Monday, September 6, 2010

Southern Exposure

I lucked out because a friend had invited me to dinner last night and when I said I couldn't make it because of the Al Green show, he invited me for tonight instead. My host-to-be was the bialy-pushing Gregg, one of the husbands I've been known to appropriate for an evening out, here.

Gregg likes to give me a hard time about just about everything; my refusal to have a cell phone and my lack of a TV are two of his favorites. But his invitation for Labor Day was based on my refusal to cross the river to meet him for dinner. If I wouldn't come for a restaurant, would I at least come south if he cooked? Well that was a no-brainer. Of course I would.

I didn't even hyperventilate crossing the river (he had told me the air was different south of the James), instead admiring the calm beauty of it on this Labor Day. I found his house easily enough and he and his wife welcomed me in. Gregg even complimented me on my colorful surf shop dress (I'll beat black yet).

We settled in on their spacious deck and I was poured good tequila. My host told me that he'd tested the tequila previously and admired its smoothness, actually acknowledging to me that he could now understand my affection for it.

The first course was a trio of cheeses along with his homemade fig jam (to die for), Asian pears (my first and I loved the texture) and an almond/honey paste. I could have made a meal off of just this as we sat chatting about winery touring here and abroad, the Williamsburg restaurant scene and how a blowtorch was used to prepare a country ham by his colorful father.

One of the reasons Gregg and I bonded when we first met was that his palate is far more adventurous than his wife's. So on a night when she has plans, we will go out and eat something together that she wouldn't touch. Our next course demonstrated this: tuna carpaccio with Hawaiian black salt, olive oil and slivers of cheese for the two of us and shrimp for her. The carpaccio was divinely thin and flavorful, melting in my mouth.

There was a wonderful quinoa salad with currants, spiced nuts, edamame and balsamic over butter lettuce and the only reason I didn't finish every bite was because I knew there was more food coming. It was the kind of dish a vegetarian would salivate over and this omnivore did the same.

Lightly sauteed crab meat with blue cheese and breadcrumb-topped tomatoes came next and what kind of Maryland-raised girl would I be if I didn't enjoy every bite of my favorite crustacean? But I'll admit I was getting mighty full.

In a nod to the changing weather and my host's favorite season, next up was butternut squash soup with a maple syrup swirl and seared scallops. The rich and creamy soup did taste like fall and the scallops we cut with a spoon they were so tender. It was a decadent course and then I was really done. We all were. Forks could have been stuck in us.

But of course the talented Gregg had to prove that we had room for just one thing more and that was a champagne and lime granita with two cookies, one each of ginger and vanilla. He was right, much as I hate to admit it. We did have room for the weightless and crystalline granita and it was the absolutely perfect final course.

It was a good thing we still had plenty of conversation left in us because after that it was about all we were capable of. But it was a beautiful night south of the river, and with the earlier darkness, light breeze and absence of mosquitoes, we sat sipping and sharing stories past and present while digesting our Labor Day repast.

I didn't change my mind about crossing the river for a restaurant, but anytime this man wants to cook for me, I'm heading south post haste. As I've demonstrated, I can do a couple date just as easily as I can borrow a husband.

Either way, I get to utilize my strong suits, conversation and eating. Lucky me.


  1. I feel very pedestrian now...

    that menu was poetry.

  2. Well put...Gregg is definitely a poet with food. Lucky for me his wife is willing to share him.