Friday, September 26, 2014

Le Petit Mort au Diner

Truth is, I'd planned to stay in tonight.

Sure, sure, whatever, Karen, I can hear the derisive laughter now. As if.

But here's the thing: I have five deadlines this weekend and at the last minute, I was informed that one of my subjects would not be available for me to interview after all.

Not the news I wanted to hear, just when I was down to my next to last piece.

So I (albeit briefly) considered staying home, working so there would be less to do tomorrow.

But then a friend suggested dinner on his dime and I thought, what the heck, a few hours eating isn't going to make much difference.

It's not like staying home would ensure that the publicist puts me in touch with the musician I need.

Looking at it that way, it only made sense to go to dinner.

Friend asked where and I suggested L'Opossum. Although he can be hard to please, I had a feeling it would be right up his alley.

As it turned out, the music wasn't, although I was drawn to its quirkiness.

Liberace, Tom Jones, Bobbi Gentry (twice!) and "Little Green Apples," a corny song I haven't heard in decades.

Arriving first, I took a stool at the end of the bar near an available stool for my tardy friend, where I was offered a taste of their new pink, the well-balanced Domaine Bellevue Touraine Rose.

The genial bartender introduced me to a guy deep into his crabcakes, leading to a little music talk, a little discussion of Buddhism (never refuse free food), and a lot of praise for the dish he'd just inhaled.

A photographer I know spotted me and we caught up on what she'd been up to, including a summer photography retreat at a Mississippi mansion complete with wandering armadillos and plenty of brown liquor drinking.

Frankly, I see both as conducive to the creatively-inspired taking of pictures.

My friend showed up full of apologies for his delayed entrance, no big deal since I can amuse myself.

It was his first visit, so he began by assessing the wine list, impressed with not only the bottle choices but the price points.

Once he made it to the food menu, he was flummoxed, unsure which of several tantalizing options to go for.

We began with Chapel Creek oysters rock over watercress, misted with a green fairy fog (my beloved absinthe) right before our eyes, resulting in some of the most exquisite oysters Rockefeller I've ever tasted.

With a nod to the VMFA, Faberge eggs bedazzled with caviar and vodka-laced accoutrements including pale pink gelatinous "les jiggles de la Champagne Rose."

We got into a discussion with a bar sitter and our barkeep about cars, including the "artist series" of BMWs, something I'd never even heard of.

But my friend had and the other guy had actually seen a Warhol BMW (supposedly took him 27 minutes to do) at a museum , so they got going great guns on this.

It was a fitting tie-in to the Warhol- designed pattern that festoons the bar and table tops in the restaurant.

That led to talk about cop magnets (Porsches, red cars, high end black BMWs), getting pulled over and suspended licenses, again not my forte.

But eating is, so I couldn't have been happier when my whole fried baby chicken on mashed potato waffles showed up with pan gravy, kale and pickled okra.

Crispy golden brown, I went for the drumsticks first before turning my attention to the perfectly cooked kale but the most striking part of the dish looked like two little red balls.

They turned out to be Fireball butter, knobs of spicy butter to slather on my waffle and swoon over.

When I offered my friend some pickled okra, he hesitated, remembering his mother's pickled okra full of red pepper and left to sit for a year until it was unpleasant to eat.

This okra, he had to admit, was a horse of a different color, piquant and still responding with snap when bitten into. Southern perfection.

He'd chosen bunny, as he put it, - "Madame Dot du Powhatan's cider-braised rabbit peppered with gingersnap spaetzle and schadenfreude" - the latter one of many clever word plays ("uninhibited mushroom broth") on a menu where alliteration reigns supreme.

Have I mentioned how much I like literate restaurant owners who use their menus to convey more than just the kitchen's offerings, using language to engage and entertain and not just inform?

Just so you know.

Since it had been ages since my friend and I had gotten together, a goodly part of the meal was spent catching up.

Since he's read all of her books, I knew he'd want to hear about my evening listening to Doris Kearns Goodwin and he did.

That reminded him that he wanted to find a good biography of Woodrow Wilson and then a multi-volume series on WWI, an era he feels he is not well enough informed on.

I, on the other hand, accept that I am ill-informed on plenty of things and read what I choose, which probably makes him a better person than me.

When neither of us was able to finish our entrees, he explained that he wouldn't be able to take his leftovers home because he had no room in his refrigerator.

After cataloging what was in there (including a lot of bread: croissants, bialies, baguettes, sandwich bread, pizza) he reconsidered and got a box for the rest of his rabbit but chose to leave the schadenfreude behind.

Language geek humor there.

Both stuffed, we did the only logical thing and got dessert: caramel-glazed figs in a refreshing elixir of watermelon, plums, sake and lime.

I'm passionate about figs and these had sugar fired on top but just as wonderful was that elixir, which we spooned up greedily and would have happily eaten as a soup if it had been delivered as such.

That only whet our appetites for our second dessert, a chocolate pate seductively named "le petite mort au chocolat" (and yes, I know what that means) set aflame by our bartender.

Who, by the way, caused me to turn pea-green with envy when he told me that he'd been given a free ticket to see Bryan Ferry in Washington next week.

I wanted to put my head down on the bar and weep in jealousy but it would have been unseemly.

What I will do is go back and get a blow by blow report from him on the show, not that it will assuage my loss any, but at least it's something.

By that point, Friend was raving about what an outstanding meal it had been but we were also balancing precariously on the edge of a food coma, so we decided to cede our stools to latecomers and go our separate ways.

After all, I had "work" to do.

But you better believe there's Bryan Ferry playing in the background as I do it.

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