Saturday, March 27, 2010

Secco and French Film

Like a lot of wine lovers in Richmond, I'm looking forward to seeing what Carytown's soon-to-open wine bar Secco is going to add to the mix.

Given that it's the brainchild of Julia, owner of River City Cellars and a font of wine geekiness, I'm expecting good things.

Today I got a sneak preview with a savory sandwich that will be on the menu once they open for business.

They'd hoped to be in business in time for the French Film Festival but circumstance prevented that, so Julia offered compensation today in the form of sandwiches from the upcoming menu in the form of take-out (in, it should be noted, eco-friendly containers).

There were only two choices, a panini of braised fennel with apple and melted Fontina D'Aosta and the one I got, a bocadillo of Duroc pork confit with house-made kumquat preserves and St. Agur bleu cheese.

I took mine just around the corner and sat down in one of six dining room chairs for sale in front of Shepard Street Antiques. I figured I was a good advertisement for eating in these chairs but I also wanted to enjoy my lunch in the sunshine.

My sandwich got a lot of admiring glances and eventually the owner came out with her husband and asked if my lunch was from Secco.

Since every trace of it was gone, I had to describe it for them; I raved about the bocadillo's crusty bread, salty succulent pork contrasting beautifully with the sweet preserves and creamy stinky cheese, with assorted olives and for dessert, a dark chocolate-covered fig.

And here's the clincher: it was a mere six bucks.

As I finished gushing over the fabulous fig finish, the owner moaned, "Don't tell my husband that! He'll spend all our profits eating at Secco."

Not my problem; I was just trying to answer your question, ma'am.

Despite having lived two blocks from Carytown for over a decade, I never stroll and shop there.

 So of course, I hear my name called as soon as I get up to throw my trash away and it's my former Whiskey Wednesday neighbor who left J-Ward last month (I know, it's a shame to see the tradition end).

He and a friend were heading to "some hippie's' party" and he suggested we do a walk and talk to catch up with each other as they made their way to their drinking event.

He also claimed he never "does" Carytown, so we figured our meeting up was highly unlikely and yet here we were.

As they headed off to a purple haze, I made a u-turn and walked down to Plan 9 to get a ticket for an upcoming show at Alley Katz I want to see.

I was trying to fill the time before tickets went on sale for the 4:00 showing of The Hedgehog (Le Herisson) at the Byrd , but I knew from previous years that times are malleable at the French Film festival so there was no need to hurry.

As it turned out, the wait to buy tickets was about half an hour and the wait to get in about the same; both stetches were ideal for people watching.

You can't imagine the number of people who already had an unlit cigarette between their lips by the time they hit the lobby; I surmised a higher than average smoking percentage in the festival's patrons.

I saw a woman walk by with hair longer than her knees; it wasn't especially attractive but it was definitely novel.

Before the film started was the presentation of the French delegation, after which the speaker suggested a break before beginning the film by saying, "There are some of you who'll have to run out for a cigarette, I'm sure."

Funny thing is, there had been a break in between films barely 20 minutes ago.

C'est la vie, at least in France I guess.

I was seeing The Hedgehog, the story of a suicidal 11-year old, a reclusive concierge and a new resident at the building at which they both lived.

The couple sitting next to me were members of a book club who had read the book and one told me I was in a for a surprise with this story and boy, was he right.

Meanwhile, his partner ogled my popcorn until I finally gave it to him once I reached capacity, resulting in a very sincere "merci" even though he was as American as baseball.

The story of a woman opening herself up to love just before a tragic end resonated with the 11-year old, who had come to the conclusion that you have to "pursue the stars or end up as a fish in a bowl."

It was a fairy tale kind of story told in a most un-Hollywood way, which is just what I like about foreign films.

That and the fact that there are always more attractive men at the French Film Festival than at any other one event in Richmond all year.

And I say this as someone who has attended it for the last ten years (this year is the 18th annual).

Lest I sound shallow, though, please know that I go for the French cinematic experience.

Handsome men and sexy accents are just gravy.


  1. The panini sounds good! The movie is another confirmation of my view of French films. I like them, and they seem very complicated. Then one day, I realized I was living a french film! It was a very interesting experience. I definitely enjoy your writing, and I'm curious... where is the picture you have on your home page taken? I like the perspective.

  2. Jackie,
    Waking up to a compliment about my writing is the second best thing I could wake up to. Thanks so much!

    That photo was taken at the main library on Franklin Street by my very talented photographer friend Scott. Check out his artistry at:

    And if it makes you feel any better, my life is a French film, too, but I'm completely okay with that.

    Thanks for reading.