Sunday, March 4, 2012

No Train, No Cry

It was an evening with some range, from honky tonk to Chateauneuf de Pape.

Starting at Carytown Bistro, I arrived to find a small crowd and Kent South playing inside while a speaker blasted him outside.

Which was convenient for the guy who had been asked to leave when he tried eating a Blowtoad pizza on the Carytown Bistro patio.

I think we all know better than to eat another restaurant's food somewhere other than that restaurant. At least now we do.

I'd been told to come hear Kent South for his country take on covers and original material.

That's exactly what I got.

Covers of songs by Lowell George, Guy Clark (South's fave) , McCartney, Paul Simon and even New Riders of the Purple Sage ("There must have been Original Riders of the Purple Sage," South observed) made up most of the set, with original material in between.

South showed his Texas leaning with stories of wildcatters (an oil well term I'd heard but didn't understand), trains and lost loves.

You know, songs like, "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry."

My friend and I discussed whether or not honky-tonks as venues still existed or if that term had been reduced to a generic musical genre.

That is, when he wasn't texting about the pizza incident or talking about the banality of McCartney's songwriting.

When I left there, it was to stop at Amour Wine Bistro for a nibble and some wine.

But, oh, what wine.

I started with a two-ounce pour of Domaine du Beaurenard Red, a rich and tannic blend that spoke to me with its ripeness.

That ripeness would be equivalent to someone who's been playing guitar for decades and is not being willing to play with someone who only knows three chords.

This wine's rounded body and strong personality was not for neophytes.

I followed that with a bowl of their outstanding onion soup, not the gloppy mess that passes for French onion soup in a restaurant with no business having it on the menu, but a true exemplar of what inspired all the pale imitations.

I lucked into a landscaper from Bon Air who had brought not only a vintage '50s French restaurant postcard to share, but a Newsweek with a mention of RVA as an up and coming restaurant town.

Of note and mentioned were Acacia (naturally), Ronnie's Ribs (which I do like) and Black Sheep (of course).

Next up was another small pour of Crozes Hermitage Rouge 2007, fragrant with a long finish and enough spice to grab me.

New to the bar then was a delightful couple I had met at the Beaujolais Nouveau tasting back in November.

Once they had their wine, they turned to me for conversation.

"What have you done today?" she wanted to know.

Before I could answer, they laughed out loud.

"Look at that mischievous look on her face," she noted to him.

"We didn't ask who you'd done today," he clarified with a mile-wide grin.

Brunch, I answered. I'd had a delicious pancake and bacon and fruit brunch at Ettamae's Cafe today.

And that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

That exchange led to talk of a wake for the 100-watt incandescent bulb (150 people showed up), a piano bar in Savannah (my friend, the server, knew it well, as much for the pianist as for his pink drinks and thumbs up) and whether or not the concept would work here in a dark basement (I like to think it would).

Next up was one of the most unique desserts I've had, a cold fruit soup.

The small bowl of flavored cream with fruit at the bottom was wonderful for its rich take on a simple classic.

It required the most unlikely of wine choices at Amour, a Virginia wine.

The Thibaud Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay tasted of yeast and green apples and had the loveliest bubbles imaginable.

The couple and I agreed that to be enjoying it in a French bistro made it all the better.

It was as I was finishing that that I commented on the well-chosen music, which I learned was so fitting because it was Pandora set to Louis Armstrong.

If that's not a starting point for every good (and romantic) song I could hope to hear in a bistro, I'm not sure what is.

Hearing, "Karen?," I turned to find a handsome masseuse I know sitting behind me with a date named Karen.

What are the chances?

After introductions, we began discussing the beautiful bubbles we were drinking and the state of Virgina winemaking since he'd recently been disappointed by Barboursville's Octagon after years of finding it stellar.

On the other hand, it's exciting to see how many other wineries are making noteworthy wines these days besides the tried and true Big B.

For the final tasting of the night, we rose to new heights. And with white, too.

It was my first Chateaneuf du Pape Blanc and I couldn't have been any more impressed.

Full bodied and rich, it tasted as opulent as you'd expect from a name that even non-wine drinkers would recognize.

We can only hope that many hundred of years down the road, there will be a Virginia winery with the same kind of name recognition.

Of course, I'll be long dead, so it won't much affect me.

After saying goodnight to the others, I headed home, amazed to pass no less than eight cabs in the two miles it took me to get home.

Just like in a real city.

You know, the kind of place where you can savor honky-tonk music and Chateauneuf du Pape in the same two block radius.

Saturday night's alright for all kinds of things if you know where to look.

I like to think I do.

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