Monday, November 18, 2013

Dinner in the suburbs

The restaurant Pasture opened recently in the Shops at Stonefield, a suburban conglomerate of shops, that's designed (not-so successfully, in my opinion) to resemble a town center.  Pasture already has a location in Richmond and has now expanded into Charlottesville.  The Pasture in Charlottesville has gotten a lot of buzz, so Jon and I decided to check it out.

Stonefield has been open for about a year and Jon has never been there.  I've nipped into the Trader Joe's a few times, and took the kids to its theater to see The Hobbit, but it's not really part of my stomping grounds either.  Of course we had to be insufferably OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE WE'RE EATING IN THE SUBURBS and Jon insisted to a guy we met at the bar that he hasn't been outside of Belmont in two years, which is patently untrue.

I ordered the Deltaville cocktail, which is a mixture of vodka and jam.  The variety of jam depends on what they have available, and what was available on Friday was pineapple.  That probably sounds disgusting to you, but I loved this drink.  I think it is cut with plain soda water.  It was sweet, but not overly so and pineapple and vodka make a stunning combination.  I would definitely order this again.

Pineapple Deltaville

The menu has a lot of snacks and small plates, and we chose to order from among these selections.  I prefer tapas-style because it gives you the opportunity to taste a greater variety of things, and it's easier not to get overwhelmed with tons of food.  Our neighbor recommended the fried okra, so we started with that and it was spectacular.

I ordered a salad because I was being tiresome about eating something healthy.  It was a bit boring.  We also had the pumpkin hummus.  It comes with sticks of jicama for dipping, which went well with the pumpkin and made me feel less guilty than pita bread would have.  Our last dish was a small plate of meatballs, which our server chose for us because they were out of the chicken sausage we wanted.  These too were good. I could have sworn our server told us he was bringing us chorizo balls, but these were definitely not chorizo.  They were chicken, mildly spicy and served on top of a root vegetable puree that I can't identify.  Potato + parsnip, maybe?  Since I didn't read the description on the menu, I'm clueless.

Because of the virtuous jicama and salad, we shared a dessert: Boston cream pie, which comes in a mini mason jar.  The trendiness of mason jars is causing many eye rolls on my part, but I loved this dessert.

Stonefield seems to still have a lot of vacant storefronts and the parking lot is a disaster.  It's hard to find your way around, it's hard to find the exits, there are a lot of confusing intersections where it's unclear who has the stop sign. We had difficulty finding Pasture, and only managed after I caught a glimpse of a cow on top of one of the buildings and took it for a clue.  I'd love to know how many fender benders there have been in that lot since the shops opened.

What do you think of "town center" shopping developments?


  1. They're STILL out of the sausage? We went a couple of weeks ago. Ordered sausage. They were out. Got talked into "chorizo" meatballs. I was pretty underwhelmed. Also, I ordered a specialty cocktail and they were out of whatever fancy artisanal local whatever that was the linchpin of this drink. It was early in the evening on midweek, so it wasn't like they had a run on it on a Saturday night. They just never had it to begin with. The drink mixer and the sausage. Boo. Take if off the menu if you don't have it, please!!

    Also, I found the atmosphere very cold. Its acoustic characteristics were strikingly similar to my son's elementary school cafeteria. It needs a rug or something.

    I had other issues as well, and my overall impression was not good.

    Perhaps they're still working out the kinks? I'll probably give them another chance in a few months, but only because I work nearby. I wouldn't go out of my way to eat there again.

    1. Too funny about the "chorizo." I thought maybe I had misheard, but I guess not. I thought the interior was bland and suburban, all drywall and slick surfaces. I'm curious to see the Richmond location now.

  2. Worst parking lot ever. It's as if the developers want you drive around in random patterns. Maybe it's a psychology experiment.

    I've been to Trader Joe's twice since it opened and both times it's been so crowded and the cashiers are so chatty that I have nightmares of never getting out with all of the snacks I don't really need.

    I've seen photos of Pasture and I agree with fixmylabrum -- it looks very cold.

  3. In general, I'm not wild about faux towne centres, but at least they're not shopping malls.

    As far as Stonefield goes, I've been beyond frustrated with them about the traffic in and around there, not to mention the number of times I've seen near-misses in the parking lot around Trader Joe's.

    I've griped about this a lot on Twitter and this past summer they asked me to email them some examples of what I've seen. I did so, along with the simple suggestion of painting in a few crosswalks. The paint would be quick and cheap and the crosswalks would show people where to walk and drivers where to expect people. I not only told the Stonefield people exactly where to lay down those crosswalks, I told them where in the area they could see examples of parking lots done well.

    Have they acted on these easy and fast suggestions? No, of course not.

  4. Suburbs? Stonefield lies in the "Hell" panel of Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights." If I'm going to a restaurant, I wouldn't pick one in a "town center," especially Stonefield. Getting in and out would ruin any enjoyment that should be had from dining out. Even with a drink like you had, which sounded yummy to me.
    Also, from what I've seen and heard about Pasture, it looks like it belongs in some revitalized industrial area near a waterfront or railroad. But, hey! They serve fried okra and pudding in mason jars! Guess that's what matters.

  5. Having worked for a planner's office and dabbled in studying the subject (Fun fact - I kicked around the idea of going to grad school to get my masters in planning right up until a few years ago), the town center idea was rampant among those folks for some time. I think the thinking was it appeared to give the 'burbs less of a sense of sprawl and supposedly more of a sense of place. Like a downtown. Yeah, I never bought it either.

    The biggest reason why I haven't been over there is probably that it's outside of my work/school/downtown circle. Yes, you can argue it's just across the street from where that (imaginary) boundary lies, but given my preference to walk and allergies to sitting in traffic, I just haven't brought myself to sitting through more lights to cross the street. I also think going to Belmont requires packing a snack and extra shoes just in case.

    How I lived in cities is beyond me. Oh yeah, I never did anything outside of my neighborhood then either.

  6. I guess I have no qualm with mini-neighborhood centers making a comeback as long as they're pedestrian friendly and not just a spin on strip malls.
    Glad you had a good time at this restaurant--despite the mason jars!

  7. I don't have feelings about "town center" shopping developments. I do love fried okra. And I have similar feelings to yours about Mason jars.

  8. I came over for puppy pictures. There need to be more puppy pictures. :)