Sunday, April 19, 2009

Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida
Tis the season. This is a pink cultivar in a front yard on Wertland Street.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Catering to the undergraduate eater and budget, Lemongrass is located on 14th Street underneath the corner parking garage. It makes the most of a triangle shaped cave.

The food is quite good, although don't get carried away with the spiciness scale. Dinner is comfortable and delicious at 3/10 peppers. 5/10 peppers took the fun out of it. I appreciate a wall of flame or a wall of unpleasant meals, but I don't have any desire to appear on one. If you have any aversion to MSG, this isn't the place.

The Mango Tofu is what I get regularly. It's consistently delicious and takes the guesswork out of a take-out dinner. There's always the old standby Pad Thai.

104 14th St NW
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 244-8424

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


A block from the mall and a block from vinegar hill, this place is perfect for grabbing a beer before or after a movie. The wood-lined bar and frequent live piano player add to the draw. They also have larger acts many nights of the week.

The restaurant offers southern Italian food. The entrees are mostly pasta and meat dishes. No one of a party of 7 was disappointed. The meatballs were flavorful. They bent over backward to accommodate a severe food allergy which is not always the case. A big table in the bar sits large parties along two pews. The restaurant proper is attached to the bar. Its brick walls mark it as the older structure. According to the menu history it dates back to the 1850's.

A bubblemaker lives on the roof over the main entrance.

200 W Market St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 979-4279

Monday, April 13, 2009

Black Maple

Acer nigrum

After feeding yellow-bellied sapsuckers on warm winter days and squirrels with its buds, this black maple's green flowers bloomed ahead of its leaves this month.

Wertland Street near its intersection with 12th Street.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eastern Redbud

Cercis canadensis

Seeming to be everywhere right now, this eastern redbud blooms along Wertland Street. It is also called the Judas tree because legend has it that an Old World relative served as Judas Iscariot's gallows. Three white cultivars reside next to 1222 JPA.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poplar Forest

Jefferson went all out when he built his octagonal retreat near Bedford VA. It's a square within an octagon with paired stairwells, chimneys and outdoor privies. The tour guide was serious about the house and all the work the Corporation for Jefferson's Poplar Forest has done for the property. Like any old house, there was a fire and multiple owners, who didn't always share Jefferson's symmetric vision. With all this havoc over the last 200 years, there's been plenty of restoring to do. The Corporation has gone to great lengths to restore the house to what Jefferson intended. Currently the house is being renovated in stages which provide examples of every stage of the process.

One of the more interesting facts is that the fire was probably a product of Jefferson's obsession with symmetry. He ran one of the flues from the center room at an angle so it would meet up with one of the four chimneys. It is believed that accumulated soot and debris in the non-vertical flue caught on fire spreading to the house.

On each side of the house T.J. had a mound built. They were popular in Europe at the time. There are mounds like them at the White House called Jefferson's Mounds.

View from a mound To get there from Charlottesville take 29 South to 460 W. Continue for 14 miles. Take a right on T.J. Road (811). Turn right on Bateman Bridge Road (661) which leads right to it. There are signs along the way.

For those more accustomed to Jefferson's Charlottesville area architecture, such as Monticello, UVA, even the Barboursville ruin, Poplar Forest is the place where Jefferson elevated the artistry of a building over its utility, hence the fire.

The New York Times recently had something to say about Jefferson's two Virginia residences.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

LOTUS in Yogaville

At some point I'm going to make a list of must-see places around Charlottesville and this will certainly be on it. Like the Blue Ridge Tunnel, I waited too long to visit Yogaville.

We loaded up on BBQ at Pee Wee's Pit before driving over the James toward LOTUS. After about 10 miles on 20, take a right on 655. Turn right on 601, then a left on 604. You can't miss the entrance.

The drive there is very different from the drive between C-ville and Scottsville. Buckingham County has more trees and less open pasture land. It reminded me of driving through Louisa County, which probably means that it looks like a lot of Central Virginia counties. One stretch of road on the way to the shrine curved through the middle of a clear cut wasteland. Trailers and small homesteads appear around almost every bend. Once you get to the entrance, it truly feels like the middle of nowhere.

Past the entrance there's a split road with driving on the left side. The narrow curving road leads to this view.

Buckingham County's Taj Mahal

Silence is requested between the elephants and the shrine. The inside of the shrine is split into two levels. The bottom level has some information about the world religions since this is the light of truth universal shrine. Upstairs doesn't disappoint. Twelve neon lines lead up to a glowing pink cylinder at the apex.

For a really crazy day, you could get a Christmas Tree and visit a shrine, or just head to Scottsville and keep driving.

Kyp Malone as Rain Machine

After months of not checking this blog, I was looking for something to do on Friday. I was surprised to find that Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio was playing at the Bridge. He performs under the name Rain Machine and was here for the opening of Adriana Atema's art show. As you can see from the example behind Mr. Malone the art consisted of colorful portraits of people she knows. Mr. Malone had his own circle of wood stage right.

The music was sparse and vocals driven. His voice was recognizable from listening to TV on the Radio. Stripped to just his voice and a few chords, the sound was haunting at times. It only took a few bars to know that coming out for this short set was worth it. The relaxed small setting, the first few rows sitting Indian style, was perfect and very Charlottesville.

A sideshow developed when Zach the inebriated banjo player was invited to improvise. A portrait behind him was in danger until it was removed. It distracted from what Rain Machine was up to but he seemed to roll with it. All in all, I was thrilled to make it to this show/art opening.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mellow Mushroom

College town pizza meets perfection at Mellow Mushroom.

For the after-five crowd, there are plenty of empty tables and happy hour beer prices. If it rains beers are half price. A huge sign by the bar says it is so. (I would love a framed print of that sign.) The draft beer selection is extensive. One time a bartender explained that the beer even tastes better at mellow mushroom because the lines are cleaned out every three days. I don't know if this is true anymore, but it sounds good. Also, Guinness is from heaven at the Mellow Mushroom.

Depending on what you're looking for, you may want to avoid late night. There sometimes aren't enough seats to go around. Trivia night is especially popular. On warm days, their outdoor seating offers some of the only patio dining on the corner, although it's not the old corner. Michael's Bistro's balcony will always be the best.

Having found the Kosmic Karma pizza, I've never veered from it. It's as heavy a vegetarian pizza as you can get. Half a small is definitely a meal. The crust is incredible. I'm partial to the thin crust sparseness of a slice of Christian's, but there's a place for bloated calorie-packed Mellow pies.

Even without the psychedelic trappings, Mellow Mushroom would do well in any college town.

1321 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 972-9366

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wertland Street Shenanigans

This TP'd house and post-it noted car (Click picture for larger image) appeared on Wertland Street this AM. April Fool's?