Saturday, August 25, 2012

Eat Tongue, Ride Like Hell

Everyone wants to make sure I have plans.

A friend messages me to see if I'm going to Amuse. I'm likely not.

She asks me if I'm going to see music and corrects herself to ask where I'm going to see music.

A friend messages wanting to know what I'm up to.

Just home from a dinner date, I say I'll find something to do.

"I know you will. Even if it's a late night run to 7-Eleven for pork cracklins and Boone's Farm," he writes.

I fear that if I don't have good enough plans, I disappoint some people.

And yet I do what I want to do.

All week, I've been planning to go to Tio Pablo for dinner tonight.

My date is on board with the idea and the good-sized crowd we find on our arrival must feel the same.

Our server is personable and chatty, bringing us two glasses of Albarino to our section of counter against the wall.

A quick look at the menu makes our taco decisions for us.

De nopales (sauteed cactus with tomatoes and jalapenos), de pollo chipotle (roasted chieckn chipotle with Oaxacan cheese), de lengua (stewed beef tongue) and de camarones (shrimp sauteed with tomatoes, avocado, garlic and nopales) are ordered with a side of frijoles charros (pinto beans with Surry ham).

When our server brings the food, it is with the acknowledgment, "That's a great four pack. You'll be happy with those. They're all awesome."

And so they were.

I was responsible for my date seeing his first cactus flowers and tonight for eating his first cacti, both a distinct pleasure.

The heat of the chipotle chicken is unexpected but the sublime texture of the tongue is just savored.

I delight in hearing my companion admit that he's now a tongue convert.

The camerones taco is good, but nothing surpasses that tongue.

As we sit sipping our Albarino, the crowd at the community table begins to thin and we look around at the decor, admiring a lizard sculpture and a paper mache animal head.

Full enough, we have no business asking about dessert.

Turns out tonight's special is tres leche coconut cake.

As a devotee of coconut cake, much less a tres leche version, they had me at "co."

The square of cake with icing on top is moist and sticky, much like the abundant fresh coconut that adorns it.

It could have made a coconut lover out of anyone, much less two people who are already fans of the tropical fruit.

By the time we leave, my only regret is not having sampled around the tequila menu, but there's always next time.

For my second act, I surprise everyone and don't go out for music.

I'd just read a Post review of "Premium Rush" about a bike courier in  NYC and, living amongst a dedicated fixed gear community, was more than a little curious.

I know several fixed gear fanatics. I've met their bike messenger friends.

My father owned a courier company in Washington that used bike couriers.

I've had a couple of jobs that used bike couriers (okay, so it was the '90s) and remember handing off to friendly, sweaty couriers.

I even volunteered at the North American Handmade Bicycle show at the convention center in 2010.

So I had more than a little interest, despite it being a Hollywood take on the subject.

And especially since the "Lincoln" movie filming because everyone in Richmond now has a Joseph Gordon-Levitt sighting or story (my favorite being him telling someone I know, "I just wish I could go to bed with a girl without her taking my picture while I'm asleep." Tragic really).

I was expecting the audience to be full of bike kids and it was; the two rows behind me were nothing but and they provided running commentary throughout.

More surprising was the guy in the row next to me, wearing a black cape, black pants, a white shirt and bow tie.

One of these things is not like the others.

But I digress.

The movie started like a shot, or more appropriately, like riding a fixed gear bike, fast and with no cruising.

I was glad I'd come opening night so I got the benefit of the Greek chorus of bike riders behind me.

Like the collective groan that went up when a car crossed the biker's path and he had no choice but to hit it.

Or the applause when a bicycle cop got doored or cheering when a biker drove straight through a market and out the alley door.

One very compelling aspect of the film was seeing the "what ifs" in the daily life of a cyclist.

In this case, it was a courier who was racing against a deadline to deliver an envelope on a bike with no gears or brakes.

But the challenges are universal for anyone riding without brakes: swerve right and hit the lady with the stroller, or swerve left and broadside a cab.

Just another day in the life of a fixed gear biker, set to a soundtrack that began and ended with the Who's "Baba O'Reilly."

And no, I have never ridden nor have any desire to ride a fixed gear bike.

But for a late summer evening of escapism with amazing camerawork of bikes darting through traffic in Manhattan, it couldn't be beat.

As a female courier says at the end of a 90-minute delivery escapade (coincidentally, the same length as the movie), "That's the most fun I ever had with my clothes on."

Amen, sister.

I'd agree that it was the most fun I could have had fully clothed tonight.

And I didn't end up anywhere near as sweaty as she did.

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