Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Make Mine a Chartreuse Rinse

It is obscene the amount of food I have consumed this evening.

The plan was for a simple, early dinner with Pru at Magpie. We met, we established a beach head at the bar and that was all it was to be.

In a nod to the changing weather, I started with a glass of Emerson Pinot Noir tasting earthy with hints of cherry.

It was odd, the music was of this decade, a rarity for Magpie, but I didn't complain.

The place was hopping with customers and the staff was trying to catch up.

We started with root vegetable salad, a medley of sweet potato chips, sliced beets and radishes with house ranch dressing and goat cheese.

Bravo Fall, if this is what it tastes like.

I'm not sure if it was an iron deficiency or just a craving (we'd both had a lot of fish on recent dates), but our entree orders screamed blood.

Medium-rare smoked rib-eye came with crisp Yukon gold wedges, sauerkraut, toothsome kale and Gruyere custard.

Seared venison sat atop granola and polenta, braised Asian pear and chicory and led to a discussion of why we love game.

I referenced a recent Post article about how hot game restaurants and food carts are right now in London, making me wish I was headed back over the pond.

Mid-red meat feast, the music shifted from the past five years back to the '80s, the usual provenance of Magpie.

This is the soundtrack I am used to whilst eating game mere blocks from home. In fact, in Carver, game = '80s.

Hello, David Bowie.

During a discussion of our love lives, Pru had me doubled over with an observation about a recent date.

"He's great because he likes to try all kinds of food, but he has no sideburns." You can only imagine how this would concern a woman.

We eschewed dessert, too full to consider more, about the time Pru got a text from an admirer, necessitating an amendment to our evening.

Our company was being requested, so we paid the bill and headed to Church Hill to Dutch & Co.

I was amazed to find a close parking space, at least until I realized it was because a huge wire had come down from a pole during the earlier monsoon and was draped across the space.

Ignoring obvious safety issues, I parked the car and gingerly walked around the wire, hoping it would not spontaneously combust while I was in the restaurant.

Dutch & Co. was relatively sedate (they chalked it up to football) and I took a seat at the bar awaiting Pru and company, who soon arrived.

I recognized all the staff- former Aziza's, Black Sheep and Acacia servers- making for a comfy evening with on-point service and chatter about the Folk Fest, the Silent Music Revival and Charlottesville dining.

We started our conversational potpourri with a bottle of Puzelat Bonhomme "Le Telquel," a lovely Gamay with nice acidity, dark fruit and a wiener dog on the label.

I'm partial to beagles myself.

Despite the abundance of red meat Pru and I had already consumed, we joined our starving friend in tasting through Dutch's menu.

You can't go wrong with Anderson's Neck oysters or with salmon ceviche, a revelation with Marcona almonds and persimmon.

You'd expect two women stuffed on red meat to stop there, but we rose to every culinary challenge our friend ordered.

Maple duck ham with Parisienne gnocchi, kale and sweet potato puree with walnuts knocked our socks off.

Chilled shrimp with avocado, sweet peppers and ginger vinaigrette was killer because of the distinctive turnip greens.

And speaking of killer, the music naturally caught my ear.

For a while, it was vintage Neil Young straight out of the '70s, necessitating me asking the source of the music.

Turns out some talented music lover at Acacia programs their playlist.

Our bartender told us a funny story about how one night while a Michael Jackson song was playing, a customer called her over and reminded her that MJ was dead.

Apparently, that meant that they were offended to hear him playing. They switched to Four Tops and she was no better with that.

You just can't please some people.

Tonight Neil Young's "Harvest" eventually gave way to Dionne Warwick's "Say a Little Prayer" and then full-on Aretha, so we had no complaints.

With the perfect eating music in place, we moved on to an earthy mushroom soup with roasted beech and chantarelles, crispy barley and lemon curd, every spoonful of which tasted like a sip of the woods.

We finished off with floral-cured pork belly rillette with (oh.my.god) pig skin cornbread with padron pepper romesco and honey.

I feel certain that in heaven they must serve pig skin cornbread, but that may be my half-southern roots talking.

It was about that time that the chef walked by, a large pig part resting on a tray carried over his head, and we acknowledged his mastery with meat.

One in our group had been to the Carytown food and wine festival this weekend so we heard about the crowd who'd attended.

He'd overheard a kid tell his Mom he wanted a crepe but Mom had told him they were looking for "real food."

Overhearing that bon mot, our bartender shared a story, beginning with, "I know this will surprise you, but don't get crepes at the Atlanta airport."

It was 7 a.m., she and her boyfriend were starving and rather than settle for Popeye's chicken, she insisted on crepes.

Bad, bad idea, at least the way we heard it.

By this time, we were getting down to the wire because Dutch & Co, closes fairly early, so we ordered dessert, something we surely had no room for.

A chocolate parfait was made of chocolate panna cotta, chocolate mousse, malted barley almond horchatta, shaved chocolate and mint pearls with, wait for it, a chartreuse rinse.

A sturdy glass of all things chocolate was set down before us with three spoons.

The beauty of this sweet, besides the obvious allure of multiple chocolate flavors, was the hint of herbs from the Chartruese, evident only as a delicate finish to every bite.

To accompany it, we had Pineau des Charones Vieux, a lovely gold-colored apperitif, part fresh grape juice and part Cognac, and a sturdy 17%.

It was a glorious complement to our chocolate ending, something I would know better than my companions who took only a couple of bites and left the heavy lifting up to me.

I'm happy to report I was more than up to the task.

Midway through dessert, another server asked ours about what to recommend to her table to accompany their honey pot.

My friend was quick to suggest exactly what we were drinking, the Pineau des Charones, and once their glasses arrived, we found ourselves toasting them with identical beverages.

Sante and all that jazz.

As long as they were sipping, we decided to have another and sip along as we wound down our conversation and the unexpected evening together.

The funny part is, we have plans to get together this weekend, too. "Maybe we should all just move in together," my friend suggested.

Say a little prayer for me.

I don't think I have a stomach big enough to handle many evenings like this, pleasurable as it was.

And if I do, I probably don't need to find that out.


  1. I've been enjoying your food reviews in Style magazine. Your breadth and depth of experience makes your reviews head and shoulders above the rest. I totally trust every word you write!

  2. How generous of you to share that!