Hello, my name is…


Many of you now know that because the lanyard name tag I’ve donned, with feast logo and upper and lower case 72pt. type, is hard to miss.

We frequently hear from our customers that once they’ve discovered us, they’re hooked. Our recent 10th Anniversary party showed us how many folks have been frequenting the store since the days it was first conjured by Kate and Eric, welcoming the artisan cheese seekers of central Virginia to the Main Street Market a decade ago.  Sadly, some customers come and go. But like Michael, baby Peter and doting Grandmother Luiza pictured here, many do not leave by choice. I was just getting to know Michael as a regular customer when he shared with me he would be leaving town. His wife’s UVA Architecture gig was up and the family would return to Harvard. Michael came in to feast at least 3 days a week and ordered lunch from the cafe menu, no drinks, then strolled on home. When queried, he spoke quietly of our great food.

He’s not alone. I know many faces and quite a few names of “regulars” who stroll in daily. Or stop in once a week, or have a planned monthly trip from out of town prepared to fill up their empty coolers. With some I’ve quipped about what they do on Sunday, the single day of the week we are closed. Benton, Charlotte, Melba, Lucia, Ned, Francisco, Melissa & Kate, Carola, David, Lizzie & Rick, Jed & Erin, Rene & John, Shannon & Mary, Paul & Maria, Kennedy, Katarina, 4 Karens and 2 Emilys, are but a few we see from our perch at register, in cafe, at the cheese and deli counter, and from our mezzanine offices above.

We know you, what you come in for each week, even what you might order for lunch before you approach the counter. Here’s a little random nattering on the names and faces of Feast.

Megan leads the cafe, has been to LA and back and can work a chainsaw. Julia is quite the visual artist with more than soups and sandwiches. Hernan is a powerhouse 4 days at feast and more at Beer Run, his daughter Nancy works the line with precision. Zuri is our dynamo food prep, ninja line wonder! Rene and Santina keep the backroom spic and span. Irvin knows your name and your side order preference, wielding his lunch ticket book.

Moving to the cheesemongers, Sara is fluent in Italian, manages the counter and rocks out to Steve Earle and Old Crow Medicine Show. Levi has a bulldog tatoo and is quite the oenophile. Wes is our Celtic wonderman.

Upstairs, Eric and Kate, our intrepid owners do much more than count the cheese wheels. Dave the GM loves his redwings, his wife and son and anything with truffles. Cari makes sure I get paid and does all things office. Jenna is an avid book worm, orders the food you and I devour, wields a price gun, and mans the register with a smile. Kelsey comes from Nelson County 0-dark-thirty farming roots and is the new produce and gift box manager.

On the floor is awesome Alex in her Toms, gently sweeping your items into a basket, and offering you a taste of your soon-to-be-new favorite treat. At register, Kim keeps efficient company ringing through the lunch rush. Me, I eat a lot of peanut butter balls, Effie’s oat cakes, cherry tomatoes and Fleur Vert. All at the same time.


carrot, oh.

Simply put.

I love carrots. Aesthetically, visually, gastronomically.

Others do too. Poetically.

I took a bite, but saved plenty for you. Tastefully.

Mindful Sampling

I am married to a wolf. Specifically, he is a wolfer of foodstuffs. He doesn’t so much take bites of dinner as chomps it whole. We all know someone with those scarfing, lupine ways, a thoughtfully prepared meal is set in front of them, then gone before you’ve donned your napkin to tuck in. Soon after, while others at table are still patiently masticating, Wolfman is howling and starts to slink off towards the den.

I pondered this after reading a recent NYT article on Mindful Eating. An inspired piece on contemplating and recognizing the flavors of food, the healthful benefits of chewing slowly, and how the proper atmosphere and mindset enhances every bite you eat.

