The problem with having a birthday just before Christmas is how easily it can get lost in the holiday shuffle.
My Capricorn friend avoided any chance of that by throwing himself a birthday dinner tonight at Zeus and inviting fourteen of his favorite people to eat, drink and be merry to celebrate another year above ground.
Four hours and $1000 later, he had succeeded magnificently.
We began with field greens with candied nuts, goat cheese and apples, followed by fried oysters with a spicy remoulade.
Platters of both arrived unbidden and were devoured. I then had the crab cakes, but the tenderloin meat loaf with bacon mashed potatoes was also a big hit with several at my table. The shrimp and grits with Tasso ham got raves.
Everything I tasted was birthday-worthy and the endless bottles of Zeus Rouge certainly enhanced the mood.
Among the random things I learned from various party-goers tonight included the fact that there are always a lot of two-dollar bills at racetracks.
There's such a thing as too many pickles if you have to schlep them home from Florida yourself.
I've been missing the outstanding Tuesday specials at Gertrude's in Baltimore by only having been for Sunday brunch.
Not everyone can eat large quantities of candied, sugared nuts (I can).
As you can see, the evening had both educational and entertainment components if you were paying attention (I was).
Since it was a birthday celebration, nearly everyone got dessert (caramel bread pudding, apple crisp with ice cream, key lime pie and molten chocolate cake).
The birthday boy ordered only a spoon and spent the dessert course rotating seats for tasting purposes.
The waitress brought out a lit birthday candle so we could sing to him, but the candle was in her hand, not in any type of cake or dessert item (pictures were taken to document this and then retaken when the first ones were dark).
As our numbers dwindled, two other couples in the restaurant attached themselves to our group for conversational purposes, undoubtedly tired of having put up with us carrying on for hours.
One couple had long-time local roots, so they and Birthday Boy could reminisce about things that happened here long before I arrived in RVA. Kelly's Burgers? Um, okay.
The other couple was celebrating her birthday, too (and were also treated to the candle-in-hand presentation) in what looked like a most romantic way.
One of our party asked how long they'd been a couple and they said they'd been together for eleven years before marrying four years ago.
When asked how that was going, she prosaically said, "Now it's all about the kids." He looked at her and refuted it entirely. "I'm still completely fascinated by her."
What I wouldn't give...