Monday, September 22, 2014

An Easy Day's Night

With fond memories of a thatched roof, I set off for a wine dinner.

Crossing the Lee bridge, I spot a young guy, guitar slung across his back, walking across the bridge, his back to the sun as it begins to slide down into the James River.

It's a picture postcard reminder of the charm and beauty of this city.

The host for the dinner was Camden's and the winery was First Colony, the source of tonight's wines.

They'd won me over on two successive tastings with well-crafted wines and a thatched roof being put on their tasting room. Truth be told, I'm a sucker for architectural details like that.

I'm walking down the sidewalk, about to enter the restaurant as two women approach me.

Holding the door open for them, they say, "Are you ready to drink too much?" and we proceed inside with that intent.

I find the room is quickly filling up and grab a seat at the bar between two familiar faces.

Our first pour comes courtesy of a five-gallon batch made by First Colony winemaker Brad and it's a doozy.

Available only at this time of year as grapes are harvested, the apperitif Ratafia is a mixture of just harvested chardonnay juice fortified with un-aged brandy, a refreshing combination that clocks in at 18%.

Holy moly, that woman at the door wasn't kidding.

All of a sudden, the room is abuzz with tongues loosened by this 1000 year old Italian apperitif and the night is off to a brilliant conversational start.

Before long, we are poured "Zephyr," a white blend of equal parts Petit Manseng and Vidal, with just enough Riesling and Viognier to matter, paired with swordfish tacos with pickled cabbage and salsa fresca, the wine as bright as the lemon-cilantro flavors of the tacos.

The man next to me tells me about his recent trip to New England  - the radiator that died in Stowe, the DIY farm wedding in Portland with endless friends' readings and a delayed starting time, his detour to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Graycliff House in Derby - and I chuckle at the stories.

Our second course is a Cumberland County tomato stack (and may I just say here that the tomatoes in the first three courses were a testament to the beauty of September tomatoes, so ripe and juicy they act as sirens to even non-tomato lovers like the guy next to me) wit house made ham, Mozzarella and micro basil paired with First Colony's Rose.

Everything about this dish sings with flavor and freshness, a pink feast of food and drink.

I might also mention that technically, a stack is a vertical construct and this was more of a fanned array of tomato, cheese and ham, but it wasn't the time to argue semantics.

On my other side, I had a woman who tells me flat out, "I need some alone time with the ocean," as preamble to telling me about her upcoming trip to Virginia Beach (although a another guys assures me, "Virginia Beach is not the ocean") this week.

We discuss how essential periodic ocean face time is for our type and she shudders telling me she was once married to a man who never needed to see the ocean.

What kind of human depravity is this?

With the Meritage, a blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv, Petit Verdot and Merlot, we dive into lamb carpaccio with fried tomato confit, a dish ideal with the light-bodied wine.

On my way back from the bathroom, I spot a couple I know from Floyd Avenue and we bemoan missing seeing "A Hard Day's Night" at the Byrd Theater tonight.

In honor of the occasion, I am wearing a thrift store find so ideally suited to the time that I could be an extra in the film.

My navy blue shift has bright gold buttons laid out sailor-style for a dress that looks straight out of 1964, a friend informs me.

Sadly, I missed the movie - which I've never seen although my friend originally saw it at the Byrd, no less - but at least I looked the part of a screaming Beatles fan circa the swinging '60s.

It is when the Monrovia Farms braised beef over spaetzel with bleu cheese crumbles arrives with Petit Verdot poured in our glasses that the room goes suddenly quiet.

People are lapping up this rich combo of meat and pasta with cheese and ignoring their dinner companions as they do. Yum.

My nearby seatmate mentions that he's been to talks and tours by my favorite park ranger, Mike Gorman, and we take off on a tangent about historical photographs, enthusiastic historical tours and how we both like to geek out over such things.

The evening closes with Mountain View Swiss cheese from Lexington, laid out with cherry preserves and honeyed walnut paste and paired with fruity and smooth Claret.

The winemaker has spent the evening working the room, explaining his wines and the pairings, and finally settles down to enjoy some food.

I've discussed salsa dancing, vacation photos, the missing UVA student and any number of other topics with people around me throughout the evening.

So far, I've heard zero mention of the thatched roof at First Colony, clearly a much bigger deal to me than the rest of the room.

Clearly they've not had alone time with the thatched roof like I have or they'd have been far more interested.

Or perhaps they'd just had too much to drink. Perhaps.


  1. Dear K:

    I've been about four or five times to Andy's event. usually always a killer evening I may add. the last time I swear he almost outdid himself. However I decided to Opp out this time. thought I might be too weary Monday morning. Especially after the Barrel Thief on Saturday. Glad you're stepping across the river some...broader your horizons & all that....


  2. About time, eh? A fabulous dinner and lots of good wine, too bad you weren't there this time. Maybe next, cw?

  3. So sorry you couldn't be with us for "A Hard Day's Night," but I do appreciate the nod in your post. You would have loved the energy of the crowd of almost 800 -- they applauded at the end! And the after-party with the Taters at NY Deli was special and lots of fun. The Bijou is off and running! Now all we need is to find a building and raise several hundred thousand dollars. Piece of cake! ;)

  4. I would have loved to have been there for that energy! I'm hoping there are lots of Bijou fundraisers coming up showing more classic movies on the big screen, the way they were meant to be seen!