Thursday, January 5, 2012

Annihilation Matches

I did my best to lower my debauchery quotient tonight and still had a very fine evening.

Desperately seeking culture, I began at Quirk Gallery for the preview of the new exhibit, "Grab It!" a show about annihilation and humor.

The premise of it was pretty basic: if the world is actually going to end, what soft and cuddly things do you need?

Seven artists interpreted this challenge in a variety of ways. Each collection came in a suitcase, the better to grab and go.

One group was all knitted objects, another was all animals. Phil Barbato (the master of soft art) included only one creature, a pink octopus holding a toothbrush.

Personally, my teeth are of no concern to me when we get to the end.

Diane Koss' choices were arranged in two fabulous suitcases, one purple and one pink.

I only wish my luggage was pink and purple. One figure hung from the ceiling and others reached their tentacles up toward it.

I loved how Brigid Bartels used a Starlite blue train case to hold her grouping. It was exactly like the train case my Richmond grandmother used on visits to us when I was a kid.

The award for most masculine went to Oura Sananikone's collection of a plush pair of glasses (so like Oura's own), a bow, arrows and quiver (but soft), a knife and a bottle of spirits, all done in black, gray and brown.

Clearly Oura was thinking more rationally than emotionally and the result was decidedly right-brained.

As I made my way toward the front of the gallery, I made a stop to look at Matt Lively's show, wishing I could afford a print of his "Deer Treehouses," a fantastically detailed image of a treehouse in the deer's antlers.

Up front, I ran into a friend, a Frenchman, with whom I chatted about the cold. He asked me where I was headed.

Appropriately enough, it was to La Parisienne for music and a bite.

"Maybe you will meet your match there," he said encouragingly. I said I wasn't necessarily seeking a Frenchman and he broke it down for me.

"I'm from Northern France," he explained, "but most men from there are a little cold, very practical. You'd be fine with a man from Southern France or even an Italian. They're neighbors, so they're like the French in what matters."

Questioning what that meant, he said, "They're going to want to pinch you and touch you."

I see.

La Parisienne was my destination because, despite several lunches there, I'd not experienced their Thursday night dinners with live jazz.

Walking in, the first person I saw was a friend, another Frenchman, already clearing his work-weary head with the music. He invited me to join his table.

Before long, the owner came over to welcome me, a gracious habit I saw extended to every person who came in the door.

The three-piece combo playing under low lighting gave a warm vibe to a space I knew only as a lunch hotspot. Okay, this was going to work for me.

Happily, I wasn't the only single (male or female) in addition to work groups, couples and girls' night out tables.

The wine was perfectly lovely, Chateau Cissac. tasting of blackberries with a little spice.

Out of nowhere, a bartender friend walked up to our table and hugged me, shaking his head and saying, "You know everybody."

Not even close. Still, it's nice to happen into an impromptu get-together and he joined us.

Since it was my first dinner foray, I wanted a sampling of what was on the menu.

The country pate wrapped in pastry was venison tonight and came with a winter slaw to cut the richness.

The wings were marinated in Harissa paste so they packed some serious heat. The tartine au jardin with goat cheese, radish and olives was a rustic pleasure.

But I'd have to say my favorite was La Parisienne's take on French onion dip, oh-so much richer and tasting of caramelized onions than the American version could ever hope to be.

It was served with a crepe chips, an ideal use for leftover crepes at the end of the restaurant's day. Crisply fried and lightly salted, they were addicting, especially with that dip.

Our little group alternated listening to the music with chatter about cruises ("3 a.m. and I'm walking the deck with two drinks and smoking cigarettes. What are they gonna do, throw me off the boat?"), retirement ("I don't want to live any one place, just travel non-stop") and crowded bars ("The Fire Marshall was standing outside just hoping he could close us down").

Turns out that the weekly live music nights have brought in a procession of jazz musicians who try out on the spot for a chance at getting into the weekly rotation.

Singers, horn players, you name it, they stop by, listen a while and play a song or two after the break to see if they're worthy.

I love the democracy of it, a subject we also discussed tonight (the French version versus the American version).

So much good wine, food, music and talk tonight that I forgot all about the Frenchman's prediction.
Besides, everyone knows you never find a match when you're looking for one. And your match never comes in the package you expect.

The jury's still out on the pinching.

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