Feast! @ Charlottesville

I’m so excited to have the opportunity to feature feast! on Virginia is for Bloggers today. This gourmet market is not only the foundation of Charlottesville’s Main Street Market (also known as “that purple building”), it was the site of the original #VAis4Bloggers meet-up that led to the creation of this website. [It’s also my aunt Elizabeth’s favorite place to visit in town. She lives in North Carolina, and still, the housewarming gift she gave me when finding out I was moving back to Charlottesville was a giftcard to this haven of local and specialty produce and foodstuffs.]

Unlike numerous Kashi products who use the primary school punctuation mark as a slick PR move, feast! truly deserves the exclamation point attached to its name.Whether you are a trained chef, amateur gourmand, or have even marginally functioning tastebuds, it is impossible not to feel a sense of culinary excitement wash over you when you walk into the culinary heaven that is this unassuming stronghold of the food scene in Charlottesville.

Many small gourmet markets promise a smiling staff, personalized customer service, high quality fresh foods, and discriminating product selection, but feast! actually delivers every stereotypical claim.

Feast! may have been written up in countless local, regional, and national publications for its selection and service, but all of that doesn’t really matter as much as the fact that it is simply a fun place to shop.

Tasting an olive salad you thought you’d never see again after you moved out of Texas, stumbling upon a nut butter (Marcona almond butter!) or cracker you never knew existed, delighting in the appearance of quail eggs, or discovering that Charlottesville has delicious locally made chocolates in addition to those bearing the Gearhart’s name, every time you enter the store.

Every product on the shelves, from the wine to the trail mix, has been tasted and tested by not only the managers, but as many of the staff members as can be assembled on a particular day. Of the hundreds of products that might be sample, only those that get a resounding stamp of approval will hit the shelves.

General Manager Dave Kostelnikhopes that customers have come to appreciate the discriminating palates of the staff, and trust that the selection, while small, is of such good quality and ‘ahead of the curve’ locally, so as to be worth the time and money associated with purchasing from a smaller vendor with specialized product lines.

The second half of this busy little shop is the corner cafe, where soups, salads, and sandwiches are offered up to ladies who lunch; studious college students with books and laptops; professionals looking for a lighter, fresher lunch spot; and picnickers on their way to enjoy a hike through the Blue Ridge or a wine tasting at a surrounding vineyard.

In addition to Café Feast!’s staples—should the pimiento cheese disappear, there might be outbreak of riots—there is a seasonal grilled cheese and salad that feature peak ingredients and evoke flavors of summer, fall, winter, or spring.

Weekly specials are where catering manager, Megan Kiernan, and her dedicated staff get a chance to let their creativity shine. Utilizing seasonal, local produce, each soup, salad, or sandwich special is tested numerous times and won’t be offered up to the public until it meets their own high standards.“Sometimes its 15 minutes before opening, and we’re still adding finishing touches to get it just right,” Megan says.

Everything offered in the café is available for purchase in the store. (After tasting the port wine-soaked cherries Megan offered me last week, y’all know I’m happy about that.)

Whether you are looking for a unique gift basket addition or hostess gift, want to support local growers and producers–or simply want to get another sample of the Cville Candy Company chocolate I alluded to earlier that always seems to be waiting at the register–feast! awaits.

(If nothing else, buy some of the feast!-labeled Spanish Olive Oil. Seriously. I was once three states from home and people were raving about it. We all had a moment. That’s what feast! can do for you.)

Feast! is located at 416 W. Main St., in the heart of the Main Street Market.
(434) 244-7800
M-F 10:00AM-7:00PM
Sat. 9:00AM-6:00PM
Cafe Feast! opens @ 11:00 AM

Monday Feature: I Eat Asphalt-

Today’s guest blogger, Alex of I Eat Asphalt, is a passionate advocate for public health and nutrition education. A fitness and healthy eating enthusiast, her current drive is to help local farmers navigate the tricky waters of national food policy and bring the joy of fresh, sustainable food to all members of the community.

Hello Virginia Bloggers! I am so excited to be the first featured blogger, especially since I still consider myself to be a newbie to the area. I currently live in Arlington while finishing a Masters in Public Health. I have exactly 32 days left until graduation and could not be more excited. I’m planning to move to Charlottesville after graduation to pursue my love of urban agriculture and nutrition education. My blog is actually a pretty special place, in spite of the neglect it’s felt in the past year. I started blogging before I really knew what I wanted to do with life. Tomorrow is actually the two year anniversary of when I purchased my domain name. When I started I Eat Asphalt it was much more about exercise. Training for races, purchasing a road bike, with the occasional recipe or pictures of food. But having that space has allowed me to talk about issues that are dear to me, like hunger in American, the politics that control our food system, and current issues in the world of food and nutrition.

After starting my Masters at George Washington University I was incredibly lucky to fall into an internship with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). I was brought on to work on political advocacy and education about the Farm Bill. That experience has certainly changed a lot of my perspectives, and I certainly never imagined working as a lobbyist. I also work as a nutrition educator for Arlington County, which is kind of my dream job. I play with kids and teach them about food, what’s not to love?

Last Friday I fulfilled a long time dream of mine and went on a tour of Polyface farms with two other VA bloggers.

