Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Passion is No Ordinary Word

If you want to appreciate friends, spend a weekend with family.

What I mean to say is that I was happy when a late-afternoon invitation resulted in dinner plans with a favorite couple. I wanted to be with people who accept me as I am without comment, unlike my feminine siblings.

We met at Holmes' house for a glass of wine over discussion of where to go. Stuzzi was close but no one was craving New Jersey meatballs. Belmont Food Shop isn't much further but they'd recently been there. Ditto Zeus and Pomegranate.

Finally Holmes suggested Acacia and the vote was unanimous. He even sprang for valet parking, a luxury to which I'm unaccustomed. We found seats at a nearly empty bar, ready for an experience.

It's true. Restaurants, trendy and not so, come and go in this town and Acacia has been reliably outstanding through it all. And they're open on Monday nights, a huge plus in my book.

Holmes turned to the ladies when it came time to choose wine, always a smooth move. The Provence Rose we decided on was out of stock so we switched to the Cheateau d'Agueria Tavel Rose and never looked back.

Vividly pink, the blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault was fruity, acidic and dry as a bone, in other words, immensely quaffable. Just as good was the music playing, an eclectic mix that ranged from the Supremes to Local Natives.

Since we hadn't met up in a while, they wanted to hear about my sistertrip (they've met two of the clan) and Holmes suggested he accompany me on the next one to put my sisters in their place when they get out of line with me. Good luck with that, friend.

From his beloved, I heard a comment made by a friend of theirs who'd met me when we were at Merroir a few months ago. Apparently he'd shared that if he weren't married, he'd have been "all over that," a crass way of indicating appreciation for my mind, a fact he also mentioned.

Yes, well, how about that art? None of us have seen "Forbidden City" yet at the VMFA, but we're all just as excited about the upcoming show of Japanese prints. Then there's the upcoming Degas/Cassatt lecture at VMFA that references the big Degas/Cassatt show the three of us saw over the summer.

There was never any question but that we were going to begin the meal with Mi farm oysters on the half shell with jalapeno relish. The northern neck oysters had a nice saltiness and the heat of the onion-based relish complemented it so well that I wondered how I'd never seen a jalapeno accompaniment for oysters before.

Neither of them had heard of sugar toads, but I made a strong enough case to them about the succulent little puffer fish and once it arrived, made quick converts of them. The winter bacon kimchi underneath was out of this world, deeply dark flavored and tart.

Our bartender turned out to be Scottish, from Inverness by way of Napa, and unable to stop himself from calling Holmes "sir," despite requests to knock it off. Only two years in this country, he hadn't a negative thing to say beyond that we drive differently.

When Homes inquired if he liked whisky, he replied "Yes," in a voice that conveyed, "Of course, you idiot, I'm Scottish!" That led to a discussion of brown drinks, of which I know nothing, so I put on my listening ears.

For dinner, I wanted pork jowl confit with carrots, cauliflower, chayote, mole and a black bean gordita, a seamless combination of flavors that suggested south of the border, but left some room for interpretation. The happy couple tried sauteed flounder (oh, that broccolini and ham butter sauce) and scallops swimming in Parmesan butter with gnocchi.

We traded bites (although she wouldn't go near my pork jowls) but everyone was pretty thrilled with what was in front of them. I can't say Acacia's ever let me down.

After a while, some of the large tables of men in ties got up to leave, many of them glancing over at us drinking and laughing probably too loudly, as if to suggest that Mondays are not for having fun.

Just to make sure Acacia was still on point when it comes to happy endings (someone's got to check up on these things), we ordered chocolate cranberry shortcake and brown butter panna cotta and fought each other for the last few bites of each.

Don't tell the pastry police, but I certainly wouldn't call what we had a shortcake, but it did the trick with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and strawberries. For the other, it was the apricot/lemon sorbet that made the panna cotta so appealing.

Replete and unwilling to be the last people in the restaurant, we left for Holmes' house where music is always on tap, usually along with Rose or bubbles. Tonight's new selection was Ed Sheeran's "X," a musician and album that have gotten a ridiculous amount of press. For now, I'm going with "I'm a Mess" and "Tenerife Sea" as my favorites.

His golden oldie of choice tonight was Graham Parker's 1979 masterpiece "Squeezing Out Sparks," meaning I got to hear Parker's screed against his record company ("Mercury Poisoning") and a stellar cover of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," as good a pop song as was ever written.

As usual, Holmes had constructed a perfect night of music to accompany our Rose drinking and conversation. As is his habit, at one point he looked at me and told me my bangs are too long. He does this roughly every other time I see him. I defend my bangs and he backs off.

Now there's the difference in friends and family. When a friend insults you, you don't get your panties in a wad over it. With family, it's personal.

Besides, I don't care what friends or family are saying about my bangs. They're staying.


  1. If I ever hear you've cut your bangs I will drop whatever I might be doing, catch the first flight to Richmond, seek you out and slap the living daylight out of you. DON'T YOU DARE!!!

  2. Not planning to, but catch the first flight anyway!