Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hot Bacon and Dead Deer

Time it right on a Tuesday and a chef will come out to the bar and talk to you.

The illustrator and I met at Heritage to have the happy hour we'd missed once before.

A lively crowd of Style Weekly origins took up all but a couple stools at the far end and those were ours.

Over happy hour Pinot Noir, we talked turkey (and ham and rockfish), shared relative anecdotes and affirmed our superiority over the estrogen-deficient.

It's what long-time girlfriends do after too long.

We dove into the ever-evolving menu for the smoked fish dip and an array of house-pickled vegetables.

First of all, someone is clearly having a ball smoking an doing a terrific job at it.

Secondly, those pickled swiss chard, onions, carrots and bee-yoo-tee-ful bread and butter pickles  were every canning grandmother's dream.

Devouring the dip at an alarming pace, we soon found ourselves bereft of toast on which to spread it.

And that's how we conjured up the first chef.

Chef Joe showed up unbidden with more toast and talk of pig parts.

While they were calling tonight's appetizer special "crispy terrine," we all knew it was just head cheese.


The crispy pig parts sat atop a creamy polenta with brussels sprouts in between.

It was exquisite, perfectly balancing the fattiness of the terrine with the bitterness of the sprouts and the herby creaminess of the polenta.

Meanwhile, Joe regaled us with his passion for smoking things. And making his own bacon.

Conveniently, some was about to come out of the oven.

Naturally, that inspired us to get a charcuterie plate of Mangalitsa lardo, Tasso ham, Border Springs lamb summer sausage and that oven-fresh bacon along with an explanation of wooly pigs and heritage breeds from the chef.

To quote the illustrator, "Be still my heart." It was a little bit of heaven on a piece of slate.

By the time we looked up from slate o' meat and tales of first loves and pickling, the restaurant was near capacity.

No doubt they'd heard about the bread and butter pickles.

Eventually my pal had to go home to draw something so we hugged on Vine and called it a night.

Carver called.

By the time I got to the Magpie, things were slowing down.

With Impuls 71, a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, in hand, I listened to the dessert offerings, choosing the  chocolate/caramel/sea salt torte.

Next thing I know Chef Owen has wandered out of the kitchen, probably due to all foods having been cooked by this point.

Right in front of my eyes he morphs from chef to beer drinker chatting with nearby patrons like me.

There is shared hearsay about new restaurants, rumors and realities.

Once a friend of his came in, the conversation turned to more manly topics.

The chef and I heard how a guy riding a scooter had hit a four-point deer head-on and escaped with only a sprained wrist.

And, yes, the scooter was toast.

The storyteller said the scooter driver had called a friend after it happened and said, "I totaled the scooter, I killed a deer and I need a ride home."

I would have such a hard time being serious after hearing that that I'm quite sure I would offend.

It soon became clear that both guys I was talking to were avid huntsmen since the callee's response of, "Okay, I'll come get you. How much meat do I get?" did not crack them up at all.

Instead of laughing at that response like I did, they both nodded their heads knowingly.

As in, yea, how much meat should I get for coming to get you?

I found it hilarious.

But what I found even better was when Chef Owen, a fellow Jackson Ward resident, said he was planning to have a mural put on the Norton Street side of the restaurant.

I'm quite sure the dearly departed Dr. Norton would be smiling down on such a thing.

Looking forward, he said he hoped to buy the building and treat the whole building as an art project.

I'd be the first to say that Carver could use more public art, so I found his ideas downright neighborly and even forward-thinking.

We took a sharp left into humor when  he told me about his new neighbors, one an older Italian man who walks his little dog wearing only a wife beater and sweat pants.

Except in cold weather when he adds gloves to the wife beater. And waves to Owen.

I laughed so hard I had to stop and catch my breath. I only hope to see this guy around the neighborhood.

That's right, bar sitters. Chefs are good for more than pickling tips.

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