photo credit: Chef Angelo Vangelopoulos of The Ivy Inn
Josh “The Goat Man” injects some “flavah” into the great beast
Have you ever watched those food programs where people are standing around on the lawn, probably barefoot, drinking beer, laughing, noshing on snacks while they watch a beast slowly being roasted over a spit? It’s probably a pig, or a lamb, and the smoke wafts up in such a way you can almost smell the barbecuing meat. The folks look joyous, without a care in the world, like the biggest problem in life is how they’re going to eat this glorious animal without any of its yummy juices dripping on their clothes. They smile demurely, when inside what they really want to do is go savage on that thang and tear it to pieces like starving cavemen.
I know I have. Too many to count. It’s my personal version of porn. Usually it’s Anthony Bourdain who’s grinning in some exotic locale as he guzzles the local brew, looks at the roasting animal with anticipatory, carnivorous glee and talks about how it was prepared with the local chef overseeing the festivities. I watch. And drool. And dream about someday being a part of something like that.
Just a few weeks ago I was whining about not having any inspiring food topics (#foodpeopleproblems). Okay, so inspiring isn’t the word – there’s plenty to write about. I was having a serious case of the “March Mehs”. Well Chef Angelo Vangelopoulos of The Ivy Inn must’ve intuited my wailings. Or I dunno, maybe he actually reads my blog. A girl can dream. He invited The Hubby and I to his 2nd annual Easter Goat Roast. And I tell you what. It twere the real deal. If you got an invite and DIDN’T go?! I’ve got no use for you. Church? Easter ham? Grandma Louise’s special mint jelly? Your family’s 10th annual easter egg roll and cornhole tournament? Whatever. You really missed out. And if you didn’t get an invite? Prepare to be jealous. Because I’m still drooling over how freaking amazing the whole thing was.
In my mind, this gathering was what Chef Hartman envisioned during our podcast when he spoke of Charlottesville’s community of passionate and forthright foodies. While all along I’ve believed in an “us against them” scenario (cook and/or purveyor against writer and/or eater) Chef Hartman disagreed and insisted a triumvirate of food folks was in play, a group of like-minded individuals with the same goal: to delight in and crow about all foods Charlottesville.
Chef Angelo’s Easter Goat Roast was its realization, and imho, needs to happen often. A real chance for ALL of us to reflect, talk food, and really dig in to the bounty that surrounds us. Not to overuse “twee” words like “bounty” but imagine 100 or so folks from all walks of life: area chefs, servers, prep cooks, line cooks, writers, photographers, and enthusiasts all just hanging out in the yard talking and eating like they were at Grandpa Donnie’s yearly family reunion barbecue. It was just like that.
While the goat roasted slowly and gorgeously on the spit, its juices dripping and sizzling on the new red potatoes below, I was reminded of the “LOVAH” sketch on SNL, Will Farrell and Rachel Dratch their “bodies sluggish with goat meat.” Uproariously funny and gross at the same time. . . and yet, looking at that glorious beast with its tender flanks and sizzling juices I was strangely drawn in. Drooling. Eyes watering. What can I say, if such a thing as food erotica existed (hell, I’m sure it’s a fetish somewhere) I could probably write it. Finally I knew what that damn sketch was talking about, and looking around, I saw others felt the same. Big eyes took in the scene in anticipation of what was to follow.
And all the while the goat cooked, people sipped beer from the bottle, talked shop, asked about everyone’s Easter Brunch crowd, wondered when the new pho place would open, and speculated on who The Charlottesville 29 could be (it ain’t me). I talked with Chef Angelo about how his father used to roll out 20 lbs. of phyllo dough BY HAND back in Greece. Found out from Chef Yoder of The Clifton Inn that sadly, The Townhouse in Chilhowie has closed. This was after I had fawned and drooled all over Clifton’s carrot cake and thanked him profusely for his wonderful skills. A fan finally gets to meet one of her idols. Always a huge, and embarrassing moment in life. Chit-chatted with Justin Hershey of Zinc about his recent trip to Paris, and of course begged Chef Vu to open Moto Pho Co. earlier than June purdy please with sugar on top. Talked a long while with Jennifer Pendleton Keevil, chef widow of Brookville about food, Charlottesville, food, the weather, the upcoming Cochon555 event, and food. It was lovely.
Josh Cordonnier, “The Goat Man”, provided the wondrous animal, while Chef Angelo’s father presided over every step of its preparation. The head was saved for a special, traditional Greek soup, and afterward, when servers carted away the bones (PICKED CLEAN of course) Chef Angelo admonished them to save those golden nuggets for stock. The buffet spread of classic Southern and Greek favorites (BEST tiropita ever) satisfied guests’ palates while they waited for the big moment, and the breeze wafted the delicious smoke onto Old Ivy Road causing jealous motorists driving by to careen like Formula One drivers in a downpour.
Perfect picnic weather helped the kids on their Easter egg hunt while the adults devoured deviled eggs, feta, pasticcio, baklava, Rock Barn ham loin, local cider, beer and of course, wine. The goat itself? An amazing amalgamation of rosemary, garlic, and olive oil injected through and through meat so tender it fell off the bone. Delicately gamey, a combination of lamb, duck, and chicken in flavor. I loved it.
Reading back over this I sound like Michael Musto or Bill Cunningham, name-dropping my way through the who’s who of Charlottesville cookery. But it was like that, without the societal cattyness. Every time I turned around I saw someone I admired, knew, or whose food I’d bought, eaten, and enjoyed. All the greatest hits of Charlottesville food were there. And after we left? José Andrés Puerta showed up and cracked open a Jeroboam of Barboursville wine. What’s a Jeroboam? Think it’s wine-eze for “big ass bottle”. Jeez Louise, that’s what I get for being an old fart!
Nevertheless, The Hubby and I left sated, smiling, and satisfied. And where I thought I’d be doing an Easter rant against the devilment that are Peeps, instead I’m writing about roasted goat, al fresco gatherings, and the great friendship that is Charlottesville food. It reminded me of the BEST crab-picking family reunions of my childhood, and to have this come so close on the heels of a self-imposed writing exile is TRULY a gift from the muses. Life is good. I had the time of my life (cue the Dirty Dancing soundtrack) and I’ve decided two things: 1) we absolutely, positively need a firepit in our backyard; and 2) Charlottesville’s restaurants are in very good hands.
I think Chef Angelo said it best in an email sent a few days after to attendees. Thank you Chef, it was a delightful Easter.
“The idea of bringing together the food people of Charlottesville to share ideas, experiences and traditions is something that excites me and I plan to continue to push that very thing. We may compete for an audience in the community, but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that our goals are the same. I’m sure all of you share my enthusiasm for rallying our town around the idea of good food, good beverages, and great times. Food experiences we can all share with one another, and teach the next generation to appreciate and hold sacred. We are all so much more alike than different and I believe that to be a great reason for all of us to come together to share our food, drink and conversation. . .”
——-Chef Angelo Vangelopoulos, The Ivy Inn
the one of the girl in the bunny ears gnawing on a goat bone is my favorite :D