Monday, December 21, 2009

Festive and Nonchalant at Lemaire

What with it nearly the big day, my friend suggested we meet for a festive drink and I can think of no place in rva more holiday-adorned than the Jefferson. We met in the Rotunda to ogle the big tree, the folk art Santa figures, the elaborate wreaths and the sheer quantity of poinsettias around the base of every single palm tree. It's easy to imagine how this sparkling setting wows out-of-towners considering how bowled over a couple of long-time residents like us were.

Then it was a sweep up the grand staircase to the downscaled Lemaire. Our bartender, a Long Island boy who had to learn to use "sir" and "ma'am" when he moved south, greased the wheels for a fine evening. We began with quartinos of Old Vine Garnacha Las Rocas de Alejandro Catalayud 2006 and Malbec Lonko Patagonia 2005 and moved on to Tempura Green Asparagus with coarse sea salt and Parmesan and roasted garlic aioli and Brandy Peppercorn-Dusted Beef tartare with shaved Parmesan, micro arugula and horseradish sauce.

Dessert was Chocolate Grand Marnier terrine with vanilla bean ice cream and a dusting of cinnamon. Hard as it is for me to acknowledge this, the vanilla ice cream may have been even better than the chocolate terrine. I can't believe I just wrote that.

We saw lots of pretty people, including arts patron Pam Reynolds, looking chic as always, and several bored and entitled-looking young couples barely speaking to each other. Next to us was an older couple traveling from Maryland to Florida; the Jefferson was as far as they'd gotten in their travels today. They didn't seem to mind the early stop and overnight stay at the Jefferson in the least. Or perhaps it was always the goal

And lest you doubt that Lemaire is noticeably more casual than it used to be, on a visit to the Ladies' Room, I encountered a Jefferson employee folding towels in there. The employee was a man. But rather than make apologies or back out of the room, he merely indicated the larger of the two stalls to me, finished up his folding and discretely exited. Now that's the kind of nonchalance you would have never seen at the old Lemaire.

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