Milking it: Cheese with grass-roots feel

Slow Food Virginia sure is picking up the pace. Just last month, Dish announced the debut of the local chapter of Slow Food USA, an educational, not-for-profit food organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating the food traditions of North America.

Well, judging from the enthusiastic 200-strong crowd at their second event– a raw milk farmstead cheese-tasting on the portico of Barboursville Vineyards on October 19– Virginians are quickly realizing the benefits of slow.

One of 19 across the country this October (American farmstead cheese month), this tasting included many of Virginia's best cow, goat, and sheep milk cheeses– from McLeod Creamery's Middleburg cheddar to Iron Rod's mild and creamy chèvre (Earlysville) to Everona Dairy's celebrated sheep cheeses (Rapidan).

About as far as you can get from bland, overly processed "American," farmstead cheeses are made on the farm by hand from milk produced on that farm. Each cheese thus reflects the uniquely local character of one farm and its herd.

Taking advantage of the ideal location as well as honoring a longstanding epicurean union, several local winemakers-­ Blenheim Vineyards and Veritas, for example– poured sauvignon blanc and cabernet franc at tasting stations designed by Robert Harllee of the Market Street Wineshop.

What struck me the most was the collaborative, grass-roots feel of this grass-fed event. Consider just a few (more) of the Slow Food VA member-participants: Kate Collier of Feast! coordinated and oversaw the cheese tasting, chef Gail Hobbs Page of the Mark Addy Inn cooked up scrumptious apple bread and cheese snacks, and Piedmontese cattle expert Giovanni De Giorgis (an Italian from Piemonte– the birthplace of Slow Food!) shepherded the three guest lambs– not to mention several clusters of cheese-loving children.

In addition to raising glasses, brief speeches and a table full of information helped raise awareness about the value and the vulnerability of farmstead cheeses.

"Events like this let people know that there are farms nearby hard at work making cheese and wine," Collier says. "We need to work together to help protect these farms from land development and strip malls."

How can we help this month? Easy: by eating as much farmstead cheese as possible! For more information on Slow Food USA, visit


Baker's Palate opens in "SoSo"

 Been to "SoSo" lately? With its hip design shops, artist and yoga studios and, as of last week, a new hair lounge and bakery, the warehouse district south of South Street is looking like downtown Charlottesville's answer to SoHo.

The gleaming Gleason's building on Garrett Street is the latest building to undergo a major facelift-­ with snazzy results. Sheila and Tom Cervelloni opened their bakery, The Baker's Palate, at 6am on October 15– as the 100 percent human equivalent of Sammy's Snacks two doors down.

Bread and pastry lovers can drop in any time from 6-6 Mon-Sat for breakfast (southwestern egg wrap, "Jumbo Jack Toast"), lunch (roasted portobello panini, wraps), or to pick up a dessert or loaf of bread– honey cornmeal, focaccia, ciabatta, baguette. As soon as the health department approves, meats will be added to the menu.

How was the transition from a postage stamp space into this enormous one? "I've opened a 250-person restaurant in San Francisco, so I expected things to go wrong," says Sheila.

"But this was actually a piece of cake."

Clients at the Moxie Hair Lounge next door were among the first to discover the fragrant bounty of the Baker's Palate– though more will sure follow in their foil-wrapped path.

Just follow the crumbs to SoSo!


Corking correction

 In a story on Ciboulette's new bistro last week, Dish wrote that this would be the first restaurant to sell bottles of wine for retail price, plus a $5 corking fee. Not true.

Tastings, the well-established wine shop, bar, and restaurant on East Market Street, has been offering this option since 1990.

The bakers palate owners Tom and Sheila Cervelloni<