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Dish of the Year

Chef Michael Hall wowed the judges with a bright, flavorful appetizer in the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction on Oct. 19. He won Best Presentation and Dish of the Year awards for his geometric platter of blueberry-topped lamb chops crusted with Smithfield ham; spoon bread bites and zucchini slaw, garnished with edible flowers. It was a stunner, the judges (including Style restaurant critics Don Baker and Joe Cates) agreed, and another in Hall's string of wins at the fete. He's now chef at the Bull & Bear Club downtown.

Also earning honors were Frits Huntjens of French favorite 1 North Belmont for his oyster-mushroom salad served in a potato basket — and newcomer Todd Johnson of Carytown's Mezzanine, for a localized surf-and-turf combo of seared rockfish and roasted venison with celeriac puree. The theme was a locavore hors d'oeuvre, and chef contestants created dishes using at least one ingredient from a local supplier. A People's Choice award at the annual benefit went to Johnson of Mezzanine as well, for piquant meatballs skewered with lemon grass.

Big Pfood

Chef Annie Chalkley, one of the area's finest caterers, brings together a stable of food up-and-comers for the HELP Benefit Nov. 14. Chefs Ellie Basch of Savor, Diane Fraser of Cucina, Graham Reeves of Hazel Ruth Catering, and Sam George of CafAc Rustica will join Chalkley of Pfoods Etc. to present a five-course dinner in the Page Bond Gallery at 1625 W. Main St.

The evening begins with aperitifs and appetizers at 7 p.m. and proceeds to a seated dinner focusing on locally sourced, seasonal and organic ingredients. Unlike the usual banquet dinner service, “I decided to make this a culinary experience,” Chalkley says, “a dining experience from a kitchen with five chefs working together.” The team will present each course with a wine from an exceptional international selection. An auction of food and wine packages follows. Seating for 80 guests is by reservation only; tickets cost $250 and include valet parking. 

The HELP benefit — Help Enrich Life for Patients — supports the work of volunteers at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center. Its programs include patient advocacy and support, legal and financial services, help with paperwork, research in Massey's two cancer libraries for diagnosis-specific information, a free wig salon, snacks and beverages and special events to cheer patients.

For tickets to the HELP benefit, contact Diane Cardea at 744-3002.


Ah Inspiring

TJ's at the Jefferson:  A hot ticket at the hotel is a wine course on the second Wednesday of each month. Carol Colby and the hotel's restaurants and wine director, Ben Eubanks, will lead tastings from an eclectic list. Spanish wines and light tapas will kick things off Nov. 12; sparkling wines from international vintners is set for Dec. 10.

Guests pay $25 for each session by reservation, and can purchase wines at retail. The fee includes six tastings, tapas and valet parking. Then, Eubanks hopes they'll stay for dinner at TJ's, where chef James Schroeder is bringing a new focus to the kitchen. 101 W. Franklin St. 649-4644.

Grandpa Eddie's Alabama Ribs & BBQ: Celebrating its third year with a Halloween bash, with a costume contest and music by the Imitators, Oct. 31. New menu items include barbecue nachos, smoked wings and New Orleans barbecued shrimp. Lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday. 11129 Three Chopt Road. 270-7427.


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