Monday, April 13, 2015

Step Right Up, Number Four

If I was going to get married, the subject of my desire was at the Roosevelt tonight. Shh, no one needs to know.

Tonight's dinner was labeled "Pass the Chablis on the left hand side" and attracted an A list of dedicated wine geeks for a one night event meant to celebrate the cooking of the Roosevelt for those who wanted to bring their own wine.

Arriving with a date and more than enough wine for two, I was greeted by all kinds of favorite wine lovers: my upcoming travel companion ("Am I cursed?"), the painter and his pregnant wife (37 weeks and counting), the pizza maker and her carpaccio-loving husband (seeking a brick and mortar location for her business) , Saison's wine goddess ("Everything just fell into place"), the outdoor shower master and his wife (always a good time), the wine rep couple (already planning their annual Rose party) and other assorted wine reps and main squeezes.

The first order of business was hugging the bartender and labeling my glass with my name ("captain" was used despite that my nautically correct dress should have merited an "admiral") before mingling while sipping sparkling Riesling.

Rumor had it the evening's motivation had been eating chef Mike Braune's food without the expected accompaniment of Virginia wine. That said, one guest not only brought a bottle of Gabrielle Rausse Pinot Noir, but it was autographed by the winemaker himself.

The mingling period was protracted and well lubricated, with every wine nerd showing off his opening selection. Since my job had been merely to show up and smile, I felt no pressure to impress.

Beyond, of course, mentioning my $3 thrift store dress whenever I got a compliment on it.

Eventually, we were instructed to find a seat for dinner.

Chef Braune's first course was spicy steak tartare with black garlic, bright green ramp oil. sunny yellow cured egg and crispy sunchokes standing in for potato chips, for me enjoyed with Domaine de la Chapelle "Fleurie," a lovely fruit-driven Beaujolais that wound up being shared with most of the people at our table.

Score one for my date, a master at pairing.

The second course was not the expected grouper cheeks but seared scallops with citrus butter, fiddlehead ferns, malt vinegar gnocchi and spring peas paired with a half bottle of crisp Domaine Vincente Dampt Chablis, the essence not only of what tonight's dinner was about but of Spring.

Since we had only a half bottle, though, we passed neither to the right nor to the left. Priorities, my dear.

A bearded friend presented me with a "Virginia is for wine lovers" t-shirt, the same one being worn by staff members tonight to register their feelings on all the uncharacteristically non-Virginia wine at the Roosevelt. I shall wear it, not only with pride but conviction.

The noise level of the room rose with each successive course, as did the familiarity of the people at any given table. I met newbies to Scott's Addition, a guy who somewhat happily lives in Charlottesville and a couple tuned in to but not part of the local wine scene.

For the hunk o' lamb shoulder with cauliflower couscous, anchovy gremolata, black olives and smoked tomato, I drank my seat mate's autographed Gabrielle Rausse Pinot Noir, bringing to mind the thickly accented winemaker and his sparkling sense of humor.

An accidentally overturned wine glass resulted in my plate being traded for one with less wine spilled on it, not that I have any complaints about extra wine soaking my food. I think I would eat lamb shoulder regardless of the state in which it arrived on my plate.

By the time our final course of macaroons from WPA Bakery arrived, conversation was abundant and non-linear. We heard about the interestingly-named Bruce Lee cat, Jackson Ward architecture and why it's important to gather wine geek types on a regular basis. An out-of-towner asked me about  the danger of wandering certain streets after dark (all safe, my friend).

And while I could have shared that I'd seen the 1937 tearjerker "Stella Dallas" this morning, I stuck to more relevant topics instead. Part of being a good conversationalist is recognizing your audience and knowing what they'd enjoy hearing.

A low rent mother who sacrifices her beloved daughter to a better woman? An extended walk through what was surely a transitional neighborhood at best? My deep thoughts on middle age marriage?

None of them worthy of tonight's conversational partners. Better I save them for the right company.

That would be some night when it doesn't matter what direction I pass the Chablis because I will be being wooed by Virginia wine and just the right words.

You'll see, everything will fall into place.


  1. Enjoy your articles in Style. I've also noticed: You do write with a slight flair . . . enough to draw the reader in and keep them interested, but not so much as to overpower the to-the-point content.

    And you use picture words at times in your restaurant reviews. This creates visual images of the restaurant and/or food in the readers mind (or at least it has in my mind). Nice!

  2. ...naturally kind words have there place but just was that nautically correct dress of yours? Were you wearing a bowman's cap riding anchor? Ah but ":Stella Dallas" ....wasn't that a great one. Barbara Stanwyck rocks! How could one not love her..either man or woman!