Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Mixed Messages

This sign is just off 64 when going toward Fork Union. What's wrong with America?

A cultural subtext readily emerges from the association of a dialysis center and a fast food joint. With an epidemic of obesity and rising rates of diabetes and hypertension, individuals with renal failure requiring dialysis must also be on the rise. So, in this one sign are two industries, one springing from the other. UVA nephrologists, dialysis equipment manufacturers, and staff meet the need of those that choose to fulfill their biologic urge to gorge on fat and sugar from a franchise more than willing to supersize them into renal failure.

Gas prices hovering around $3 suggest another glaring problem. Who cares: try the McDonald's salad.

Friday, December 14, 2007


210 W. Water Street

Either because it lies on a block with many other restaurants or its entrance isn't the most inviting, Cassis gets overlooked among downtown eateries. In the vicinity of OXO, Mono Loco, and Bang, Cassis serves up a "fine dining" experience. Four wines by the glass are available to get things started. Salads, soups, the obligatory calamari, and mussels all serve as excellent appetizers. Come to think of it, mussels almost seem obligatory on downtown appetizer lists. For lighter fare, the chevre and roasted pistacchio salad rocked. The bouillabaisse is enough food for two people. The grouper was perfectly portioned; anything with capers wins my vote. If you're adventurous, there's the venison steak. I neglected to ask how a restaurant obtains venison (farms, local hunters, roadkill?), but I like the idea of it. If it comes from out of state, should we be worried about chronic wasting disease?

The space is large, certainly not cozy, and on weeknights it can seem a little empty. But it also means that Cassis is great for large groups, even birthdays, if you're not already headed to the Melting Pot. Don't look here for that review.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Pee Wee's Pit Barbecue

Oh my god. This stuff is amazing. On Valley Street in Scottsville, currently undergoing a roadway renovation, lives a damn good BBQ restaurant. I'm not sure if this place is linked to a restaurant of a similar name in Blacksburg. The platter includes a Memphis style pulled pork sandwich topped with cole slaw and two sides. The potatos are popular and it's obvious why. What's in these? Even my mom's don't taste this good. I opted for the bacon beans, but the Mac 'n cheese is apparently the other favorite side.

Pee Wee's is looking to franchise and has the opportunity to please a lot of Central Virginians. The serving sizes won't make them any thinner.

485 Valley St
Scottsville, VA 24590
(434) 286-7744

Foxfire Farm

Buckingham County sounds much farther away than it is. Passing over the James River at Scottsville brings this faraway place closer. Foxfire Farm invites all in the run-up to Christmas for cut-your-own trees and home-made wreaths. A stand of Scotch Pines around back of the wreath factory barn and parking area offered great views of the mountains.
Beside Scotch Pines, there are Douglas Firs, White Pines, and Norway spruces. Once the tree was felled (saw provided) and carted (also provided) into the barn, the staff packaged it up and helped us secure it to the top of the Honda.
With slight trepidation, the smallish Scotch Pine made it back to Charlottesville atop our car without a hitch.

It's not the only Christmas Tree farm around, but this one visit will keep me going next year. If only they had spiked nog. For more info including a map visit Foxfire Farm.

Las Palmas Bakery

Along the one-way portion of Carlton Road, a couple blocks from Market Street, a small commercial building is filling up. It will be the future home of a beer store on the upper floor, the side facing the tracks. On the lower floor and "backside" of the building is a store with everything Mexican, a Mexican bakery, and a storefront church. The bakery houses a spare operation. The mixing was going on just behind the counter when we walked in. A loud industrial blender was making one hell of a racket. The baked goods are displayed along one wall and in a case next to the register.
Opting for a simple cinnamon & sugar number, I wasn't impressed. Having been raised on sweeter baked goods, next time I'll head to Spudnuts.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Oakencroft and Whitehall Vineyards

When the weather outside is frightful, it's a good time to drink Virginia wines. The White Hall Cab Sav 2005 is amazing. After a trip there a couple weeks ago, we picked up that and the Syrah. During wine tasting it is sometimes difficult to distinguish wines, especially a glass in, so purchases sometimes don't live up to how they tasted the first time. The Oakencroft Chambourcin, 100% Chambourcin Grape, is a good wine but was not what we thought once it came home. The Cab Sav is excellent.