The living legend Joel Salatin was our tour guide and was just so incredibly inspiring to me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do justice to the experience, but one of my favorite quotes was: “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong. We learn from our failures and rarely do things right the first time.” 

One of the little known facts about me is that I quit my job to work on a farm before starting grad school. It was kind of a crazy decision but taught me a lot about myself and helped to shape my career path. It was also the most painful three months of my life. It has also given me a strong appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into getting food on to my plate. So, allow me to be “DC” one more time and let’s talk food policy.

The Farm Bill is the major piece of legislation that determines what we eat. Yes, the government has some say in what is available in our food system. The Farm Bill controls what crops farmers can grow, their value, and nutrition programs (like food stamps). I won’t go into too much detail about the current bill, but feel free to check out one of my older posts here and here.

The reason that the Farm Bill is particularly important is because of several titles that involve fruits and vegetables. Currently, fruits and vegetables are considered “specialty crops,” but I’d like to think they are actually food. The Farm Bill sets commodity payments, which are a type of direct income for farmers that grow crops such as corn and soybeans. The Farm Bill also includes legislation that controls how commodity farmers use their land. Commodity farmers are penalized for using their land for fruits and vegetable production, making commodity crops more lucrative. If you’ve heard any of the debates about High Fructose Corn Syrup or all of the soy that is used in processed foods, this is partially why. Corn and soy are produced in very large quantities, making them very cheap to add into processed foods, and have much more financial stability for farmers.

So in my opinion, the US has found itself in a bit of a predicament. We pay farmers to grow calories that are often “added” and punish some for growing real food. There is no perfect solution for this problem. If farmers grew more fruits and vegetables would there be enough demand to keep them in business?

I think it’s particularly important to understand some of the policies that control our food supply. Many people often say that if fruits and vegetables were less expensive, more people would buy them. This might be true, but then we have to think about the farmers that produce them. Would farmers make enough money to survive? Many produce farmers say that they do not want a traditional commodity program, but crop insurance (another type of government payment when disaster hits a farm). Crop insurance would provide a safety net for farmers and might encourage some farmers to use more land for fruits and vegetables. However, it’s hard to say how this would affect their price at the grocery store. I can say that organic produce is often more expensive because of the added labor costs and because of the small demand. Conventional produce prices could also increase if there was suddenly a large supply.

With an election right around the corner, it’s important to think about the agriculture issues in your state. Most of the produce grown in the US comes from California, but many states have small farms supported by farmers markets and local businesses. Virginia has an amazing variety of agriculture. I’m sure many people reading this are supporters of their local farmers markets and the buy local movement. I’d like to challenge all of you to take the Virginia Food System Council’s $10 challenge. If every Virginia household spent $10 per week on locally grown or produced food it would generate $1.65 billion. That’s a lot of dollars, y’all. So, go to your farmers market and spend an extra buck on local kale. Then hug the farmer who grew it.

WTF (What the Fashion) Comedy Show – @ Current

Hi friends and bloggers! This is Liz, from iheartvegetables and I’m kicking off our Thursday Feature with a restaurant that I just had the pleasure of trying, as well as some upcoming events in Richmond!

Thursday night, my friend Eric and I wanted to do something different, so we decided to check out Current, a restaurant in downtown Richmond, that was hosting WTF (What the Fashion?!) a stand up comedy event to support the upcoming RVA Fashion Week. Since Eric and I hadn’t been to Current, we figured this was a great opportunity!

We got there around 8, and were surprised to learn that their happy hour went until 9pm! That’s a huge perk. I hate when Happy Hours end before I could logically arrive and enjoy a drink. They had $1 rail drinks (yes, $1) so I had a few vodka/sodas with a splash of cranberry. (Best way to cut down on sugar, but still get the flavor of vodka-cran!)

We decided to split a bunch of appetizers in order to try more things. We ended up with wings, a black bean quesadilla, and sweet potato fries. I have a weekness for sweet potato fries…

Since I’m a vegetarian, I didn’t dig into the wings. Eric said they were just ok, but nothing spectacular. However, the quesadilla was much better than I expected. It had fresh pico de gallo inside, and was packed with beans, and not too much cheese. It was right up my alley, and a steal, for just $$. The basket of sweet potato fries was huge, and only $$.

The comedy act was supposed to start at 8, but it ended up not beginning until 9, which was fine, since Eric and I were enjoying happy hour 😉

The comics did a good job, despite a less-than-packed venue, and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. The $5 cover was well worth it, especially since it was to support RVA Fashion Week.

And if you haven’t heard about RVA Fashion Week, you can check out the list of events here.


Just when you thought we were joking with the #VAis4bloggers hashtag…we are making it reality!

We love the community that blogging provides, and want to make it easier to discover and connect with other local and statewide bloggers (and blog readers), as well as local events and businesses that support our passions.

We’ve started this site–as well as a twitter handle @VAis4bloggers.

Most importantly, we’d love to have you involved!

Initially, we will “kick it off” with our food and lifestyle bloggers, but over the next few months we hope to expand to blogs of all varieties, including music, art, events, family, etc.

We will feature one Virginia blogger each Monday, and one local restaurant/event each Thursday. We will also try to keep the events page updated, so that new bloggers can find where we are!

More updates to come!
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