Saturday, June 20, 2009

Garden Upgrade

Last week we moved to Brooklyn. I've started the new Brooklyn version of this blog, Notes from Carroll Gardens. Here's what our patio garden looked like in Charlottesville.
Here's what we upgraded to.
Here's the back garden planted with some veggies and herbs.
Although the posts will be much less regular, please let me know if anything on here is egregiously wrong and I'll update it. The email address is at the bottom of the right column.

Thank you Charlottesville for 7 great years!

Take It Away Sandwich Shop

Take It Away is one of the Corner gourmet sandwich peddlers. The others are Revolutionary Soup and, eh, Cafe Europa. They specialize in build your own sandwiches. I favor the cut baguettes for bread, veggies, the cukes and sprouts, provolone cheese, and the special sauce which would make just about any sandwich taste good.

This place gets busy at lunch time, but the kitchen runs with the efficiency of Bodo's. They have as many drinks, bottles of wine included, as one could want. Boxes of chips abound. There's a Take it Away in Williamsbug but no indication these two are associated.

Get the special sauce!

115 Elliewood Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903-2605
(434) 295-1899

Saturday, June 13, 2009

C-ville Coffeeshops

A notable exception in this round-up is Starbuck's. No matter what this coffeehouse does - give away free songs, help the third world, improve their coffee - it will always be a franchise and never home-grown. I won't refuse a starbuck's gift card, but if it's my money, I'll put it on one of the local coffee shops.

As an aside, the picture to the right drew my attention to the avenue in Elliewood Avenue. It's hardly a main street or thoroughfare.

My order of preference
1. Shenandoah Joe's
2. Mudhouse
3. Para Coffee

Honorable Mention: Higher Grounds. Although I've consumed probably more of this coffee over the last 8 years than any other, it's hospital only location excludes it from a list of top coffee shops. It does win points for its punning name.

Others: C-ville Coffee, Fox Park

I haven't been to Java Java under the new management so I can't comment on that one.

R.I.P. Espresso Royale Caffe

Al Dente

First located above Escafe, Ristorante Al Dente moved to the Ix building in the Spring of 2008 and then was joined by its companion restaurant Al Hamraa in the Fall of 2008. As the picture above attests, Al Dente doesn't have a grand entrance. The character of the place and space makes up for it.

Having eaten at Al Hamraa more recently and knowing that Karim Sellam is behind both places may explain why the food did not have the Italian flavor I expect. The Sangiovese I chose was great. Salads were "in season" arugala. The fruta del mar mussels, albeit a questionable choice at our inland location, didn't seem right. The gnocchi was dense, layered in a thick sauce. It didn't leave much room for dessert and I would have enjoyed trying the tiramisu.

The prices were a little more than comparable places in town. The restaurant has charming antique silverware and a sturdy outdoor area. (too hot to enjoy one recent night) There are so many restaurants in town to choose from, and I can't figure out the niche this one fits in. Al Hamraa, on the other hand, is a treasure I hope sticks arounds.

IX Buiding
925 Second Street SE
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
(434) 295-9922

Horse and Hound Gastropub

Maya's neigbor, Horse and Hound, opened for business almost two years ago. (reviewed previously). It's touted as a gastropub. Even the sign sports the fancy moniker. And the sign is downright fancy. It's hard to miss when driving down west main.

Gourmet pub food is the best description. The Belmont, a waiter's favorite sandwich at an early visit, is a fancy pulled pork sandwich, topped with dry cole slaw. The french fries were excellent. The fish and chips are also remarkable. Fried to perfection with tartar and those excellent fries, if I didn't like the Belmont so much, I'd go for this.

There's a large indoor dining room. The bar is separate and features a row of large stools and a few high tops. The outside patio is fitted with huge umbrellas which become useful when it rains. In the winter they bring in the heaters.
For drinks they have a number of specialty beers on tap. Guinness is a must some of the time. Currently they have the Blue Mountain Mandolin Artisanal Ale. It's not listed on the Blue Mountain site, but it doesn't need to be. It's a great beer in my opinion.

Dinner for four: $100 (a couple beers each)

625 West Main Street
Charlottesviile, VA 22903
(434) 293-3365

Friday, June 12, 2009

Chiles Strawberries

At least last weekend, Chiles, just west of Crozet, had plenty of strawberries. They were more picked over than last year when we went in May, but we still harvested 12 pounds ($1.50/lb). Crozet is also a great place for peaches. (See prior post.) The season for that hasn't really started up yet.

With the flat of strawberries we picked along with a few quarts from chesterfield berry farm closer to richmond, we had a family jam session. Mashing berries, mixing in sugar, and boiling pectin took up the bulk of an afternoon, but the fruits of that labor last all year. Not all the strawberries turned into jam. There was a strawberry shortcake and plenty eaten as is. In a head to head trial, these berries wallop the bloated, fibrous versions that come out of california. The strawberry milk shake mixed up by Chile's at their roadside mega-stand is incredible.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Milano Cafe

Milano moved from the Main Street Market a few months ago. The space there has since been replaced by Calvino Cafe.

Now on South Street in one of the old warehouses, Milano has a little more space, a great outdoor seating area, and access to hoards of Saturday morning farmer's market shoppers. It's serving the same illy coffee and has kept much of the same indoor setup. Its unusual marriage to a furniture store is still alive. The wood farm tables are spectacular.

A small selection of baked goods and a freezer of gelato flavors are offered along with the joe.

100 West South Street
Charlottesville, VA 22903
(434) 220-4302

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Downtown One Lane Train Bridge

I've always found this bridge overpass interesting. Couldn't it just be widened? As it is now, I wouldn't be surprised to see a horse-drawn buggy waiting on the other side.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Marco and Luca

A downtown cheap food standby for at least a few years, this noodle and dumpling restaurant serves up one of the tastiest $3 snacks in town. It's located on the downtown mall in Yorktown place, one store front away from Christian's Pizza, which has the cheapest, best tummy filler in town, a $2 slice of cheese with oregano and hot pepper flakes.

The only thing I've ever ordered are the pork dumpling which are provided in a sweet and spicy soy-based sauce. The sauce is incredible and overpowers the dumplings: the combination is heavenly. The health benefits of these seven fried wonders are less clear than their perfect taste.

The place is small but has plenty of seating for its size. Sitting on one of the stools facing the window offers great people watching.

112 E Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
(434) 244-2605

Monday, June 1, 2009

Continental Divide

I just revisited this place last night and updated the previous post. Many restaurants are closed on Sunday nights, but the "get in here" sign was shining. At 8:30 we still had to wait for a table, which wasn't any trouble because there were plenty of seats at the bar. This restaurant never struggles for business.