FOOD- THE DISH- Going local: Toliver house 'meats' a need

Some restaurants talk the local produce talk, saying they do their best to buy locally, but as most chefs will admit, the sheer volume of food they use makes it impossible to use only local goods. But one restaurant has announced its intention to walk the walk. Effective November 1, the Toliver House in Gordonsville began serving only poultry and meat from Central Virginia farms certified as being humanely fed, raised, and processed. 

"While it may be more difficult to locate available sources of regionally raised meat and poultry than mass-produced foods," says Toliver House chef Jonathan Hayward, "if we can make our guests more aware of where and how their food is grown, then we've achieved our purpose."

Of course, local farmers have been encouraged by the news. Tom Weaver, a seventh-generation farmer from Orange, whose Papa Weaver's pork products will be featured at the Toliver House, is excited about the attention the movement could bring to local farmers. 

"The natural pork we sell is lean with no nitrates, preservatives, hormones, or antibiotics," Weaver says. "When you order something, you'll be supporting a local family farmer." 

Other local producers supplying Toliver House include Polyface Farms in Swoope (poultry and produce) and Higginbotham Beef of Orange.

Remarkably, the popularity of local farms like these has really begun to take off. Weaver's operation is only four years old, and already it delivers one thousand pounds of pork sausage, links, and special cuts to restaurants, schools, farmers' markets, and health-food grocery stores across Virginia. 

"We're proud to be part of a small but growing number of restaurants working with local farmers to offer alternatives to mass-produced foods that neither benefit the environment nor the health of consumers," says Hayward.

A spa for the tastebuds?

If you're considering a girls night out, Dish may have the perfect evening for you. On November 29, Women's Health Virginia, a private non-profit organization that promotes the health and well-being of women and girls in Virginia, hosts its 6th annual Take Thyme for Women's Health dinner in the Gallery at Starr Hill Restaurant. 

In addition to raising money for a good cause (and writing $40 off the $85 cost as a tax-deduction), the event presents an opportunity to enjoy the talents of four area chefs, and four area wines, at one seating. The four-course meal will feature appetizers by Laura Walke of Duner's, soup by Eric Sanders of Starr Hill, entrees by Jason Daniels of the Glenmore Country Club, and dessert by Dean Maupin of the Clifton Inn. Reps from Cardinal Point, Cooper, DelFosse and Veritas vineyards will also be on hand to pair wines with each creation. 

In past years, chefs from Eastern Standard, Petra, Oxo, Fleurie, Hamilton's, The Ivy Inn, Blue Light Grill, L'etoile, The Boar's Head, L'Avventura, and others contributed to the cause, creating something that gourmands await with anticipation.

"A woman who came last year has invited a group of her friends and told them that last year's dinner was the best meal she had in Charlottesville,"  says the organization's chief, Miriam Bender. "Leaving last year's dinner, she said, 'It was like taking my taste-buds to a spa.'" 

Indeed, Dish can think of few dining scenarios more pleasurable than having a single chef focusing on each course. In a way, it's more like a performance. And besides, enjoying great food and wine sounds like a small price to pay to raise money and awareness of women's health.

Of course, seating is limited. Bender says they're going to have to cap attendance at 100, so visit or call 434-220-4500 while there's still time.

Local trend? The Toliver House in Gordonsville now offers only locally raised meat and poultry on its menu.