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.)