A mini-trip on the Monticello Wine Trail, driving WNW from C-ville, brings one to Oakencroft and then White Hall. Oakencroft or Jefferson Vineyards are the closest wineries to town depending on where you live. Oakencroft with around 15 acres of grapes produces a strong selection of wines in contemporily designed bottles. The tasting room lies across from a pond. The narrow drive leads into a beautiful pastoral setting. Below is a view of the tasting room entrance.

White Hall is a little further out in the country, nearer to Shenandoah National Park, and therefore has better mountain views.

So a White Hall bottle of wine on a cold afternoon in December (first Sunday in Advent for the church-goers) went well with some cheese and baguette from market street wine shop and then some egg nog cookies. (2 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1 1/4 cups white sugar, 3/4 cup salted butter, 1/2 cup egg nog, 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 2 large egg yolks. 15 minutes at 325 F = yum.) The Egg Nog came from Shenandoah's Pride, at least local in concept. A look at the list of ingredients shows, however, that a gulp contains a fair amount of midwest corn in the form of high fructose corn syrup. I didn't see a brand in Harris Teeter without it. You can't win 'em all.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Henley's Orchard

This delightful, non-touristy (opposite of Carter's Mtn.) orchard offers great apples and peaches when in season. Being mid-November the harvest is basically over, but there were still some Granny Smith on sale, perfect for a Thanksgiving apple pie. (There was no one to collect the money, so a note with cash had to do.)

There are piles of old apple crates from all over the eastern United States if you look at the names, but they're not for sale.

Mr. Henley was a spokesman for the Albemarle Pippin in a previously referenced Daily Progress Article.

Between Henley's, Mount Air Farm (organic meat), Our Lady of the Angels Monestary (mail order Gouda), and White Hall Vineyards, all within a few miles of each other, quite a meal could be devised. To get to Henley's, put 1917 White Hall Road into Google Maps or head to White Hall and follow the signs during apple season. For more info on the other enterprises try White Hall's web site.

Monticello Wine Trail

At around 120 wineries in the state, Virginia is certainly establishing itselt as a producing region. The awards have followed for some of the vineyards, notably Barboursville. The Charlottesville area is fortunate to have 24 wineries that together form the Monticello Wine Trail. The fancy brochure put out under that name recommends six vineyards for four wine trails, north, south, east, and west, but six wineries in a day can lead to some rowdy groups of soccer moms and culture-seeking college students. The website offers some pared down trails of no more than five vineyards, which still seems a little excessive.

A 11/09/07 C-ville article presents the idea that supporting Virginia wineries will help resist rural development, and agritourism will help the local economy. In addition to these benefits, supporting local wines over far-flung varieties reduces the use of petroleum in their delivery. Lastly, the benefits of two glasses of red wine in reducing future risk of heart disease and Alzheimer's Disease is well documented. There's no better time than this winter to take advantage of this local resource.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Located on the west end of the mall, across from the ice park, Escafe has been serving up comfort food with a twist since 1995. The outdoor dining is a bit cramped in the warmer months, but then the doors are open to the main restaurant. The indoor restaurant consists of two rooms, one with a long bar and the other with tables and the host/hostess podium. The original pressed tin ceiling still exists.

The online menu isn't currently updated but its a close approximation. I had the salmon on risotto with a lobster bisque and a few spring asparagus. This was a popular choice at the table. The Bogle Petit Syrah 2002 was an excellent choice although mixing reds with fish isn't the recommended combo. Red wine is just better. They were out of the Gran Familia Rioja, the first choice.

The food was good, although a little strained for the prices. Airy and loud, it's a good place to start a night out on the mall or even to get drinks after hours.

