Rock of Ivy: Duner's rotates that localvore menu

food-eater-duners"Our new people have been here for six or seven years, that's 'new people,'" Duner's owner Bob Caldwell tells me over the phone. "Most nights, I know almost everybody in the room.".
PHOTO BY RYAN HOOVER

When I find myself explaining my city to outsiders, I'm not just recalling the cosmopolitan restaurant scene, the organic locavore movement, or even the community's infatuation with grocery stores.

I think of institutions, a handful of local restaurants where the cooks flatten hamburger buns, the cashier does magic tricks with spare change, and the owner visits tables to make sure customers are happy– after all, he started out as a line cook when his restaurant opened in 1983.

"Our new people have been here for six or seven years, that's 'new people,'" Duner's owner Bob Caldwell tells me over the phone. "Most nights, I know almost everybody in the room."

He estimates that his Ivy restaurant has served more than a million meals. He calls it a "neighborhood bistro," I call it an institution.

An old friend and I met at Duner's one Monday evening in February. It was early when we arrived, and the two small dining rooms and bar soon swelled with salt-and-pepper couples and ripe families around us. Our waitress appeared to sense that we were catching up after two years and slowed our meal to a leisurely gait.

Duner's changes menu daily– and posts it online every afternoon– and on that particular Monday, we had our pick of 2 soups, 9 appetizers, 18 meat and seafood entrees, 1 each of vegetarian and pasta dishes, 2 sandwiches, and 8 desserts.

The food is mostly contemporary American, though several dishes borrow flavors and techniques from classic French and east Asian cuisine. It would seem too ambitious. But for chef Laura Walke, 24, and her 3-cook line, it's not. They make their own pat©s, dumplings, and sausage on the premises and order as much produce and cheese from local farmers as they can in the spring-summer-fall months.dunner-a

I started with an order of four large, delicate butternut squash tortellini resting in brown butter. My friend had a generous portion of grilled scallops the size of quarters, with shrimp creme and thyme, and I enjoyed a smoky essence. Some restaurants would consider these servings entrees, and it was an indication of what was to come.

I ordered what was described on the menu as "Sauteed veal sweetbreads with Pommery mustard demi-glace." My plate held a generous portion of six tender pieces of pan-fried sweetbreads, the thymus gland of a calf, and they were barely breaded but otherwise unadorned, pairing beautifully with the salty, savory sauce. Pommery mustard, made in Meaux, France, is a pricy delicacy with an almost 400-year-old tradition. I could have sworn there was soy sauce in the demi-glace.

My friend was thrilled with her pork loin with bourbon and molasses barbecue sauce. I would have liked to see the pork chop more tender and its sauce more substantial, but the flavor was all there. Both of our dishes were served with smashed potatoes, and we both brought these home with us for late-night second helpings.

Only because we requested take-home boxes did we have room for dessert. My friend's chocolate dome cake was moist with mousse layers and a ganache-like shell, and I appreciated the mild sweetness. I ordered the "ice cream sandwich," promising vanilla ice cream with apricot cobbler between brownie crusts. Cobbler pieces were scarce, and the ice cream was too hard to get a spoon into even after we'd signed our credit card receipts. Duner's could do away with the canned whipped cream garnishes; the desserts need no intimation.

I returned the following Saturday with a couple that hadn't been there in at least four years. They had both forgotten how good the bread is, doughy and salty, never overcooked. Before the meal was over, our server wrapped a loaf for them to bring home. It was a classy move, not one they'll soon forget.

She ordered white bean and kale soup with soft, flavorful venison meatballs, and the broth pulled it together beautifully– light, not too greasy. The venison was likely sidemeat, skillfully reworked from lean cuts that debuted as entrees. He ordered fried oysters with mustard remoulade, enough to fill a dinnerplate, and they smelled and tasted fresh. My fried chicken livers were just right, undoing years of preconceived notions about hard, crumbly morsels. It is not just me: apparently, their liver sells well.

