

The Local – A cool ol’ brick building with hip modifications, various dining options and contemporary American menu makes “The Local,” a world-class dining experience.  Chef Matt Hart and his team do an amazing job showcasing what the local farmers, cheese makers, breweries, distilleries and winemakers produce. Each dish tastes as good as it looks, and, the outdoor seating options accentuate the fresh theme. If you go, be sure to try:

  • Crispy shrimp tossed with a pickled ginger black sesame aioli
  • “Rag Mountain” Trout –stuffed with “Mountain View” marmac pimento cheese over corn grits with braised greens and Old Bay hollandaise

Clifton Inn - I have a fondness for boutique inns, especially ones paired with fine-dining. The Clifton Inn is without a doubt world-class “fine dining” at its best. The food, setting, and the service are impeccable.  We had the pleasure of sitting at the “chef’s counter,” which offers a unique front-row seat to a culinary cabaret.  The interactions with the chef and his team make for an experience you’ll not soon forget.

When dining at the “chef’s counter” you’re treated to a prix fixe menu, however that’s just a guide…they’ll fix just about anything you desire.  Throughout the dining experience, you ‘ll enjoy a number of “amuse bouche” in between courses served on interested surfaces, including small pieces of slate rock which adds to the visual appeal.

Brookville Restaurant - Chef Harrison Keevil of Brookville Restaurant is getting national acclaim for his cuisine that he calls, “locally conscious.” At Brookville, ninety percent of their ingredients are sourced within a hundred miles of Charlottesville, and, the menu is always seasonally inspired. Speaking of the menu, it consistently changes…so those who fear change should run for the nearest McDonald’s. Those on the other hand who enjoy experiencing creatively inspired new dishes that will send your taste buds into a euphoric sense of delight, well  you’ll love Brookville—as well as its charming second floor location in a historic building at the sloping end of the downtown square.

MAS Tapas – The layout and decor at MAS are funky and modern while being quite comfortable with a spacious and inviting patio. MAS was conceived by chef Tomas Rahal to be both an antidote to the fast-food craze and as an opportunity to feature slow, organic, artisan foods and wines with Spaniard influences.  The menu descriptions are witty and fit the overall vibe of MAS. The “Datil con tocino” (bacon wrapped dates) dish paired with a good red wine is delectable.

Tempo- Tempo is a chic upscale restaurant/lounge with European inspired influences.  The large garage-type doors open to a dynamic dining room. The focal point is an opulent bar with adjacent lounge, which is the perfect place to try the Lemongrass Scallops Lafayette, Spicy Tempo Shrimp or the Roasted Beets. Everything at Tempo is delicious and artistic.

Charlottesville has so many amazing restaurant options to choose from…it’s both a foodie’s paradise as well as a casual diner’s delight.  If you have a favorite Charlottesville restaurant, please post it below with a link to their website, I’m sure my readers will enjoy the additional suggestions.