Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Four Tops for One, Please

Monday night turned out to be for seeing old friends.

That meant starting at Avalon to see a friend of seventeen years whom I hadn't seen all summer.

"I figured your dance card was completely full," he said as explanation for why we hadn't gotten together in months.

And while it has been awfully full, that's still no excuse.

Avalon was all but dead until the arrival of several people he knew, all operatives for the Republican party.

Since my friend is the same kind of screaming liberal I am, I was surprised to meet his Gilmore-loving friends.

They weren't complete idiots, though; she was the first to say, "George Allen is a redneck and an idiot."

So at least we were in agreement on some things.

After listening to far too much blather from the right, I excused myself for my dinner date (a friend for twenty years).

We headed to Secco, only to walk in and find the familiar face of a friend having dinner with her parents.

A talented photographer, she'd moved to C-ville a while back so it was a complete surprise to find her back here.

Hearing how frequently we trek to Charlottesville, she suggested we call her next time we're out there for a show.

She'd even checked out our recommendation about Star Hill Park, our go-to spot every time we're there.

Leaving her to her charming Italian parents, we found seats at the end of the bar.

Since it was Monday (also known as flight night), I asked for the dealer's choice, which in this case was owner Julia's Spanish flight.

A vinho verse-like sparkling petillant, a cuvee rioja rosado and a tempranillo from Ribera del Duero had me set for the night.

It was a no-brainer to choose the orcchiette with swiss chard and oyster mushrooms with botargo (made with shad roe, making for a nice local touch) grated on the top.

"It's the only way I'd have shad roe in my restaurant," Julia cracked. No doubt.

The rich saltiness imparted by the dried and cured roe made the dish unforgettable, as good as the sea urchin gnocchi that was our menu favorite last spring.

When we heard the selection on the charcuterie plate, we ordered that, too.

Rabbit offal pate was decadently rich and creamy on the tongue.

It was the result of saving up rabbit kidneys and hearts and whatever else came with the whole rabbits for months to have enough to show off in this savory manner.

Five-spice duck terrine with prunes and scallions boasted the perfect balance of sweet and salty.

Pork pate with bacon and olives was the most rustic, but also a mouth-watering combination of pig and pig.

The meats were so rich and well executed that we couldn't even finish them all or we would have exploded.

We took our time eating while enjoying a varied soundtrack that swung from Death Cab to 40s-era jazz.

A guy came in with his laptop, expecting to take over a four-top and "do some work" at a time when nearly every table was taken.

It seemed a bit nervy to me and he was informed that he'd have to sit at the bar instead. He got huffy and left.

Imagine a restaurant not wasting a four-top on a guy who was only there to be on his computer.

Meanwhile the couple next to us, obviously enjoying their wine and conversation, inquired of the staff if they could come to their house and pour wine for them there.

Sadly, the answer was no.

We finished the tempranillo with a dessert of mini cream puffs stuffed with vanilla cream and covered in a caramel sauce with toffee bits.

I could feel the food coma settling in over me.

Truth be told, I shouldn't be allowed to eat again for a few days after a meal as splendidly rich as that.

But just you watch. I will.

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