SWIRL! Mark Harmon wants to reinvent how we do wine
SIP! What to do with apples? Cider and sangria 4ever
TASTE! Foodie news to satisfy every craving FALL 2021
Taste is everything.
Just kidding! Childhood faves for grown-up palates, from pizza to—duh—ranch dressing
Fernando Dizon takes his street food to Market
Melty mozzarella, spicy pepperoni, and a crispy charred crust: What’s not to love about Oakhart Social’s wood-fired pies?
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E XC LU S I V E LY F O U N D AT T H E W I N E RY. COME VISIT!
TA B L E O F C O N T E N T S The Dish 7 Street talk A Q&A with Manila Street’s Fernando Dizon, on food, business, and fitting in.
11 Apples and apples Conceived as a tasting room treat, Coyote Hole sangria shines on the menu.
The amount of apples in each 16 oz. can of Coyote Hole cider. PAGE 11
Janey Gioiosa is creating connection—one YouTube cooking show episode at a time.
13 Small bites Pastries, restaurant openings, online classes: a few tasty morsels of food news.
28 Now pouring Mark Harmon’s wine-for-all ethos and the development of Harmony Wine.
12 The right recipe
Let’s be honest: Even the best parents can’t deny a screaming child macaroni and cheese with a side of ranch. And maybe there’s something to that, because while a child’s diet might not always be particularly nutritious, it always hits the spot (even for our sophisticated adult palates). In this issue: PB&J, pizza, and tots—the grown-up version. PAGE 17
30 The Last Bite Dance us to the end of pavlova.
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KNIFE & FORK, a supplement to C-VILLE Weekly, is distributed in Charlottesville, Albemarle County and the Shenandoah Valley. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Knife & Fork Editor Caite Hamilton. Copy Editor Susan Sorensen.
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Knife & Fork: Start by telling us about you. Where’d you grow up? How long have you been in Charlottesville? Fernando Dizon: I was born in the Philippines and I moved here when I was 12 years old—from the Philippines straight to Charlottesville. That was back in ’96. The story is actually from my grandfather. My grandfather was in World War II. After the war, they offered him a lump sum of money, but he requested instead to be a U.S. citizen. He got that granted, and then he petitioned for all of his children—he had 10 children, including my mom—to come to the U.S. We were the last family to come, and we’ve been living here ever since. How’d you get into making food? I’ve always liked cooking. Sometimes I would cook at home—I’d take over the kitchen and cook meals for my parents, things like that. But it was back in 2012 that I actually started selling at the farmer’s market. I was just selling lumpia, which is ground pork egg rolls, and pancit, which is rice noodles with vegetables. I started with those, every Saturday morning. Every Saturday it just got busier and busier and busier. So after about two years at the farmer’s market, I started the food truck. I quit my fulltime job as a banker—which I’d been doing for seven years—and bought a trailer. I started going to wineries, breweries, any events that I could get to, just to market myself. I was still setting up at City Market every Saturday—actually, I still do now—but would go different places with the truck during the week. What has the transition been like from running the food truck to your new location in Dairy Market? It’s been exciting. After a few years with the food truck, I thought, you know, I think we
ernando Dizon has been selling Filipino food in Charlottesville since 2012, when he first set up a stand at City Market and called it Little Manila. Two years later, it was clear that people here loved their lumpia—so he and his wife Jessie expanded to a food truck. They knew one day they wanted to open their own restaurant, and they finally saw their chance at Dairy Market. We caught up with Fernando to talk about the challenges of opening Manila Street (especially in the middle of a pandemic) and his favorite places to eat.
