Thursday, August 25, 2011

O Canada! How We Do It in the South

I have discovered the most amazing bar food in Richmond and it is Canadian.

But I never would have discovered it if I hadn't gone to meet a bartender friend at The Roosevelt for dinner.

We agreed on 7:00 in order to ensure we found stools before the madding crowd's arrival.

Good thing, too; twenty minutes after we got there, lines appeared at both doors.

Sliding into a stool, I found myself next to one of my favorite wine reps with my dinner partner to my right and the sun on our backs.

I chose the TJ Virginia Fizz to kick off my evening, much to the delight of the rep, who had actually been part of the grape crush for the Fizz vintage I was drinking.

If he'd done it with his feet, I'd have asked him to take off his socks.

As it was, he told me that Claude Thibaut was the best sparkling winemaker on the East Coast and I merely told him how much I liked the Prosecco-like creaminess of the Virginia bubbles I was drinking.

Since it was my friend's first time at The Roosevelt and I eat everything on the menu, I deferred to him on the food selection.

Like so many before him, he couldn't resist the siren song of the squash fritters.

I may have influenced him a tad to order the steak tartare with egg yolk, but only because I was sure he'd love it as much as I had (he did). The pickled green tomato got a thumbs up from us both.

The people watching is always good at The Roosevelt, like the woman stroking her date's hands in front of her face while he made goo-goo eyes at her.

So is the conversation, like mine with the dapper older man who lives across the street and came in to see if he'd like the place ("Well, I got a nice beer and that's a good start!" he said with a wheeze and a smile).

When my Fizz was gone I moved on to the Gabriele Rausse Vin Gris, soft but with a crisp finish.

It turned out to be the perfect thing to go with poutine, Roosevelt-style, which arrived moments after my wine did.

Sure, in Canada poutine may be french fries, cheese curds and brown gravy, but in Chef Lee Gregory's hands, it was all about southern style.

The crispy French fries were there, but covered in ham gravy with chunks of ham throughout; pimento cheese adorned the center of the plate.

It may just have been the ultimate bar food: carb-heavy with enough protein to be satisfying and decadent to the point of no return.

Bartender T came up and asked how we liked it.

"Awesome," I enthused. "We can feel our arteries hardening as we eat it."

"Well, they gotta harden sometime, right?" he asked with a wicked grin. Indeed they do.

Despite our best efforts, the two of us could not entirely finish this Southern tribute to the Canuck palate.

But, oh, we tried. Someday there will be a monument to Lee in the Pig Hall of Fame.

Poutine negated any need for further savory courses, so we cut right to dessert. A chocolate Coca-Cola cake with marshmallow filling had been added since my last visit.

But the chocoholic in me resisted when I saw coconut cake on the menu.

I have a sentimental attachment to coconut cake; a guy once became smitten with me when I ordered it rather than chocolate.

My friend went with the buttermilk panna cotta after he heard my glowing description of it.

As we shared the two desserts, we talked about life and choosing your path and the role that happenstance plays in it all.

We agreed that worry and guilt are not productive uses of our time.

He wanted to hear about the directions my life has taken and its changes; I wanted to hear about his upcoming changes and how his resume will reflect his colorful path so far.

Poutine may harden the arteries, but it seems to loosen the tongue. Don't say you weren't warned.

Just don't pass up a chance to try it.

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