Saturday, May 19, 2012

Birthday Scrapple

We have established that I'm a fan of the Roosevelt.

Hell, I was a fan of Lee Gregory's cooking back when he was at Six Burner and no one was paying attention.

So of course now that he's cooking up all kinds of fresh takes on southern cuisine, I'm bound to show up in Church Hill regularly.

Tonight it was at that perfect moment when the crowds had not yet descended and there were plenty of spaces at the bar.

We assumed the position and ordered a bottle of Gabrielle Rausse Vin de Gris, a particularly lovely white Pinot Noir.

My favorite Church Hill neighbor was there, the man I'd met the first week The Roosevelt opened.

"It's so good to see you again, Karen," he said very sweetly.

He'd already ordered his dinner and was planning to finish his beer, take his dinner the block home and eat it in the recliner watching his favorite show.

I could appreciate his plan but couldn't ever do it myself.

The early evening light was sublime in the room, highlighting every corner of the room and eliminating the need for artificial light.

And I found friends in attendance.

I wished the birthday boy many happy returns ("They say it's your birthday, Well, it's my birthday, too, yea") and had an animated discussion of the recent Ghostlight Afterparty with another of the attendees.

Bartender T's understated charms were working the bar hard, but he found time to tell us the specials, and thus decide our fate.

We started light with Virginia crab, bacon, grilled corn, avocado and lemon vinaigrette.

Huge hunks of backfin met creamy avocado while tender pea shoots held it all together. A fine start.

One of my old Floyd Avenue neighbors came over to say hello. It was his first time at The Roosevelt and he was happy to see a familiar face.

He admitted his confirmed bachelorhood, gave a nod to strong-willed women and confirmed a reliance on the same restaurants and dishes, all for lack of nerve.

I've seen it time and time again; if they stay single too long, they become cat-petting, Hulu-watching amoebas who rarely leave the house except to run errands (surely a code word for something far more boring even than errands).

Next up was the standout of the evening, a lamb scrapple.

And, unlike in Washington, D.C. where I last ordered scrapple, I wasn't asked if I knew what scrapple was.

Made of lamb belly (oh, my!) and lamb shoulder, cornmeal and spices, it arrived with a soft cooked egg atop it and a divine chimichurra sauce.

I don't care what you think of scrapple, whether you've had it and hated it or accept it as a necessary evil, this scrapple was heavenly.

Coarse and savory, it became something sublime when coated with the yolk of an egg.

It was my companion's first-ever scrapple but his affection for lamb made that a moot point.

On a roll now, we moved on to the pork belly with pickled green strawberries, regular strawberries and pork rinds.

Fatty, sweet, fatty, tart, fatty, crunch - every flavor and every texture came through on this dish.

Yes, pork belly has been done to death, but this was absolutely a new take on it.

Not surprisingly, we also succumbed to one of the evening's specials, fried chicken skin and chicken oysters with a Sriracha/honey sauce.

It's a rare and wonderful week when you get chicken skin two days in a row.

Licking our fingers, we were unexpectedly greeted by friends coming from Eric Schindler Gallery, a place we'd intended to visit tonight had our taste buds not insisted we remain within spitting drooling distance of Lee's kitchen.

Our buttermilk panna cotta then arrived (creamy mouthfeel, slightly tangy flavor and fresh strawberries atop it all ) and we decided to enjoy it outside while chatting up our friends.

Which hill towns should be visited in Italy? Why do middle schoolers think probability and balls are so funny? If a father finds a hangover amusing, does that bode well for the future groom?

There wasn't enough Vin de Gris at The Roosevelt to solve such major issues, but we tried anyway, as customers strolled by and buses charged around the traffic circle in the moonlight.

The waning crescent moon overhead is still in Aries, no doubt gathering its strength to soon deliver Gemini, my sign.

Tonight's feast of scrapple and chicken skin were just the kickoff to my upcoming birthday week celebration.

How long can I stretch out this birthday revelry?

Stay tuned. I'll do my best.

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