Friday, July 15, 2011

A European Romp

As a trip, it would have been stellar. As an evening, it was still awfully good.

I went from Britain to France to Italy in a distance of less than a few miles.

First stop was the Library of Virginia for a lecture on "A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War" by Amanda Foreman.

Foreman was an outstanding storyteller, sharing lively anecdotes about two British men who served the South in a casually informative manner that was light years removed from your typical stale history lecture (her British accent didn't hurt).

She spoke of the surprising frequency with which Brits sympathized with and volunteered for the Southern cause. Many blockade runners were British, it turns out.

Back in the motherland, many people jumped aboard the Confederate bandwagon, including students, academics, theater people and journalists. In other words, all the usual liberal suspects.

What was interesting was how, at the end of the war, the London Times apologized for siding with the South. It has been the only time the Times has ever publicly apologized for a stance, she said.

And then I left England for France because it was Bastille Day, which demands celebration.

At Bistro Bobette, the Independence day soiree was in full swing. Luckily, I had a reservation at the bar and soon was surrounded by friends and regulars.

I used a glass of Muscadet as an aperitif while chatting with neighboring barsitters about Mama Zu, Varina and putting out fires (figuratively, not literally).

The point of the evening was the Bastille Day foie gras mania menu, which started with foie gras terrine and port jelly on homemade brioche.

The fortuitous presence of the Wine Consigliere provided a wine recommendation as well as stellar company for most of the evening.

His recommendation of 2005 Chateau Les Grandes Terres Cadillac was spot on. As he explained, it was a Sauternes grown just across the river, so not truly a Sauternes in name (or price).

As a devotee of terrines, I thoroughly enjoyed this first course, although I tasted cherries in the port jelly. One friend tasted orange and another blueberry. Flawed palates, all.

During a break to the ladies' room, I found myself in line with a French girl. We discussed why it was taking the loo's occupant so long when girls wear dresses, making it faster to take care of business.

When the door finally opened, she gestured to let me proceed her. "Go ahead," she generously offered. "Your skirt is shorter." I think that meant that I should be able to finish up more quickly. I think I did.

Back at the bar, the crowd was growing and not everyone had a reservation, making for a large contingent milling around the bar behind us.

My next course was seared foie gras with fig wine sauce, a potato gallette and leek confit. As a friend put it, "This course alone was worth the price of admission."

Paired with my Cadillac, I couldn't have agreed more about the sweetness of the wine complementing the richness of the foie gras. A person could die happy after eating this combination.

The final course was  a foie gras ice cream with cassis coulis. My dish was further improved by the Chef coming out to the bar to add additional Creme de cassis to my plate. Sweet over savory, yum.

I saw a familiar face in a red, white and blue bowtie. A favorite ex-bartender came in. I enjoyed talking to one of M Bistro's new staff members. I met another bartender's brother.

Over Cremant de Bourgone, a group of us got into a discussion of people who say stupid things to us and the dream responses we would give if only we were quick enough.

And before I realized, I was late to meet a friend for a drink at Balliceaux and do some editing for him.

As a bonus, it was Mondo Italia night and Glows in the Dark was performing music from '70s Italian sex and crime movies while films played on the wall behind them.

He had suggested meeting so that I could edit a Led Zeppelin bio (don't ask) and we could catch up.

I fear I ended up telling him far too much about my head and heart when he asked, but then he shared quite a bi about his upcoming plans to move in with his girlfriend, including a bit of trepidation.

On that subject, my favorite of his conclusions amounted to, "Better to have been in a f**ked-up relationship than never to have loved at all." Brilliance out of the mouth of a friend slightly nervous about cohabitation.

And the bio left tighter and more concise than when it had arrived, much to his delight.

And, if I'm not mistaken, the jet lag from Muscadet, Sauternes, a taste or two of William Birne pear brandy, Cremant de Bourgogne and Hornitos, will guarantee me a great big greasy breakfast in the morning.

Sadly, no stamps on my passport, but not all foreign experiences provide them.

Tonight's journey was a worthy distraction.


  1. I didn't know you were celebrating Bastille day too :)
    We all like Bobette and Francis, next year you have to try 14 Juillet at Amour :)

  2. I celebrate everything I can, Paul!

    Agreed, next year it's Amour for Bastille Day! I am marking you on my calendar now, so count me in!

    But I'll see you before then...