Friday, February 4, 2011

Coveting a Heart-Shaped Box

Is there a better way to start an evening than with wine and chocolate?

Since the obvious answer to that is no, I started at Barrel Thief, where they were doing a wine and chocolate pairing for a mere five bucks. Count me in since I won't likely get a heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine's Day.

The first pairing was 2009 Saracco Moscato d'Asti with a Gearhart's apricot-brandy dark chocolate. I am a huge fan of this local chocolate-maker and the beautiful asti with fruit and flowers on the nose called out for the fruity chocolate that accompanied it. This was going to be my favorite pairing, I just knew it.

Next up was the Broadbent 5-Year Madeira, paired with a maple-pecan chocolate. Sweet and nutty with acidity and complexity, the Madeira was just lovely with the chocolate's pecan.

The last pairing was the Lustau PX San Emilio to be enjoyed with the beautifully striped Earl Gray chocolate.

The abundance of sugar in this sherry made it perfect for the bitter chocolate and bergamot of the Earl Gray. This ended up probably being my favorite pairing of the three, because the contrast was so well done.

With a start like that, I needed to follow up with something just as enjoyable. That turned out to be the opening of the Chris Milk Hulbert show at Ghostprint Gallery.

I'm already partial to his work and amongst the local art on my walls is one of his pieces, "Guitar Player," so I knew going in that I was going to be tempted. It's good to know that you're going to be weak in advance,

Tonight's show included a similar piece, called "Gold Strings" where the guitar player had a gold guitar, but I still preferred mine.

The show was whimsical and colorful and if I were going to buy myself another piece, I know exactly which one it would be (just trying to figure out if I can justify the price).

The room was full of Hulbert's friends as well as local art collectors sipping wine and beer and wanting to get first shot at buying his new works. It felt like a lot like a party.

By the time I left the gallery, a couple of pieces had already been sold; I can only imagine what will happen tomorrow night when the show opens to the public.

From there I went to Bonvenu for dinner. The unexpected pleasure was walking in to find an acquaintance already at the bar and insisting that I join him at an adjacent bar stool.

Wine was poured, conversation began and it was like we had planned to meet up. Conversation flowed while he finished his French onion soup and then we both had the crab cake.

Kudos to Bonvenu and Chef Chaz for all the lump back fin and absence of binder in this fine cake. And I say that as one who grew up in Maryland and knows from well-made crab cakes.

The music was 70s and 80s and featured lots of Hall and Oats (sorry, but I did find Daryl Hall attractive in my youth), Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Sheila E. and Cameo.

Not surprisingly, my friend and I used it as a launching point for discussing dance clubs in D.C. in the a previous lifetime (cause we were in Dupont Circle at the same time, although not together).
When he said Blackie's and I responded with Deja Vu, it was like I'd run into my past and then owner Susan jumped in for a discussion of post-club eating in DC and the absence of such in RVA.
How can people be expected to drink and dance for hours and not sop with fatty food immediately afterwards? It's what makes the next day doable, we all agreed.

Dessert was a blueberry cobbler served in an onion soup ramekin and covered in a sweet crust with vanilla ice cream floating on top.

This we shared (along with more wine) while savoring its contrast of warm fruit and cold ice cream. I am a sucker for blueberries and the South American ones in the stores right now are absolutely delicious.

We were barely done with that when a couple came in and asked if the bar was still open (it was; we were proof of that).

A little conversation and we discovered we had a mutual friend; next thing I knew, that friend was being summoned by text from Bamboo.

He showed up with two friends and the wild conversation and imbibing began. My friend and I stayed the course with wine while the newcomers had Mind Erasers (shudder) and added to the mix with their defense of and disdain for their generation's musical competency.

It's amazing how often I find myself defending the current generation's music to the current generation, so many of whom seem fixated on their parents' music. Very odd.

I had to listen to them make a case for both Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga (double shudder), while they also sang the praises of Led Zeppelin and Dave Matthews Band.

I tried not to judge, but it wasn't easy. Kings of Leon seems to be the band that everyone can agree on, for whatever that's worth.

Eventually, I realized that I'd stayed so long that I'd missed the show I'd intended to see. My acquaintance, now a friend after sharing the details of our personal lives, bade me good night. I finished up my music discussion with the newcomers before deciding to make my exit as well.

Is there a better way to end an evening than after a satisfying meal, much good wine and interesting conversation?

Let's not state the obvious.

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