Friday, November 23, 2012

Upheld and Then Some

If you stay in town for Thanksgiving, you know the drill.

Everybody's off tomorrow, so the bars are full of revelers with no curfew. Hence the night's reputation as the biggest drinking night of the year. Holmes is my go-to T-Day eve partner-in-crime, so I let him know we needed to meet up.

But you don't jump into a night such as this one cold-turkey (pardon seasonal humor), so we decided to convene at Rowland (no longer) Fine Dining to begin. With companions. By the time we arrived, Holmes and his beloved were already ensconced at the bar, putting a serious hurting on a bottle of Prosecco.

A favorite bartender was working, meaning we had great service and the equivalent of an extra friend with us. As if the impending holiday wasn't excuse enough, tonight was half off bottles of wine, so there was added incentive to drink. Over a jammy Las Rocas red blend, we checked out the new menu, with its wide array of small plates and reasonably priced entrees.

Wise move, Rowlands.

The restaurant had a chill vibe tonight with a few other regulars at the bar, an eight top that came in loopy and proceeded to get louder and loopier and two random couples at opposite ends of the room. A fine mix of separate parties, each having their own good time.

The bartender and I discussed the recent Chicha Libre show where we'd last run into each other. I laughed when she told me that she'd held back on her crazy dancing once she saw me there. As if I'd judge someone for any kind of dancing, much less just-got-off-work-dying-to-let-loose dancing.

Honey, never hold back because of me.

That business taken care of, my date and I moved on to Gordo's seafood gumbo, a deep-tasting dark roux with shrimp over a mound of rice. Usually a special, it's been added to the regular menu now, a good thing because it's a spicy and hearty dish, perfect for a cold night.

Since our little group was stretched across the length of the bar to eat, four-way conversation was challenging. But Thanksgiving eve celebrants are up to whatever the evening hands them. They'd seen the Chihuly show at VMFA since I'd last seen them, so colored glass discussion naturally followed.

Holmes had been away in Pat Robertson land and had missed Beaujolais Nouveau tastings, so he regaled us with his tales of hunting down the new wine since his return. I mentioned the sign I'd seen in an ABC store window this morning advertising black Friday sales on booze. That got Holmes' attention. And our bartender's.

Leaning over toward our conversation pit, she arched an eyebrow and asked, "Like what kind of sale? Do I need to be up?" Personally, nothing's getting me out of bed early post-turkey, so I felt unqualified to answer that.  Everyone's got their own incentives and mine is not to judge.

Mine is to eat.

Delivering Amarone slow braised short rubs with herbed Parmesan gnocchi, our bartender did her best Pepe LePew accent, saying, "Le ribs, short," and leaving us to devour the long-cooked ribs, delectable with bits of fat and the lightest of gnocchis.

Dessert was chocolate cake with whipped vanilla cream and Manon rose and by the time we finished, we were the last occupants of the restaurant. What, again?

Since it was far too early to give up on the biggest drinking night of the year, we motored to Holmes' Hideaway where the evening progressed with more pink wine and better music. Holmes, ever the musician, played some of his own recordings, along with late '60s Fleetwood Mac as we continued to sip and chat until Turkey Day had arrived. And then some.

But if you're going to stay in town for the evening, you've got a certain responsibility to the night to uphold. Not to mention the ideal meal to eat the next day to recover from it.

Bring it on.

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