Worth the trip: Glass Haus raises the bar

Back in November, MAS chef Tomas Rahal, not one to throw around praise, was emphatic about his visit to the Glass Haus Kitchen, which had just recently opened.

"Might be the best in town," said Rahal, heaping praise on Chefs Ian Boden and Mike Yaeger for their "advanced tail-to-nose cuisine," a foodie term that describes the European style of cooking that utilizes the whole animal.

Three months later, Washington Post food writer Tom Sietsema seconds Rahal's assessment, placing the Glass Haus Kitchen "in a class of its own" and calling it "the most exciting place to eat in Charlottesville."

Indeed, it's not often you get Sietsema to suggest to Washingtonians that they make a two-hour road trip for a meal, but that's exactly what he did in his February 3 review, titled "A meal that makes up for the long drive."

“Worth the trip,” Sietsema reports, who had driven all the way from Washington for the meal, after biting into a fried rabbit appetizer with jalapeños and Key lime wedges.

What's more, its appears that Sietsema has a budding affair with Charlottesville, a city, he says, he has been spending some "high-quality time with." In addition to praise for Glass Haus, he says that Zinc is "always a treat," and that you'll find "superb tacos with tortillas patted by hand" made by Ignacio and Maria Becerra at the City Market, and recommends a visit to "the convivial Whiskey Jar." 

We've actually been waiting for this: a new fine dining restaurant that could help bump Charlottesville's already exceptional food scene to another level, establishing us as a destination that foodies hours away will start talking about. A situation that will be a boon for all restaurants. Thanks, Glass Haus Kitchen!

Porkapalooza! weekend
No, it ain't Lollapalooza, it's Porkapalooza! And it's not for the timid. Head on over to the BBQ Exchange in Gordonsville on Friday or Saturday, February 15 and 16, for an all-you-can-eat pork extravaganza prepared by fancy chef turned BBQ master, Craig Hartman. Seating in the restaurant is limited, but they are pitching a tent this year to accommodate the screaming bacon fans. Their parking will be closed for the festivities, but there's plenty of parking on High Street and Main. Just 10 bucks.

You and your food
Over at the Charlottesville Cooking School, they're cooking up a three-part series that'll feed your thoughts about how you think about food. Called Healing Your Relationship to Food, the series features Susan E. Del Gobbo, nutritionist and registered dietitian at Charlottesville Nutrition, Mimi Steele, a licensed professional counselor, and Martha Stafford, owner of The Charlottesville Cooking School, who'll help you improve your eating habits, lose weight, cook more or simply reduce the tension that grows every night as dinner time approaches.

"Our goal is to provide you with a wide variety of tools and skills, encouragement, and a personalized plan to help you create a nurturing, positive relationship to food," says Stafford.

The sessions will raise your awareness of how emotions and thought determine your behavior and choices when it comes to food, plus you'll get help creating an eating plan designed to support healthy blood sugars, diminish cravings, and improve mood. On a more practical level, you'll learn to prepare simple yet nourishing snacks. The three-hour classes start on Sunday, February 24 at 1pm, then are held again on March 3 and 10. Call CCS at 434-963-2665 for more information and to sign up. Your body will thank you.

New name, space, concept for Darjeeling Café
Over in Staunton, the Darjeeling Café has now become the AVA Restaurant and Wine Bar, a name change sparked by winning the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for the café’s wine list.

“At that point, we knew that we had outgrown our name," says owner Mary Morgan. "We weren’t just a tea shop anymore, but a full service restaurant with a great dinner menu and an award-winning wine list. It was time to showcase that."

The "AVA" stands for American Viticultural Areas, which are all the wine regions in the United States.

"With my love of all things retro, we decided to do a redesign of our menu to include classic menu items that would have been featured on restaurant menus or dinner parties from the 1960s," says Morgan. "I always joke that owning a restaurant is like throwing a dinner party for strangers every night, so this was the perfect menu for us to do.”

The restaurant has a new retro-modern look, with a front wine bar, a cozy lounge, and tables set at rakish angles down the long central dining room, and a rear bar bathed in dappled light reflected from a giant, ornately carved vintage mirror mounted on the back wall. There are soaring tin ceilings, warm wood floors, and unique art pieces all around. There's even a small stage for music, open mic nights, readings, and even the occasional theater performance.

They're also giving Staunton a new brunch option on Sunday from 10:30am to 2:30pm, featuring vegetarian and vegan dishes, plus the classics like Eggs Benedict or Salmon Cakes Benedict.

Yum, sounds like it's time for another trip to Staunton!