Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tales from the Banquette

I'm known for being particularly good at keeping up with what's going on.

Granted, I do it old-school style with a small purple calendar I carry in my bag, but I do keep track of what's coming up.

So when I looked at my book yesterday morning, I saw there was an art opening at UR.

And not just any opening, but one for the social documentary photography show I'd recently written up for Style Weekly, here.

So with an art-loving associate in tow, we headed out to UR.

From the second we pulled into the Modlin Center parking lot, it was clear I had my dates wrong.

Sure enough, despite having included the correct date in the article I'd done, I'd written it on the incorrect date in my book.

Just call me idiot.

But I am nothing if not resilient, so we simply turned the car eastward and headed to dinner ahead of schedule.

My companion had never been to Magpie, so that's where we decided to console ourselves over the absent art.

Surprise, surprise, they were at capacity when we walked in.

A promise of seats kept us cooling our heels and reading the new RVA magazine until we were seated at the far end of the curved, red banquette.

As many times as I've eaten at Magpie (a fair number, since it's mere blocks from home), I'd never been anywhere but the bar.

In fact, once I was seated, the owner (who'd designed it) came over to comment that it was my my first time on the banquette.

It was also my first time hearing current music, since Magpie is known for its reliably '80s soundtrack.

When I commented on hearing MGMT, our server proudly said, "This isn't '80s!"

It was turning out to be an alternate universe at Magpie tonight and we were along for the ride.

It turned out to be a cozy spot for a meal, even given the nerdy father/son duo bonding at the next table

"Dad, you tell the corniest jokes," the son said. "But you're never gonna stop, are you?"

Not while we were there he didn't.

With glasses of the crisp and floral-nosed Semeli "Feast" Moschofilero, we savored an amuse bouche of house-made Mozzarella with blackberry and shallot foam.

One perfect bite of freshness whetted our appetites for a sampling of small plates.

Lardo crostini, slathered with BellaVitano cheese and truffle oil over grilled asparagus was decadent even in small bites, but paired beautifully with the crisp acidity of the wine.

Fried hearts of palm were stacked up Jenga-style with an addictive roasted poblano pesto for dipping.

I remember the first time I'd had it, the bartender had told me he could eat that pesto with a spoon and my companion agreed, using bread to sop up the remaining pesto once the hearts were history.

The banana-crusted scallops with a spiced rum reduction and vanilla gelato proved once again the chef's mastery of sweet and savory.

As we ate, the small room got even busier, with people two deep at the bar.

At one point, two guys were in line for the one unisex bathroom and after a bit, one of them began banging on the door.

A mortified-looking woman came out to find the two guys hovering in front of her. Awkward.

Who knew Wednesdays were so popular in Carver?

Our server thought that it was due to people like us who eat out frequently choosing a mid-week dinner rather than deal with the weekend crowds.

And yet here was a midweek crowd, a pleasure to see in a month that has seen far too many local restaurants closing.

For our closer, we chose a chocolate caramel torte with seat salt and bourbon cream.

The shortbread crust provided a cookie character that enhanced the deep, dark chocolate filling and was a vehicle for the bourbon sauce.

By the time we got up to leave, we were well satisfied with the array of flavors we'd tasted, the father/son duo was wrapping up their rap session and everyone waiting had finally been seated.

No telling what else we missed, but with no art or music on the horizon, we set out to find something to do with our brains.

When my calendar and all else fails on a Wednesday night, there's always the art of conversation.

Once hearts are history, sometimes a discussion of words and their meaning is as good as an art opening.

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