It's a dilemma: where do you take a food-loving friend when he visits from out of town?
Our original plan to meet at 2:30 had been pushed forward to 5:30 and by then our options had changed a bit.
After meeting at my apartment (because how can you truly know someone until you've seen how she lives?) I showed him my Jackson Ward digs and we headed out.
Unsure where to begin given the limitations of Restaurant Week, my decision was made when he said he was craving a Negroni.
I threw caution to the winds and took him directly to Bobby at Bistro 27, knowing he'd supply something Negroni-like without being merely a Negroni.
Bobby delivered and my friend acknowledged that the beautifully orange and unique concoction would please even a non-Negroni lover.
Just as the masses began arriving, we moved on to the Roosevelt so that I could show him how we do it Richmond style.
My favorite bar stools were empty and we slid into them like they'd been reserved for us while my companion began checking out the new-to-him space.
As I'd hoped, the all Virginia wine list pleased him as much as it does me, and he was amazed at the wine pricing.
He went with the Gabriele Rausse Rosso and I predictably began with Virginia Fizz.
If you can't celebrate seeing a D.C. friend with some bubbles, it's time to reevaluate that friendship.
No reevaluation was required.
He was enraptured with the menu, as pleased with its creativity as its pricing.
After last night's feast of two bellies, I bowed to his choices for tonight's meal.
He chose Lee's fried chicken slider, the chilled cucumber, avocado and buttermilk soup with jumbo lump crabmeat and lemon oil, and baked South Carolina polenta with slow cooked egg, grilled asparagus and stewed tomato.
According to him, and he's a pro, a vegetarian dish is the best measure of a kitchen's capabilities.
It took only one bite of the slider for him to start rhapsodizing about it; he thought the simple white roll was perfect, noting that a D.C. restaurant would have gone for a fancier roll (brioche, perhaps?) and killed the slider's beautiful simplicity.
Pshaw, I said, I've had that slider to start brunch just because it's there.
The soup's island of jumbo lump crabmeat gave some heft to the delicately flavored dish, while the egg imparted a richness that belied the vegetarian dish's simple ingredients.
I get such a kick out of taking first-timers to the Roosevelt and watching them fall in love with it all.
That's probably why I keep doing it.
Like those before him, he was charmed by the feel of the room, bowled over by the wine list and menu pricing, impressed with the music, loving the ambiance and friendly vibe and reveling in the lack of pretension.
Yea, yea, just another night out in River City.
Actually it wasn't because we hadn't gotten together for months, meaning we had lots to share, both ancient history (lockers and short skirts in high school) and more recent (young editors and hometown arts districts).
As sunlight gave way to evening, he noted the change in the room's feel and we started considering dessert options to go with my Gabriele Rausse Vin de Gris.
Like anyone who lives north of northern Virginia, he couldn't resist the siren song of the Coca Cola cake and I had to admit I'd never had it.
It took barely two bites for the Coke flavor to register but actually it was the frosting I liked best.
My friend demurely kept his bites to a few while I ravaged the cake in that way I tend to do when I like a sweet.
I attribute that trait to my mother, who always taught us that no matter how full you are, there's always that little corner of your stomach empty for dessert.
By the time I finished the Coca Cola cake, there wasn't a centimeter of my stomach left empty for anything.
Given the need for the out-of-towner to hit the road soon, we made one last, brief stop at Secco, presuming we'd missed the restaurant week crowd.
We had, although the bar was still hopping.
I dug into the secret stash, getting a glass of Domaine de Bagnol Cassis Rose after tasting its bone-dry minerality and seeing it as the ideal way to end my evening.
My visitor chose Commanderie de Peyrassol Rose so as not to duplicate my choice while we snacked on fried chickpeas and Gorgonzola-stuffed fried olives.
Not because we needed to, but because they're bar food of the highest order.
Hell, we could even justify the chickpeas as protein and believe it.
Leaving just as the Byrd let out, Friend commented how much like a university town it felt with people everywhere on the sidewalks and music being played just down the street.
Oh, this old town? We've had it for centuries.
It's really no dilemma at all. Take a visitor to the places I like and if they like me, they'll like my favorites.
And if not, they never have to invite me up for dinner again.
Bet I get invited back up.