Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rebel, Rebel

It was an evening that headed south from the very start.

Arriving in Carytown just as the rain did, River City Cellars' weekly wine tasting beckoned with a focus on southern Italian wines.

And on a February day when it was 82 degrees, thoughts of southern Italy are awfully appealing.

Moving through a crisp yet rich Fratelli Urcluolo 2010 Fiiano di Avellino through a full-bodied Villa Mottura 2008 Primitivo di Manduria, we chatted with the group about why some women don't drink white wine (there was one there like that) and how Primitivo grows so well in southern Italy that they let it grow like bushes.

There was an older couple there who had been to every region in which the grapes we tasted had grown. They were talking about their next trip and buying lots of wine.

That's the kind of old people I want to be when I get there.

With wine and chocolate (my must-have burnt caramel and sea salt dark chocolate) purchased, the next stop was the VMFA for the opening night of the Southern Film Fest.

This year's theme is "Screening Southern Rebellion" and, frankly, my dear, I couldn't have been more interested.

Film critic and author Molly Haskell was the keynote speaker and, as a former Richmonder, she began by talking about all the familiar places she saw today since it had been years since she'd been here.

Referring to the topic of tonight's documentary, she quipped, "What the South lost in fact, it made up for in fiction" about Margaret Mitchell's  epic "Gone With the Wind."

She spoke of what a pioneering feminist and rebel Mitchell was, wearing pants, dropping out of Smith  and finding her own way in life.

Even better, being one of the "rebel debutantes." Dancing a provocative Apache tango  that ended with a kiss in public. And when she did marry, marrying a bootlegger.

Wisely, she eventually replaced him with a fellow writer.

When she did finally start accepting her age and settling down, Mitchell saw her more sedate lifestyle for what it was.

"Respectability is the punishment of the wild."

Both Haskell and the documentary, "Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel" made it clear that the author drew Scarlett O'Hara from her own strong-willed history.

It was all about the gumption.

After the film, it was an easy trip up to Amuse where I walked in to find my two former gadabout and now reclusive friends enjoying a cocktail and eager to catch up.

Boxwood Rose was followed by mussels and Surry sausage, fried oysters served over tonnato sauce with pickled veggies, and finally sardines (a last minute replacement for Alisis anchovies) with poquillo peppers, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

If you're going in a southern Italian direction already, shouldn't there be food from the water?

And Amuse continues to deliver a stellar meal every time.

After talking to a server friend who was headed out to do the rounds, as she put it, we made the acquaintance of a woman at the end of the bar who joined us in finishing up our meal with an absinthe.

Surely you knew where that was going.

She was raving about CineBistro and I didn't have the heart to tell her I don't go to Stony Point.

The question was raised about why so many men are complacent until they meet a certain woman. I ventured an opinion.

The bartender missed my take on this burning issue, only to return some time later seeking to hear what he had missed.

You have to appreciate a guy smart enough to want to learn the answers.

Whether he's southern or southern Italian. Rebel or respectable.

As long as he's trying.

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