Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sufferin' Succotash

"Come hungry and loquacious."

Could there be a better invitation to dinner than that for a person like me who lives to eat and talk? I even got to pick our destination, with my companion's only request being "somewhere new to him" and he readily admitted to having little knowledge of the Richmond restaurant scene. The field was wide open.

We met at The Empress, although he was well into his wine and an order of sauteed calamari in garlic and herb sauce when I arrived under my umbrella, fresh from a meeting with a bunch of actors who now knew far too much about me.

Chef Carly greeted me and was kind enough to bring me some Hob Nob Pinot Noir to get my cold and damp blood moving. What happened to Spring again and can we get it back?

I took advantage of his invitation to partake of the appetizer and enjoyed the buttery, garlicky sauce on both calamari and bread before inhaling a crumb of bread and coughing in a most unladylike manner for ten minutes.

Only then was I fit to peruse the menu, urged on by owner Melissa to try something  new ("What haven't you had before?" she challenged me. Not much, I had to admit).There was only one order of lamb chops left and everyone there knows how I feel about those chops, but I willed myself to branch out.

Unable to resist the lure of bison, my companion went with the buffalo lasagna and I, a sucker for succotash, picked the grilled scallops with green bean and corn succotash with sauteed fingerling potatoes.I could see Melissa's approval in her eyes.

He loved his lasagna; I scarfed down my scallops and all the while we discussed curtailing risk-taking (his and mine), his time spent as part of the East Village scene in the 80s (Television and Talking Heads), and using it or losing it (that would be any and all parts of it). Loquacious does not begin to cover it.

He made a strong case for adding the Seville April Fair to my bucket list (except that I don't have one) and, based on his description, he may be right about it being something I need to experience.  If Byron could admire its women and oranges, so could I.

We followed food and wine with wine and dessert, but I deferred to his choices, what with him being an Empress virgin and me willing to eat just about anything. Besides, there are no bad choices on that dessert menu.

Like all first-timers, the award-winning chili chocolate pate blew his mind (that heat on the finish always has that effect on first-timers) but the chocolate/banana crepes disappeared just as quickly. We traded plates until both were gone. I have no dessert shame whatsoever.

Even more impressively, we outlasted the ten-top, the four-top and the deuces, but eventually even we had to go. Before we left, I was complimented on my conversational skills and although my eating talent went unremarked, I feel certain I had fulfilled both requests of his invitation as I had promised earlier.

"Rest assured, I am always both."

But to really challenge me, you'll have to ask me to do something more difficult than breathing...aka eating and talking. That's just too easy.

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