227 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 295-8668

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Almost over, this festival has presented a number of documentaries from the world's current hot spots. Last night "A Lesson of Belarusian" examined the pro-Western candidates that ran for president in March 2006 and the government crackdown than ensued. The people who marched and camped in Minsk's main square on the night of the election were disbanded and arrested. One of the candidates, Alyaksandr Kazulin, still remains in jail. The Charlottesville chapter of Amnesty International was on hand as were members of an organization that brings children from Belarus, affected by the Chernobyl meltdown, to Charlottesville for six weeks at a time. Tonight and tomorrow night there will be two more movies shown in this series.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Amid the fall colors in a year promised to underwhelm due to the dearth of summer rains, the Albemarle countryside and Monticello shimmered. It may be that the recent spate of precipitation allowed the resplendence of yellows and reds to fill the rural vistas despite the gloomy predictions. Monticello, a house visited by a broad assortment of license plates and tour buses even on a sleepy Sunday in early November, amazes even after previous visits. In a time before a "grid", when the farm, in this case a Virginia plantation, was the center of civilized and therefore American life, Monticello is a reminder of how day-to-day life was. The home and grounds relay the history of the quotidian, a break from the history of battles and proclamations. Jefferson, through clever design and the application of his book learning, built a house and farm that ideally could sustain itself. Of course it was maintained with slave labor and when Jefferson died Monticello was mired in debts, but the core idea still remains. With the proper application of technology, even that without petroleum input, civilization can proceed. In a time of rising oil prices, recession talk from the Fed chairman, and fears about global warming, Monticello serves as an unrealized ideal, unrealized then as it is now, of an agrarian America, content in the fruits of its fields, its ingenuity, and its flourishing ideas.

$15 buys access to the grounds and a guided tour of the house. If a C-ville resident or student brings a guest, admittance is free.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Zinc Revisited

A recent meal at Zinc sealed its place as one of the best in-town restaurants, right up there with C & O.

The Spanish grenache served in the restaurant's glass globe cups began the meal with its silky smooth texture. Lacking the distinct language to describe wine, suffice it to say, it was excellent. The Bibb lettuce with mustard vinegarette and chevre salad proved a good beginning for the food. Sampling another diner's steak tartar on a crostini left me thinking that more of the taste came from the crostini than the steak. The frites or chips of the Fish and Chips sustained the tough hangar steak, which purportedly has the tendency to dry out or toughen if not prepared correctly. The toughness of the steak didn't keep me from enjoying it; it just took a few more chews. The fish and chips pleased two of the other diners; the duck l'orange was the winning choice of the table. Dessert saved the meal if there was any doubt. Tonight the special profiteroles in combination with a cup of coffee formed a gustatory party. The Tarte Tatin (gourmet apple pie) with creme fraiche stood as a safe, wonderful bet.

For a better description of the space, see the prior listed post.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

From C-ville to Points West

The Avon Street Bridge can offer a good view at sunset.

But heading out west, with its offerings of Joshua Tree National Park, Yosemite, and San Francisco, provides escape from reality. Even with all the stunning scenery, there's something unsettling about such a big city in the desert (Phoenix) and parched, burn-scarred pastures (So. California). Although temperatures here dip into the thirties at night, it's comforting to return to a greener part of the country. A reading of The Omnivore's Dilemma prompted consideration of the security inherent in our state's verdure. Here the foliage is maintained by rainfall, even when it wanes as it did this summer, whereas California has mounted an entire agricultural economy based on irrigation.

The book features an organic farm in Swoope, VA, Polyface farm, that provides to some area restaurants and Feast in the Downtown Market. Besides offering food free of pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics, Polyface farm strives to offer food that does not deplete the land or pollute the environment. It also produces this food within a distance that limits the amount of fossil fuel burned to get it here. Sometimes Polyface opens its doors to the public and in the next few months I plan to get there.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fox Park Coffee Bar

