Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yolks and Oats Took the Cake

It's amazing I could even fit in seeing a film between all the eating that we did tonight.

I was meeting a favorite couple at Amuse and they were bringing her mother, on a visit here from Ukraine.

With the beautiful day pulling people out to the balcony, I had no problem scoring four stools at the bar and was rewarded with a glass of Montand Sparkling Brut Rose.

While I awaited their arrival, I admired a nearby server's dinner, one of the evening's specials.

Byrd Mill grits supported pork belly and a fried egg from Ayrshire Farms, with Brussels sprouts and Hanover tomato jam on the side. I wanted to face-plant in her plate, but refrained.

The color of the yolk was so brilliant that I knew that the egg hadn't been long out of the chicken. But we were not there to eat because the Friday Film started at 6:30.

Of course once my friends arrived, I glowingly described what I'd witnessed and we ordered it  as a pre- movie snack.

Every element was perfection from the just-laid-yesterday egg oozing over it all to the tantalizing sweetness of the tomato jam complementing the slight bitterness of the sprout leaves.

We pig lovers appreciated that the piece of pork belly was large and meaty with just enough of a layer of fat to make it decadent without being able to actually hear your arteries hardening as you ate.

Best of all, Chef Greg Hanley wandered out to introduce himself, so I got a chance to go on and on about the sublime creation we'd just inhaled.

After so many good meals at Amuse, it was a real pleasure to finally put a face and personality to the man's impressive output. He already knew how much I eat.

Before long he was off to the kitchen and we were off to the movies. Showing this evening was local filmmaker Sonali Gulati's film "I Am."

Several years ago, I'd seen her film "Nalini By Day, Nancy By Night" about the double lives of Indian call center employees and had been impressed with her storytelling ability.

When I'd gotten my ticket for tonight's film, the guy selling it to me had said, "It's a really good film. I just got to see it in film class. You're going to like it."

He was correct. Gulati's documentary about returning to India after her mother died and after she'd come out as a lesbian was moving, funny and well-done.

She began by thanking her partner for sitting through it again tonight, "For the 140th time." As I like to remind myself, no sacrifice is too great for love.

Six years in the making, it told the stories of other gays as well as herself, and the difficulties they faced in a country where homosexuality was outlawed until 2009.

The film traced her going to a doctor who said he could cure her of her lesbianism with a serum. She admitted that she hesitated taking it because, "What if it worked?"

It was heartening to see how many Indian parents got over their initial reactions to learning their children were gay.

After homosexuality was decriminalized, the scenes of celebrants included parents proudly supporting their children in a way that seemed unlikely at the start of the film.

As one placard said, "Proud to be Indian. Proud to be gay. No need to choose."

The film got a standing ovation from the very diverse straight and gay crowd.

After the screening, Gulati took questions from the audience, many of whom were curious about how traumatic it had been for her never to have come out to her mother before her untimely death.  She handled all questions with poise, humor and honesty.

Then we had to skedaddle before the museum closed and we turned into pumpkins, but not before discussing a desire to see the VMFA (and Amuse) open on additional evenings. Members can hope, can't they?

We decided on dinner at the Empress, settled into a front booth and prepared to eat more than we needed to.

I started with an organic wine, Haut-Poitou Sauvignon Blanc, fresh and crisp and not too fruity (insert corny gay joke here).

An amuse bouche of a tiny slice of sweet potato with a dollop of cream, lemon verbena and volcanic sea salt was a bite of heaven. We were ready for the kitchen to bring it on.

Truffle vichyssoise (looking like a bowl of whipped cream it was so thick and dense), tuna tartare (with a ginger-honey sauce that was irresistible), Meaty Caprese (roll ups of cured meat, Mozzarella and basil over chopped tomatoes and pomegranate molasses), bison lasagna (surprisingly and deliciously spicy with a strong red pepper element), pistachio-crusted duck breast (boasting a habanero-blueberry sauce and feta/mushroom oats, both of which were the undisputed stars of the meal) and the evening fish special (king clip over kale with a tomato pan sauce).

Good thing we'd had a snack before the movie to tide us over. True, there were four of us, but we ate a lot of food for four people, even with two Ukrainians amongst us.

Afterwards, we agreed that dessert was unnecessary, but that we'd listen to the choices. Big mistake.

One of the evening's specials was a lavender and local honey creme brulee. The honey was from Nelson County and the lavender was from their herb garden out behind the restaurant.

My preference is for chocolate creme brulee, but this delicately nuanced version was like inhaling a summer day in the garden. Everyone agreed that it had a beautiful, fresh taste.

And then we all exploded from over-eating and that was the end of the night.

No, no, actually I came home and sat on the porch admiring the full moon and trying to make sense of life on such a beautiful night.

I laughed when a friend recently told me, "Reading your life is like watching a great TV show."

That's one way of looking at it.


  1. but K you don't even like watching "TV"...oh i gay pun intended?? Honey you are just too urbane. Yes it was a nice moon wasn't it?


  2. You've figured me out too well, cw! I could have sat up all night staring at that moon and pondering...stuff.

    Always a pleasure to have you back and commenting.