Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hook, Line and Sinker

Physically, yes, I could fight a bird. But emotionally? Imagine the toll. ~ sign outside Rumors

If you'd asked me on Monday what I was doing Friday, I'd have said going to a lecture on Rodin and dishing with a friend. If you'd asked me this morning what I was doing tonight, I'd have said meeting a friend at Rapp Session, going to dinner at Heritage and then attending the "B" word, a rap session for women only.

That's not exactly how it worked out.

Oh, sure, I was at Rapp Session at the appointed time, only to have a balled up napkin thrown at me as I walked in, courtesy of a favorite gardener-turned-wine maven ensconced at a table with his wine brethren.

He stood up to chat with his target, regaling me with tales of his new career path, his retreat from gardening and his unwieldy schedule. Apparently, it's hard becoming a grown-up at 41.

Taking a seat at the bar (backless wooden bar stools, yuck) provided the first opportunity to look at the drink list (all Virginia wines except the sparklers with one exception, hooray), assess the chalkboard listing of oyster varieties (pricey and hard to read) and take a gander at the menu (the tiniest of fonts, lots of snacks and, finally, seafood towers arrive in RVA) while waiting for my friend to show.

Eventually, the hostess comes over to pass on a message that my friend was delayed but would arrive shortly. When she guessed that he'd lost his phone, forcing him to have to call the restaurant, I politely explained that, in fact, it was actually my lack of cell phone that prevented him from contacting me directly.

The look of horror in her eyes was adorable. Or maybe that was just pity?

While I waited, the lights dimmed seductively, brightened again ten minutes later, dimmed again and finally settled on mid-bright. I assumed it was an electrical malfunction until being told that no, they were still trying to establish the correct light level given the ridiculously small font on the menu.

When asked my opinion, I said I was quite sure that most women would prefer a larger font to operation room-like lighting. The music, on the other hand, worked well with gems straight out of the Great American Songbook, swingin' gems such as "Sentimental Journey" and "Stormy Weather."

After what I considered a reasonable amount of time, I gave up any pretense of politeness in waiting for my friend and ordered a glass of Barren Ridge Vidal Blanc. The couple to my left was enjoying Old Saltes and cocktails while the man to my right ordered Scotch.

Looking for conversation, I asked why he was there and he explained that he works in Richmond during the week and usually goes home to New England on the weekend. "Except when it's so much colder up there, then I stay here. If it's cold in both places, I go to Florida for the weekend."

I could relate. I prefer as much warmth as possible myself.

Eventually, I gave up on my tardy friend and decided to leave for greener pastures. I wasn't upset, just ready for a change of scenery. Wouldn't you know just as I was crossing the street to my car, here he comes around the corner in his car?

After jokes about picking up women in the street, we drove to Heritage where he'd at least had the foresight to make a reservation at the bar. It was a good thing, too, because the place was stupidly busy, not that you'd know it given the gracious and smiling staff that flitted about between tables and bar as if they were weightless.

My friend's one of those people who goes far too long without eating and then inhales two days' worth of food at once, a gluttonous plan he insisted I be a part of and then increased the chance of me acquiescing with a bottle of McPhearson Sparkling Riesling.

Since it was his first time at Heritage, we had to begin with pork fries and house pickles (I do love a good bread and butter pickle), followed by a special of steak tartare with a fried Soba noodle nest (loved the crunch) and then fried broccoli taking its kick from yuzukosho and Japanese mayo.

We had our backs to the room which was so raucous that any trace of music was obliterated. Several tables seemed to be celebrating, obvious because of occasional outbursts and noisy hilarity, making it feel like we were in the midst of a giant party.

Why not? After all, it is Friday night.

As the chef was making his rounds, he stopped behind us and was soon lost in animated conversation with my buddy about fishing, boats and other angling topics that certain men get excited about. I did glean that you can catch some pretty big, ugly stingrays at Stingray Point (duh) and large mouth bass in Goochland.

Beyond that, they may as well have been Charlie Brown's teacher for all I heard. Wah, wah, wah.

But chefs gotta cook and customers gotta eat, so we went back to making up for Friend's deficit with hickory-smoked pork belly that got the Asian treatment courtesy of kimchi, bok choy, carrots and ginger, with Virginia peanuts thrown in for good measure.

My friend was craving pasta and although I could usually ignore housemade orecchiette in pork and beef Bolognese, the oozing Burrata atop all that meaty goodness called to me like a siren song and I caved for a few bites with no regrets.

Worth noting is the beautifully artistic bowl the Bolognese arrived in because it was handmade by one of the servers, along with a lot of the coffee service pieces, we were told. Several other dishes also arrived on the distinctive-looking stoneware, a decidedly appropriate way for a restaurant to show off local talent.

Not since Aziza's water pitchers can I recall a restaurant doing something so groovy.

Another tasty Asian take was on beef and broccoli and starred Wagyu beef, Haas mushrooms (my companion, the forager - who knew? - had to have the back story), ginger and toothsome black rice, but by that point, I can't say I was really pulling my weight any more.

Unlike him, I had eaten regular meals over the past two days and I was just about stuffed.

Even so, I managed to indulge in several schmears of chicken liver pate topped by apple mostarda and beet gelee, albeit not to the extent that some people I could mention did (while their arteries closed incrementally).

"I'll get him out on that boat and make him give me this recipe," the evil, avid fisherman next to me insisted.

Or you could just ask nicely for it?

Of course I was going to order dessert, despite my friend explaining that he doesn't really have a sweet tooth. The funny part was, once the chocolate "candy bar" and housemade Nutella ice cream showed up, his spoon made several guest appearances in both dishes.

Devoted as I am to dark chocolate, it was the accouterments - burnt meringue, candied corn pops and "crunch" - that made it something out of the ordinary.

Since I hadn't realized tonight's plan was to eat for the recent past (or foreseeable future), all of a sudden, it was far too late to make it to my public bitch session on what it means to be a woman in 2016.

It's sort of a wide-ranging topic, but I've got a few things to say on the subject. Ask nicely and I'll tell you.

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