Thursday, March 27, 2014

Untinged by Regret

Look. State of the plate
deems Dutch a damn fine dinner
Town coming. Go now.

When Style's annual State of the Plate issue comes out, you can be certain I'll do one thing: go to the restaurant of the year immediately, knowing full well it'll be months before I venture near it again.

And, yes, that was a haiku.

An old friend had a free night and since it had been a good, long while since we'd met up, suggested dinner. I knew exactly where we needed to go.

Dutch & Co. had only three tables filled upon our arrival, but we chose the bar anyway. On the way to our stools, two of the servers raved about my tights. I, in turn, raved about a cute Halcyon-sourced sweater and another's curly hair, looking for all the world straight.

I immediately awarded brownie points for the chalkboard listing of Blenheim's Table White, a Virginia blend of Viognier and Chardonnay, meaning I ordered a glass tout suite.

While it's only been a few weeks since I was there, it had been over a year for my friend, so he spent some quality time with the menu.

The one thing we knew for sure was that we both intended to begin with Anderson's Neck oysters off the $5 menu. Three river swallows and we were off to a fine start.

With the late afternoon sun slanting through the windows and R & B music playing, we began eating our way through the menu.

He wanted the pig face terrine and, decadent as it was, I'd just had it on my last visit, so I decided on a bowl of earthly delights: Rogue river smokey blue cheese, pork and fig roll-ups, arugula, pumpkin puree and roasted pumpkin seeds.

I could only hope to achieve a marriage as perfectly suited as pig and fig.

When my next course arrived, our lovely server with the saucy red lipstick announced, "And here's your flounder," but I informed her that as far as I was concerned, she was delivering my pork belly.

"I hear you talking, sister!" she testified. The combination of crispy fish, curlicues of pork belly, gnocchi, salt-baked celery root, kale and a pear and black sesame puree tickled every fancy I had.

My friend looked at me after licking clean his plate of lamb two ways and observed, "They're killing it on every level."

Um, yes, that would explain the restaurant of the year business and all.

With a now completely full restaurant behind us, we savored a dessert of dark chocolate ginger cake with aerated milk chocolate, espresso ice cream, cardamom marshmallow, candied pistachios and orange curd sauce laid out prettily to look like fried eggs.

It was as much a treat for the eyes as the tongue and we left not a trace, shameless in our delight in it all.

We managed to be out of there by the high, holy hour of 8:00, leaving behind every seat occupied except the two we'd just vacated.

So long, Dutch & Co. See you once the hoopla dies down.

She craves wordsmithing
and finds hand to hand haiku.
Funny, poetic.

Tonight I was trying something new, something called a hand to hand haiku tournament at Balliceaux.

A large man improbably named Raven Mack, and apparently a master of haiku, was hosting an evening of dueling haikus.

Arriving, I saw a woman I know who works at VCU libraries, the same one who'd recently helped me find a poem from 1986 in their special collections.

She was one of tonight's contestants, having written 25 haikus in anticipation of the competition.

Another woman came up to me, this one recognizing me from Monday's Secretly Y'All event, and introduced herself.

She had lots to share - that Gloria Steinem wants her funeral to be a fundraiser, about a website that features documentaries about important women (Alice Walker, Wonder Woman)- before we discussed the ins and outs of biking in Richmond.

We all took seats when Raven, aka Dr. Lounge, told us to. "This is about 17 syllables and I'd like to get started with 17," he said as he began to count down and remove pieces of clothing.

You see, kids, sometimes you come for the high brow and get the low.

He told us, "My heart is as big as the Blue Ridge mountains but my mouth is bigger and that's why I do hand to hand haiku."

We knew there had to be a reason.

The first match was between Selena and Paul. Each read one of their haikus and the three judges voted a winner for each round. Selena won with haikus about dancing and orgasms untinged by regret.

Next came a match between Selena and Angie, the challenger, who read this:

A snowy Sunday
calls for lounging in bed
with someone you love

This haiku caused our host, Dr. Lounge, to pull up his shirt and expose a tattoo saying, "Lounge."

See, you go for 17 syllable poetry and sometimes you get strange men's bellies.

After a monologue by the very witty Raven ranging on topics from a 90-year old catfish named Jelly Biscuit to how he had a gamecock heart and was ready to crush his haiku competitor, Lamb of God bassist John Campbell, the match got underway.

Whoever got the first 13 of 25 rounds in his favor won. Campbell, who had a white beard, also had plenty of haiku ammunition, most of it very funny and well-delivered.

I got my eyes trained 
on the color of your beard.
You see no fear here.

What was funny was that their haikus were more of a battle of insults, many beard-based (two kinds, according to Raven: true beards and trim beards), as they tried to out-do each other with unkind words.

When Raven appeared to be winning and Campbell left the stage, he called out, "Some people aren't game cock enough."

He sure wasn't talking to me.

I was really sorry when the evening was over, wishing there were more haiku writers in the audience to keep it going all night.

Raven said hand to hand haiku was a lot like a potluck, all the better for having as many people as possible in attendance to get the most out of it, making me regret that I hadn't written a haiku or two myself to prolong the poetic pleasure.

Night over too soon.
Haikus bring satisfaction
but not like good sex.

It'll be another month until the next hand to hand haiku evening and I'm already looking forward to it.

Fortunately, I got home to a message inviting me for a drink, so I sashayed over to Saison to meet a poet for wine and a blather a few blocks from home.

Beer geeks nearby talked incessantly about cellaring beer while one guy hid behind the door curtain, jumping out just as his friend came through the door and scaring him to death while amusing everyone else.

After a bit, the good, old boys of the Roosevelt crew came in, front and back of the house, and joined the revelry.

Eat and drink, haikus,
wine and good conversation,
What more could I want?

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