FOOD- DISH- Surf & turf: Seafood splash, local meat
For about a month now, Seafood @ West Main in the Main Street Market has been offering seafood dishes to go in addition to supplying fresh seafood to such restaurants as Hamiltons', Oxo, Ivy Inn, Clifton Inn, Mono Loco, and La Cucina.
"Our regulars understand that we're dedicated to high quality," says owner Chris Arseneault, "and what we've done with our carry-out is to try to offer this quality in an accessible, casual way."
That sounds like good news for seafood lovers who can now grab calamari, fish & chips, soft-shell crab sandwiches, and grilled tuna salad to go. And Arseneault says people have been "head over heals" about fresh treats from the briny deep.
"This kind of sashimi is just unheard of in Charlottesville," he says. "Even the sushi restaurants in town don't have the quality we have."
Arseneault says he buys direct from seafood outlets from Maine to Louisiana, often driving to pick up the catch himself. "It's also how we take care of our fish in our walk-in," he says. "That's how you maintain quality."
So far, Arseneault has relied on word of mouth to advertise his carry-out business, but he hopes that will change. "We wanted to iron things out a little before we made a big splash," he says.
In honor of patio season, L'étoile has announced a new menu. In addition to cured meats and assorted olives, patio diners can now feast on potatoes with truffled aioli, foie gras with onion marmelade, mussels in white wine, and miniature crab cakes.
Owner/chef Mark Gresge felt it was time for the West Main Street bistro to offer something new to accompany the unusual view. "What better way to enjoying an evening of watching trains and Wild Wing's colorful guests," says Gresge, "than with these little tastes of L'etoile?"
Local street-scapes may not be able to compete with the glamour of Paris, but they are certainly entertaining in their own way.
Farm voices heard
On June 15, over 500 foodies attended the 2006 Farm Food Voices event at Western Albemarle High School. This year's shindig, sponsored by the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, focused on the local meat market.
"It's great that 500 people cared enough to show up at Western Albemarle," says Kate Collier, co-owner of Feast!– which has become a hub for information on local farms.
Indeed, the local farmer-to-consumer market has really taken off in recent years. Not only are there a number of Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, programs in the area (Dave Matthews' Best of What's Around, Ploughshares, Horse & Buggy, Red Hill...), as well as many restaurants buying locally, but there's been a big change in the way people think about food.
"A lot of people are starting to believe that local is better than so-called ‘organic,'" Collier points out, "which has basically been taken over as a marketing ploy by the bigger distributors." She also thinks a lot of local farmers are realizing they can make a go of it.
"Farmers have always been people who work super hard," says Collier, "but now they're realizing they can market their stuff in different ways, for a local market."
Bittersweet's silver lining
Last week, Dish reported that a pile of linseed oil-soaked rags left in the X restaurant space, currently under construction, may have spontaneously combusted, filling the Glass Building on Second Street SE with smoke and fumes. Fortunately, no one was injured in the mishap, and fire fighters arrived in time to put out the fire.
However, Dish did report that Bittersweet owner Shannon Iaculli feared her clothing stock had been ruined by the smoke and fumes. Fortunately, that is not the case.
"The smoke that was in the store stayed upstairs," says Iaculli. "and none of the clothes downstairs were affected." Iaculli says she's used an ozone machine on the vintage stuff upstairs that "basically takes the smoke out of everything."
For Bittersweet's customers, this unwelcome cloud of smoke has a silver lining.
"Everything is discounted now," says Iaculli, "and the vintage stuff upstairs will go on sale at our bargain days in mid-July."
Seafood at West Main now offers lunch treats from the briny deep.
PHOTO BY DAVE MCNAIR