Fernando Dizon’s favorite dish on his Manila Street menu? Pork belly. It’s marinated in pineapple juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, and brown sugar.
have something. I want to open a restaurant. So I’ve been looking around for a couple of years, but I was still scared. It’s completely different from a food truck, where I can control pretty much everything. But what got me about Dairy Market was the diversity that they’re trying to have in their food. You have Japanese food, you have Thai food, you have soul food. If you want a pizza, you have pizza. You have us, with Filipino food. And you have just your burgers and fries. That’s what attracted us to the Dairy Market. What’s been the biggest challenge in moving to the new restaurant? Not knowing what the outcome would be. That’s the scariest part. When we opened, we still had the mask mandate, so it was hard to predict how much business we’d have. But it’s been exciting to see our restaurant built and opened. And it’s been successful, so we’re happy. What’s your favorite dish on the menu? My favorite dish is definitely the pork belly. Marinated in pineapple juice, lemon juice, soy sauce, and brown sugar. When you’re working the truck, you don’t always want to
eat your own food again, but that pork belly is always my go-to. Do you have a favorite dish to make that is not on your menu? It’s called tortang talong. It’s such a simple dish, really easy to make. I can eat a lot of it. It’s Japanese eggplant, this long eggplant. What you do is grill it until it gets really soft and dark and you can just peel the skin off. After you’ve peeled it, you whisk some eggs and dip the eggplant into the eggs and fry it, with salt, pepper, and paprika. That’s it. It looks like a pancake. It’s my wife’s favorite, too. Every time I make them, I make a lot. Just one last question: Where do you like to eat in town when you’re not working? Man, lately I haven’t really been out! Since we opened the restaurant, we can’t leave. But one of our favorite places it go, if we want chicken, is Al Carbon. Their rotisserie chicken is always good. And Kabob Palace is one of our favorite places, too. We get something to go from them all the time—in fact, just two days ago that was our dinner. But there are so many good local places here. Charlottesville is such a foodie city.
Spring Knife&Fork 9
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hris and Laura Denkers come from apple country in upstate New York. “Apples, orchards, and cider donuts have been in our blood since we were young,” Chris Denkers says. So in 2015, when they wondered what to do with the 37 acres they’d purchased in Mineral, Virginia, planting an orchard and making their own hard cider seemed like the natural choice. Six years later, the orchard’s still growing, but the cider is already flowing. Coyote Hole Ciderworks is named in homage to the area’s mining past, after the small holes prospectors would dig. “We do all aspects of the cider-making in-house from fermentation, blending, and filtering to canning and kegging,” Denkers says. With roughly 1.6 pounds of apples ending up in a single 16 oz. can, the orchards at Coyote Hole are still too young to meet the ciderworks’ ever-thirstier needs. So the Denkers source the majority of the apples in their ciders from other orchards in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Local farmers also help to supply peaches, pumpkins, and other ingredients for seasonal blends. According to Denkers, Coyote Hole even gets some of the pears it uses from wild trees growing in local homeowners’ yards. In addition to its five flagship flavors available year-round, Coyote Hole offers numerous seasonal blends, including ciders aged with cold brew coffee, blended with other fruit juices, or spiced up with chai tea. Depending on the time of year, cider enthusiasts can enjoy dry pear cider, pumpkin cider, or cider brightened with
At Lake Anna’s Coyote Hole Ciderworks, craft ciders and sangrias are the apples of their eye By Nathan Alderman pineapples or fresh peaches. But its most distinctive offerings may be its sangrias—a blend of cider, fruit juices, and wine. “We started making our original sangria fresh in our tasting room as a special drink for our guests,” Denkers says. “It became so popular that we decided to can it up back in early 2018. Since then, it’s taken on a life of its own.” Indeed, three of Coyote Hole’s year-round offerings are sangrias, including its top-selling Sister Sangria, which adds cabernet franc, cranberries, blackberries, and tangerines to Coyote Hole’s Oma Smith green apple cider. Sister
Make it at home
The Sangria Temple - 8 oz. (1/2 can) of Sister Sangria - 2 oz. vodka - 1 oz. grenadine - 1/4 oz. lemon juice - Orange zest
Combine and enjoy!
