Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cautiously Optimistic

It's a very good Monday when I have to turn down a good friend's last minute offer.

Hey, I am free tonight. Care to go out?

The last picture I saw of this guy on Facebook showed him with a KitchenAid bowl on his head and a cigar in his mouth. He is, as you might guess, a good time.

But not tonight. Wish I could, but for a change I have a date. Rain check, please?

My date started at Lunch, where I tucked my cute tights into a corner away from the opening door and encroaching frigid air, with half-priced Pinot Noir and Summit Avenue crabcake medallions with griddle cakes and sriracha aioli.

Count me as a long-time fan of Lunch's griddle cakes.

While we devoured crabcakes, Switzerland's women's hockey team rolled over and played dead, of no concern to me, but an issue for some in the restaurant.

Aren't you guys all about chocolate and neutrality? What's this puck business anyway?

Next I chose a luncheonette salad topped by a scoop of texture-free chicken salad, mainly because I was anticipating a vat of buttered popcorn in tonight's future.

My date chose the meatloaf of beef, pork and buffalo with the currently-ubiquitous brussels sprouts made especially appealing with a lavish application of bacon.

Meanwhile, we eavesdropped on a guy telling his tale of having to go to court to get the $18K his wife owed him in child support. That's a one lame mother, if you ask me.

We sipped our $12 bottle while discussing the trepidation with which local restaurants have realized that the VA ABC is now following their Twitter feed, a fact I give my friend Jennifer credit for.

It's about time someone held these twats accountable for the venom and malarkey they spew online.

Dinner over, we went next door to peer into the windows of the upcoming Supper, Lunch's bigger brother space still being renovated.

An arriving woman spotted us and squealed, "Ooooh, is it finally open?" Close, but no cigar.

Then we high-tailed it to the Criterion for "Philomena," Dame Judi Dench's Oscar-nominated turn as an Irish woman forced to give up her baby for adoption by the nuns at the convent who take her sullied soul in and deliver the baby (sans anesthesia, mind you).

Let's just say that there were plenty of great anti-Catholic cracks for which I saw fit to savor.

The beautifully shot Stephen Frears film had locations in Ireland (one of my must-sees before I die, being half O'Donnell and all) and Washington, D.C., my birthplace. There was even a gratuitous scenic Maryland road shot for good measure.

But the glory of the film was seeing Dame Judi play the simplest of women, someone who takes huge pleasure in romance book series and free hotel breakfasts. Very different than the Dame Judi I have seen before.

The story was based on a true, heartbreaking one of unwed mothers forced into labor by nuns who guilt them about their sexual transgressions and was sweet, sad and revelatory about that era when big Hollywood stars could breeze over to Europe and with enough cash, buy babies.

I'd just read in the Washington Post that the real Philomena has been in the U.S., pushing adoption rights, not surprising given how long she searched for the son taken from her and adopted in America.

Unbelievable the things that were considered acceptable as recently as the '50s.

Having done our Oscar homework, my date suggested a nightcap so we could discuss the film and I suggested Magpie. He was wary of the hour - 9:45- presuming they'd be about to close down.

Instead, we found a full house and many people just then being told of the specials. In other words, we had more than enough time for wine and film critique.

Choosing the only two bar stools available, the woman next to us looked at me and said, "I saw you last night." What are the chances?

Yep, she'd also been at Secco last evening, but this time she took the time to introduce herself and her friend. Hi, Patty.

If we're going to keep running into each other night after night, we may as well know each other's names, we reasoned.

Tonight's music was uncharacteristically not full on '80s and I have to admit I was more than happy with soul and R & B cranking out of the sound system.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, you do it for me.

We ordered a bottle of Tin Barn zinfandel, a great big jammy and hearty antidote to the frigid weather and impending snow forecast.

When the chef came out, I asked him about the post-Elbys party he'd hosted and I'd attended, although not making it until the bitter end.

There were tales of Genessee cans everywhere (they went through 200), creative use of trash bags (think airline bags) and the eight bottles of bourbon consumed in four hours.

Yea, it was a post-award party for the ages. Makes me glad I got out with my girlfriend and my dignity intact.

By the time I was deposited at home, all was quiet on the J-Ward front.

Awaiting me was a message from the friend who'd solicited my company earlier.

Ha, ha, I almost said, how does Friday sound? So, Friday? Actually, Saturday is just as good. Either way.

Either way, it looks like I already have another stellar evening in store this week.

Though I may be just the teensiest bit suspicious if Patty is there again.

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