Friday, March 21, 2014

Supremely Satisfying

You think you know where you can go for middle eastern trance music and it turns out you're wrong.

When a friend suggested we meet up for dinner tonight, I threw out three ideas of where to go. Of the trio, he chose Acacia, his long-time favorite and as solid as they come in Richmond.

Walking to meet him, I passed two women chatting on the sidewalk and one stopped mid-sentence, looked at me and pointed, saying, "They're magnificent!"

You'd think she'd never seen floral, fuchsia tights before. My friend tried to convince her that it was the legs, not the tights that mattered, but as a woman, she knew better. I thanked her and moved on.

He's an early eater, meaning we arrived at Acacia before all the people who now wait until the sun goes down to think about dining. Best of all, to a propped open door letting the rare March warmth inside.

So while the tables were slow to fill up, the bar wasn't and we soon had company on both sides, including a girl so young looking that the bartender carded her.

When he looked at her license, he handed it back saying, "Happy birthday!" You could start your legal drinking in far worse places than Acacia, honey.

Friend wanted to do the prix fixe menu, meaning I had to as well and as we considered the menu, I found myself getting lost in the music.

But, what ho! Since when am I hearing recognizable songs at Acacia? Um, that would be never. It's always fabulous middle eastern trance music, the kind of thing you'd hear in a club in NYC or overseas, all beats per minute.

Instead, I'm hearing Local Natives, Snow Patrol, Michael Kiwanuka. Hell, I'm hearing the Supremes! What the hell?

Seems the staff got fed up with the non-stop trance and now one of them makes mixes periodically so that BPM are not always the order of the night.

Although apparently trance still gets pulled out on Friday and Saturday nights when the room is full and energy in the room high.

So now I know.

Meanwhile, I'd decided to start my meal with pork country pate with pickled vegetables and toast, an earthy way to dive into the kitchen's skill set.

My friend took a more of a Virginia slant, choosing peanut soup with Surryano ham, creme fraiche and chives, a spoon-coating delight he shared with me.

This is where we got stubborn and dug in our heels, both of us ordering sauteed flounder on a bed of Surry sausage and leek potato puree, next to garlic-braised broccolini and the greenest basil butter.

Like any seafood that emerges from Acacia's kitchen, the flounder was sauteed to perfection and my friend mumbled something about wanting a vat of those potatoes. I tried explaining that it was the sausage's siren song that he was responding to, but he didn't care.

We took a break between courses to talk about the delivery of Edwards Ham barbecue he'd recently received, why he's willing to spend $6 on a loaf of really good rye bread and the cost of a plane ticket to Paris these days.

Unlike me, he keeps tabs on such things. I only wish I had a reason (or adequate purse) to do the same.

Eventually we got around to dessert and amazingly, lightening did not strike us when neither of us ordered chocolate.

Instead, we both gave in to the lure of puff pastry covered in figs and Great Hill blue cheese with pecan crumbles and balsamic caramel.

Admittedly, I can be as happy eating a cheese plate for dessert as a sweet, but this brilliantly conceived dessert delivered both.

Fig and blue cheese have always been a marriage made in gustatory heaven but the bonus of pecans and balsamic caramel sent everything soaring into soul mate territory.

It had been a superb meal start to finish, further reinforcing my friend's conviction that nobody does it better than Acacia.

By the time we left, the sun was way down and diners waiting for that cue had long since begun filling up the room.

He was on his way home and I was on my way to see an exhibit by Barcelona artist Joan Tarrago at Big Secret, a Jackson Ward business that uses the latest laser technology to make art and just about anything else.

Illustrator Tarrago is doing a one-week residency at Big Secret and tonight they were hosting a pop-up shop and exhibition, not to mention a soiree with Saison doing appropriate cocktails in the courtyard next door.

I've seen many a band in that courtyard over the years.

His east coast tour goes through NYC, Miami and, you got it, RVA. And not just anywhere in our fair city, but right in my neighborhood. How could I not go check it out?

The illustrated laser cut artwork was very cool and just in the time I was looking at the show, two pieces sold, meaning affordable, too.

Looking at the three-dimensional works, you could see details like the individual hairs of an animal's fur.

The art was firmly at the intersection of inspiration and technology and the crowd mingling around seemed to be - no surprise - mostly digital natives.

One trio was discussing where to go eat afterwards, a conversation I got pulled into when I tried to make my way past them to see a piece hanging high on the wall.

Two girls and a guy and he wanted a burger, so I recommended Postbellum's, particularly terrific for the mushrooms cooked in duck fat that adorn it.

"We're so going there," the guy decided, his eyes lighting up.

And, like a thief in the night, J-Ward girl took her leave of the group, secure in having steered strangers to a meal they will certainly enjoy.

Good thing they hadn't been looking for trance music. I wouldn't have had any idea where to send them on a Thursday night.

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