Saturday, February 11, 2012

Keeping Up is the Easy Part

The Friday evening exploration began on 17th Street and moved eastward with only one quick detour to the other side of the street.

New, old, old, new, old, new.

At C'est le Vin, there were a bevy of wines to be sampled and a familiar yet new consulting chef, Jannequin Bennett, debuting their new menu.

Chilled beet gazpacho with goat cheese mousse and celery made a non-beet eater swoon.Catalan chicken bruschetta, salt cod salad and pork belly over white beans hinted at what new taste delights await the wine drinker.

A third generation chocolatier, Kelly (as in Chocolates By) taught by her grandmother, a former chocolatier for Wanamaker's in Philly, seduced us with exquisite pieces of Petit Syrah in dark chocolate.

There were sixteen wines to be savored and after working our way through, we chose the Spanish bubbles of Eudaid Massana Noya "Familia" Brut Cava and the 2009 Pied de Perdrix (named for the 1,000-year old Partridge Foot vine, a distant cousin of Malbec) to leave with us.

Yum, yum.

A detour across the street took us to Main Street Station so the transplant could see its renovated magnificence.

The large-format photographs of the building flooded by Hurricane Camille or with the tables set in the dining cars couldn't compare to one of WWII soldiers kissing their girls goodbye, they inside the train and the girls outside.

Kisses were exchanged through the train windows and, for many girls, their feet left the ground, dangling above the edge of the track.

It was kissing as levitation method.

Leaving the train station, we set out up the hill to Globehopper for gypsy music by the Richmanian Ramblers, music both profound and hilarious.

The lovely Antonia Vassar and Nate Matthews on upright bass had an assemblage of talented musicians (including Clifton of Ilad and Moonbees and Jessica of the Jungle Beat) and a clarinetist who wrapped his woodwind around all those strings and hauntingly brought forth the gypsy spirit to the Bottom.

"Great is wine and tasteful as well
When you drink it with handsome people
But if you drink it with ugly people
The wine gets stuck in your throat."

Conversations with the accordion player on the topics of beauty, kindness and curating finished out the evening there

Continuing our eastward assault, we joined the throngs at Eric Schindler Gallery for "A Land of Strangers," Mary Chiaramonte's new show of acrylic works on birch panels,

The artist, herself a twin, used her paint to convey a sense of mystery, of other worldliness. It is a show of the surreal and the very real

"High Tide" showed a dark-haired girl floating in the water her hair fanning out around her, clutching a fish.

My favorite, "The Nameless" was entirely surreal: a woman in a dress stands in a field of blues and greens, her blond hair and the house on fire she holds providing a vibrant yellow cast against the cooler colors.

Discussing "The Sleepwalking," an image of a muscular-armed girl with a long torso and short, stocky legs in a bathroom, a French friend observed, "We call that a low rider."

Do we? Because I don't.

Schindler Gallery is busy. I run into the orchid guy, the cheese whiz, the woman who has poured me absinthe, the collector of old telephones.

Keeping with the neighborhood theme, and because we have been non-stop busy since the tapas at C'est le Vin, we end up at Aziza's on Main.

The bar is empty, waiting for our arrival, and glasses of Paololeo Promitivo di Manduria deliver a peppery nose and flavors of dark plum.

A favorite waitress shows off her "predator" look, sporting a leopard print top, a crouching tiger brooch on her shoulder and necklaces of various snarling beasts.

It's Friday night, so things should be a bit wild.

My time is spent sucking the marrow out of brick oven roasted bones (as I tend to do with my evenings, I am told) with grilled bread and pickled turnips.

My dining partner goes with seared fluke with wild mushrooms, gnocchi and basil lemon butter. The bites he shares with me are moist and buttery with an irresistibly crispy edge.

Because it is his first time at Aziza's, I stealthily order the cream puff so that he can experience it

He is properly bowled over, first by its size and then by its classic dark chocolate, cream and pastry one-two-three punch.

Sometimes you have let the pro do the ordering for you.

At our final stop, the wine was a 2002 Ravenswood Vintner's Blend Merlot, everything an insipid Merlot is not: full, soft and delectable.

Music comes in the form of "September" with a bossa nova beat. It's Ultra Funk time.

And the conversation? I say it's not a real question if you're just giving someone a hard time.

"World, world, sister world
World, world, sister world
When will I have enough of you?

When I give up bread for Lent
And the glass will give up on me
Maybe then I'll have enough of you."

Romanian gypsy music, truly profound and hilarious.

Just the way I want to live my life.


  1. people LIVE like this?

  2. The art and the music were free. This is a good town to be poor in and still have plenty to do.