Once isn't always enough.
Tonight that meant two dinner dates, with the first at Toast.
I'd reviewed Toast last Fall, but it's located way out of my limited world, so I hadn't been back since my four visits back then.
But when one of my couple date suggested dinner there, I happily agreed, even offering to drive.
As we headed westward ho, it became clear from the darkening sky that we were just going to beat the rainstorm.
Walking in with my umbrella clutched in hand, the hostess complimented my wisdom, noting that I was the first to come in prepared.
Well, I was a girl scout.
Within minutes, the skies opened up and a deluge began to fall outside.
I'd offered my extra umbrella to one of my companions, but she'd turned it down, commenting, "I don't melt in a little rain."
Honey, this was a lot of rain and I may not melt, but I can do without wet hair at the beginning of an evening out.
Over peach sangria and happy hour beer, we slowly narrowed our food selections.
Since I had a second dinner date, I kept my choice light with the grilled avocado and cheesy corn chip salad with cucumber, sprouts, sunflower kernels, tomatoes, and pico de gallo in a lemon/smoked honey vinaigrette.
Our food took forever to come out and I wondered if perhaps it had been sitting a while since the cheese on my four corn chips was cold and hard, meaning a long way from freshly melted.
Luckily, the rest of it was fresh and quite delicious, so I overlooked the sub-par chippage.
As we ate, we watched people rush in from the monsoon, eager to escape the outside for drinks and eats.
Meanwhile, we moved on to Toast's signature doughnuts with honey mascarpone, the only dessert I know of that arrives being shaken in a paper bag.
I'm here to tell you that the smell of freshly fried doughnuts shaken in cinnamon sugar is enough to make a person forget she has further dinner plans.
If I'm going to leave my personal orbit and venture as far as Three Chopt and Patterson, these doughnuts are as worthy a reason as I know of.
By the time we left Toast, the rain had stopped and a rainbow was arching over Patterson Avenue as we drove back to the city and all I hold dear.
Dinner #1 done.
Stop #2 was at the home of my friend, Holmes, and the occasion was a visit by a mutual friend.
Our little quartet has an affinity for bubbles and LaMarca Prosecco, the favorite of Holmes' beloved, had ben earmarked as the beverage of the evening.
By the time I arrived, the three of them were already starting the second bottle so I had to hit the ground running.
First order of business was choosing wine tags for our glasses.
Holmes had already claimed "immature," his beloved went with "earthy," the guest chose "rich" and I opted for "supple."
Sometimes we label ourselves as we are and other times as we wish we were.
In any case, it didn't stop people from drinking from the wrong glass on occasion, but what's shared cooties among friends?
My work was cut out for me when I noticed that there was no music playing because I don't see how people can have a dinner party without it.
Holmes allowed me to choose the music (probably since he knew I had to pick from his collection so how bad could it be?) and I began with the Finn Brothers' 2004 album, "Everyone is Here."
One of my favorites on that record is "Anything Can Happen," which seemed like an apt metaphor for tonight's gathering.
I could never give it up
I could never relent
And I can't wait to see
What will happen to me next
Music blasting from the dining room, we prepared to commence the business of making dinner.
This involved grilling shrimp in Holmes' secret sauce whilst preparing chicken and steak to be grilled afterwards.
Despite keeping the meal simple with jasmine rice and sliced Hanover tomatoes sprinkled with Old Bay, it wasn't long before the kitchen and deck resembled a Keystone Cops caper, with people coming and going, taking things that others were looking for and constantly losing what mattered.
But as long as the LaMarca kept flowing, no one seemed to mind.
It seemed to me that such chaos required '80s music, so my next album choice was "Natural History: The Very Best of Talk Talk," a record I never expected to find in Holmes' collection.
Au contraire, he informed me; he had four Talk Talk albums.
Man, you think you know a person.
Funny how I blind myself
I never knew
If I were sometimes played upon
Afraid to lose
By the time we finally sat down to eat, it was on Holmes' new Japanese placemats, purchased yesterday at an estate sale and leading to a discussion of the pleasures of said sales.
Sometimes it's not about the stuff for sale (an $18,000 cabinet?) but about being inside a house you'd never otherwise get to see.
With three women and only Holmes to represent the simpler sex, I'm afraid the conversation took a decidedly feminine turn, settling on the intricacies of relationships.
Is living together necessarily the goal of a relationship? How long is too long to wait for commitment? How important is the concept of the "right person"?
Hell if we knew.
Once the conversation devolved into our misspent youths, we decided it was dessert time.
Fortunately, bubbly goes extremely well with chocolate eclairs and chocolate mousse cake.
We gorged on sweets while listening to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's "Deja Vu," a true time warp, but well-suited to Holmes' taste.
Groovy vibes permeated the room, or perhaps that was the Prosecco.
Everybody, I love you
Everybody, I do
Though your heart is in anger
I need your love to get through
Nothing like a Sunday night with everybody.
Our visiting friend told me she had never seen me looking happier or more vivacious.
I'm just happy to wait and see what will happen next.