Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Curious Beasts and Exiles

Every day's just another adventure in the land of the black and yellow beer can-studded snow.

Monday's foray into the greater beyond involved walking through throngs of rude students across campus to the peaceful environs of Dinamo, sparsely populated as it was (although not so sparse that I didn't see three friends).

But the non-stop slow jam reggae station provided a fine soundtrack for a low-key meal that began with Gruet Brut and the ideal cold weather welcome: a bowl of fish soup loaded with mussels, rockfish, calamari, pasta and tiny diced carrots and onions that tasted as fresh as if I'd ordered it seaside.

While the owner took many phone calls - "Yes, we're open," and "Yes, we're doing delivery" seemed to be the two stock answers - we ate our way through a flavorful arugula and crunchy green bean salad made rich with hard-boiled egg and lashings of Parmesan.

Seeing a white pizza delivered to the couple next to us caused pie envy, ensuring that we ended up with one of our own, along with crostini with thick schmears of chicken liver and red onion, a decadent and heavenly main course I'd not really earned given my minimal efforts earlier at snow-shoveling.

Yes, I know I'm breaking the law by not having my sidewalks cleared by Sunday at 11 a.m. A woman living alone does the best she can because the fragile-looking VCU students below are of no use with vigorous chores such as shoveling.

Despite the weather outside, I finished my meal with housemade mint chocolate chip gelato, although not an ice cream sandwich like the one that went to the table near us. Call me a freak, but unlike most people, I do not like sweet cookies around/on/in my ice cream.

With an elegant sufficiency, we departed Dianmo's futuristic coziness for a gander at the recently completed Cabell Library at VCU, impressively lit at night. I remember standing at the Compass last March to watch as they installed the top beam and here it was in all its completed glory.

From there, we wandered over to Ipanema for some wine and people-watching. It's tough to beat the half-priced deals on their Steal this Wine List, so I chose a bottle of 2006 Chateau-Thebaud "Betes Curieuses" Muscadet because how often do you have the option to drink a curious beast such as decade-old Muscadet, much less one described as "white flowers and mineral power"?

Even our young bartender commented on it, telling us he'd had it last year and raving about how surprisingly good it was. We gave him a taste to refresh his palate.

That led to him sharing that just a few days ago he'd been drinking young Muscadet with Olde Salts and Tangier oysters at Rappahannock, coincidentally the exact same combination I'd slurped and sipped the last non-snow weekend. Small world.

Once the dinner crowd dissipated, it was an Evolution Brewing tap takeover with three brews priced at three bucks and the beer lovers began arriving tout de suite to score Lucky 7 Porter, Lot No. 3 double IPA (get there faster with 8.75%!) and Exile Red Ale.

Suddenly, many glasses of darkness sat on the bar.

When things settled down enough that the barkeep could take a smoke break, he bundled up, made sure we wanted for nothing and headed out front. Wouldn't you know the music almost immediately crapped out?

My clever date pulled a McGyver, tuning into my favorite R & B podcast on his phone, inserting it in a cocktail shaker for a substitute speaker and supplying us with music until our boy's habit had been fed and he returned happily drugged with nicotine to restart the party.

Walking home through throngs of squealing students, we arrived at my house to find my colorful neighbors on their porch happily inhaling Swisher Sweets in the cold night air.

Proof positive that all of us are still taking our meager pleasures where we can in this winter wasteland.

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