All entrees, and the pasta and vegetarian dishes, come with a side salad and choice of six homemade dressings. The mustard vinaigrette varied slightly in consistency from my first visit to my second, and I prefer it when it skews to mustard rather than oil and vinegar. My blue cheese dressing was the envy of my table on this second visit.duners-c

Having sufficiently tried pork, shellfish, and offal, we moved on to red meat, fish, and duck. I tasted my friend's flank steak with a southwestern spiced sauce and seared Rag Mountain trout. The cut and temperature of the steak were expertly done, though I thought the sauce was diminutive. I loved the trout– the stuff of childhood memories in "the real Virginia"– but the fried cakes of crab, potato, and zucchini that accompanied needed more TLC from the spice rack and fry pan.

My duck came two ways, a confit leg and sliced breast, cooked medium, with chard and "crispy" sweet potato gnocchi, which were soft. The confit was decadent– more moist and rich than I've had elsewhere. The natural juices formed the base of the most generous saucing I'd yet seen, which I happen to like.

Charlottesville residents should know–it's hard to argue with tradition. At Duner's, you can count on a good meal, but don't bet you'll get the same thing twice.

27 comments

Ulysses S. Grant. He whooped them cracker Rebs but good!

Abe Lincoln: our greatest president who freed the slaves, won the Civil War, and the capital of Nebraska is named after him!

President George W Bush, history will prove his greatness

Eisenhower

Gen. Tecumseh Sherman.

Have to say a tie between Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt.
Locally, the late Darden Towe. A true gentleman and someone who truly cared about this community.

Arne Carlson,
previous govenor of minnesota, who payed off state debt and borrowed very little. Unlike most republicans today who claim to be the party of less government only to spend profusely in ways they don't consider "spending" like tax cuts for the wealthiest and of course defense which is not really spending either.

He handed the state to my favorite govenor of all time, Jesse Ventura.

Ronald Regan ! Integrity at it's best !

I miss you Ronnie !

Dakota

Looking back I could have looked up and spelled his name right ! Reagan for the love of GOD .

NO ROOM FOR ARGUMENT ! Ronald and Nancy ......epitome of integrity .

Oh and YES I would have traded ARMS for hostages ! You do what you have to do to save human life .

Dakota

I wonder what those ARMS were used for. Certainly NOT taking HUMAN lives...

NOPE, NO ROOM FOR ARGUMENT, NO SIREEE

That was a good one

Rob Schilling

Also, understand that the "elite" have an agenda of 80-99.9% reduction in the human population of Planet Earth, meaning a global government for their benefit and everyone else's extermination, and realize that you in all likelihood, are everyone else. In other words, the people who own the media want you dead and are telling you the things they think you need to hear and believe in order for you serve them as a slave while you're alive, helping them put down the groundwork for the extermination of your children (if you can still have any after the shots, GMO corn, and fluoride). I'M TRYING TO WARN YOU ABOUT IMPORTANT THINGS THAT IF YOU LOOK AROUND, YOU'LL REALIZE NOBODY ELSE AROUND THESE PARTS IS WARNING YOU ABOUT - MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH, FOLKS, NOT JOKES, NOT SPECULATIONS, NOT OPINIONS, BUT FACTS DOCUMENTED IN THE ELITE'S OWN WHITE PAPERS AND BOOKS, WHITE PAPERS AND BOOKS WHICH YOU AND I WILL NEVER READ BUT ALEX JONES HAS READ AND TOLD ME ABOUT AND NOW IS REACHING YOU BECAUSE IT IS GOD'S WILL THAT IT REACH YOU.

@Hollow Boy. Right on the mark about Darden Towe. I only wish that there were such a city Republican candidate that this typically Democratic-voter could support.

Will deleting my comments help you breathe easier when the nerve gas makes it's way down from the helicopters to the cracks in your windows?

Darden Towe did absolutely nothing to end water fluoridation in Charlottesville. He allowed poison to be dumped into the water I was drinking as a child, before my organs developed enough to protect my brain from the poison that was dumped in the water I drank while he sat idly by. Not a gentleman, but a barbarian, according to my expert analysis.

Oh, I almost forgot: BP blew up their rig. Dumbass.

If you hadn't been drinking fluorinated water, if you hadn't taken your shots, if you hadn't gone to public schools, if you hadn't grown up listening to NPR, if you hadn't cared what other people would think of you, you would be putting my comments in your own words on the front page of the Hook, if you hadn't agreed to work for someone who had agreed to work for someone who had agreed to work for the elite who want us all dead. Dumbass.

And if you think you can keep me from warning people not to drink fluorinated water ever, to never take a vaccine or allow your children to be given one, to never drink aspartame (made from the feces of genetically modified e. coli bacteria and converting to wood alcohol and formaldehyde in the gut), to never listen to NPR without first posessing propaganda discernment abilities gained by attentive Alex Jone Show listening for five years, to completely disregard everything Democracy Now spews straight from the bowels of the Ford Foundation Eugenics Agenda on your pathetic propaganda rag's website, you've got another thing coming. Go ahead and ban me again like the cowards you are!

If you know what's good for you, write in John Walton Giuliano for 5th district Congressman when the election for 5th district Congressman is held! I'll do my part to send every last senior member of the New World Order crime syndicate straight to Hell!

Hollow Boy,

I think I would have to agree with you. Abe Lincoln and TR. Both were men of real integrity, balance, and a great distate for avarice and individual greed. Had Mr Lincoln survived, restoration would have gone very differently. Many of the Republcians - Carpet Baggers - had no interest in the South but to strip it of it's resources,whereas Lincoln thought otherwise. So did Mr Grant. He was also a man of honor, and came to rue his own party which itself wasn;t honerable.

In fact, the GOP then was pretty much what you see in the GOP today. The defense of greed and dishonesty in the name of 'competition.'

A brief, non-comprehensive list of senior New World Order crime syndicate members I would do my part to send straight to Hell if elected to Congress:

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Beatrix
Prince Charles
Prince Bernhardt
Heinrich Himmler (alive and well in a cave in Chile)
Adolf Hitler (alive and well in a cave in Chile)
Barry Soetoro
George Bush
George Soros
Cass Sunstein
Janet Reno
Henry Kissinger
Paul Wolfowitz
Gordon Brown
Tony Blair
Al Gore
Bill Clinton
Hillary Clinton
John Holdren
Eric Holder
John Ashcroft
Larry Summers
George H.W. Bush
David Mayer De Rothschild
Evelyn Rothschild
Nathan Rothschild
David Rockefeller
Jay Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller (alive and well in cave in Chile)
Richard Cheney
Maurice Strong
Warren Buffett
Rupert Murdoch
Larry Silverstein
Richard Haas
Fareed Zacharia
Janet Napolitano
Steven Speilberg
Gary Hart
Henry Paulson
Neil Kashkari
Jamie Dimon
Richard Perle
Ram Immannuel
Joe Biden

To Be Continued...

Lila Rose !

The reason you ridicule people who speak the truth about childhood immunizations being the cause of autism is the fact that YOU BRAIN DAMAGED YOU OWN CHILD HORRIBLY AND YOU CAN'T FACE THE TRUTH BECAUSE IF YOU DID YOU'D HAVE TO FACE YOURSELF.

By the way, Dr. Andrew Wakefield is on the Alejandro Jones show today. Tune in and learn.

Ron Paul.

Bring ALL the troops home and end the Federal Reserve.

"The regional Federal Reserve banks are not government agencies. ...but are independent, privately owned and locally controlled corporations." -- Lewis vs. United States, 680 F. 2d 1239 9th Circuit 1982

"It is well that the people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning." -- Henry Ford

Reagan. i wonder how many republicans realize that regan raised personal taxes after he lowered them initially and that he raised certain corporate taxes.

amazing how the RR myth suspends all facts.