Sangria and its sibling, Sunset Sangria, even took the silver and bronze medals in the 2020 U.S. Open Cider and Beverage Championship. The sangrias rank among Coyote Hole’s most popular options, but Denkers says he’s particularly proud of “my personal favorite,” Bel-Hole, a single-variety Granny Smith hard cider aged in whiskey barrels, in collaboration with Culpeper’s Belmont Farm Distillery. Coyote Hole even turned COVID-19 into an opportunity for creativity. When lockdowns limited access to their tasting room, the Denkers began holding livestreamed virtual cocktail hours on Facebook, devising new libations based on its ciders. As dining establishments and bars reopen, it’s now sharing those recipes with its restaurant partners, like Beer Run and The Market at Grelen. With fall approaching, Coyote Hole’s preparing to revive a few fan-favorite flavors, including the pumpkin-enhanced Apparition and an apple pie cider—plus a few yet-to-beannounced flavors still in development.
Spring Knife&Fork 11
Whip it good
Janey Gioiosa takes on recipes and cancer in new YouTube series By Alana Bittner
I’m cooking along with local chef Janey Gioiosa’s “A Kind (of) Cooking Show” on YouTube, and get halfway through the video before I realize I’ve overlooked something on the list of ingredients—yeast. This recipe is a brave choice for me. As far as I’m concerned, pretzels come from Auntie Anne’s at the Fashion Square Mall. Yet in her rustic Crozet kitchen, Gioiosa’s easygoing attitude gives me the confidence to think I can
pull this off. But as I follow her direction, and pour lukewarm water into a mixing bowl, something hits me: Pretzels need yeast. Images of flat, concrete slabs of pretzel flash before my eyes. I rummage desperately through the fridge, the implications of last March’s global yeast shortage suddenly becoming clear. Just when I’m sure my pretzel venture is shot, I see it. There, at the back of the cheese drawer, is a jar of bakers’ yeast. Several risings later, I pull out huge, goldenbrown soft pretzels, just as Gioiosa promised. Auntie Anne’s, eat your heart out.
12 Knife&Fork Spring
For anyone intimidated by making pretzels, or any recipe for that matter, “A Kind (of) Cooking Show” is for you. Gioiosa takes the kind part seriously in two ways: She sets a goal of kindness, not perfection, and she says “If I make a mistake, I’ll show you that I made a mistake. So it’s just kind of a cooking show.” Gioiosa begins the pretzel video by shouting “Take one!” with a determined clap. Thirty seconds and a few montages later, she’s at “Take 12!” The winning intro is, “Welcome to ‘A Kind of Cooking Show.’ My name’s Janey. We’re gonna make some shit up today.”
At times, Gioiosa’s dog wanders in to see what’s going on. At others, her husband (musician Will Overman) hands her utensils from offscreen. She frequently sings her sentences and sometimes forgets the egg and butter. The effect is charming and utterly authentic. It’s when we’re twisting dough into pretzels, that Gioiosa says, “So…cancer.” Gioiosa was 19 when she was diagnosed with uterine sarcoma. She was plucked from typical teenage soul-searching, and thrown into a new reality of hospitals, scans, and chemotherapy. She fought it off, only to have it return when
Drooling over new pastries, steak, and wine tastings By Will Ham
Cou Cou for you Charlottesville croissant connoisseurs and Danish devotees are buzzing about the debut of Cou Cou Rachou, the new bakery from Rachel De Jong. After receiving her pastry chef certification from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, De Jong spent the last 12 years refining her skills in expert kitchens, including Gearharts Fine Chocolates and the three-Michelin-star-rated The Inn at Little Washington. After her 2020 bakery launch was thwarted by pandemic restrictions, De Jong began working as the executive pastry chef at The Workshop, a boutique wine and coffee space at The Wool Factory, where she will continue to proffer her croissants, boules, muffins, and beignets even after her flagship location opens at 917 Preston Ave.
Dairy Market adds some sizzle Dairy Market’s dining options continue to grow with the addition of South and Central from Ten Course Hospitality Group. The new upscale restaurant offers locally sourced, flame-grilled
delights with thoughtful wine pairings and Latin-inspired entrées. Also recently added to the mix is Citizen Burger Stand, the all-vegetarian GRN Burger, and Asian eats from Mashu Festival.
