Monday, December 5, 2011

Deck the Halls with Vino

Never let it be said that I can't entertain strangers.

Sure, my only intention in going to Mama J's was Sunday supper, but as long as I was there, why not entertain some visitors to our fair city?

I got there late and the place was full. In fact, the woman just ahead of me, who was waiting for two associates, was told there was a 25-minute wait.

When the hostess asked how many were in my party, I volunteered to eat the bar. Moments later the woman joined me there.

Renee was from Portland and is here doing business at the Convention Center.

She ordered a drink while I ordered dinner and we started getting to know each other.

The bartender tried to take her menu at one point and I told him to leave it so she could drool over it.

"Drool away," he grinned.

By the time my food came, I knew loads about her, so much that I suggested she stop waiting for her dinner companions and eat with me.

It wasn't only selfishness; Mama's was closing in half an hour and there was no guarantee they'd make it in time.

I'm not sure my suggestion was half as convincing as the sight and smell of me eating my dark meat fried chicken, greens, corn muffin and cole slaw.

Forsaking her friends, she ordered.

On the other side of me sat a couple with accents and a few well-placed questions revealed that they were visiting Brazilians.

In their eagerness to taste American soul food, they'd ordered a ton of it.

She asked for barbecue sauce for her massive crabcakes and the bartender politely explained that she might want to try the tartar sauce first.

"I love the barbecue sauce," she said, "But I should stop putting it on everything."

I recommended a favorite Brazilian chef's restaurant to her and she was thrilled, thanking me repeatedly.

Right about closing time Renee's associates showed up and ordered stiff drinks and take-out.

They took stools at the end of the bar and she and I went right on chatting about equality, travel and how beautiful she thought J-Ward was.

Once she and the crew left, I ordered a slice of lemon cake and savored every bite like it was the once a year treat it was in my childhood.

All five of my sisters hated lemon cake, so it was just me and my parents who ate it, meaning we only had it annually.

As opposed to chocolate cake, which we had weekly. Seriously. It's no wonder I'm a chocoholic.

After dinner, I was on my way to a friend's for a holiday wine tasting get-together.

I walked in to find them in mid-decorating mode, but that activity became secondary so we could move on to the fun part.

There were six of us, two couples, half of a couple and yours truly. And the Christmas tunes played on.

Four wines were on the tasting menu tonight and we started with the RdV (Rutger de Vink) Rendezvous, a Merlot-based beauty that grabbed everyone at the table with its velvety smoothness.

Next we tried the RdV "Friends and Family," a Bordeaux-style red so accessible that it tasted like something eminently drinkable day in and day out.

It was around this time that the subject of Jackson Ward's walkability came up and  I found myself defending my beloved 'hood.

Don't tell me I can't walk to any number of restaurants and concert venues from home because I've done it.

Now that everyone was warmed up we moved on to the RdV, a Cabernet Sauvignon blend with a much higher price tag than I could ever afford.

No doubt about it, it had beautiful tannins, lovely fruit and enough complexity to justify the price tag. Still, it didn't make me forget the Rendezvous.

And as long as you're still thinking of the past, how can you fully enjoy the present?

Our male host continued to decorate even after we began sipping, hanging silver balls and tearing the crotch of his jeans in doing so.

We'd have laughed anyway, but we were three wines in so we teased him unmercifully.

We finished with Linden Hardscrabble Red, which equaled, if not exceeded the party's passion for the RdV Rendezvous.

It was smooth with beautiful dark fruit and it proved why Linden's Jim Law is the reigning Virginia wine god for so many wine geeks.

By the end of the evening, we all had a favorite wine and their place was mostly decorated.

The Christmas music was long gone (you can only hear Phil Spector's Christmas song so many times before pulling the plug) but the place looked beautiful and the wine was mostly gone.

As they say this time of year, falalalalalalalala.

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