Never tell a chef who's just added sweetbreads to his menu that you just had sweetbreads three days before at another restaurant. Or, if you choose to do so, you can expect to eat sweetbreads twice in three days. Which, if you're as fortunate as me, can be a very good thing.
I'd gotten a call from a friend alerting me that First Fridays was canceled tonight, which wasn't a problem because the WRIR 5th birthday bash was still on. Now I had time to eat dinner out before the party and it seemed logical to pick the restaurant closest to the Renaissance Center, the location of the soiree.
It was obvious that the rain had scared more than just the First Friday organizers because, upon entering my neighborhood joint, Bistro 27, I was surprised at how few people were out on this rainy night dining. On the other hand, the staff greeted me with, "Now the party is complete," and there were a couple of neighbors present, so I didn't really need much more.
Chef Carlos wanted to know where I'd had my recent sweetbreads and how they were prepared, and then he disappeared. After ordering the touted Angeline Pinot Noir, the bartender pointed me toward several interesting new things on the menu. Just as I had about decided to go for the seared foie gras, Carlos appeared with an overly generous serving of the veal sweetbreads in a mushroom, sage, shallot and Marsala sauce. As he pointed out, it's a traditional preparation, but when done as well as these were, I'd have to say sublime. Okay, he'd won me over. Again. I followed with a guilt salad for having eaten sweetbreads twice in 72 hours.
Because it was so slow, I had the pleasure of Carlos' company for the entire evening. We got off on a rant about the local restaurant scene, who's over-promoted, who doesn't really live up to their press, who's over-priced and who curries favor with the local critics. As it turned out, he's as opinionated on this subject as I am and we share many of the same opinions, so it was a very satisfying discussion.
Our other hot topic was the lack of special events to keep pulling people to First Fridays. Happenings like the May Day parade and the Chinese lantern parade drew people in droves to First Fridays last year, but during the months where the galleries alone represent the focus, the numbers seem to drop. It's a subject Carlos has discussed with the mayor, a regular customer, who claims to fully support the idea of doing more, even suggesting that the organizers need to address the issue.
After dessert and a wine lecture by Carlos for the benefit of the neighbors at the bar, I bundled up to walk the half a block to the WRIR party. I got teased about not bringing an ID (seriously?) and immediately ran into scads of people I knew. It began with Matt from Amazing Ghost; I had just missed their performance. But as I told him, I could hardly be faulted since I've seen them twice in the past few weeks. I caught most of the Hot Damns set and ran into John H. and his camera, the one person I knew without a doubt I'd see tonight. Naturally there were plenty of musicians I knew, a favorite blogger and assorted others, all out supporting independent radio.
Cam from Heks Orkest came up to say hi and I teased him about them headlining; he thought it was because they were the loudest band performing and would probably clear the room. I told him that my first show had been the Who, I'd seen Stinkeye play inside ADA Gallery and had been at the My Bloody Valentine show, so loud didn't scare me. Grinning hugely, he pulled up his shirt to show me his MBV t-shirt underneath; okay, he knew loud, too.
Probably my favorite performance was one of the WRIR dj's band, Photosynthesizers, in the back room. Standing off to the side, a guy spotted me and motioned me forward to stand in front of him. "You feel sorry for me because I'm short, don't you?" I asked. Laughing, he said, "Nah, but I was short once , too." Considering he was about 6"2", I had to ask, "What, when you were ten?" which got him to laugh. I did appreciate the better view, though.
I went back to the main stage for HO's set and they were loud, but the crowd was really into them and that always makes a show better. Their volume did make it impossible to carry on phone conversations, so it was gratifying to see people have to leave the room to talk on their phones. Don't let the screen door hit you in the ass on your way out, guys.
And despite having had dessert already, I enjoyed a piece of cake before leaving; it was a birthday party after all and I, for one, am thrilled that we have such a station in rva (keep that Breakfast Blend coming). Happy birthday, WRIR and here's to many more.