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Monday, December 9, 2013

Commons + A Holiday Giveaway

I remember many months ago having a fabulous chat with my friend Karen about an idea I had for a new blog series, She's Becoming Gold. I wanted to profile women who had made a change for the better and subsequently were coming into their own both personally and professionally. These women ended up being from all walks of life, but the one thing they had in common was a recognition that they were on the wrong path and a willingness to take a big leap to find the right one. No sooner had I explained the concept of the series when Karen immediately recommended her friend Andrea Hubbell, co-founder of Charlottesville-based website Beyond the Flavor

"We reach beyond the flavor to capture the stories behind the meals shared at the tables of local chefs, growers, bakers, craftspeople and food enthusiasts, because we believe that recipes are richer than the ingredients used to prepare them."

Andrea, along with co-founder Sarah Cramer Shields, has taken the Charlottesville food scene by storm with Beyond the Flavor's unique mix of storytelling. Both talented photographers in their own right, Andrea and Sarah found themselves on a plane with their hunky husbands (trust me I've seen pics) bound for New Orleans many years ago asking themselves the question we all ask at some point in our lives. 

If you could be doing anything that you aren't doing what would it be?

And so....Beyond the Flavor was born. Combining their photography skills and passion for food, they've grown their website into a showcase for the who's who of the eclectic Charlottesville culinary scene. After decades of processed food consumption, their stories also subtly encourage us to ask ourselves very timely questions. Where does my food come from? What am I putting in my body? Why did the chef choose those ingredients to pair? What is the story behind this dish? These questions, and the unique aspects of the farm-to-table movement, also lend themselves to a greater feeling of community that both Andrea and Sarah embrace whole-heartedly. 

{ From L-R: Andrea Hubbell, Charlottesville Commons editor Jenny Paurys, Sarah Cramer Shields }

I recently had the chance to interview these two fabulous ladies about their website, partnership and latest project, their first publication Charlottesville Commons. We met for breakfast on a cloudy morning at the Blue Moon Diner in Charlottesville and I was immediately struck by two things; what good friends they are and their absolutely adorable two boys Albert and Clyde. There is an organic flow of ideas between them as we sip our coffee and devour everything on our plates. We should do a children's book series! Commons Volume 2! Done. I am both charmed and envious of their connection and work ethic.

The word that kept resurfacing in my mind as they talked about the challenges of self-publishing and creating the content was community. They mention the names of those who helped with every aspect of the book from moral support to sponsorship. It is clear that they are immeasurably grateful for the support they received from their "community" and each other. They are also currently grateful and thrilled with their new studio in downtown Charlottesville which comes complete with not only shooting space, but a fully functioning kitchen for recipe testing. Did I already mention I'm envious?

I hope that you'll stop by their website and check out their book, which incidentally would make a fabulous gift for the holiday season. You can order your own copy here. Taking Beyond the Flavor to the next level with a publication like Charlottesville Commons was a goal from the creation of their partnership. By focusing on history, heritage and tradition, they've created a wonderful book that celebrates great local food and recipes and the passion of the people who create it.

Charlottesville Commons Giveaway

In fact, I loved the book so much I asked if they'd mind giving away an autographed copy to one lucky Austen Hill reader. They happily agreed (thanks ladies!) so here's what you'll need to do to enter.

1. Like Austen Hill on Facebook
2. Like Beyond the Flavor on Facebook.
3, Leave a comment in the comment section of this post with your favorite cookie recipe. This can be a link or written recipe.

The winner will be chosen at random and announced next Monday! You have until this Friday to enter.

I hope you enjoy a few pictures of Andrea and Sarah in the field and also a sneak-peek of their new book. Cheers!


  1. I have made these cookies twice this season already. They are evil and delicious with the perfect salty, sweet combination, and a handful of coconut to send you dreaming of the islands when ice sits on the sill.

    Loaded-Up Pretzel Cookies Recipe

    Leslie Saunderlin

  2. My absolute favorite!

    Kat F.

  3. Your work is SO very inspiring. Aesthetically, intellectually. Thank you!

    My favorite cookie is the one I make with my daughter:
    Cookie Pie (Basically our chocolate chip cookie recipe pressed into a fluted pie pan. soft chocolate chip cookie goodness served ala mode...)
    2 sticks butter
    3/4 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup white sugar
    2 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 c flour
    1/2-1 c oats (optional-- at 1 c oats, reduce the flour by 1/4 c)
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    chocolate chips-- we like to mix dark and milk and semi-sweet until we have enough dough to chip ratio!

    Mix all the first ingredients, creaming butter and sugar, then adding eggs and vanilla.
    Add all the dry ingredients until combined.
    Add chocolate chips.
    Press into a pie pan (we like to use the kind with a removable bottom).
    Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until getting firm. You can under cook a little (on the 15 minute side) if you like a softer crumb. Serve warm! with ice cream for best results.