Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dizzy in the Head

Only an idiot would go to the Roosevelt at 6:30 on a Saturday night.

Guilty as charged, but that's what the bench by the kitchen is for.

Eventually a seat opened up at the bar and White Hall Cab Franc in hand, I appropriated it while my partner in crime stood nearby.

I watched as the woman next to me tasted a wine, rejected it, tasted another and rejected it and finally gave up, saying, "Maybe it's my taste buds. Can I see your cocktail list?"

Or maybe it's that she wasn't aware of the all-Virginia wine list and was expecting a big California or Australian wine.

Silly woman.

Bartender Brandon, whom I'd seen play with his band, Sea of Storms, for the first time the other night, thanked me for coming to his show.

I felt reassured seeing him back as the mild-mannered guy I used to know.

Our order of crispy fried spicy pork rinds arrived on baking parchment, much like the fried onions we'd been served in Florence before dinner one night, and they got everyone's attention at the bar.

One guy immediately pointed and asked, "What are those?" and I barely answered before another guy asked me the same.

When I told him, he responded, "Not too worried about fat, are you?"

It's Saturday night, I reminded him.


The airy rinds had an addictive spiciness to them so we tore through them.

I don't want to brag, but it wasn't long before two more plates of rinds came out for the people on either side of us.

Next came lamb neck crostini with pickled cranberries and it was like in those romantic movies where all of a sudden time slows.

The combination of earthy, spicy lamb set off by the piquancy of the pickled cranberries on toasted bread made the conversations around me go faint and the lights dim.

I have been and continue to be Lee Gregory's unabashed groupie for all these years for just that reason.

It was so good it gave me nerve.

One of tonight's specials was rockfish with pork cheeks, farro, red cabbage and Parmesan, but I wasn't in the mood for rockfish, having had an all-seafood lunch yesterday.

A polite request to bartender T. resulted in a big yes from the kitchen to deliver the cheeks and farro without the fish.

I don't care if you like cheeks or even know what farro is, the dish was out of this world.

Even the micro-greens on top enhanced the deep flavor of the cheeks and the nutty, toothsome texture of the farro.

Meanwhile, the dining room was bustling non-stop and the well-chosen music of the hillbilly/rockabilly variety kept the energy in the room  going musically.

For the next course, we chose the pork belly over refried black lentils with a soft-cooked egg and salsa verde.

Some might question why two people would order what we did, but bartender T. never wavered. "All pork all the time," he chuckled. "I like it."

Later, the woman next to me mentioned it was her first time there, and asked what I'd eaten.

After I told her, she looked surprised, saying, "Boy, you must really like pork."

Oh, does it show?

"Is this woman bothering you?" bartender Brandon asked tongue in cheek of my new curious friend.

Everyone's a comedian at the Roosevelt. Maybe that's why I like it so much.

I saw the director of the VMFA patiently waiting for a table and came *this* close to going over and telling him about the unbridled enthusiasm I'd encountered at the museum yesterday, here, but refrained.

After all, the man was out on a Saturday night and who was I to talk work with him?

So I did not become the woman that bothered him, just for the record.

Our meal had been just another reminder of how the Roosevelt kitchen just keeps on knocking my socks off, even on a stupid busy night when I had no business being there to add to the mayhem.

For shame, I'm a more experienced eater than that.

But, alas, we couldn't eat dessert there because the night was young and the Blood Brothers were both in town.

That required a change of venue to Ipanema, where the Brothers promised, "Wax sides to move your back sides!"

Irresistible, right?

Jamie and Duane used to do a regular gig before Duane abandoned River City for the Big Apple, so I have to catch them when I can.

Driving to Ipanema, Grace Street was backed up like a funeral was going by, but we don't do those at night, so it had to be something else.

We'd timed it perfectly; the VCU game had just ended.

Some of the game-goers decided to drown their sorrows at Ips, so the place was filling up quickly.

I grabbed a stool and my fellow criminal waited patiently for another to clear.

Then it was on to mixed berry pie a la mode with a couple of glasses of Franco Serra 10 Dolcetto d'Alba while waiting for the brothers to get set up.

Ah, simple pleasures.

The place was getting mobbed with distraught fans, a large birthday group and people like us who'd come for the wax sides.

I overheard a guy behind me tell his friend, "Dude, I'm telling you, in another 20 years, Richmond is going to be like a real city."

Someone needs to sit that boy down for a talk and tell him a thing or two, but it wasn't going to be me, at least tonight.

Finally the music started and because they're playing vinyl, the sound was wonderfully distinctive, even more so given the low-slung ceilings, so reminiscent of listening to records in somebody's basement.

Fact is, I only recognized a very few of the '60s and early '70s garage/soul/psych/pop rock they played, but I can totally wiggle my backside to almost all of it.

But I pat myself on the back when I hear the Who's "Can't Explain" or the Yardbirds "For Your Love," and recognize them on the first few notes.

Soon people begin dancing over by the turntables, but we are tucked into a corner by the brick wall, so I content myself with dancing in my seat, a fact my companion points out.

Better here than not at all.

It's like the fatty pork rinds.

It is, after all, Saturday night.

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