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.