Here I sit in excitement about our switch over from l’étoile to l’étoile catering in my office above the restaurant in Charlottesville, trying to write our first blog for our new website. Some thoughts come to mind – we have been serving Charlottesville, Albemarle and the surrounding area for over 21 years with our restaurant. Now my love of hospitality and Vickie’s attention to detail and communication with our clients it has taken us on a new course to a full service catering business, I now get to bring l’étoile to you. Welcome to Mark’s official blog, where you’ll find a chronicle of our events, cuisine, and artisan designs. Experience something beyond the mainstream with l’étoile catering. What makes us stand a head above ordinary caterers? Simply: spectacular food, presentation, and consistent creativity. We use only the finest ingredients and the freshest produce available to create unique menus for each event. With a flair for the individual event, you will find traditional favorites like ham biscuits and grilled cheese metamorphosed into bite-sized treats served up in inventive new ways. Our team members and I are masters of every detail and sticklers for taste.
L’etoile Restaurant announced today that Saturday, September 27th, 2014 will be the last day the restaurant will be open to guests. L’etoile, a well-known destination for locals and visitors, serving dinner and Sunday brunch at 817 West Main Street in Charlottesville, has been owned and operated by Mark and Vickie Gresge since 1993.
Lauded for its French-Virginian style fine dining, fresh ingredients from local farmers, and a hand-picked wine list, L’etoile’s cuisine has been a favorite dining experience in a city with very discriminating tastes.
Executive Chef Mark Gresge said “It has been an honor to serve our guests at the restaurant for the past 21 years. We want to thank all of our patrons who became like family to us with frequent visits, celebrating occasions and everyday life at our tables.”
The Gresges will operate L’etoile Catering, focusing entirely on in-house special events and catered meals for weddings, corporate and special events. The business will eventually be moving to an offsite full service catering kitchen.
“We’re delighted to continue to share our fine Virginia cuisine with the community in this way, and look forward to reconnecting with long-time restaurant patrons celebrating anniversaries, graduations, weddings, business accomplishments and more,” said Vickie Gresge, owner, and director of special events for the business.”
Ask a Southerner about the origins of Brunswick stew, and you’ll start quite the historical debate. Brunswick County in Virginia and Brunswick, Georgia, both lay claim to the first pot of the famous stew. (I, of course, tend to lean toward the Viginia version.) No matter where it came from, family recipes are passed down and sometimes even the pots in which they bubble. I am now the proud keeper of my grandmothers stew pot. Brunswick Stew is a staple barbecue side in the South, and is often found at football tailgates alongside pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, coleslaw, and potato salad.
Brunswick stew traditionally takes hours upon hours to make. Sometimes, it even takes days. With so many ingredients usually made from scratch, it can be a true labor of love. With this super-fast version, rotisserie chicken, leftover barbecue, and canned veggies take most of the preparation time out of the stew. The recipe makes a big batch, so portion out some for later and freeze for up to 3 months. Use leftover barbecued pork or pick up some at your favorite restaurant.
Each year at the “Taste of Brunswick Festival,” some twenty or so contestants vie for the title of “Brunswick County Stewmaster.”
These men continue a long tradition that dates back to 1828 along the banks of the Nottoway River. There, local historians say, Dr. Creed Haskins, a member of the House of Delegates from 1839 to 1841, took a group of his friends on a hunting expedition.
While they were on the hunt, the story goes, camp cook “Uncle Jimmy” Matthews stirred together the first impromptu mixture that has become known as Brunswick Stew. The original thick soup was made from squirrels, onions, and stale bread.
Recipes for the stew have varied over the years. Chicken has replaced the squirrel in more modern cook pots, while vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, and butterbeans have been added in varying portions.
The one thing that all cooks or stewmasters agree on is that the stew is not done until the paddle stands up in the middle.
Now we have to admit that among some there is debate about where Brunswick Stew originated. A few say it comes from near Brunswick, Georgia, in 1898. Clearly much later than the Virginia claim.
In January 1988, the Virginia General Assembly attempted to put to rest the debate and issued a proclamation citing Brunswick County, Virginia as “…the place of origin of this astonishing gastronomical miracle.”
The tradition continues. This tasty chicken stew is a top fundraiser for local organizations and is frequently sold out in advance of the contest. It is a proud, and delicious, symbol of what awaits the visitor to Brunswick County. Brunswick County, Virginia, that is!
Official Brunswick Stew Recipe
Makes 10 Quarts
5 1/2 lbs deboned chicken (thighs are better)
6 oz. white meat (fatback) (ground or chopped)
4 lbs white potatoes cut up (french fry size is OK)
2 ½ lbs chopped yellow onions
1 ½ qts crushed tomatoes
2 ½ qts small green butterbeans (limas) drain
1 ½ qts white shoe peg corn drain
1 stick margarine
¼ oz black pepper or You can
¼ oz red pepper season to
1 ½ oz salt your taste
1 ½ oz sugar
Prepare your potatoes and onions ahead of starting the stew so that you can stir continuously. Continuous stirring is necessary for the thick consistency to call it a stew and not a soup.
Put the chicken and white meat in the pot; cover with water; bring to a boil and cook until chicken starts coming apart; add potatoes, onions and ¼ of seasonings; bring back to a boil and cook until potatoes are soft; add tomatoes and ¼ seasonings; bring back to boil and cook 5 minutes; add drained butterbeans and ¼ seasonings; bring back to a boil and cook until butterbeans are soft; add drained corn, margarine and balance of seasonings; cook about 10-15 minutes and then enjoy your stew
PROVIDED BY THE
PROCLAMATION STEW CREW
Friends of L’etoile Catering
Dominique Attaway Photography
Andrea Hubbell Photography
Sarah Cramer Shields Photography
Katie Santmyer Photography
Ashley Cox Photography
Planet Earth Diversified
The Wine Guild of Charlottesville