Friday, July 17, 2015

The Beagle and Bivalve Assignment

I know it doesn't sound like I'm working, but really, I am.

The interview I'd originally scheduled for Wednesday got moved when my interviewee had to deal with "family matters" (I didn't ask), so it was today I headed east to Irvington to interview one woman in the flesh and the other on the phone from Florence, Alabama, apparently near Muscle Shoals.

As in, sweet home and all that southern garbage.

No question, it was a beautiful day for a drive past things such as vegetable stands (one with Chad's Dad BBQ sending up smoke signals right next to it), two guys and a pickup truck with a hand-written sign, "Fresh Clams," an electric business with a sign reading, "July is National Horseradish Month" and a house with a hand-painted sign out front saying, "Crabs $15/dozen." I came this close to stopping at that one.

When we finished our interview, the woman asked if I was "driving all the way back to Richmond" now. Nope, I figured I'd make a stop as long as I was out this way. The story I was working on will pay well, so why not enjoy some residual benefits from it early?

I okayed an advance to myself on the spot.

I was so close to the Dog and the Oyster Winery, with its inviting screened porch tasting room, that I could have left my car and walked over from her offices, but I didn't.

Pulling up, I saw that four or five of the umbrella tables were occupied while two couples sat on the porch, which had lost its screened doors since I was last there. But the really big change was the tent set up next to the porch where lunch was being served.

Well, this was something new.

After tasting their Rose', Rosie, the pourer asked if I was hungry. Always, I told him, netting me a big smile. "I'm only asking because they stop serving in 15 minutes." Needless, to say, my Rosie and I shuffled over to the tent to order.

I couldn't resist a dozen Antipoison Creek raw oysters (or the story of John Smith being stung by a stingray there) which had been pulled from the water at Windmill Point at 9 this morning and were being served at the winery by 11.

Great balls of fire, they were some of the best oysters I've put in my mouth, with a delicate salinity (love my salt) and a crisp mineral finish. The cups were deep, holding copious amounts of oyster liquid and they weren't overly chilled, making them taste like the oysters I'd been given by a retired judge right out of the river one day.

When my server dropped them off, she politely explained the mignonette to me with the caveat, "It's pretty strong, so just use a tiny bit on your oysters." Honey, these oysters were so fabulous I wouldn't have put anything on them, not even lemon (not that I was offered any).

The old gray-muzzled winery dog came over to say hello laying her head in my lap as I sipped my pink. Her head was hot because she'd just come in from outside but her eyes were knowing and friendly.

I'd taken a seat at the long wooden table piled high with oyster shells decorated by happy customers. Most people had written a remembrance on their shells.

55th birthday 7/16/15
Excellent wine, nice lecture!
Don't drink the water, fish pee in it!
a picture of a sailboat and the artist's signature (Drew)
Love making memories around the state- Navone hearts David

And anniversaries, lots of anniversaries: 11th, 25th, 35th.

While their son decorated a half dozen shells (after being told he was only allowed to do two), the couple at the far end of the table sat glued to their phones. She was particularly excited that after she'd posted where they were, 13 (thirteen!) friends had commented about how much they liked Dog and Oyster. They were so busy responding, they could have been on Mars for how much they were enjoying the view.

Their loss. My chair faced the verdant vineyards and the giant corkscrew sculpture that greets guest on the road, whether they arrive on foot, bike, car or trolley, all of which I witnessed sitting there.

After chatting with a couple from north Jersey ("Five miles from the city but we never go in. We hate it, we're country people." Uh huh, I can see that by your braless turquoise halter top, hot pink shorts and bleached blond hair...and she looked to be about 65), I finished the last of my wine and snagged a doggie treat out of the jar on the tasting counter on my way out.

I'd spotted the winery hounds on the other side of the fence and there was one I needed to say hello to, a beagle, of course. I can honestly say today was the first time I've ever sat in a vineyard with a beagle in my lap, scratching his ears and neck while I breathed my wine breath on him and he shared his dog breath with me.

But really, I was working before that.

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