Old concepts in a new way In 2018, chef Antwon Brinson founded his mission-based company Culinary Concepts AB, which develops passions by teaching real-world skills through the language of cooking. Over the years, Brinson has established several culinary training programs, including one in the local jail. After being forced to adapt to the pandemic environment, Brinson discovered that he enjoys teaching online: Joining aspiring cooks through virtual lessons has allowed the Culinary Concepts team to help people rediscover the limitless possibilities available to them in their own homes. As a result, Brinson will continue his cooking school virtually for the foreseeable future. The classes are designed for all skill levels, and come with an hour of live training, a shopping list, a recipe, and a recording of the lesson. The best part? You can learn to make a dish like steak au poivre with as many people as you can squeeze into your kitchen.
she was 23. Today, not yet 30, Gioiosa is a twotime cancer survivor. She’s thankful for the support from her family and friends. But still, being a young adult with cancer was isolating. “You’re in this weird in-between, where you’re too old for pediatric care but too young for the older generation,” Gioiosa explains. “Nineteen is a weird age where you’re becoming an adult and you want that independence.” As her friends went to college and began their new lives, Gioiosa watched from the hospital, feeling more dependent than ever. The resources around her didn’t make things better. “You watch cancer movies all the time and they have all these friends who have cancer,” Gioiosa recalls. “I’m like, where are my fucking cancer friends! That I can bitch to and relate to, just the simplest thing!” In that vacuum of connection, unlikely things stood out—such as a YouTube series called “Shit Cancer Patients Say.” “It was one glimmer of like, ‘Yes!’ I watched those videos over and over again, because it didn’t feel like I was alone.” After her second battle with the disease, Gioiosa had newfound determination. “There is a pre-cancer Janey and a post-cancer Janey, and they’re very different people,” she says. “I’d always wanted to do culinary school and I never did, so I just did it.” She completed the twoyear culinary program at Piedmont Virginia Community College and entered the Charlottesville restaurant scene. If you live here and eat food, it was probably made by Gioiosa at some point. She’s worked in local favorites from Brazos Tacos to Petite MarieBette. Yet Gioiosa knew she still had work to do. “I’ve always disliked the saying that everything happens for a reason,” she says. “I’ve turned it into, ‘You make a reason out of something.’ So what’s the reason I got cancer?” “A Kind (of) Cooking Show” has given her an opportunity to provide the community she yearned for as a young person who was sick. The recipes come from moments in her journey. Those soft pretzels, for example, were first made during an early round of treatment. However, she eventually wants to shift the focus from herself, and she plans to bring in guests to tell their stories about cancer and food. It could be memories, she says, but it could also be, “What did you crave or what did you wish you could eat?” No matter how “A Kind (of) Cooking Show” evolves, its goal will remain the same. “I just want that person that was like me when I was 19 or 23 to not feel so alone,” says Gioiosa. “That’s success there, period. Signed, sealed, delivered.”
Spring Knife&Fork 13
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Eat like a kid! C H O MP!
