Garden to plate: L'etoile wants your food

For the third season, L'etoile on West Main Street is asking for the stuff in your garden. According to chef/owner Mark Gresge, they've now named it their "Garden to Plate" program. That's right, you can go from gardener to local farmer, plus you'll get to see what you've grown transformed into fancy fare by the talented chefs at the French-inspired restaurant.

"We've had watermelons, pumpkins, onions, and kale. Pretty much anything," says Gresge. "Peaches and pears have made the menu as well."

Right now, of course, there is not much coming up yet, but Gresge says that people have been telling him about their gardens and what they hope to bring in.

Three years ago, Gresge says, he was sitting at home one night thinking about the local food movement, and it hit him.

"What are people growing in their gardens?  Why not ask Charlottesville and this area about it?," he says he wondered. "Heck, lets cook with it. Let's post a picture on Facebook of their garden and their produce."

Gresge says the produce doesn't have to be fancy. In fact, he says, he just likes the stories behind the food and how it came to be grown.

"Stories like, my grandma always grew these, or my daughter planted this plant," says Gresge. "Honestly, it's a lot of fun to see what people bring in and how we make a three- or four-course meal out of it."

So what do you urban farmers get in return?  Well, if your produce is chosen to make their weekend special, you and a friend will be their guests for the evening. Interested? Give Gresge a call at 434-979-7957 or drop him an email at .

The slider-servin' Mouth Wide Open food truck, one of a half-dozen trucks now operating in Charlottesville. Food trucks get rules
City Council finally adopted some ordinances regarding mobile food trucks in the City. The trucks have become quite popular with about six currently operating in the City. That number could grow, however, as zoning officials say they've received up to 15 new requests. At the May 6 council meeting, after considerable research and public outreach including letters sent to every brick and mortar restaurant asking for feedback, ordinances were created that require food trucks to obtain a renewable one-year special use permit and that allow them to operate on up to 10 private property locations.

There are restrictions. Food trucks can't operate within 30 feet of an established brick and mortar restaurant, and besides a single table for condiments, no seating will be allowed. Also, no stand alone signs, and no parking the truck within 100 feet of somebody's home.

Of course, those wanting to operate a food truck in town will have to jump through some new hoops. To get the provisional permit, they'll need a health department permit, a City business license, written permission from the private property owner(s), and a sketch of the truck and its layout on the property. As already mentioned, the permits are provisional and only good for a year, and they can be revoked at any time by City zoning officials if you break the rules.

Mallory Joyce, Matt Kleberg, and Liz Kleberg at Charlottesville SOUP's first event at the Bridge PAI. SOUP for you
The Charlottesville SOUP is a public dinner series, hosted by New City Arts, that supports inventive projects under way in our city. At each SOUP, attendees donate $10 at the door, which gets them a serving of soup, salad, bread, pie, and a vote toward their favorite projects, presented during dinner by community members hoping to receive funding.  

Attendees and creators discuss the proposals over a wholesome meal made from local ingredients. Then, each attendee casts a vote for which project to fund with the money raised from that night’s meal.  Charlottesville SOUP awards the grant to the winner at the end of the night.

Those who attend help support creativity in Charlottesville. You’ll meet new people and possibly make a few friends or even meet future business partners. The food is provided by Local Food Hub and is served in handmade bowls from City Clay.

New City Arts expects to host SOUP every season and anticipates that it can award grants between $500 and $1,000 to the winner at each dinner, depending on turn-out. The next SOUP happens May 27 at the Charlottesville Day School at 6:30pm and costs $10. – Sarah Doss