FOOD- THE DISH- Feed your head: Cooking school aims to educate

Kitchen mission: Martha Stafford plans to open her Charlottesville Cooking School on April 16 in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center.

Think you can't cook? Fear not. The Charlottesville Cooking School is coming to the rescue! Located in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center next to Mexican restaurant El Puerto, the school is the brainchild of Martha Stafford, a graduate and former instructor at the  Institute for Culinary Education (formerly Peter Krump's New York cooking School) in NYC, and a former instructor at the Seasonal Cook. Standing in front of her gleaming new dream kitchen, Stafford looks like she can't believe the enterprise has become a reality. 

"I've always loved the atmosphere of cooking school," she says. 

Stafford says she plans to open on April 16. In the meantime, she's lining up her instructors, who'll not only teach students how to wield a knife, make the perfect sauce, or can tomatoes, but will provide information about our local food movement, emphasizing the importance of using fresh seasonal produce. She also plans to offer cooking classes for children and Thai cooking classes, and to invite guests chefs from the area to come in and share their knowledge. 

Ideally, though, she hopes the school will demystify the art of cooking.

"Learning to cook empowers people," she says. "Their families say how much better dinner is, their dinner parties are better– they know more about produce. You're giving a real skill instead of just a recipe."

Initially, Stafford says she'll have one-time cooking classes from 10am to 2pm, and 6 to 10pm. Classes will last three to four hours, and then comes the good part: everybody eats what they've created. The price for classes will be in the $75 range, depending on the food needed. 

So will folks be able to get certificates or degrees from the school?

"Not yet," says Stafford, "but that's my dream."

For more information, call 434-963-COOK or email 

Crazy Cakes on the Mall

If y'all are crazy for gourmet cookies, cupcakes, and other baked treats, you might want to check out Cappellino's Crazy Cakes when they open on the Downtown Mall in May. Apparently, owner Frank Cappellino and his sister Dotty are two very talented bakers.

"His cakes leave you speechless," says Judith Carlin, a coworker of Dotty's at Worldstrides. "Aside from being well prepared, he customizes them. For my birthday, he made me a George Bush theme cake that was hilarious."

A transplant from Florida  who grew up in Pittsburgh, and who had a shop there for eight years, Frank Cappellino says he's been designing cakes for a good part of his life. The downtown shop, he says, will offer artistically decorated cakes and cupcakes, cookies, and "the best Key Lime pie you've ever had." Plus, Dotty will be offering her signature pound cake, which is already sold at places like the Greenwood Store and Whole Foods.

"It's going to be one of the hottest little places in the Charlottesville area," Cappellino predicts.

Indeed, if the cookie samples he dropped off at the Hook are any indication of what's to come, the city could be in for a treat.

"My experience has been the prettier the cake the worse it tastes, but that's not the case with Frank's cakes," says Carlin. "They taste as good as they look."

Crazy Cakes will be located at 103 N. Third Street, right across from Fleurie.

Liquor at a wine bar? enoteca's to find out

As we learned recently, wine bar enoteca on the Downtown Mall has applied for an ABC license to sell liquor. But the news tidbit left us curious. In Virginia, don't you have to be a full-service restaurant to sell liquor? At enoteca, there is no full kitchen, only a bunch of panni grills behind the bar.

Indeed, according to ABC regulations, a restaurant needs to serve "substantial entrees" on a regular basis, have "adequate facilities and sufficient employees for cooking, preparing, and serving such meals for consumption at tables in dining areas on the premises," and sell no less than $4,000 in food each month, "of which at least $2,000 shall be in the form of meals with entrees," to get a mixed beverage license.

However, according enoteca management, the restaurant's panni offerings amount to a "full meal," and they believe they can persuade the ABC licensing board that its kitchen facilities are substantial enough. However, some restaurant owners we spoke to think that's a stretch. For instance, Five Guys serves substantial meals, but it's unlikely they could get a liquor license.

Not being ABC experts here, I guess we'll have to wait and see if enoteca's application goes through. If it does, we can expect a number of high-end liquor offerings, such as Scotch, Campari, and Grappa, though no mixed drinks.

Mushroom guys buy Orbit

When Orbit Billiards on The Corner closed suddenly April 1, some folks thought it was an April Fool's joke, and it quickly became a topic of discussion on local blogs like (Why did Orbit close? Did someone buy it? Oh no, the loss of another small music venue! )

It turns out that some of the rumors floating around are true– Mellow Mushroom owners John Adamson and Andrew Watson have bought Orbit (it's been for sale for some time) and plan to keep the pool tables but go in a gourmet burger direction, focusing a little more on the food. Sources says they're planning to renovate and may have already chosen a name: The Joint. Stay tuned for more updates.