Saturday, March 3, 2012

Enjoying the Ride

Nothing turned out as planned.

I rescheduled my date with the international couple. My First Friday art walk couple date canceled on me due to rain.

Weather wimps.

Undaunted by a little precipitation, I began at the Magpie for dinner amongst nothing but couples. Apparently people don't go out on Friday night alone.

Well, except people like me.

But the bartender recognized me, although we couldn't remember why.

When I asked for a glass of Ateca Honoro Vera Granacha, he grinned hugely and asked if I'd ever had it before.

I had. "It's my absolute favorite of our by the glass pours," he affirmed.

So we had that bond.

An amuse bouche of mandarin orange segment with poblano pesto delivered a smoky bite of heaven.

Magpie always has a noteworthy small plate special or two and tonight's choices were goat or rabbit.

I could have gone either way.

I went with the crispy fried rabbit loin with a salad of pea shoots (so Spring must be just around the corner), blood orange and Manchego cheese.

Two good-sized pieces of rabbit wore a spiced batter fried up to perfection.

Thumper never tasted so good.

Making my way to the bathroom, I saw Chef Owen, who said when he saw me he thought sure I'd be the first one to order the goat.

You hate to hear that you let down the chef.

I used the salty crust of the rabbit to justify ordering the bartender's favorite dessert, a chocolate caramel tart with sea salt.

It was the crust of the tart that was the biggest surprise; it was shortbread-like, thick and buttery tasting.

In other words, divine, especially with all that chocolate and caramel inside it.

Meanwhile, instead of the usual classic rock for music, they'd programmed in the unlikely Pandora mix of Tears for Fears and Foster the People, resulting in a schizophrenic mix that delivered Depeche Mode and the Smiths and more Foster the People than anyone should have to hear.

I suppose that means that not a lot of music is of that ilk and, for that, we are grateful.

Perhaps it was because I was on my way to a music show that I was so hard on the soundtrack.

First there was the opening exhibition for "With Signs Following," a video show by Mark Strandquist and Kate Fowler at Gallery 5.

The multi-media exhibit had three screens invisibly suspended from the ceiling, each showing a piece of film shot at one of those snake-handling churches in West Virginia.

I find snakes disturbing, so a movie of these bible-spouting crazies handling rattlesnakes and rattlers was more than a little unsettling.

Sitting behind the video projectors on pedestals were two vintage but non-working Super Slim Slotload projectors with film unspooling off of their reels.

Next to them on the pedestal were empty cans of PBR.

The question was whether or not the cans were part of the piece. A case could be made for either side.

Downstairs was the music and I arrived in time for Caged Animals, whom the New Yorker had described as  sounding like "a hip-hop influenced Velvet Underground."

They were quirky, relentless and every song seemed to wrap up in about three and a half minutes.

I loved them.

Favorite lyric: "I want you to find me and live inside me."

Lead singer Vincent was appealing, telling a story after one song about how he'd gotten a letter from a fan about the song.

"It was an essay. It had references, a bibliography. It was totally insane," he laughed.

That, I would posit, is the effect Caged Animals' music has on people. We like it.

Locals Boas were up next and I ran into a jewelry maker I'd met last summer because Boas was playing.

His next door neighbor had a friend in the band and had enticed him to come check them out. But first he wanted to catch up with me.

Asking if I had a pen, he wrote down his name and number and suggested we have lunch. Soon.

Refocusing him on the music, we got into Boas' electronic and ambient sound, which quickly settled over the room and got shoulders and heads moving.

Veering from psychedelic to vaguely experimental with layered beats throughout, they were the perfect way to close out a show that ended ridiculously early.

Like 10:45 early. Unheard of early.

On the other hand, that allowed me time to share a bottle of Virginia grape made stellar in the hands of an Italian winemaker.

That would be the Gabriele Rausse Cabernet Sauvignon, no doubt destined for greatness, but drinking absolutely superbly at the moment.

It's truly impressive what an Italian can do with the right Virginia materials.

All the more so for how unexpected it is. Pure pleasure, even.

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