"I can only take a little Karen at a time," my friend deadpanned when I asked why we hadn't gotten together in two months. And then before I could react, laughed loudly, saying. "I'm joking!" Haha.
We were being tended to by Arthur at the bar at Acacia, he with a heavily bruised martini and me with a glass of Tocco Prosecco; the front windows were wide open, making for a marked contrast to the frigid January night we had last met at Lemaire.
I am adamant about being called an enthusiastic eater rather than a foodie, but every time the two of us get together, we spend the first hour discussing the wonderful and unusual things we have eaten since we last saw each other. Perhaps that makes me a situational foodie.
"All this food talk is making me hungry," my friend announced, so we began with the duck ham (with Asian pear, frisee and pistachios) and olives wrapped with marinated mackerel. While both were good, we agreed that the mackerel could have been put to better use; the olive overwhelmed its flavor.
Usually Acacia's pulsing house music complements its spare but trendy interior, but tonight the music came in and out. My friend said it had been completely absent when he arrived and there were times when it was lost in the near-capacity crowd. I missed it.
There was a new salad on the menu and, given the seeming change of seasons, it was impossible to resist. Mussels and crab meat salad with cucumbers and radish sprouts in a red pepper mussel vinaigrette was as light as my Prosecco and as fresh-tasting as a Spring day.
A half dozen plump and perfectly cooked mussels nestled in an ample bed of crab meat and greens. I already know that I could order this salad again tomorrow and enjoy it just as much. The flavor combination was exquisite.
Our bar perch afforded an excellent view of Arthur's mixology skills in action and my friend was entranced watching him make unknown drinks. When he told Arthur that he was interested in trying something different to drink, Arthur's dry wit surfaced. "Congratulations," he said and we presumed sarcasm.
"No, really," Arthur insisted. It seems that most people are afraid to move out of their alcohol comfort zone. With my friend pointedly looking at me, it was the golden opportunity to share my recent forays into absinthe and limoncello. I can't tell you how impressed he was.
And he did step out of the box, ordering a bourbon-based cocktail called Iron is Hot and being quite happy with it. I stayed in my box (that would be my earthy, funky with lots of dark fruit box) with a glass of Les Petites Pas Dom Pas de L'Escallette. Baby steps.
Then came the uproarious part of the evening where he grilled me like a steak about my dating progress since he last saw me. He was laughing hysterically, eyes watering, at my answers to his questions and I was laughing just as hard at his appalled reactions.
"That's the funniest thing I've heard in ages," he gasped, talking about my life, although he does approve of the path I'm on now. He really cut me no slack whatsoever.
"You realize the problem is that no one can keep up with you," he explained to me like I was a child. "I couldn't. I'd be dead." Now there's the kind of dating encouragement a girl needs from a good friend.
It really was the best part of the evening, even if we may have disturbed our neighboring barsitters with the decibel level and length of our laughter. Maybe that's why we needed the music louder.
After parting ways, I went to meet a friend at the Camel for music, supposedly jazz, but a bit more loosely interpreted tonight. But, hey, it's free music on Tuesdays, so it's hard to complain about genre-bending.
SCUO played first and I know these two guys from other bands like Glows in the Dark and Ilad. The SCUO project is cool because it began as a way to write music that was more difficult than they could possibly play in practice. Say what?
It's definitely minimal (guitar and drums) but when executed by two of RVA's best jazz musicians, absolutely compelling. They played a variety of songs named for body parts tonight (legs, hands, arms), but "Shoulders" was my favorite.
Next up from New York was Zevious, billed as a fusion trio in the punk/jazz movement. Since I didn't know there was a punk/jazz movement, I'm going to go with sort of a math rock/progressive rock sound where the bassist was every bit as busy as the guitarist, if that tells you anything.
When I left after their set, it was with my ears ringing, partly from their volume and partly with the sound of my friend's laughter still in my ears.
Maybe that's why he can only take a little of me at a time. The laughing is too much for him.