Behind Baja Bean and in line with the recently opened Black Cat Skate Shop and Kulture (head shop), Fox Park Coffee Bar opened under a blue awning last Wednesday. Having promised its opening since late August, NFC was eager to try the new java offering on the corner. Fox Park joins Starbucks and Higher-Grounds-in-Plan9. As for Fox Park's coffee, it's excellent. The standard cup contains a fair trade Haitian variety, available in light, medium, and dark brews. The espresso drinks also satisfy. A variety of cellophane wrapped pastries are available on the counter. Sitting is encouraged by a row of tables with metal chairs, a counter, and free WiFi. However, the lighting is a bit harsh and the walls currently bare; it needs more clutter. As a place to study Starbucks has its drawbacks (it's Starbucks); Higher-Grounds-in-Plan9 has the booths with free Wifi but could never be called cozy; its smaller space could make Fox Park the best place for reading/studying/caffeine on the corner, but instead, with its front windows, lighting, and metallic touches, it feels like a display case. Radiohead and Ben Folds made some repeat visits to the playlist. The radio (106.1 or 91.9) might be more egalitarian. All this aside, Fox Park's proximity and its amazing (quite caffeinated) product will foster repeat visits, but when I want a cozy spot on a rainy day, I'll travel downtown to the Mudhouse.

1325 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 293-3307

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wilco - 10/20/07

Wilco played a stellar show at the Pavilion on Saturday night. (All I have to show for it is a crappy picture. Yes, Tweedy's wearing a cowboy hat) The sound was incredible and the band kept playing as seen below in the 27 song set list. Between this show and the Flaming Lips last year, The Pavilion is clearly the best live venue in town.

1. Sunken Treasure
2. You Are My Face
3. I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
4. Shake It Off
5. Handshake Drugs
6. Impossible Germany
7. Sky Blue Sky
8. It's Just That Simple
9. Muzzle Of Bees
10. A Shot In The Arm
11. Side With The Seeds
12. Hummingbird
13. War On War
14. Via Chicago
15. Jesus, Etc.
16. Too Far Apart
17. Walken
18. I'm The Man Who Loves You
Encore 1
19. Misunderstood
20. Hate It Here
21. Heavy Metal Drummer
Encore 2
22. Red-Eyed And Blue
23. I Got You (At The End Of The Century)
24. Casino Queen
25. Outtasite (Outta Mind)
26. Hoodoo Voodoo
Encore 3
27. Spiders (Kidsmoke)


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Albemarle Pippin

An older text describes one of the area's claims to fame.

Along the eastern side of the blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, with Crozet near Charlottesville as center in the called the Piedmont, is another apple district from which large quantities of fine-flavored varieties are annually exported to England. The chief apples of this region are two dessert apples, Winesap and Albemarle Pippin, called after Albemarle County, Virginiia, but grown in the West under the name of Newtown Pippin. Thomas Jefferson grew this variety near Charlottesville, in Albemarle County, before the Revolutionary War, and the American minister to England in the first year of Queen Victoria’s reign, coming from that county, presented her royal highness with several barrels of Albemarle Pippins, which pleased her so much that she had the duty on apples removed; from that time to this the Albemarle Pippin has gone to England in steadily increasing quantities. It is said that where the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad crosses the Blue Ridge Mountains west of Charlottesville, one can walk along the slope of the mountain for seven miles and pass continuously from one apples orchard into the next.

Smith, Joseph Russell. The World’s Food Resources. H. Holt and Co. 1919: 385.

Having collected a few of these treasures from Carter's Mountain - among the throngs of weekend visitors - it was time to see what all the fuss was about. An ugly apple indeed, the pulp was crisp and tart but with a nice finish. As these apples supposedly age very well, the rest will be eaten over the coming weeks. According to one of the cashiers on Carter's Mountain, the drought limited this year's crop of Pippins. This weekend and the last were the only times they were being offered. In a February 2007 Daily Progress Article one of the owners of Carter's Mountain said that Albemarle Pippin demand was not rising. With a decreased harvest this year and the weekend hoards, I picked my few apples from a couple handfuls left in the bin.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Working on a Saturday

For at least a week, the above sign has been hanging askew on W. Main Street just east of Spry's Barbecue.As the Cavaliers were taking on the Huskies, city workers quickly righted it.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Mas Tapas

Since opening in 2002/2003, Mas Tapas has been joined by a number of other restaurants in the trendy Belmont neighborhood. Only a short walk from the downtown mall and with plenty of on-street parking, Mas is certainly accessible. And it is certainly another restaurant that can be added to the list when discounting Charlottesville food naysayers.

