I know it's a good night when I'm willing to forgo music for good conversation, which is exactly what happened tonight.
After a busy afternoon stalking the wild Christmas tree with a guy friend willing to do the heavy lifting for nothing more than sharing a bottle of wine with me afterwards, I was ready for dinner out and some music.
I made Bistro 27 my destination because I hadn't seen those guys in a while and I'm never disappointed when I go there. I arrived around 8:30 to a ridiculously busy dining room and it didn't let up for another hour. Sitting down at my usual stool (at an empty bar), I was immediately greeted by all the guys who make my visits so enjoyable.
Chef Carlos came over for his requisite kiss, Dave made a smart-assed remark, Ron was friendly and flippant, Billy was his usual polite self, Richard gave me a half bow and Frederico smiled and gave me his shy greeting. Even Wilbur waved from the kitchen. I felt properly welcomed.
Just to get things started, I ordered a glass of Tempranillo while I looked at the menu. A regular came in to sit at the bar and when Carlos said hello, the guy let him know that he had a kiss on his face. "That's her," Carlos explained, gesturing at me and grinning. I have a reputation for leaving lipstick marks on men (among other things).
Because they were mobbed, it took Ron a good while to take my order (although in the meantime, he gave me my first taste of hot buttered rum), which suited me fine because I had time to do some crowd-watching and eavesdropping. The couple at a table near me were explaining to their sever why Florida didn't suit them.
"It's all newlyweds and nearly deads," she told him. "Except Key West." I'm sure my recently-transplanted-to-Key West friends will be glad to hear that, being members of neither of those two groups.
I finally decided on the flash-fried sweetbreads over local oyster mushroom ragout and polenta, topped with a port wine reduction, because it sounded like the kind of comfort food dish I was craving on this cold evening.
Carlos brought the generously-sized portion to me himself and the smell was enough to assure me that I'd chosen the right thing. Rich and earthy, the dish satisfied on every level. I have a restaurant friend who insists that Carlos' polenta is the best in town and she'd get no argument from me.
Along about that time, Carlos came over and insisted I try the Alexander Valley Lowry Hill Cabernet Sauvignon; and why not? I trust his taste, I had a plate full of sweetbreads to eat and I like big reds. Pour on!
One of the guys was telling me that his girlfriend has generously offered to support him so he can pursue his artistic dreams. "I got a sugar mama!" he bragged, causing me to ask where I might find a sugar daddy so I could do the same. His response, which I won't share, involved elements of my past, but was very funny for how quickly he came up with it.
At one point, Ron looked at me and asked,"Is there music?" not an unusual question for me to be asked. I thought he was asking about shows tonight, but what he really meant was could I hear the restaurant's music, which I could not and told him so.
He scurried off to make an adjustment, making for a huge improvement in the ambiance once I could hear what was being played (Marvin Gaye, Johnny Hartman & John Coltrane, even, gasp, vintage Hall & Oates). Must have music.
My next issue was whether or not I wanted dessert, so Ron brought me a menu,over which I could ponder. My next pour was the bold and beautiful Lodali Nebbiolo D'Alba, easily my favorite of the night (and I stayed with it) and undoubtedly part of the reason that I never made it to Balliceaux.
After close to an hour with the dessert menu (and even having to share it with the lipstick spotter), I finally ordered just as the kitchen was closing up shop. It worked out well because one by one the staff sat down at the bar with me to drink and chat as we watched some of the local cross dressers parade down Broad Street on their way to better things.
Carlos got the conversation started with reminisces of living in DC in the 80s, allowing the two of us who had also been there then to share memories of neighborhoods, bars and the mood of the city back then, very different from how it is now.
We three shared some of our favorite Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle stories, only to discover we had been moving through a lot of the same places at the same time. And oh, the rent prices back then! Those were the days.
As is often the case when you're talking to a half dozen guys, there were some tangents about girls who can't get enough sex, guys who date them and the surprising things you can see when an elevator door unexpectedly opens.
Like I said, I meant to go to Balliceaux for music, but every time I thought I could walk away from this group and their wild conversation, I was sucked back in. How does that happen?
To quote Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn, "The lady must have been willing."
She was that.