Charlottesville Breaking News

Eating, easy: Dinner at Home takes away the work

It's the plight of many a harried family: how to provide healthy meals while juggling the demands of jobs, school, sports, and other time-devouring extracurriculars. Enter Ashley East, a former personal chef who founded her catering company, Dinner at Home, back in 2003 and has recently seen her business expand thanks to a commercial kitchen she's installed in a West Market Street storefront.

"The location is awesome," exclaims East, a tall and willowy runner and cyclist, who moved the business in November into the former Ananda alternative treatment space adjacent to the Artful Lodger furniture store.

East, who earned her culinary certificate from Cookery at the Grange in Somerset England and trained under chefs at local upscale restaurants including Clifton Inn, now works alongside her husband and business partner, Carter, to cater events ranging from intimate lunches to 200-guest weddings. But the dinner-to-go service has really taken off.

Foot traffic from Vinegar Hill theatergoers has helped boost the customer base to about 80 people who receive weekly emailed menus from which they can order two, three, or four nights of meals for up to five people. Admittedly, this is no drive-thru priced dinner, as two nights of dinner-for-two cost $90, and three nights of dinner-for-four would set you back $216.

Still, Eas...

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Russell's victory: Campus crime bill becomes law

After several years spent fighting to change the way the most serious crimes on college campuses are investigated, activist Susan Russell will at last see part of her wish fulfilled as a watered-down version of the bill inspired by her daughter's alleged rape at the University of Virginia has unanimously passed both the Virginia House and Senate.

"We are very glad to see some change has come from our efforts," says Russell, who became an advocate for campus safety after her daughter, Kathryn, reported being raped in 2004 by a fellow UVA student who was never charged with any crime, even after a second alleged victim came forward.

Russell and others impacted by crime at UVA, including sexual assault victim Liz Seccuro and the parents of slain Virginia Tech studen...

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Nell Casey: Swimming through Spalding Gray

Around 2007, Kathleen Russo, widow of monologuist Spalding Gray, approached author Nell Casey about writing Gray’s autobiography. Gray, who committed suicide in 2004, spent his career publicly, nakedly chronicling his life in monologues like Swimming to Cambodia.

Casey asked herself: Had Gray already said everything onstage?

The answer: a resounding no. The journals showed her that there much more than the man's famous monologues. “It wasn't possible for Gray to chronicle or confess all aspects of his life publicly," says Casey, "but privately he did so.”

She also quickly realized something else: that the journals “are not only generously written, they are gorgeously written.”

The avalanche of new material was only the beginning as Casey, now 41, drew upon sources ranging from audiotapes of Gray's therapy sessions, she says, to random notes written on scraps of paper, like “an Amtrak napkin and a breast cancer pamphlet.”

Gray’s brothers and his colleagues aided Casey. His widow allowed herself to be presented “as flawed and criticized” as anyone else under Gray's powerful pen.

The result was The Journals of Spalding Gray, published in 2011. Casey, the daughter of local author John Casey, had previously explored despondent authors’ lives in her 2002 book, Unholy Ghost, a collection of essays by writers who had survived depression.

An editor approached Casey with that book’s concept...

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Weird sisters: When Shakespeare plays second fiddle

Best-selling author Eleanor Brown is a book festival’s ideal guest: a voracious reader from a family of voracious readers who writes about voracious readers.

Brown’s first novel, The Weird Sisters, follows a Shakespeare scholar’s three daughters as they return to their Ohio hometown when their mother is stricken with cancer. Though Brown’s book has a cast of bibliophiles and is peppered with Shakespearean references, literature was mainly a springboard for the true heart of the book: the shifting relationship of the titular sisters and their parents, she says.

“I do enjoy Shakespeare,” Brown, 38, admits, “especially seeing the plays performed, but the references are workhorses more than an homage. I use the family's habit of quoting Shakespeare as a way to illuminate families' tendency to create their own languages.”

Brown says that her own family life didn’t directly inspire her characters— her fictional family is primarily allegorical.

“While pieces of the sisters' relationships come from realizations I had about my own family,” Brown explains, “I think the core of their relationship is the struggle inside me, and inside many of us: the conflict between being independent and being taken care of, between the desire for adventure and for safety, etc."

“When the sisters scrape against each other, it's in the same way we are caught between our own desires.”

Brown, who now lives in Colorado,...

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Savory feeling: Restaurant Week rocked Food Bank w/$13K

The sixth Charlottesville Restaurant Week took place in late January, but the savory flavors linger– especially for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, which learned this week that the city-wide wintertime culinary event yielded a nearly $13,000 donation.

"With this money, we can provide over 50,000 meals," says Food Bank spokesperson Ruth Jones, noting that the single dollar donated for each Restaurant Week meal translates into four meals for the hungry. The Food Bank, which has been the Hook-sponsored event's charity recipient three times, will soon be getting checks totalling $12,697.

"If you add up all of the donations that we've been given through Restaurant Week thus far, it's allowed us to serve well over 120,000 meals," says Jones, noting that while the economy may be looking up in some sectors, hunger is still a serious problem in Central Virginia. 

"Last I saw, we're serving twice as much food to twice as many people as five years ago," says Jones, noting that the non-profit group provides 17 million meals annually in the 25 counties and nine Central Virginia cities it serves.

The Hook launched Restaurant Week back in January 2009 with just eight participating eateries and no charitable component. The most recent Restaurant Week featured 20 varied restaurants including such old-time favorites as the Aberdeen Barn and upstarts such...

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