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.