Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ranchin' and Rappin'

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. I couldn't have asked for a better evening.

The "new" was Rancho T in the former Sprout space where I spent many an evening hearing bands and meeting new friends. "The "old" was Richmond Famous, probably my favorite of all Richmond Comedy Coalition 's regular programs. The "borrowed" was the beau of my pal Pru for the second night in a row and, for lack of anything better, the "blue" was his chariot.

Our evening began with a laugh when he told me that Pru was "jealous" of our outing. Just to be clear here, she spent the day at the Musee d'Orasay and had sent him a shot of a Degas to prove it. And she, the one who is in Paris, was jealous of us? Please.

Like last night, our goal is to bring him up to speed on Richmond restaurants, but we one-upped ourselves tonight by trying a place so new I hadn't been there, either.

Hello, Rancho T.

Parking in their side lot, Beau looked down at the gravel lot and commented on how fresh and new the stones looked. Later we heard it was laid today. Now that's fresh.

Inside, the interior was proof positive why it took two and a half years to open. Every detail was well-conceived and executed, from the southwestern-toned paint palette on the walls to the handsome, handcrafted beer tap system looking like a piece of sculpture to the intricately carved wooden back bar.

As we slid onto two stools near the side door, I saw a familiar smiling face behind the bar ("It's so good to have you in front of me") and by the end of the evening, I'd run into the storytelling queen, the painter, one of the owners, the poetry mistress and the haiku writer. Already, it's a popular place.

Deciding on drinking was as easy as ordering a bottle of the one pink on the menu: Le Rose di Regaleali Sicilia, a deep pink with a nose of rose petals and a rich taste.

Their menu had several things going for it, including affordability and intriguing sounding choices, but it scored highest with me because it offered options.

The pork chop plate was available with one or two chops, providing me with a rare opportunity to have an appropriately-sized entree (after being reminded that I never order entrees). A sunny side up egg topped the tasty chop along with a cilantro salad and chili sauce, with sides of criollo rice and a bowl of escarole and beans.

Beau chose chickpea and spinach chili in guajillo sauce and fortunately, he's the kind of friend who believes that all plates are shared plates. His chili was stellar, a satisfying combo of textures and flavors with just enough heat to announce itself. We divvied up my sides so he could enjoy as much of them as I did.

While we were eating, a couple came in and took the stool beside me, him hovering as they got a drink and chatted. When I heard her ask incredulously how it was that he didn't know about tomorrow's Arbor Day show, I spun around and chimed in, giving aid to the sisterhood.

He stammered something about having seen Avers before, but we made it clear a Pumphouse show was too good to miss. "Sunday is National Pinhole Camera day and I'm bringing mine tomorrow," she told us both. When I shared this with Beau, he quipped, "The best cameras are pinhole cameras."

Best of all, he's not just astute, he's got a sweet tooth. We agreed that the point of savory courses is to set us up for sweet and chose two: orange caramel pie and today's daily dessert, an orange chocolate ancho pie.

The orange caramel was lovely, not overly sweet or orange and divine with the thick caramel smear on the plate. But, holy moley, the chocolate ancho was a religious experience. Extremely dense (one of us would anchor the slice while the other carved off a piece), it registered as deeply chocolate at the start but once swallowed, left behind a cloud of heat in the back of our throats that intensified for the next minute or so.

"Forget hair of the dog," he joked, "That's the hoof of the mule kicking!" There was no better way to describe the delayed heat of each bite. My vote is for it to go on the regular dessert menu, none of this "daily special" business.

Behind us arrived a steady stream of people but we ignored them to share our pasts - my circuitous career and his circuitous personal life - as the place filled up and a line formed by the door. At the bartender's suggestion, I did a walkabout to see the "green room" and what was beyond the sea of bodies near the bar.

All of a sudden, we were pouring the last of the Rose down because we had places to be.

DJ Black Liquid was the featured guest at Richmond Comedy Coalition's "Richmond Famous" and we arrived to take front row seats for the spectacle. I'd heard him play music before but not talk about his life.

He began spinning what he called his "rapper shit stories," saying, "I'm gonna leave the grimiest parts out maybe or maybe not," putting us in stitches almost immediately. "I blink and I wake up and I'm buck naked in a blanket. True story."

Buck naked is a continuing theme when I'm out with Beau it seems. I don't know what to make of that.

Once Black Liquid finished his story, Richmond Comedy Coalition's talented band of improvisers took the stage to riff on it, calling out east coast rappers, thug life, entourages and every other rapper cliche imaginable.

At one point, Black Liquid was doubled over laughing, saying, "Oh, man!" from his chair on the side of the stage.

But he got up to tell another story, this one about how before he gave up drinking and drugging, he wanted to kill everybody. "But you can't kill all your problems."

He and his brother decided to go to South by Southwest where they scored a bottle of Maker's Mark, some PBR ("Because we're from Richmond") and ended up "lost in a sea of white women."

Then it was advice time. "This is some rapper shit," he explained. "If you ever need weed, go to the bathroom."

Needless to say, this provided all kinds of fodder for the comedians who took it and ran with it. There was a skit about stoned out-of-towners endlessly ogling the food cart menus. Uh, what's a Tripe Called Quest taco like?. One boneless thugs and harmony taco, coming up.

"Um, what's in this KRS A-1 Sauce anyway?"

I burst out laughing when one guy asked one of the stoners at the taco truck where he was from and he said Richmond. "How's that whole riverwalk thing going for you there? Any retail yet?" That's some brilliance right there to pull that kind of topical humor out of your ass when you're onstage.

And it wasn't just me. Black Liquid and Beau were laughing at lots of it, too.  Leaving, we marveled at how brave and quick they had to be to come up with these skits immediately after hearing the guest's stories.

I couldn't do it, just like I could never sing karaoke. "Me, either. How much would you have to drink to do it?" Beau asked as we walked to the car.

Honestly, enough that I'd wake up buck naked in a blanket in a sea of white women. And that, my friend, is not going to happen.

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