As a long-lapsed Catholic, it was two things that alerted me to the upcoming season of Lent. The first was Bistro 27's chef Carlos asking me last week what I'd be giving up for Lent ("Lent," I told him) and the second was the invitation to my neighbors Bob and Steve's annual Mardi Gras extravaganza tonight. These guys turn Jackson Ward into New Orleans for a night every year and they do it right. The party starts at 4:00 is all I'm saying.
Beginning with the ornate decorations on their house and continuing in to the foyer, where masks, crowns and beads await incoming guests, this is a party of excesses. Forget the copious amounts of alcohol (and I bet a lot of the guests will have forgotten it until they wake up tomorrow morning; Larry, I'm talking to you), the multiple rooms of food are obscene. Of course there's gumbo and rice and king cake. It would still be a great party if that's all they had. But, no, there is a to-die-for sausage and cheese dip, carved beef, turkey breasts, cocktail shrimp, assorted cheeses, untold vegetable dishes, breads of every kind, crudites, even cocktail wieners. I think I counted five desserts. I've probably left out at least a half a dozen items, but there were just too many to keep track of.
Someone, not me, but someone initiated a discussion of the J-Ward restaurant scene and I was happy to chime in with my thoughts. I had just missed neighbors Julie and Dave, the owners of the Belvidere, but I shared my opinion of their place with those who had not yet tried it (shame on them; it's right in the 'hood!). Tarrant's delivery service was highly touted and 27's cuisine praised. One guest actually knew the Tarrant family and shared some local history with us.
Not long after, the baby was found in Bob's homemade king cake, but luckily not by me since the recipient is supposed to wash all the wine glasses and by then we were on our fourth box of glasses, if that tells you anything about the scale of the partying.
Next up was a short walk to Gallery 5 for the opening reception of Sleight of Hand II, a national juried contemporary craft exhibit. The opening had been postponed from last week and three musical acts were to play tonight: Gills and Wings, Brad Doggett and Thomas Coleman. As I walked in, the members of Gills and Wings were standing outside trying to finalize their set list. "We're gonna figure this out," one of them said. That would be good, I thought.
The array of crafts was definitely more art than crafts,which was the whole concept behind the exhibition. The pieces pushed the concept of what a craft is and most would be perceived as art objects rather than something utilitarian. I had just missed the awards ceremony when I arrived, but the pieces were subsequently labeled with their awards for the interested viewer. There was no shortage of unusual materials and thought-provoking imagery; the only shortage was of stereotypical "crafts." But then, when is Gallery 5 ever stereotypical?
The DJ downstairs was actually spinning records, always a pleasure to see and hear, but his extension cord extended into the bathroom, making it impossible to close the door for privacy. I'm no prude, but it didn't seem wise to use the facility with the open door, so I just stood there, trying to figure a solution. Luckily a guy came along who had no problem going with the door open a crack while I averted my gaze and when he finished, he offered to hold the door so I could go in private. He got a little too into his job, though, and when I went to leave, he hung onto that doorknob like a champ. Just before it got weird, he felt my tug and released me.
Laissez les bon temps rouler.