It's 5:00 on a Saturday afternoon. Do you know what you're doing tonight?
I didn't. Hence the beauty of getting an e-mail at 5:05 from a friend.
"What's going on? What are you doing tonight? Dinner? If you are free, let me know."
Freer than free. Planless. Absolutely nothing on the books whatsoever.
And this is the friend who once told the world that, "Oh, Karen knows the rules. She just chooses not to play the game."
Needless to say, I find that kind of insight irresistible.
By 6:15, we were the sole occupants of the bar at Acacia. By 6:45 there was a wait for tables and bar space.
Gavi di Gavi Ru appealed to me and satisfied my friend's passion for white wine only, but our tastes diverged once we got to the food menu.
He asked me what sugar toads were and once I explained puffer fish, stuck his tongue out in disgust.
I asked him if he ate mortadella and he grimaced, shaking his head.
So I ordered both while he chose the tempura local softshell with shaved Napa cabbage, carrots, red onion and curry vinaigrette.
He raved about his salad (and Chef Dale is a master with softshells, I agree) but I was more than happy with my two tenpura sugar toads with honey soy sauce.
Insert in mouth, scrape flesh off bones, savor and swallow. Yum.
The housemade mortadella was an enormous portion of what is a large Italian sausage anyway and combined with the pickles of fiddleheads, ramps and cabbage and grainy mustard on toasted bread could have been a meal in itself.
Not to mention its $3 price tag.
It was a beautiful night to be at Acacia because the front of the restaurant was wide open to the temperate evening air.
Once we finished the wine, we decided to do the progressive dinner thing and move on to Arcadia.
They, too, had their front door open and a lively crowd was in place when we were welcomed to the bar by a bartender who didn't have any customers at that moment.
Poor thing, he had no idea what he was letting himself in for.
My friend had been at Arcadia just a few days ago and wanted the same wine he'd had then: Drouhin Pouilly Fuisse.
Light, with a long finish, it was a great choice as far as I was concerned.
Having just polished off sugartoads and mortadella, I wasn't especially hungry, but my friend insisted we soldier on with our eating.
Deferring to him, he chose a starter of petite crabcakes (full of jumbo lump crabmeat but a tad salty, I thought) followed by the obscene and decadent Braveheart beef 22-ounce bone-in cowboy cut for us to share.
Because no one, not a cowboy or even a cowgirl, needs 22 ounces of meat.
On the other hand, that Braveheart beef is disgustingly good, even if I felt my arteries clogging as I ate it.
After mortadella, no less.
I'm going to hell in a handbasket, as my Richmond grandmother used to say.
Midway through our meal the rain began suddenly, making for a lovely soundtrack and sending people scurrying in from the outside.
I felt the temperature of the air wafting in from outside drop almost at once.
The music was a great mix tonight, too; I heard everything from Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" to Missy Higgins' "Steer."
But the search ends here
Where the night is totally clear
And your heart is fierce
So now you finally know that you control where you go
You can steer
When you eat as much as we did tonight, you have plenty of time to cover all kinds of personal topics.
Friend asked why I am at Balliceaux so often (music), told me about his new love (and the unexpected first night kiss) and gave me major points for hair and lipstick upkeep.
It's funny; you never know what people notice about you unless they tell you.
In the interest of ensuring that we had to be rolled out of Arcadia, he insisted that we get dessert and I picked a flourless dark chocolate torte with chocolate gelato.
The fudge-like torte was sensational, barely semi-sweet and texturally like velvet in my mouth, but the gelato was even more exquisite, positively sticky with its high butterfat.
Even so, no self-respecting cow girl would have eaten it after that hunk o' meat we'd just shared.
There isn't enough riding on the range I could do to offset the amount of food I downed tonight.
But then a real cowgirl would have had plans by 5:00.
And maybe steered a little bit better.