017 – Justin Ross, Parallel 38

 

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Whether you call them small plates, tapas, or mezze, these treats for sharing have been a part of the American restaurant scene for at least 20 years. So why are some folks still reluctant to embrace this European concept? That’s our topic for Episode 17.

Meet Chef Justin Ross of Parallel 38, one of the most unique restaurants in Charlottesville. Its concept revolves around cuisines from countries lying along the 38th parallel. Countries like Greece, Turkey, Spain, Lebanon, the Napa Valley, and of course, Charlottesville. Parallel specializes in mezze or Eastern Mediterranean small plates which include ingredients like eggplant, goat, octopus, Zatar spice, and delicious labneh, a cheese made with Greek yogurt.

Justin is somewhat of a prodigy – pastry chef by 17 and running a wine program by 25. He eventually worked under José Andrés and Mike Isabella at Zaytinya during the time when José was just beginning his world domination of the culinary food world. His stories of Mom’s bartending days at The Kennedy Center and all the experiences he had under the tutelage of Andrés were riveting. And the story he told about a customer he encountered during his first restaurant job, the one he still remembers to this day, made me tear up.

Why does Justin’s business card say, “Busboy”? Why does he WANT you to tell him, in person of course, if something is not right with your meal? How does having a good palate translate from creating great food and pairing great wine to designing the perfect craft cocktail? What is he doing to demystify the secrets of the wine list and help remove the snobbery which can sometimes surround it? And why does he start off each day in the kitchen by listening to sad country songs? All this and more in this episode of Edacious. We also get into the “Strip Mall” argument for a bit. I blame the negronis. Do it up!

Starting this past Wednesday, September 9, 2015, Parallel 38 is offering More Mezze Wednesdays. Buy one mezze, get one free. Now that’s a BOGO I can get behind.

This coming Tuesday, September 15, 2015, Parallel 38 is hosting a charity event to benefit the Frost Montessori School. For a $50 ticket, you can enjoy all the mezze you can put in your face hole, one white wine, one red, and one craft cocktail all to benefit a great cause. Tickets are still available. Contact the restaurant for more details!

SHOW NOTES – Links to items discussed within the episode:

  • José Andrés – get to know the man who made tapas famous in America. Does he ever sleep?
  • Mike Isabella – you know him from Top Chef, but he also runs a DC-based restaurant empire.
  • Parallel 38 cooks at the James Beard House – and just FOUR MONTHS after opening. Wow. Read this fine article to learn about a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Correction: Parallel 38 did not win “Best Vegetarian” in the C-Ville Weekly 2015 poll. They came in 3rd place. I’m sorry for the error.

This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.

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