The yellow paper menu offers an ample list of dishes, either tapas size or raciones. While the chefs cook just behind the far end of the bar, the Sangria keeps the party going. For two people four tapas are reccommended. Papas bravas, plato de jamon, chuletas de cordero (lamb chops), and an apple dessert item can get things started if nothing jumps out. There is plenty of space. The outside patio is always full. Brunch receives rave reviews. There is a long bar with tables along the opposite wall. A sunken area in the back, empty during warm months, provides another group of tables.

Dinner for 2: $60

501 Monticello Rd
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 979-0990

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival

More appropriately billed as a alternative lifestyles or socially-conscious lifestyle festival, yesterday's Charlottesville Vegetarian Festival offered a chance for the area's many green and nice organizations to gather and present their ideas and wares. The parking lot (above) featured most of the vegetarian eats. Limiting myself to walkable restaurants most of the time, it was a chance to enjoy Maharaja, which offered a combination platter. Lee Park accommodated the multifarious booths and tents. C-ville Republicans and the local chapter of the NRA were not present. There were, however, primitivists, dog adoption opportunities, earth-conscious products, and Amesty International. Most of the people there were thin, many fit; all enjoyed the beautiful early fall weather.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bob Dylan - 9/27/07

Through garbled lyrics, a ban on cameras (hence the blurry shot), and an underinvolved crowd, Thursday night still offered a great show. Having missed Amos Lee altogether, the latter half of Elvis Costello's set felt more appropriate to the seated crowd. Dylan arrived on the stage amidst a strange introduction in a purple shirt/tie combo, black suit, and large-brimmed gray hat. The style of Modern Times was applied throughout the set. At times Dylan threatened to break into melody, but mostly he just growled and snarled. Seeing him a year ago, this has been the state of things at least since then. All said, he is a living legend and having another chance to see him live within walking distance from my home was well worth it. Lyrical highlights were Hard Rain and Ballad of a Thin Man, though the groove of Levee's Gonna Break sounded the best.

Set List:

1. Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat (Bob on electric guitar)
2. Don't Think Twice, It's All Right (Bob on electric guitar)
3. Watching The River Flow (Bob on electric guitar)
4. Blind Willie McTell (Bob on electric keyboard and harp, Donnie on banjo)
5. The Levee's Gonna Break (Bob on electric keyboard, Donnie on electric mandolin, Tony on standup bass)
6. Workingman's Blues #2 (Bob on electric keyboard)
7. Tangled Up In Blue (Bob on electric keyboard and harp)
8. A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Bob on electric keyboard, Stu on acoustic guitar, Tony on standup bass)
9. Highway 61 Revisited (Bob on electric keyboard)
10. Spirit On The Water (Bob on electric keyboard and harp, Tony on stanup bass)
11. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again (Bob on electric keyboard)
12. Ain't Talkin' (Bob on electric keyboard, Donnie on violin, Stu on acoustic guitar)
13. Summer Days (Bob on electric keyboard)
14. Ballad Of A Thin Man (Bob on electric keyboard and harp)
15. Thunder On The Mountain (Bob on electric keyboard)
16. All Along The Watchtower (Bob on electric keyboard)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Bobby D.

As the show approaches, the C-ville (Sept. 18-24) featured Bobby D. on its cover with a long rambling historical exposition. Unfortunately, the article chose to focus on Dylan's apocalyptic vision with lyrical examples from different periods of his career. This one-sided interpretation ignores the light-hearted sarcastic Dylan of Motorpsycho Nitemare. As expected, a C-ville feature article is not the place to present the nuances of a complex subject. Why make it the place to put forth a thesis about Dylan's darker musings by dissecting his lyrics? Just go and listen to the music. It'll blow your mind. Isn't that enough?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Spry's Barbecue

