I really like food. I adore really good food. Since the last couple of weeks has been about good food and some of Charlottesville’s rather Anglophile traditions I have been fatly happy.
It all began on Friday the 22nd with a business dinner at Fleurie, one of Charlottesville’s finest restaurants and a particular favorite of mine because the owner/very talented chef, Brian Helleburg, is one of the first friends I made after moving here about 2.5 years ago while working on a story for VIRGiNIA LIVING. Brian cooked up some Chinese Mystery snails for a story I wrote on invasive species and I knew right then that a guy who could make those things taste good was someone worthy of pal-dom.
The crab appetizer was divine. Served on an elegant skinny rectangular plate, substantial chunks of sweet blue crab meat swam in a shallow pool of some yummy sauce. I followed up with the venison, two tender, juicy medallions that melted in my mouth served over thinly sliced potatoes au gratin (because I don’t eat spatzel which I love but contains gluten). It is a rare meal that is prepared with such perfection and really I would marry Brian if I could eat like that everyday but I’m afraid his girlfriend might not like that.
Saturday found me at a tourist standard, Michie Tavern, on 53 on the way to Monticello. It was my sister’s birthday celebration and she wanted to eat there (she is from out of town) and visit Carter Mountain Orchard. Michie Tavern serves plain old Southern fare, like spoon bread, fried chicken and green beans boiled with ham for flavoring. I grew up on this type of food so it is hardly a delicacy for me but I can see the appeal to foreigners and the nostalgia this type of cooking holds for my sister. We sat at a long wooden table in front of a roaring fire, the perfect place to be on a chilly autumn day while being served by a woman in colonial garb. It is all quite charming.
Following the obligatory cider purchase at Carter Mountain and sufficiently celebrating my sister, I dropped my daughter off at her friend’s house to watch the season opener of DR. WHO and went for a short hike. Evening plans included dinner next to a roaring fire, this time in the bar at Keswick Hall. I adore this particular venue for cold weather dinners because one may choose from the bar menu (which offers the best truffle oil fries I have ever tasted) or the dinner menu from Fosset’s, Keswick’s more formal dining area. The bar is intimate and cozy and there is a lovely fire place to make it even cozier. I dined on muscles in tomato broth and seared brussel sprouts which were so good – just tender on the inside and slightly crunchy on the outside- that my escort, who is not particularly a veggie fan, devoured at least half of the ample serving. After dinner we sauntered across the street to the Keswick Hunt Club (my friend is a member) for the tail end of a clam bake and dance party. We danced to about 7 songs before the party shut down and it was time to head home.
Sunday I attended the final performance of BYE BYE BIRDIE at Tandem Friends School. The play was performed solely by TFS eighth graders offering a variety of skill and enthusiasm levels making the show a total hoot to watch. Director and Middle School drama teacher, Lydia Horan, is brilliantly talented and somehow is able to get these young teens to put together a pretty good show.
The next event on my calendar was Love Cannon at the Jefferson Theatre on Wednesday the 27th. I took my daughter and we delighted in the catchy, kitchy-ness of ’80’s pop tunes orchestrated to blue grass instruments. It is just such happy music one MUST move to it.
Thursday morning I experienced another horsey tradition, the Blessing of the Hounds at Grace Church in Keswick before the annual Thanksgiving Fox Hunt. People gather in front of the adorable stone church as mounted riders are blessed along with the hounds. There is a ten minute ceremony then the riders, all dolled up in their English hunting costumes, head across rt.22 to a large field, give out some awards, then when the hunt master gives the signal, begin their ride. Apparently they actually hunt wild foxes. What happens to the fox or foxes once they are caught is unknown to me and I thought it impolite to ask at the time. The event is pretty and pastoral and it is my dream to go out with them one year.
Thanksgiving dinner in Richmond at my sisters. Yum. Then on Friday, dinner of peanut soup (a personal favorite dish) and salad at TJ’s at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond before celebrating Chanukah at Virginia Rep’s production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. This was my friend, Christina’s first visit to the Jefferson (she lives in Charlottesville and her daughter, Mila shares the part of one of the daughters in the show) so I was reminded through her eyes of the splendor of the place.
It was fun to see FIDDLER during Chanukah. It just added extra meaning to the story. Va Rep even had a menorah displayed in the theatre lobby which I found quite touching and thoughtful. I enjoyed the show, particularly David Benoit’s embodiment of Tevya, the choreography and the dancing. Everyone on stage looked like they were having fun. At the end of the show, I chatted with WCVE theatre critic, the formidable John Porter, who said this was the best production of FIDDLER he had ever seen.
I laid low the remainder of the weekend, hiding from the shopping crowds venturing out (other than for long walks) only for groceries on Sunday and to be interviewed about Radio Resource (a partnership between Music Resource Center and WNRN designed to give MRC members and other high school aged kids the opportunity to generate a half-hour radio program featuring music created by local teens) before the premier of the 30 Minute Throwdown on WNRN. Damani Harrison of MRC was supposed to be on the show but he was caught up in holiday travels making it impossible for him to be there so as a coordinator of the project, I filled in. 30 Minute Throwdown is full of youthful energy and showcases some amazing young local artists. You can learn more by going to the 30 Minute Throwdown FB page. By the way, Trader Joe’s has outdone themselves with holiday treats this year, especially the caramels- go for them.
So until next week…be safe, be healthy and have fun.
The Culture Maven