I am clueless in Short Pump.
So when I set out at 5:35 to get to the new Peter Chang's in the Far West End, I anticipate being on time for a 6:00 dinner.
How naive of me.
First there was the stopped traffic waiting to get off on the Short Pump exit.
Then there was the slow merge as we all tried to get off the ramp and on to Broad Street while others did the reverse.
Already behind schedule by then, I was now faced with finding a storefront in a sea of strip malls.
Let's just say I finally found it in the last strip center I intended to look.
Which is a roundabout way of saying that I got there at 6:20.
Another fifteen minutes and I could have been at the Peter Chang's in Charlottesville.
After a minute or two of mingling (well, I was late), we were asked to take seats and the parade of food began.
Dumplings, duck soup, rice cakes, lamb chops, chicken, noodles, eggplant. And so much more.
All Sichuan spicy, all perfectly executed.
All washed down with Jefferson Cab Franc, which made for a fine pairing.
Next to me I had the eighth grade-daughter of a local chef, so we talked about books ("The Hunger Games"), her musical faves (Queen, the Beatles and Coldplay, in that order) and food (Dad said she was a natural cook).
I advised her to avoid boys who didn't eat everything. We agreed that life without meat was unthinkable.
The vegan restaurant owner to my right begged to differ.
Mrs. Lee (Chang's partner's wife), beautifully resplendent in a black dress and hot pink shawl (and delicate ankle bracelet), did the introductions and translated for her the Chef.
When the meal was finished, I agreed to fetch one friend to meet another and her date at Secco.
He wasn't so much her date as someone she met in the 90s and recently reconnected with (that's apparently what we're calling it these days).
Who knew those things really happened?
During a discussion of being given a hard time by one's date, one member of the party noted, "Sadly, I like it."
And aren't those the best relationships?
All that spicy Chinese food had left some people wanting dessert to accompany the jammy Cantina del Pino Dolcotto d'Alba we ordered.
Pistachio cannoli was a worthy match for the fragrant wine while the others enjoyed the bread pudding with sea salt and caramel.
It was pretty obvious we weren't in Short Pump anymore.
Never let it be said that I don't leave the city to eat. I did just that for Peter Chang's food.
There, I've done my Short Pump for 2012.