Illness and a few holiday events

In the last post, I mentioned had been/was sick.  Well, I felt better, ran around doing holiday business and work and landed right back in bed for four more days missing a few holiday parties and emerging on Saturday the 21st for a visit to Jefferson Vineyards with my dear friend Jacquie O’Connor and road tripping to Staunton with Jacquie and 7 other good pals to see THE SANTALAND DIARIES at American Shakespeare Center. It was, as usual, great fun.  I adore David Sedaris and have laughed at this monolog countless times.  After the show we all went to dinner at Emilio’s in Staunton and other than the arrangement of a private room (which, as wine was consumed and the group became quite loud, was a godsend), I cannot recommend it.  In fact at least two people in our party felt quite ill later in the evening but we had a great time anyway and next time I will make sure to get a reservation at Zynodoa, Aoli or the Mill well in advance (they were booked that night and it was inconvenient trying to find a better place to eat with a group of nine to herd).

Christmas Eve found me at Pearl’s bake shoppe picking up a gorgeous chocolate/mocha bouche de Noel for an afternoon tea party at some good friend’s in Richmond then off I went with my daughter in tow to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art to see the Hollywood Costume Exhibit.  I bought her a membership to the VMFA for part of her Christmas present (the student membership cost the same as her admission to the exhibit) which turned out to be a brilliant idea.  She felt very grown up having her own membership and she actually squealed with glee at some of the costumes she saw worn by a few of her idols like Edward Norton and Robert De Niro (she has strange taste for a 13 year old) plus she discovered some new films and actors.  She thanked me profusely for taking her to the exhibit as we enjoyed a coffee and a ginger ale in the Best Cafe. My favorite costume was one worn by Ginger Rogers, a sequined number with mink on the back of the skirt.  The exhibit leaves in early February (I think) so get there soon- this is the only east coast stop. After tea and carol singing at my friend’s, Sam (my daughter) and I went to my favorite Indian restaurant, Lehja for Christmas Eve dinner.  As usual, Sunny and his staff offered up good service and good food warming us on a chilly night and fortifying us for the drive back to Cville to feed our cat, Norton (yes, named ofter Edward Norton- told you my daughter is a fan) and wait for Santa. I had the corn soup for a starter and we split the Saag Paneer for our entree.  Lehja simply has the best Saag Paneer I have ever tasted, a spinach and cheese dish that means Indian comfort food to me.

We spent Christmas at Keswick Hall where we dined with several members of my extended family.  Talk about decking the Halls, Keswick is especially festive at Christmas with loads of garland, several decorated trees and a buffet lunch with items to satisfy everyone in your party.  I particularly enjoyed the prime rib and the duck salad. I just adore Keswick Hall as a place to take visitors and simple to feel like I am in that certain part of Charlottesville that is gracious, beautiful and embodies the mood that Ralph Lauren strives for in his preppy collection.  I just always feel so at home in the lounge seated next to the blazing fire and just enjoying the sumptuous country life to which Jefferson prescribed.

Friday night found me at The Livery Stable, a new restaurant/pub on the west end of Charlottesville’s downtown mall. There is a drink featured there named something like A Russian Mule, vodka, ginger beer and something else served in a special copper mug. It is my new favorite cocktail.  I also indulged in a pot roast slider (without the bread, of course) which was so delicious I was sorry to have only one order.  Chef Felix has plans to bump up the menu in 2014 possibly including adding Korean bbq. YUM!

Saturday was a day of shopping the sales with my Mum at Short Pump- part of my Christmas present.  We shopped for hours and enjoyed a nice lunch at the Cafe in Nordtrom.  My Tuscan Salmon was pretty good and would have been better had it been served a bit warmer but overall a lovely lunch.

Sam is gone and I am basically basking in the stillness and quiet but if I do go somewhere you will learn about it next week.

Happy New Year!

Mary

The Culture Maven

PS: WNRN Culture Connect, the extended version with me and Matt Slaats, premiers on Sunday January 5th at 11:00am on WNRN. Go to worn.org to stream it.

Film, Food, MoFo’s and Ham

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Charlottesville is a cool place to live because we some big city entertainment coupled with small town living.  Last week’s big city type entertainment was the Virginia Film Festival, an event that takes over our little village attracting people from all over the country to C-ville for 100 movies in 4 days.

I for one enjoy the people watching during this event usually more than the films themselves and somehow the VFF always falls on a weekend when I have fifty other obligations, limiting my ability to participate.  So this is how the weeks shook down in terms of my Arts & Culture experience:

On Wednesday I lunched at Farm as I waited to ambush Matthew Slatts, Executive Director of the Bridge Arts Center. Farm is a sandwichy/ salady type place that offers fresh food mostly locally sourced and a good selection of beers and wine.  It is charming and the noodle salad I pulled from the ready-mades cold case was delish.  A great place for a nice lunch and plenty of sunny outdoor seating.

Wednesday night I worked on my Bachata moves at Charlottesville Salsa Club’s Bachata night at club M&M.

Thursday was the first day of the VFF- good crowd watching on the Downtown Mall.  My daughter and I went to see the Lighthouse Films since she was a student over the summer.

