FOOD- DISH- Beep beep!: BBQ and more on 29N

Although the name, Acme Smokehouse and BBQ Co., gave Dish visions of rocket-propelled roller skates and giant catapults designed to catch a small flightless bird, the idea of yet another BBQ joint– this one in the old Rivanna Grill spot on Rt. 29 N– made our tongues wag like Wile E. Coyote! 

According to "pit boss" Christian Trendel, those associations were no accident. In fact, the high-energy restauranteur jokes about putting a giant image of the famous coyote on the side of the building to attract customers!

After several attempts at opening under the name Dickie's Smokehouse (apparently there were some trademark issues with a small franchise), Trendel finally fired up the grills and started pulling the BBQ on September 21. 

"I wanted to try something completely different," says Trendel, standing in the parking lot out side his restaurant, while trucks roar down the road. "With all the competition on this side of town, I thought barbeque was the way to go."

Trendel is probably best known for reviving the old building on Route 29 that housed the Rivanna Grill, and for Ciao! Distinctive Catering and Themed Events, the catering company he ran with Monica Jordan out of the same place. He appears to be a master of disguise, one minute a swanky caterer serving up tuna tartar on a chile tortilla and crisp mini crabcakes with lemon caper aioli, and then downhome pulled chicken barbecue, Brunswick stew, and banana pudding the next.

However, there's no hiding now– unless you're in the habit of driving down Route 29 a little too fast (or have rocket propelled roller skates), in which case you could zoom right past the Acme Smokehouse without seeing it!  

Starving for art? Feast on this!

For highbrows, art can be as important as food to the survival of our species, while for lowbrows an offer of food might be the only reason they'd go to an art opening. (Alas, meanwhile, the artists starve.) On October 11, however, both sides will be well served (and fed) by a fundraising feast to benefit the Second Street Gallery. Highbrows can feel good about supporting the arts, and lowbrows don't have to look at any! 

Yes, it's the SS Gallery's 13th annual Wine Dinner, to be held at the trendy and recently Coran Capshaw-acquired X Lounge, with chef Tucker Yoder serving up "global cuisine," and the wine wizard of Market Street, Robert Harllee, with his choice selection of vintages from around the world. Tickets for the event are $85, with the proceeds going toward the Gallery's exhibition programming for the 2006-2007 season.  

An end to the lunch lady blues

Several weeks ago, Dish made mention of the School Nutrition Awareness Project at Clark Elementary School, an effort to give kids something for lunch other than rubbery mac and cheese and corndogs. The project also includes a "Guest Chef" program, wherein local chefs make a monthly appearance– on "Wellness Wednesdays"– to cook up something a little different and more healthy for the tots than tater-tots. Now it looks like that program is up and running.

According to Belmont Carlton Neighborhood Association activist John Sweet, who serves as point man for the project, nine area chefs have already signed up to work with Alicia Cost, nutrition specialist for Charlottesville City Schools, to create the monthly alternatives to hockey-puck burgers. Apparently it will also be a treat for the lunch ladies, as the chefs will help train them to create the new dishes.

And what a line-up of chefs! In September it's Patrick Critzer of Hamdingers Mobile Gourmet Foods; October welcomes Melissa Easter of La Taza Coffee House; November sees Mark Otis of Duner's; December brings in Melissa Close of Palladio; January sweeps in Mike Rodi of Rapture; February belongs to Dan Jackson of Bizou; March finds Tim Tizzano of Whole Foods; April has Ashley Hightower of Dinner At Home, and May treats the kids to Lauren McRaven of The Flat.

Dish just hopes the chefs realize that kids don't have the most expansive palates. Various herbs, sauces, and vegetables, no mater how they're cooked, are a tough sell to nine-year-olds. As parents know, even the most creative, love-inspired dinners can be greeted with a dismissive "Ick, I don't like that," even before the first bite. 

Good luck, brave chefs! 

Pit boss Christian Trendel outside Acme Smokehouse and BBQ Co., which has replaced his old Rivanna Grill spot on Route 29 North.