Images by Andrea Hubbell + Sarah Cramer Shields. Words by Jenny Paurys.
On Sunday, April 21, we were honored to be joined by friends and supporters for a dinner hosted by Hill and Holler at Old Metropolitan Hall in downtown Charlottesville. On the heels of our successful Kickstarter campaign, it was a chance for Beyond the Flavor supporters to gather to celebrate, with proceeds benefiting local farmers, vendors, and enthusiasts that are the backbone of our local food community.
A year had passed since we attended the Blenheim Winemaker’s Dinner, organized by Hill and Holler’s Tracey Love at Blenheim Vineyards — an evening that left us invigorated by the exquisite cuisine, the company of friends old and new and the majesty of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains. Back then, Beyond the Flavor was still in its early days, and as we left the vineyard that evening, we felt renewed excitement about the community we were coming to know through this project.
In the year since that night, the people we’ve met, the stories we’ve heard and the experiences we’ve had have far eclipsed anything we could have imagined. The incredible community surrounding our town has taught us volumes about food, work, collaboration and friendship.
The kinship of this community was on brilliant display on April 21, as we gathered at the recently refurbished Old Metropolitan Hall on the Downtown Mall. It has been a glorious spring day and the group that gathered was welcoming and talkative, eager to catch up with old friends and meet new acquaintances. After enjoying crisp, cold Potter’s Craft cider, scrumptious appetizers — including much-discussed baby red potato souffles — and the gentle tunes of Red and the Romantics outside, the group of about 85 headed into the hall to sit at two long, farm-style tables set with simple, vintage tableware. Guests settled in and the meal began, with loaves of ciabatta filled with leek and tarragon butter passed around the table.
Chef Dean Maupin of C&O Restaurant created a menu echoing the inviting, comfortable vibe of the evening, starting us with Sausage Craft’s Full Miniato atop potato puree, with leek confit and sottocenere fonduta cheese. Hill and Holler had selected wines for each course, and Pollak Vineyard’s Viognier was a perfect match for the rich, smooth sausage. The second course featured Free Union Grass Farm confit duck tortellini, mixed with French lentils, chicken jus and cracklins and paired with Pollak’s Rosé. The dish was served family style, and guests helped themselves to serving after serving, cleaning the platters of nearly every last lentil.
Slow-braised lamb from Border Springs Farm was the star of the third course. The meat was so tender it was reminiscent of a roast, and several guests remarked that they had never tasted lamb so mild. Gnocchi and gremolata accompanied the lamb, as did a Meritage from Pollak. The room spontaneously erupted into applause and cheers when Chef Dean appeared amid the third course. In his ever-humble way, he took the opportunity to single out the talents of Hill and Holler’s Tracey Love, who had organized a flawless, seamless event.
The bounty of delicious food had left us stuffed, but there was one more in store: Silky Cow milk and brown sugar pie, bedecked with vanilla whipped cream. With a deep caramel flavor and a consistency like pecan pie, sans pecans, the pie plates were quickly passed and emptied. A small glass of Mille Fleurs dessert wine from Pollak, as well as Shenandoah Joe’s coffee, rounded off the meal.
The entire evening had been filled with happy chatter as old friends caught up and new friendships took root. The feeling of the evening can be summed in one word: community. Friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances — all of us gathered to support this rich, vibrant network bringing food from the pasture to the plate, from the kitchen to the table, from the hands to the heart.
Thank you all for your support of Beyond the Flavor over the past many months. We’re just getting started and can’t wait to see where we’ll go.
View all images in the slideshow above.