Kids have four preferred main food groups: fried stuff, creamy stuff, cheesy stuff, and condiments. And while we’ll admit that we’re into all of that too, we expect a little...elevation. In this issue, we’re focusing on grown-up versions of childhood staples, from PB&J to ranch dressing. Dig in (food play encouraged). B Y N AT H A N A L D E R M A N , S H E A G I B B S , B R I A N D . H A M I L TO N , A N D C A I T E H A M I L TO N
E A T L I K E A
K I D
For nearly 20 years, we’ve been counting on Feast! to serve us upgraded classics utilizing local ingredients. The Main Street Market shop’s version of ham and cheese—the rosemary ham and goat cheese panini—combines creamy Caromont Farm goat cheese with Virginia Chutney Co. spicy plum chutney and fresh arugula, all on grilled focaccia. And we can’t forget the rosemary ham. Artisan made in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, it’s boiled with black pepper, rosemary, garlic, and herbs.—CH 18 Knife&Fork
Mark Weber, who founded Firefly Restaurant and Game Room, loved tater tots in any form. One of his original creations was the tater tot nachos—aka tater totchos. They’re still the top appetizer on Firefly’s menu. In its canonical version, tater totchos (fried in 100 percent non-GMO sunflower oil) are drizzled with a house cheese sauce and topped with black beans, pico de gallo, avocado, and sour cream. But don’t hesitate to ask for extras: A bit of bacon or pulled chicken on top will make this into a full meal. They’ll also make a vegan version if you like, dropping the sour cream and subbing in a housemade cashew cheese sauce. Bonus: Totchos are also available at Firefly’s food truck, Firefly on the Fly.—BDH
Totcho typical nachos
Since sliced bread
When Totally Baked launched in spring of 2020, owner Sarah Taflan offered up a menu of both classic cupcakes (chocolate chocolate, red velvet) and sinfuls (vanilla bourbon, margarita). But it’s the peanut butter and jelly version that has us reminiscing about snacktime. In Taflan’s creation, vanilla cake is filled with strawberry or raspberry jelly, then topped with silky peanut butter buttercream. More, please!—CH Knife&Fork 19
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On the sauce
The one food that bridges the gap between kid-friendly and adult staple? Ranch dressing. Pour it on everything— pizza, tacos, and maybe even salad (though that seems like kind of an afterthought?). Toss the Hidden Valley (for shame!), and turn your attention to three local housemade options. You’re a grownup, for goodness sake.
Buttermilk chive ranch at The Local
Beer ranch at Champion Ice House When Champion Brewery’s Hunter Smith and BBQ Exchange’s Craig Hartman teamed up to create Champion Ice House in Gordonsville, we expected great things, but we couldn’t have dreamed up the liquid gold that is beer ranch. Slather it on Ice House wings, Parmesan fries, or use it as a creamy addition to a bratwurst sando.
Salad sauce at Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie The pies may be humble, but the folks at the North Garden ’za spot should get extra bragging rights for their ranch Salad Sauce. Bottled and sold exclusively at the restaurant, it blends mayo, buttermilk, Romano cheese, and a special spice blend.—CH
The best thing about ranch? It fits in on menus from diners to elevated Southern comfort. In Belmont, The Local drizzles it over its River Oak Farms chicken dish to balance the kick of the housemade hot sauce, but as with most ranch, you can always ask for an extra side of it for dipping.
Pies in our eyes E A T L I K E A K I D
The same things that make pizza an ideal kid food— handheld, easily shareable, just the right amount of messy—make it perfect food for the kind of sociable dining championed by Oakhart Social. The West Main Street restaurant’s menu may change with the seasons (chicken fried octopus sando, we hardly knew ye) but pizzas have been a staple of this eclectic joint’s small and not-so-small plates for years now. Past topping experiments—like marinated mushroom and black kale with garlic potato cream sauce, or chili lime roast shrimp with goat cheese—may have rotated off the menu, but Oakhart Social has plenty of standbys to keep its blazing-hot wood-fired oven busy. These days, diners can choose from the classics: tomato-and-basil-topped Margherita, pepperoni, sausage, or the eternal kid staple that is plain cheese. But even here, Oakhart’s snuck in a few surprises, like the pickled jalapeños adding heat to the sausage pie, or the pistachio pesto and roasted garlic that give complex flavors to good old pepperoni. No wonder Oakhart’s pies consistently earn rave reviews from diners on Yelp, who particularly praise the crispy, puffy, oven-charred crust. And if you—or, somewhat less probably, your kids— want to wander off the beaten path, Oakhart’s happy to oblige with a seasonal selection or two. As we type this, that means summer squash pizza with Appalachian cheese.—NA
Cool for kids
Our favorite spots for a tasty meal or a good beer—with little ones in tow Charlottesville overflows with great spots for a grown-up night out. But you don’t have to give up your social life just because you have kids. Parents with small children simply face a different calculus: Is there something on the menu the kids will eat? And even more importantly, something to keep them occupied so you can actually relax and enjoy your meal? We crowd-sourced this question and added our own favorites to give you a look at the best family-friendly places around town (because babysitters are expensive!).
tables on the outdoor patio. Grown-ups can finish off their margaritas and Tecates while their younger relations explore the porch swings and book installation across the grass at this IX Art Park spot.
