This might be the best lunch under $10 in Charlottesville. Fresh turkey, local bacon, creamy goat cheese, crispy & tart apples, peppery arugula, sweet apple butter, and spicy garlic aioli-- all on crumbly & wholesome sunflower-wheat toast. The sandwich's name evokes an Eden-like perfection, but hints at how sinfully delicious this can be...
Foggy Ridge 'Handmade' hard apple cider
Cidermaker Diane Flynt has an unwavering commitment to high-quality cider, epitomized by her 'Handmade' expression from apples grown in the Blue Ridge Mountains. All of the fresh apple aromas in this sparkling cider bring out the apple elements in the sandwich. This cider is also a great way to wash down a hearty meal John Adams-style, who drank a tankard of cider every morning with breakfast.
Mas - Chef Tomas Rahal
A great tapa is one of life's simple pleasures. These sweet & savory morsels are always on my list of things to try for anyone visiting Charlottesville. Mas has a wide array of tasty, fresh tapas, and while I've never left food on any plate I've ordered, there are a few of their specialties that stand out above the rest... like these dates. They come to you right from the oven in a cast iron skillet, the bottom snapping and crackling with lava-hot bacon drippings. The most difficult part about eating these is the 5 minutes they sit in front of you while you wait for them to cool down-- but on a cold and snowy day in February, a steaming skillet of bacon-wrapped dates is one of the best ways to warm up.
Crisp bubbles are one of the best ways to wash down anything with bacon fat. Since 1881 the family has been making wine, and their contributions toward viticulture and vinification have made a great impact on Cava production over the 20th century. A staple on Mas' awesome wine list, this is a great go-to glass selection that will pair so well with just about any tapa.
Dr. Ho's Humble Pie
Ok, this might be slightly outside of Charlottesville, but it is close enough to be a part of Charlottesville's pizza lore, so here it is: The mushrooms are local, the crust is fresh, crunchy, & chewy, the staff is sassy, the beers are freezing cold, and you can play magnetic scrabble at the tables-- could this be America's ultimate pizza house? It's definitely worth the 15 minute drive outside of Charlottesville proper.
Brasserie de la Pigeonelle 'La Loirette' (Touraine, France)
This farmhouse ale from the Loire Valley is a great treat with pizza-- it's not too funky or feral (as some farmhouse ales can be), but it still has some body and earthiness to it, making it an excellent pairing with mushroom pizza.
Perfectly cooked chocolate chip cookies with just the right amount of crunchiness and chewiness, made into sandwiches stuffed with vanilla icing..... This would satisfy even the most discerning Sweet Tooth. The sugar rush mixed with a little coffee makes for a great mid-day pick-me-up.
Locally roasted coffee from The Mudhouse is always fresh, rich, and tasty. This coffee shop fuels most of the local business on Charlottesville's downtown mall, and it has also played a hand in writing countless college papers (there are always several students studying in the cafe). The baristas are seasoned professionals who know how to have fun-- and they pull great shots.
May: Olive Oil Cake
Parallel 38 - Chef Alfredo Malinis Jr.
This tasty and moist olive oil cake comes to you with a giant ball of goat cheese ice cream balanced on top.
Neudorf chardonnay (Nelson, NZ)
Neudorf chardonnay grapes are from a special clone with hen & egg symptoms. The big ripe berries in the bunches give the wine its lush richness while the small unripe berries add a pop of bright acidity. The combination is mellowed in oak, and the dense with with hints of vanilla and peach brought out the best in the olive oil cake.
Citizen Burger Bar
Citizen Burger Bar, a new burger joint on Charlottesville's historic downtown mall, serves satisfying burgers and fries and has one of the most extensive and well-procured beer lists in town. Sometimes it's the simple things, and when you have a protein craving there is nothing more satisfying than this local mushroom & Swiss burger with simple fries and a beer.
Lagunitas DayTime Ale (dry hopped)
The bright lemony-pine flavors you get from dry-hopped beers practically jump out of the glass. This lively beer acted as a type of palate cleanser between each rich bite of the meaty burger.