Only days ago the "opening soon" sign appeared. Without completely scrubbing the Northern Exposure from the building - the large subway map still exists next to the bar - Spry's is open for business, and Mr. Spry is the real deal. Hailing from South Carolina, he now resides in Louisa. As owner and chef, he brings authentic Carolina Barbecue to West Main Street. Staffing is short at the moment, but service was still prompt. The pulled pork Carolina Barbecue Sandwich was the best I've had. The french fries could use some work, a little cool and soggy, but for now I'll chalk that up to just opening. Guinness is one of four or five beers on top. Price for one: $13. Life is good.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Bring it on! Just as Rev Soup II and Christian's II were welcomed to the Corner, now there is going to be BBQ in the old Northern Exposure space. Carolina style, the vinegar based variety, is making its way to far West Main. What will become of the ugly Northern Exposure mural adorning the western side of the building? It doesn't really matter because barbecue is coming to the neighborhood.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Large Green Caterpillar

What is this large green caterpillar? I think it is in the sphinx or hawk moth family, but I don't know which one.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Mono Loco

Just before the free Trolley dives across the mall at 2nd St SW, it passes Mono Loco to the right, which occupies the SW corner of the 2nd St SW and Water Street corner. For a few years now, they've been serving up "nouveau-Latin cuisine", as described on their web site. Describing it as a Charlottesville south of the border experience, similar to Continental Divide's but with a more extensive menu, means more in the provinces.

There's a bar and a small indoor eating area. The largest and more popular place to eat is on the canopied patio. The website claims two outdoor patios, but it's really just one big one.

The Mushroom Tamale platter was all tamale and not enough mushrooms. The cabbage slaw makes the locos tacos de pescados worth coming back for. The Mojito tasted good, but it was light on the booze. There's a requisite selection of Mexican beers.

Mono Loco home page

200 W Water St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 979-0688

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Shenandoah Joe

Next to the new SPCA Rummage and Martin's Hardware, in the space that used to house a cleaners, Shenandoah Joe has set up shop on Preston Avenue. Offering both a coffee shop and commercial roasting, it's a welcome addition to Charlottesville's slew of homegrown coffeeshops. What enoteca offers to wine drinkers can be found here for coffee drinkers. There's a daily brew, but some special cuppings have occurred. I didn't know what a cupping was until the recent roasting and serving of Cup of Excellence Guatemalan. With Shenandoah providing coffee to other places in town, restaurants and coffeeshops, it's not necessary to go to their location. But it's worth it. With free Wifi and every possible seating option including couch, lounge chairs, at small tables, at a big round table, and on bar stools, it's equally suitable for hanging out or getting work done. Mornings can be somewhat of a free-for-all; on weekday afternoons the place clears out and is bathed in the setting sun.

It's not advertised but if you bring back in the red bags for refills, they'll subtract 50 cents from the price.

Hours: M-Th: 6:30am-7pm; F: 6:30am-9pm; S: 7:30am-9pm.

945 Preston Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 295-4563

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Beta Bridge revealed

Multiple layers of paint peel back to reveal the 1921 bridge's true colors. Not quite.

Fox Park Coffee Bar

Across from the Baja Bean patio, Fox Park Coffee Bar is taking shape. A peek through the window reveals a bar lining one wall and small tables and chairs the other. It's been a while since Starbuck's Corner domination has been challenged. A new alternative is welcome. The last challenger, Espresso Royale Caffe, which was housed in the current location of Qdoba, not surpisingly closed at least three years ago. Its gross mismanagement was tempered by its commitment to selling coffee and alcohol. The ERC was also endearingly consistent: every cup of coffee came with grounds in the bottom.

Christian's on the Corner

Expanding from its 2nd St. SW and East Main location, Christian's joins another 2nd St. SW occupant (Rev Soup) in moving to the corner. By coincedence and the restrictions of available real estate, these two franchises are again next to each other.

Christian's, previously lauded in these posts, replaces Amigo's, a Mexican restaurant that lost out to the less authentic Baja Bean.

