Wednesday, May 15, 2013

View to a Night

A neighborhood regular walks into a bar and an entire evening's plan goes out the window as she contemplates farm life.

When I got to Bistro 27, I had to run the gauntlet of a group cocktail party surrounding the bar.

As it turned out, they were a group who is the liaison between social workers and Presbyterians and they were presenting someone with a giant gold key tonight.

I didn't pretend to understand.

Because it was Brazilian night, my wine of choice was Vega Douro, the chef's choice for the evening's featured dishes.

I saw another Brazilian regular and when he couldn't recall what we'd been drinking the last time we'd both been there for Brazilian night, I jogged his memory for him.

When his date arrived, she fell in line with our wine choice, too.

Then another neighborhood regular showed up and also went Portuguese.

Carlos' plan was working exactly according to his master plan.

In an annual rite of spring, albeit one much later this year than last, I had my first soft shell crab tonight.

They were doing two Brazilian redneck dishes (as he calls them), the braised short ribs and yucca I'd had a couple of weeks ago and a soft shell Bobo.

The rich dish with its sauce of yucca root puree, palm oil and coconut milk was a siren call I couldn't resist, especially with a molting crustacean front and center.

So I was going to have the crab, natch, but I also couldn't resist the short ribs, making for a very filling meal.

While eating the Bobo, it occurred to me that this might be a Virginia take on Brazilian food, given the crab.

I called over answer man Carlos to inquire if this was actually something Brazilians ate or if he was just riffing on a traditional dish.

Oh, no, he explained, it was very much rooted in Brazilian cuisine although they used their native crabs rather than blue crabs.

After hearing about their local crabs - large, long-legged, hairy and living in shallow tidal pools- I had a whole new appreciation for our own species.

My neighbor told me about his new riding mower, bought earlier today and apparently already his pride and joy, while the chef welcomed his wife and baby girls, daughter, sister, niece and nephew.

All of a sudden, it was turning into a Tuesday night Brazilian party with Portuguese not just in the glasses but being spoken all around the bar.

Before I realized it, I had missed the movie I'd intended to go see and was blathering away with the other bar sitters and the chef as dusk turned to night time.

Eventually the liaison group left, the big parties on the other side departed and it was just the bar group still drinking and laughing.

The rest ended up across the street at Comfort for a nightcap.

The music was  exquisitely awful (Duran Duran, Survivor, Peter Cetera), leading to discussion with a nearby couple about what constitutes bad music.

Our conclusion: depends on when you were born.

They were sipping whiskeys while we stayed with wine, a lovely cinnamon-nosed Bielsa Garnacha with the silkiest of mouthfeels.

Down at the end of the bar, a woman was so obviously savoring her dessert that a guy sitting at mid-bar finally gave up admiring and ordered his own.

A couple of bites in, he caught me looking covetously at his dessert and apropos of nothing, looked at me and said, "You should get this."

The woman at the end, who was nearing the end of hers concurred, saying, "You know you want it."

It's good to know I'm an easy read for perfect strangers.

I ordered my own chocolate mousse and enjoyed it with my garnacha while eavesdropping on the whiskey lecture that was going on to my left.

Truth is, I always feel like an interloper in a place that focuses on a spirit I never drink.

Conversation flowed as I heard about a talented local chef who'd gotten married and moved to a farm to live the back-breaking bucolic life.

And while it's a charming, even romantic notion, all I could think about was how do you get soft shell Bobo and late night mousses when you live on a farm?

Not to mention the ungodly early hours.

I figure our party departed Comfort approximately three hours before any farmer worth his salt was rolling out of bed.

Shoot me now.

I'm more likely to eat a hairy crab than take on early morning chores, even for the sake of romance.

Luckily, no one's asking me to.

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