Beer Run No kids’ menu per se, and yes, the beer is off limits. But locals prize the Carlton Road spot’s relaxed vibe, and outdoor picnic tables mean the wee ones have a little room to roam while you’re waiting for the food. Plus, the nachos are some of the best in town and the breakfast tacos are fun for all ages.
Kardinal Hall Open-air tables with flexible seating, plus bocce and ping pong, add up to a place where the whole family can stretch out and relax. The kids’ menu has the usual grilled cheese/chicken nuggets/hot dogs, plus organic carrot sticks and ranch dressing for the pintsized vegetarian in your life.
Bodo’s One preschooler we know sticks with butter on plain whole wheat, while another has been known to order liverwurst and onion. Either way, low prices, kid-friendly options, and seat-yourself dining rooms make this Charlottesville favorite a no-brainer for kids.
Roots Natural Kitchen Even picky eaters like food in bowls. And what’s not to like? The West Main Street spot combines delicious with healthy. Grab an entrée for yourself, and a bowl for your kid (under 12) is free. The Nook This Downtown Mall stalwart won’t be setting any speedy-service records, but the staff is nice to kids and, aside from the basic children’s menu, it has what must be the longest dedicated mac-andcheese menu in town. Diner staples like the BLT on toast are a step up in quality from standard greasy-spoon fare, and the outdoor patio is a short hop from the Virginia Discovery Museum carousel and the free speech chalkboard while you’re waiting for your meals to arrive.
Brazos Tacos Texas-style tacos, a sneaky-good chicken and tortilla soup, and chips with queso and guacamole are best enjoyed on a sunny day at picnic
Three Notch’d, Champion, and Random Row Who says breweries are just for beer drinkers? All three of these local craft taprooms have dedicated fans on the parent scene. Champion’s comfort food-oriented menu has pretzels and cheese dip and a hella-good hot dog, while Three Notch’d, with its kid-zone play area, serves an $8 children’s meal that includes an entrée, a side, and a scoop of Virginia-made Homestead Creamery ice cream. Random Row serves pizzas from the RVA’s Billy Pie, and has board games and a chalkboard coloring wall.
Firefly This lively restaurant/bar/arcade is perennially popular with families. Check out Firefly’s abundant games— from foosball to Donkey Kong—and its local food. Chase your chicken tenders and tater tots with a Shirley Temple from the dedicated kids’ drink menu.
Don’t monkey with the dog
There are some things that just can’t be elevated (and why would you want to try?). Enter the foot-long. Jak ’n Jil’s “famous” (as it says on the sign) version is best with the restaurant’s “always homemade” chili, a side of fries, and a shake. Open since 1944, the High Street spot hasn’t changed since we were kids.—CH
E A T L I K E A
A great sandwich? Baloney!