According to the woman who waited on me at the Downtown Christian's today, the Corner location opened yesterday, but the above picture seems to tell otherwise. The facade may be one of the ugliest on the corner, the porch a garish color, but if they serve the same pizza as downtown Christian's, they'll have no trouble staying in business.

June 3, 2007 review

Also check out the pizza round-up.

1. 118 W Main St
(434) 977-9688

2. 100 14th St NW
(434) 872-0436

3. 1880 Abbey Rd
(434) 293-6750

Caught in the Light

The promotional photo being used for the upcoming show is rather odd.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bob Dylan in Charlottesville

This was first noted in the Daily Progress August 20, and tickets can already be purchased. This show, also headlining Elvis Costello, will sell out. It would have been nice to have a little more lead time. I wonder if Robert Zimmerman will eat at the Virginian like the Stones did.

On August 23 Starr Hill Presents announced the show in one of their promotional emails, saying tickets were going on sale August 25 at 10 AM. The tickets were available earlier through Dylan's website.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Pizza Pie

Charlottesville pizza joints number 19 in the recent Hook Annual Manual. One of the 19, Bambina's, used to be on the Corner but is now a sub shop. The list could use some updating and editing.

One of Charlottesville's best pizza by the slice place is Christian's. It easily may be the best, but I haven't tried every one. Then again, there don't seem to be that many. In the town center, I count Christian's, Vita Nova (awful, see below), Pizza Bolli (try again), and Cassella's as the in town pizza by the slice options.

Tonight at Christian's the line was out the door and in this larger eatery, that's quite a wait. Still, nothing beats a slice of cheese with oregano and hot peppers. Their complimentary water comes with a lemon or lime. This to me makes the perfect snack.

I mentioned Pizza Bolli before in the earlier Christian's post. My opinion hasn't changed. This place didn't make the Hook 19.

If a slice of cheese is the best way to judge a pizza place, Vita Nova also has to get poor marks (also not on the list). On the DTM in the building with the strangest facade, the one with the elevator tube, their slice of cheese was too crispy on the top, and the excessive cheese didn't hide the doughy bottom crust. Skip it if you have the patience to wait in a long weekend Christian's line.

The list of 19 includes establishments best described as Italian, and they do get double billing in that section. For example Al Dente, Brick Oven, Carmello's, Ragazzi's (ugliest restaurant award), and Sal's are clearly Italian restaurants. They may have pizza on the menu, but they aren't pizza places.

For the whole pie Anna's Pizza #5, Dr. Ho's, and Mellow Mushroom rock. Hopefully I'll have more to say about them in the future.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Continental Divide

The easiest restaurant to ignore on West Main Street, despite the sign, has been in place since 1994. Continental Divide specializes in Tex-mex food and tequila. A narrow, sometimes noisy space, in the style of the Virginian, it can get crowded and waiting for a table is common. Large booths along the wall opposite the bar comprise the majority of the seating but you can also sit crammed along the front window. "Too small, too noisy, too busy, too bad," says the t-shirt.

The Santa Fe enchilada wins for presentation and taste. The Yucatan pork tacos equal pulled pork barbeque a la Mexico. A good list of Mexican beers from Corona on down is available if a margarita isn't what you want. The widely heralded margarita isn't the least bit syrupy; it's just damn good. There is a wide array of tequila available but the house margarita is just fine.

I strongly recommend splitting an entree with someone unless you want to take home half your dinner. The servings are enormous, not to different than Mono Loco. A plate of nachos and a bean and cheese burritos dinner was enough to feed myself and one other.

Price for two: $20-40
Price for three: $35-50

811 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 984-0143

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ash Lawn Opera

Hot and humid, two words inseparable in Virginia this time of year, certainly could be applied to tonight's performance, the last of the year. As the performance started at eight, the vocalists began battle with the cicadas, who, by nightfall, quieted.

Two and a half miles past Monticello, the tree-lined lane to the main house couldn't be more picturesque. After a few curves it gives way to a field of cars and trodden, singed grass (this is August in Virginia). Seated in tight rows hemmed in by bushes, the first half presented a recognizable tune and a few budding relationships. The second half occurred while I was riding home. In trotting out an old warhorse, the opera world hopes to win new converts and entertain those who keep coming back. The guy next to me had seen La Boheme nine times. In the end, however, it's not for everybody.

