Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Don't You Forget About Me

If you were a betting person, you'd put your money on restaurants being dead the Monday after three nights of Valentine's Day celebrations.

You'd lose that money, at least, if you used Dutch & Co. as the measuring stick, you would.

Despite this morning's layer of snow with a crunchy topping of ice followed by rain - or maybe because of it since some people used that minor weather event as a lame excuse to close when it's far more likely they were just plumb worn out after catering to love birds all weekend - D & C were doing a brisk business.

We had our choice of seats at the bar when we arrived, but half an hour later, it was slim pickin's. And of course, there were plenty of industry people out on a Monday night: a wine store owner, a couple of restaurant owners, two wine reps with a lovely Spanish winemaker in tow.

The barkeep is one of my favorites with his low-key and dry demeanor and he soon set us up with a bottle of Badenhorst Secateurs before getting back to the non-stop business of making beautiful cocktails right in front of us.

Since the $5 chalkboard is always my starting point, I was happy to check out a new offering - rabbit pate with pickled mustard seed and apple - and one of my long-time favorites, smoked salmon blini, while having a mini-history lesson on which presidents appointed which Supreme Court justices. To help things along, I'd brought along a chart with the breakdown going back to Nixon.

In these busy times, a girl takes her history lessons where she finds them.

Dutch & Co.'s latest Monday enticement is a separate pasta menu (although we debated the validity of including a risotto as a pasta) created by new Chef de Cuisine Paul, who hails from Burlington, Vermont, as did my ex who also got tired of the cold and moved south.

So what better way to assess Paul's skills than by trying his new mini-menu?

My choice was a decadent gnocchi with Sweet Grass dairy Asher bleu cheese and pine nuts that melted in my mouth while my date opted for the equally rich but more toothsome spaghetti alla Carbonara with bacon, Parmesan, black pepper, egg and parsley.

Because who doesn't like nice fat chunks of bacon in their pasta?

Since it would hardly be fitting to end on anything but a sweet note, we did, and not just because of a lovely chocolate cremeux accompanied by a cinnamon fritter (fried dough, yum), pear chutney and hazelnut crumbles but because of what we drank with it: glasses of Navarre Pineau des Charentes Rose, a gorgeous and slightly funky fortified Cabernet Sauvignon that the bartender admitted was his favorite thing to drink in the house.

What he said.

Because we'd begun the evening early, there was time for a stop at the Hill Cafe for a sampler of '80s and '90s music, where we decided that a good president (Clinton) made for depressing music and a bad president (Reagan) made for upbeat music.

I feel pretty sure there's a thesis just waiting to happen there.

The bartender introduced himself, poured us Graham Beck Brut Rose (it was most definitely a South African-leaning evening and talk of passport renewals ensued) and said that his first concert had been the "Get It Together" tour at the Coliseum featuring Run DMC and the Beastie Boys.

He recalled walking past Sixth Street Marketplace that night and feeling extremely white.

Because it's the Hill, there was the usual assortment of neighbors and oddballs coming and going - the regular in the hat at the end stool who seemed to know anyone who came in, the drunk-looking woman who only wanted a shot of Espolon and who obviously didn't need it, the loud talkers and drunk girls with southern accents - while it turned out I knew most of the cigarette-smoking kitchen staff from other restaurants.

Man, that's an incestuous little world.

The roads, which had been icy and slick in places on the drive over were now clear and perfectly safe, and the temperature had easily risen ten degrees since I'd left my house. And to think some people closed tonight for "weather."

Get it together, people, or you're likely to miss out. Don't bet on me joining your ranks.

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