K I D
In 2017, Bon Appetit magazine named Charlottesville native Mason Hereford’s New Orleans sandwich shop, Turkey and the Wolf, its best new restaurant of the year— and heaped praise on its fried bologna sandwich. Closer to home, Holly’s Diner couldn’t resist paying homage. Holly’s version starts with two quarter-inch slices of Boar’s Head bologna, fried crispy on a griddle (with a weight to keep the edges from curling up). Those two discs of tasty lunchmeat surround a fried egg topped with melted Havarti cheese, with more cheese and fried onion straws on top, all nestled between two slices of Texas toast spread with mayo and Dijon mustard. No wonder Holly’s goes through an estimated 40 sandwiches—and up to 25 pounds of bologna—every week.—NA
Rob & Melanie Lewis
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PERFECTING HARMONY Mark Harmon’s new wine business is coming together By Brian D. Hamilton 28 Knife&Fork
he very first bottles of his new wines arrived on Matt Harmon’s birthday, December 18, 2020. “One of the things that kept me going,” he says, “was that I thought my wine was coming every week from early September on. For some people that might be a little discouraging, but I was like a kid on Christmas, just super excited, regardless of how realistic I really was.” It was a happy culmination of a bumpy year. Harmon had moved into a new marketing job at the end of 2019, but the work evaporated when the pandemic hit. After a couple of months casting around for a new nine-to-five, he realized it was time to go all-in on an old dream. He steeled himself: “Now’s the time to go after it.” Harmon had known for years that he wanted to get into the wine business. There’s a deep love of food in his family, going back even to a grandfather who ran a restaurant in Charlottesville— the name of which has unfortunately faded from family lore. He’s long been a passionate wine drinker. Even before the pandemic, Harmon had filed for almost all the permits he needed. He knew he wanted to change the perception of who drank wine, how they drank it, and what they drank it with. He knew he wanted to help make the wine world more accessible. He knew his new line would be called Harmony Wine. By July, he realized he couldn’t put it off any longer. He started writing to wineries across the country, tasting samples of their product (the coolest way to spend a pandemic, he says), designing labels, and planning pop-up events. It wasn’t long before he had found a partner, Texas Custom Wine Works, and settled on an eclectic slate of five wines to launch the brand: a sangria, a red blend aged in bourbon barrels, a peach wine, a carbonated gewürztraminer, and (for the traditionalists) a cabernet sauvignon. “The Texas climate is a little bit more diverse than I think people know,” Harmon says. The grapes for his peach wine grow in the mountains, but “unless you’re well-versed in the wine world, or even into Texas geography, you might not know that Texas even has mountains, or that they grow grapes there. That opened up a whole new world for me.” The sweetness of the Texas wines was what appealed to Harmon. “They say that the farther south you go, the sweeter the sweet tea—and it’s like that with wine as well,” he says. Once he finally had bottles in hand, it was time to start getting them out into the commu-
nity. Harmon launched a podcast back in 2019 called “Bad Guy, Good Wine,” and it gave him an opportunity to talk to people in the beverage world throughout central Virginia and the Washington, D.C., area. Those connections proved critical for getting some of his early visibility. This past spring, he served his wine at a Back to Black pop-up event with Serenata in D.C., and he worked with Pro Re Nata to make a sangria. A good deal of what he’s sold so far, though, has been straight to wine-drinkers, hand-delivered by Harmon himself to avoid the hassle and delays of the congested postal system. The next big step is to bring his wines home to central Virginia. Harmon was born and raised in Charlottesville, and it would feel more natural and authentic to him to sell wines produced nearby. It was difficult to break into the Virginia wine scene before he could actually hold up bottles with his name on them, but now the opportunities are coming quickly. He’s found an excellent local mentor in Culinary Concepts AB founder and chef Antwon Brinson. He plans to offer his first Virginia chardonnay by the end of summer. Pippin Hill donated its proceeds over Juneteenth weekend to help Harmon grow the business, and he’s in talks with Veritas about collaborating on a wine this season or next. He’s dreaming about offering a full slate of Virginia wines that highlight the talent in the region. Harmon’s vision is an appealing one, if not especially new: wine, not just for experts, but for casual drinkers. Thoughtfully paired not with inscrutable small plates, but with barbecue and burgers. Enjoyed not just in fancy dresses and suits, but in sweatpants on your couch at home. He’s certainly not the first to inveigh against a stuffy and exclusive wine culture. But it’s considerably more rare that a passionate outsider like Harmon finds the drive and puts in the work to create something new. “Wine is for everybody,” he says emphatically.
“Wine is for everybody.” M A R K H A R M O N Knife&Fork 29
The Last Bite
Ready for the spotlight Allegedly named for famed Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, the classic meringue-andwhipped-cream dessert gets a French refresh at Café Frank. Chef Jose De Brito tops fluffy rose cream with raspberry sorbet, fresh raspberries, and a crispy meringue, all in a coupe glass with a long stem fit for center stage. 30 Knife&Fork
A ROOM WITH A VIEW The Legendary Mill Room
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