Charlottesville Farmer's Market
A late-summer visit to Charlottesville's farmers market will lead you to stroll by the tents of several local farmers. The produce at Radical Roots always stands out: they are hard-core organic farmers, they have one of the most incredible heirloom tomato programs I've ever seen, and the quality of produce is pretty hard to beat. Grab a bag of fresh-cut arugula and a hand full of tomatoes, then all you need is a little olive oil & salt to finish one of the best meals of your life.
Shafer Frohlich 'Felseneck' GG riesling 2010 (Nahe, Germany)
All the herbaceous and complex savory aromas you get from the natural yeast riesling ferment pairs perfectly with a warm, sun-ripened tomato picked a few hours prior from the organic fields at Radical Roots farm. This is one of the loveliest rieslings on the planet, and to have it with something so fresh and vibrant as a sun-warmed heirloom tomato is pure joy.
August: House Made Corn Tortellini with Mushrooms
The Red Pump - Chef Todd Grieger
The Red Pump opened in the summer of 2014 on Charlottesville's historic downtown mall. This tortellini dish from their opening menu was an incredibly memorable way to experience the freshest corn of the season.
Giacommo Fenocchio 2013 arneis
The oily richness of arneis against the sweet burst of perfectly ripe corn kernels and the earthiness of fresh mushrooms created one of the most hedonistic food and wine pairings I've had in a long time.
The Clifton Inn - Chef Tucker Yoder
This is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted in my life. Chef Yoder's house-made ramen noodles with a tasty pan-seared maitake mushroom satisfied the most limbic desires with its beauty, simplicity, and tastiness. Though Chef Tucker has recently left The Clifton, his ramen is something to follow wherever he may land.
Lopez de Heredia 'Tondonia' 2002 (Rioja, Spain)
The old-school wines from Lopez de Heredia are released when ready, and exhibit the earthy side of tempranillo. This 2002 went perfectly with the mushroom and noodles.
Brookville - Chef Harrison Keevil
On one of the first crisp days of fall, it seemed as if the entire city was out strolling on Charlottesville's downtown mall. This type of morning was perfect for a lazy brunch, and perfect for a B.F.P., which truly is a gigantic, 'big fluffy pancake' (see the quarter for size comparison). The middle-- saturated with maple syrup and butter-- contrasted the crunchy, fluffy edges.
Virginia Fizz mimosas
A delightful reminder that a good brunch can set the tone for a whole season, the fresh squeezed orange juice topped with Thibault-Janisson's sparkling chardonnay, 'Virginia Fizz,' was a simple pairing for this perfectly-cooked, huge pancake.
Palladio - Chef Melissa Close-Hart
Chef Close-Hart is changing restaurants and will soon be running an eatery in Belmont; but in her final months at Barboursville Winery's Palladio Restaurant she made this delicious dish. The braised lamb shoulder was wrapped in a flaky dough and served with a licorice sauce that brought out all the anise aromatics of the Barboursville 'Octagon' 2010.
Barboursville 'Octagon' 2010 (Barboursville, Virginia)
2010 was a groundbreaking and benchmark year for Virginia wineries. It was one of the few years in the last decade when most of the state had a beautiful vintage (previous vintages were marred by drought, rains, earthquakes, and hurricanes). Barboursville's 'Octagon,' a reserve Bordeaux-style blend, has long been a bellwether for quality wine in Virginia, and the 2010 was complex and rich, with a bright acidity that balanced this hearty dish in a great way.
Petit Pois - Chef Brian Jones
Caramelized onions, beef broth, toasted baguette and local McClure 'Swiss' cheese-- when French onion soup is done right it can be one of the most delicious bowls of soup on the planet. It's great for all involved.... except the dishwasher.
Ar Pe Pe 'Rosso di Valtellina' 2012 (Lombardia, Italy)
The smooth tannins of the Ar Pe Pe nebbiolo married perfectly with the meaty beef broth, and the bright acidity cut through the bubbling and crunchy Swiss cheese. The wine is delicious on its own, but with a hearty dish like this it became something truly unforgettable.
*note: I write Petit Pois' wine list, so I feel ethically compelled to state my association with this restaurant; but extended exposure to the French Onion Soup has only strengthened my resolve that it belongs on this list!