Friday night was a family road trip to Staunton to the American Shakespeare Center with friends to see (for me a repeat viewing, I liked it so much the first time) RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET.  Every body LOVED it and I won a raffle ticket for answering a trivia question correctly. (yeah!)  The show is in its final weeks, closing at the end of November to make room for the three Christmas themed shows presented in December.

Saturday morning found me directing traffic at the Tandem Tag Sale which was a mother load of treasures.  If you missed it this year be sure to go next year because there is always some gooooood stuff for amazing prices.

Then a visit to the VFF Family day at UVA near the Culbreth theater.  All I am saying is work is needed on this event.

The next stop was one of my fav eateries – The Flat, behind the Jefferson Theater, for crepes al fresco then to Pearl’s Bake Shoppe for apple cider donuts. The Flat make fat savory or sweet crepes and is loved for the fresh local ingredients, ample portions and great prices.  It is fast food that is truly good for you. I had a veggie on buckwheat crepe – yummy.

Saturday night found me at the Downtown Grille for a quick drink and a sumptuous crab cake appetizer before popping over to Live Arts for closing night of MOTHER F**CKER WITH A HAT. The script itself was so-so with a superfluous final scene that watered down what might have been a spectacular ending but Ike Anderson as Jackie, the central character put in a dynamic performance.

Sunday was another VFF day which culminated for me and my daughter with the documentary, BIBLE QUIZ, about a bible quiz team and the personal dynamics of said team over the course of a critical competition.  Who even knew there was such a thing as Bible Quiz?  Somebody I guess…  We liked the film and were sad we missed so many other films due to scheduling or rating issues.

Sunday night we drove to Richmond for Hamaganza rehearsal in preparation for the last Hamaganza fundraiser for Feedmore ever.  Mark your calendars for December 13 & 14 to witness what is sure to be the most debauched, sophomoric and pathetic Hamaganza of all time – because some legends deserve to go down in flames.

Hopefully things will slow down a tad this week but you just never know what invitations might pop up!

Get out there and get Cultured, Ya’ll.

Best,

The Culture Maven

At Last! Gourmet Gluten Free Cupcakes Come to Charlottesville

cupcakes from Pearl's Bake Shoppe in Richmond and now in Charlottesville

cupcakes from Pearl’s Bake Shoppe in Richmond and now in Charlottesville

Three years ago Pearl’s Bake Shoppe opened in Richmond in my old neighborhood at Libbie and Grove Avenues.  I was thrilled because they offered gluten cupcakes as a regular part of their daily assortment of gourmet cupcakes.  Not only did they offer an alternative to the rather dusty gluten free cupcakes available in Whole Foods frozen food section but they did something unusual- gourmet flavored gluten free cupcakes.  As astounding as it seems as more and more people are switching to Gluten Free diets most cupcake shops, if they offer a gf option at all, only make standard chocolate and vanilla and maybe -gasp- a carrot cake or maybe, just maybe, red velvet cake (like at cupcake queen, Candace Nelson’s Sprinkles in DC- you would think she would do better, really.) This is truly disparaging for gf foodies with a sweet tooth who adore cake. But Pearl’s offers all of their amazing cupcake flavors in gluten free versions producing one or two gourmet versions along with the standards every day.

My daughter and I were  happy in those  Richmond days to stroll over to Pearl’s on a Friday afternoon after school (she then attended St. Catherine’s whose campus is catty corner to Pearl’s) for an end-of -the-week taste treat celebration of some fabulous gf cupcake concoction.  I ordered cakes for special occasions over which all my guests raved.  The Pearl’s Bake Shoppe phone number made it onto my very special speed dial contacts list on my cell phone so I could check in at a moments notice and reserve my gf order before the list of the days cupcake menu was posted on the Pearl’s website.

Then I moved to Charlottesville…

and began to beg the owner, Laurie Blakey, to open a satellite location.

Almost every time I went to Richmond to visit friends or family or do some sort of business, I would drop by Pearl’s, buy some cupcakes and beg some more.  “Now that Trader Joe’s has come to Charlottesville,” I lamented, “my Charlottesville experience will only be complete if Pearl’s would come to town.”  I was beside myself in April when there were no retail options for gf cake or cupcakes in the area that were that were affordable and the cupcakes I ordered were yummy but not really party pretty for my daughter’s birthday celebration.

But….

Today, this most wonderful day, Pearl’s opened its doors at 711 W. Main Street in Charlottesville across from the train station!!!!!!! YIPPY!!!!

This day marks the end of my going into every other cupcake shop in town and being shot down with disdain when I request that they make gluten free cupcakes.  I will never have to hear another cupcake shop owner say, “It is just not possible for us to invest in gluten free baking.”  The days of trying to hunt down an at home gluten free baker and having to accept an order made their way rather than how I would like it are OVER!

Even Better….

Pearl’s is also carrying delectable macaroons (gf), rich moist gf brownies with or without toffy crunches, gf cheese sticks and gf cake pops and special order gf cakes in addition to their marvelous glutenous brownies, cakes, cupcakes etc.

I will be a regular.  Hope to see you there.

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