If ever I needed four glasses of wine plus a generous tasting, it was today/tonight. I was in full surrender mode.
My evening got off to a practical start with some Christmas shopping in Carytown. Packages in hand, I went to Secco, where there was only one bar stool unoccupied.
I asked the guy in the adjacent stool if it was taken and he said that it wasn't; he also initiated a conversation immediately, always a fine start to an evening.
The coincidence was that when he introduced himself, I recognized him; I had done video work for him at Media General maybe three years ago. Once I reminded him, he remembered me (or so he said).
He, too, was no longer in the grip of MG, having moved on from MG. We could compare notes about the oppressive atmosphere of recent years there and revel in being away from the depressing pallor that hangs over that place as it slowly dies.
I looked at the wine list and decided on the 2006 Benotto Monferrato Rosso "Nebieulo," causing him to say, "A woman after my own heart." I took this to mean that he was also a Nebbiolo fan, a fact confirmed by both him and our server. Okay, so he was also a Secco regular. I was learning a lot about him quickly.
After the arduous (and detested) Christmas shopping, all I wanted was food, so I ordered the mixed field greens, Caromont chevre and pistachios with lemon-thyme vinaigrette, to be followed with the oxtail ragu, potato gnocchi and house-preserved lemon, all the while keeping up with the discussion of taking a c0mpany private, the importance of early-morning posting and the pleasures of morning bike rides.
My publishing friend seemed much more personable tonight than I remembered him from staff meetings, but that may have been due to his change in marital status since the last time I spoke with him. Availability does bring out the best in people, no?
My mother would have been appalled, but since he had already eaten, I dug right in to my salad (especially savoring the chevre and pistachios) as I answered questions and posed a few of my own. There was only one question he was unwilling to answer; it was one, he said, he intended to answer the next time I saw him. Well played, I thought.
I was impressed with the oxtail/gnocchi dish (and when was the last time I was lucky enough to have oxtail twice in two days?) for its comfort food feel and pillowy gnocchi.
Meanwhile, the two of us talked about our favorite restaurants, a topic which inevitably leads my conversational partners to observe, "Boy, you do know every place." No, not every place, but certainly most of the city places.
He was surprised with my familiarity with Fredericksburg and Charlottesville restaurants (and it turned out that we'd both gone to shows in C-ville alone recently, whatever that means). Come on, what else do I have to do besides eat?
My new friend showed off his new Mac (he got points for the Hopper screen saver) and I showed him my blog. He disputed my self-described nerd status and noted that he had already observed the quality of my legs when I'd gone to the bathroom. Maybe some things are better in person.
The lovely Sara was kind enough to change the music to my mix (hello Spoon, welcome Interpol); it's always a pleasure for me to hear the music I've chosen.
He countered with insisting I taste his favorite white wine at Secco, the 2007 Cistercens "Coenobium" Vino da Tavolai Bianco, as unusual a white as I've had. A smokey element and layers of complexity made this the best nun-made wine I've tasted in many a moon.
And then back to the Nebbiolo. A DJ friend joined us for a discussion of illiteracy, short attention spans and the future of publishing. He also showed me pictures of his beagle, knowing my affinity for them, and then showed me some amazing photographs from the 19th century.
I tasted the aerated chocolate dessert and, as promised, it was a mouthful of chocolate that disappeared in my mouth. No long-term commitment there.
Right now, momentary pleasure seems good enough. I can't believe I'm writing that. but then I'm not really myself today.