Reading it informed my recent foray into mindful sampling. Feast is full of samples and as someone who refills them regularly, I admit I have “tasted” the Praline Mustard Glaze, dried fruit, nut, and cream cheese sample with perhaps more gusto than Slow Food Charlottesville would endorse. So I challenge myself to slow down. Take a zen moment and slowly taste the offering before grazing more, err, getting back to work. Resist your inner canine, I say. Be the contemplative squirrel. For me, I tried the guided meditation approach, dwelling on: the texture of the sample on the tongue; Read the sign in front of me. What am I tasting at this moment? Did one of the cheesemongers create this pairing? Where did the individual elements come from? Which of the salty, sweet, sour, bitter or savory umami notions in the taste buds is this satisfying? Look around, are others experiencing the samples the same way? mmmmmm…. This is fantastic. How can I get more of this? Where’s a basket so I can take every bit of this home with me? Have they called my name for lunch yet? Where’s my ticket…

Ok. I digress. We all do when circling the center table. But the good intentions and advice are intact. We’ve all heard comments on how “dangerous” it can be to come in when you’re ravenous. I don’t think of the danger, just the delicious pleasure of intensely experiencing the sample, the lunch, and all things feast. That and bringing it all home in a cute, brown handled bag.

“on the twelfth day of Christmas…”

Holiday traditions?

Singing and eating have always been foremost for me. Growing up, not getting to open our presents until we’d finished breakfast and stood lined up in kitchen, oldest to youngest, (youngest to oldest in alternating years) to stampede the living room, pounce the stockings and cannibalize our milk chocolate Santas. We spent evenings listening and singing along to our parents holiday albums on the phonograph record player. Perry Como was one, and comedian Allan Sherman who did a sendup of the Twelve days of Christmas, that to this day, has me belting out “…and a Japanese transistor ra-dee-oh!” Continue reading

wee wooden spoons

I have several personal collections, but the prominent one this time of year, is the perennial home and hearth implement, the wooden spoon. With me, it’s not the long cauldron or stew pot variety, but the diminutive and personal wooden spoon meant for jam and honey jars, chutneys and soft cheese and one’s own mouth. I collect wee wooden spoons.

It started with a tactile, comforting grasp at the fall Crozet Arts & Crafts Festival a few years back. Standing in the booth of an artisan woodworker, I spied a small spoon made of cherry, a mere five inches in length, light as a feather, smooth and familiar to the touch. It was lovely and became a favored objet d’art in our household such that our Jack Russell terrier claimed it, chomped it and permanently altered its functionality while rendering it with endearing charm.

I began to seek out small and rare wooden spoons online through eBay and Etsy, locally at artisans coops and gourmet kitchen retailers. I’ve amassed a collection of 67 spoons in oak, cherry, olive, bamboo, coconut, walnut, maple, pine and acacia from many countries on several continents in both hemispheres. Continue reading

Serve hot, eat often.

Grits are good for you. I knew that long before I first ate shrimp and grits in Charleston, SC. While the “grits belt” runs from Texas to Virginia, I can only crow about the offerings of two states, both dear to me.

I’m lucky enough to have family living in the low country of coastal South Carolina. While visiting, I’ve learned to love the smell and vista of the salt marshes, large live oaks draped in Spanish moss, shrimp boats lining the docks (think Bubba Gump without the chocolate) at Gay’s Seafood on highway 21, past Beaufort. Ok, I can do with out the fire ants and humidity, but the palmetto state has it going on when it comes to food. Pat Conroy, native son and Fripp Island neighbor to my in-laws, wrote a fantastic cookbook that brilliantly weaves his story telling and culinary finesse. He describes grits “as an empty canvas for all kinds of experimentation” and of course, details his own Shrimp and Grits recipe, recommending the stone ground grits of Anson Mills. Have not tried them yet, but they offer blue corn grits from the Cherokee Nation, “…made from fresh new crop blue corn that have the fragrance and taste of mountain terroir and sweet corn, with intriguing background notes of chestnuts.” Mmm, what a beautiful image and provenance. Continue reading

Corn, not always from a can

Growing up in the northern Virginia suburbs, corn came from a can, year round. These days, it comes from the Saturday farmers market or our CSA subscription; whole ears of sweet corn, thin, pale silk tassling out the ends, deposited into the canvas bag, driven to our old house in southern Albemarle County. Corn on the cob is summer to me.

My mom shopped at Safeway. With a family of nine, (middle child) I remember helping with dinner, reaching for the can opener, adjusting the magnet to lock down on a 15 oz. can of house brand yellow corn, the flat-toned whirr of the motor about as appealing as the metallic taste. Two or three cans would be VEGETABLE portion of dinner, heated in a large aluminum pot on the stove. Once on my plate, I remember when the salt was passed my way, an automatic 180 vertical pour would follow until my Mom cried out “KathyMimiTerri, you know who you are, STOP with the salt already!” Continue reading