Saturday, September 13, 2014

Better Than Your Dreams

It was an absolutely lovely date with myself, full of new this and new that, and right in the neighborhood, too.

With the humidity hovering at 80% but no chance of rain in the forecast, I dolled up and strolled over to the latest reason to eat four blocks from home: Graffiato.

Aware that it had just opened Wednesday, I knew enough to arrive early, sailing to the bar past disappointed people being told that the soonest a table would be available would be 10:00.

That said, any of those people could have followed my lead and sat at the bar (or even one of the rapidly filling up communal tables) rather than putting on a sad face and leaving.

Renovation on the former Popkin's space was well executed if you ignore the two screens over the bar (I can't, especially with sports on) and I easily found a seat next to a couple from Bon Air tucking into the Shire pizza with gusto.

In no time at all, we were chatting about their enthusiasm for the upcoming Southbound restaurant coming to their neck of the woods and how they hope to move into the city so they, too, can walk places.

My first choice, "Love Drunk" Rose (tag line: "When reality is better than your dreams") from Oregon had not yet arrived I was told, so I went classic with a Provence Rose, Domaine Jacourette, a pale pink delight.

The place was humming and the staff seemed enormous, black-shirted employees everywhere I looked, and within minutes, another couple took the seats to my left.

They were from the edge of the Museum District and proclaimed themselves foodies who ate out all the time, although they had to be shown where the purse hooks under the bar were.

Not a judgement, just an observation.

I took my time ordering my first course, watching one of the many bartenders make an array of complicated drinks right in front of me.

When I settled on smoked burrata with heirloom grape tomatoes, corn and arugula pesto over Billy bread, it was delivered to me by a very young looking food runner who said it was one of his two favorite dishes on the menu.

The museum couple looked over drooling, asking what I'd ordered. Turns out they'd never heard of burrata.

They were enjoying the broccolini with red pepper relish, walnuts and feta, a savory dish I'd already had at the D.C. Graffiato's last year.

A favorite local chef was having dinner at the pizza bar in the back with his family and came over to say hello and compare what we were eating.

Bon Air couple said goodnight after a discussion of Europe and empty nests and were replaced with a another couple, this one curious about the play I was going to see tonight.

Seems she'd designed an ad for Richmond Triangle Players' playbill and wanted to know if I'd seen it (not yet).

I was having no shortage of conversational partners tonight, even if everyone else was in Saturday night date mode.

From there, I ordered the Amish chicken thighs with sauteed escarole and pepperoni sauce, tasty enough although I prefer my thighs with bones.

As I was chatting to my right, couple to my left prepared to leave, tapping me on the shoulder to say goodnight and thank me for the conversation.

They'd barely left when a woman approached, asking to order a drink over me while she waited for her date to arrive.

"He's my boyfriend, but I'm 41, so it feels funny to call him that," she said, explaining that he'd been delayed.

I ask you, is man friend any better?

He soon arrived, having dropped off his 15-year old daughter at a party at a hotel (such parties didn't exist when I was 15), saying he needed a drink after all the rigmarole of getting her off to the event.

A DC Mule seemed to do the trick.

Like the other couples I'd talked to, they were impressed that it was a mere four block walk for me to Graffiato, so I asked about their home bases.

He lived on Porter Street in Manchester and she lived in the West End, but refused to call it that, stating for the record that she lived on Three Chopt ("That's the West End," he insisted).

We got to talking about how they met and she said friends had introduced them, they'd had one date but she'd realized she wasn't yet ready to date.

Eighteen months later, he asked again and they've been an item ever since.

He tried to convince me he was a bad boy, but she denied it, saying he was the nicest guy in the world.

"You have a motorcycle and race cars, but you are definitely not a bad boy," she told him with finality.

"Couldn't you at least pretend I am for my ego's sake?" he asked. They were pretty cute, but were soon called to their table and I lost them (although they asked me to come join them if I had time).

Which was fine because I had just under 15 minutes until I had to leave and my salted caramel gelato had arrived to cap off my meal.

Hopeful people were still arriving as I took my leave, secure in the knowledge that I now have one more solid choice in the 'hood for sipping and supping.

Across the street at the November Theater, people were arriving for 5th Wall Theater's production of "H2O" in the little TheaterGym space.

I chatted with one of the ticket guys, a transplanted New Yorker who'd arrived in 1995 and, like me when I got here in 1986, had a long period of adjustment to being in the south.

"I was in sales," he explained in his obvious New York accent, "and no one wanted to buy from me because I came across as not from here. Then I found out if you went to Ukrops, if they saw you there, that meant you were okay."

The Ukrops test so to speak.

Inside, my seat was primo, last row but with no chairs in front of it for a straight shot view to the stage to see what this new theater company born out of the ashes of the old Firehouse Theater could show me.

Before the play had begun, I'd heard someone say that it had no intermission and it didn't take long to see why.

The intense two-person drama focused on a self-important, successful Hollywood actor and an uptight religious fanatic who aspires to make it as an actress and it never let up.

The question was, who needed whom?

Beginning with a thwarted suicide attempt and moving through a vanity production of "Hamlet," the story was riveting because of the strength and talent of the actors, Landon Nagel and Liz Earnest, alternately tearing at each other and falling for each other.

Add in a top-notch script and some magnificently inspired direction and you get the kind of theater that first bowls you over and then gives you plenty to chew on as you leave the theater.

This was some powerful theater executed superbly.

When the play ended, the audience sat stunned, not even clapping until the lights came back up and the actors took their bows.

As for that question of who needs whom, Richmond needs 5th Wall Theater.

This from a woman who dates herself on a Saturday night and enjoys every moment of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment