Monday, January 9, 2012

It's All About What Follows What

We have a consensus, ladies and gentlemen; we are glad the holidays are over.

It's about time to get back to the business of going out and having a good time for no reason other than that it's Sunday night.

That's the spirit that landed us at Secco with a small crowd of like-minded people tonight.

With an Italian-speaking server, tales of Perugia and a leaning in that direction already, it was more or less a foregone conclusion that we would end up with an Italian wine.

The Benotto Monferrato Rosso "Nebieul" came with a promise on the menu that it would make any Italophile grin (it did).

Since I'd come with a Secco newbie, we tasted around the menu so he could get an idea of the pleasures of the talented kitchen.

The fried Barcat oysters with a pickled ramp creme fraiche were to die for. The subtle brininess of the oysters under the perfectly fried breading should be on every oyster-lover's must-eat list.

The sweetbreads with roasted fingerling potatoes and sauerkraut  enticed even the non-gland eater among us who had only memories of his mother eating such things.

He was just as satisfied with the house-made gnocchi with lamb ragout and preserved lemon, a dish I'd had and knew to be a perfect balance of flavors

Our first and last course came on the slate (I heard a customer ask, "How many slates do you have anyway?") with Brillat Savarin, a butter bomb, the luscious Hayley Hazen Bleu and melt-in-your-mouth Bresaola, a meat I could eat all night.

As we ate, a DJ friend came in for a beer and joined another guy. Before long, he was showing off his latest library book find: a book last checked out in 1928.

I am enough of a book geek to find that absolutely fascinating. From the little we saw of the text, the flowery language was of the kind rapidly fading ever since 1928.

Our loss, in my opinion.

Once sated with food and wine, we moved on to music at Commercial Taphouse, listening to the Scott Clark 4-tet from a window seat up front.

We'd have sat down closer since my companion had never heard them before, but every seat in the place was taken when we arrived, a fact which didn't surprise me since I know how good these guys are.

Ever since they stole the show at RVA JazzFest, I try to see them whenever possible.

Drummer Scott Clark never fails to impress with his impeccably controlled yet energetic playing and with trumpet, sax and bass filling out his compositions, we just sat back and took it all in.

They played several new pieces tonight, with "Clockwise" probably my favorite.

Although much of the crowd faded before midnight, we stayed until the end, happy to be hearing live jazz to end our weekend.

Forget small talk and holiday soirees, give me a terrific meal and a little night music.

Or as someone said last night, it's like hearing the Smiths followed by Belle and Sebastian.

You not only have to understand the why of that, but bring chemistry to the mix, too.

Any night of the week.

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