Check it out for yourself at .

Java Java

With two locations on the downtown mall (top) and along Ivy Road (with Subaru Outback and Porsche), Java Java serves up coffee for serious people. This is a working coffee shop, as opposed to the Mudhouse, which is really for hanging out. The DTM location is arranged into multiple echoey rooms that discourage raucous conversation, while the Ivy Java Java (above) is one big room. A laptop seems to be necessary for entry at both locations. The free Wi-fi encourages this arrangement. Not for getting to know someone on a first date, Java Java serves the needs of those entering the final push before finals or drafting TPS reports.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Michael's Bistro

Above Little John's and next to Plan 9, in front of the Satellite Ballroom, whose rear is wonderfully brought up by Thai Curry, is Michael's. The dark steps inside the entrance, warm in summer, especially during this last week, hardly hint at what lies above. A small bar is tucked away in the corner and the rest of the space is on two levels. Up a couple stairs, there are booths along the far wall. The center area is perfect for larger groups. And for those who can wait or are lucky enough there are four small tables on the outside porch that, if weather permitting, are the best seats on the Corner. For the Corner, this is an excellent place for dinner and a drink.

Featured above is a sample of Portobello Napoleon. The bottom layer is potato croquette-like, then portobello, sauteed spinach, all topped with tomatoes and goat cheese. It wins points for presentation.

The bison burger isn't for everyone, but to some it is a much tastier burger. A gourmet cheeseburger always hits the spot when a hearty meal is desired. Frenchfries, check.

Beers here, as remarked upon in an earlier post, are various and wonderful. Now they have the two-hearted IPA on draught (or draft) which wins fans when quaffed. The waiter recommended this over Guinness. I probably would have favored the Guinness, but there's always next time.

Dinner for 2: $55

1427 University Avenue
(804) 977-3697

Monday, August 6, 2007

Columbus Day Cville

Come October, this looks like an engaging weekend of events.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Chiles Peach Orchard

From late June through August, this is the place for local peaches. Peach picking turns out to be the hotter, more humid, buggier version of apple picking, but the results are no less rewarding. Peach ice cream is available some weekends. There are also sweet cherries (early Junes) and Strawberries (mid-May through mid-June). Other fresh produce is available in season.

To get there, take 250 west. Bear right on 240 toward Crozet. At the four-way stop just past Crozet Pizza, take a left under the train bridge. Take a right on 691 and the orchard is down on the left.

After going to the country to eat a lotta peaches, travelling a little farther down 691 brings you to the few buildings that constitute Greenwood. At the crosswoods there is an antique store where the prices are reasonable and they aren't averse to bargaining.
Chiles also offers amazing strawberries when in season.

If you want to check it out further, Chiles shares a website with Carter Mountain and other local orchards.

Kelle and George

The origin of this sign was originally unclear until I received some help (See comments). It can be seen to the west when walking on 3rd Street SE between the downtown mall and Water Street. Keller and George is a local jewelery store founded in 1875, which is now located on Millmont Street behind Barracks Road Shopping Center. The electrical line run up for an architecture firm supplanted the "R" after it changed hands.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

City of Charlottesville

I've added the city's website to my hometown links because there is some really useful information on there. For example, even the history of my present neighborhood is included. The search function was helpful in unearthing this important history. The manner in which the Wertenbaker house is often honored (by the detritus of parties and college life flowing down its front steps) is not mentioned in the city's historical notes.

UVA construction

Any current survey of the UVA hospital and the neighborhoods around it reveals a surfeit of construction sites. Just off W. Main Street a parking garage has sprouted within the last month. Made of prefabricated concrete slabs, it is still in the process of expanding. A stroll down 11th Street SW makes it clear how much farther this parking garage has to grow.

At the corner of Crispell and Monroe a luxury apartment is nearing completion.

The South Lawn project has created a muddy slope and pedestrian walkways through yards.