Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rotting My Gut Out

Couple dates: all the fun, none of the pressure.

We agreed to convene at his house for a glass. Next thing I knew, the soundtrack to "Casablanca" was playing, "oui, oui" jokes were being bandied about and the last of the Gruet Brut Rose was being poured.

Everything goes so much faster when there's three people.

We talked about the upcoming gallery closings at the VMFA and the need to make it to the Corcoran before it closes. My friend showed me some of his "B" movie collection, warning me about how bad (so bad they're good) some of them were.

I was solicited on where to eat after my friend announced he was so hungry he could eat a whole cow (can we start with the good parts?) and while my first suggestion went over like a lead balloon ("Isn't that in eastern Henrico?"), my second got a 2/3 majority vote almost at once.

We piled in the car for the short drive to the Continental Divide, housed in the former Mint.

Not hesitating to ask strangers to move so we could have three stools together, we took up residence at the end near the service bar.

The music was loud, the place was hopping and we all spent a few minutes with the extensive tequila menu.

One of the guys behind the bar recommended 123, an organic tequila with which I was familiar, having had a flight of blanco, reposado and anejo at Casa del Barco a while back.

"Organic frickin' tequila?" my friend blustered. "I want it to rot my frickin' gut out! It's tequila!"

I knew what he meant even if the way he expressed it had not exactly been true.

Seeing my familiarity with the tequila menu, the woman next to me began chatting me up and soon told me that she was in sales and really, really liked talking to people.

After hearing about her cousins' restaurant and her family's restaurants and her career trajectory, I could believe it.

When she asked how long I'd been in Richmond, I told her and she perkily announced, "That's as long as I've been alive!"

See, honey, we do have something in common!

Actually, she was a delightful person, waxing on about the importance of doing something you love and never trading more money for less happiness.

As if I have to be told, sitting there in my $2.50 thrift store dress.

Although I'd been to the Divide once, I hadn't eaten, so correcting that was my first order of business. Deciding what I wanted was a snap once I spotted black bean nachos on the simple menu.

As a certifiable black bean nacho fiend, I felt obligated to see how these stacked up to my exacting standards.

The thing is, nachos are a very personal thing and one man's epic nachos are another woman's plate of "meh."

Here's what I don't want on nachos: meat of any kind, lettuce, black olives. Here's what I do: tortilla chips (preferably blue, but at least a mixture of yellow, blue and red) that are not overly salty. Cheese (and not goat, Feta or cheese dip) layered throughout and not just melted on top. An abundance of black beans. Tomatoes, onions and a small amount of jalapenos.

Sounds pretty simple, right? That combination is harder to find than you might think.

Not to give anyone a big head, but I was more than pleased with my plate of nachos. Sharing them with my couple date, they munched heavily and agreed heartily.

But once their tacos showed up- two behemoths to a plate, his pig, hers cow- they left me to the responsibility of finishing the plate, a task that soon had me feeling as over-stuffed as a birthday pinata.

After an existential conversation about following your bliss and an analogy on the part of the woman next to me that trivialized the subject appallingly, her evening's companion showed up and, lo and behold, was a friend of mine.

"You know each other?" she asked in amazement. This is Richmond, my dear, and if you go out regularly, there will often be someone who knows someone that you know. It's simply a numbers game.

The taco portions were ridiculous - two overstuffed tacos with enormous piles of black beans and rice- and neither of my companions cleared their plates, even though this is America.

Breaking my mother's first rule of dinner (no sweets without a clean plate), when we left there it was to go have dessert and ensure that we all ended the evening in a food coma.

When I got home, I was still so full I felt like I could pop, so I did what any overfed Jackson Ward resident does when she gets home at 10:30.

I went for a walk. Up one block and down another, enjoying the relative quiet of the neighborhood's brightly lit streets, running into people walking their dogs, a couple of guys trying to entice a feral kitty to eat out of a can, some guys chilling in their tiny front yard, music tumbling down the steps from inside the house.

I meant to walk for ten or fifteen minutes but the night air was so soft and the sliver of moon so expressive and clear, that every time I looped back around within sight of my house, I kept on going.

Keeping on my cute summer sandals may not have made for the best walking shoes, but this wasn't exercise, per se; this was more like the passeggita the Italians do in the evenings: a leisurely promenade after a filling meal, an excuse to see and be seen and work off some of that full feeling.

Just the thing after a filling couple date.

And unlike a regular date, I don't have to wonder if they'll want to see me again.

They will. Rumor has it I'm a fun fifth wheel.

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