Friday, December 9, 2016

Follow Me in Merry Measure

At some point, you just give in to the strings of street lights - even stop lights - blinking a bright red and green.

Tonight we took the Christmas train without apology.

That meant a walk by Quirk Hotel to admire its enormous pink tree and the Jefferson Street side's tasteful window decorations - a ceramic dog posed in a sea of cotton "snow" under small white trees - while outside, window boxes of blooming pink roses provided color continuity.

The Quirkster misses no details.

Compare that to the far more traditional red, gold and white color scheme that awaited us at the Jefferson Hotel, which was hosting not one but three private parties, including one that took over the entire downstairs, thus prohibiting sweeping entrances down the grand staircase as we'd hoped for.

Anticipating just this level of over-the-top holiday frenzy was exactly the reason we'd walked rather than driven. Parking at home probably was the closest parking space.

Surveying the massive two-story tree, we decided that it needed additional ornaments (preferably some with more texture and color) to fill in the irregular green spaces appealingly. We were both of the mind that you really can't overdress a tree because if there's room for a bauble, it belongs there.

But nothing could have prepared us for the Christmas craziness at Lemaire where the host warned us that no seats looked to open up any time soon, but we were welcome to hover.

Translation : welcome to cut throat Christmas at a four diamond hotel.

When we joked about how ridiculously busy it was, he told us it was a slow night for December. My condolences, indeed.

Although he was kind enough to take our drink order, what hadn't been mentioned was that we'd also need to hover like vultures near the bar if we had any hope of scoring seats so we could eat with dignity.

After losing out to a pushy couple who swooped in just as we were making our approach, we were offered two stools by a vivacious and buxom blond who knew what a favor she was doing us, so we acted properly grateful (hardly a stretch), although at that point, we were unaware of our proximity to a clutch of shrill young women who continuously screamed and laughed at a pitch usually heard only by canines.

While I wouldn't say the large staff was in the weeds, it was taking every ounce of their time and attention to keep up with the needs of so many customers - many of them in larger groups - in the restaurant at one time.

Because we had a curtain to make and because we are pros who already had drinks in hand, no time was wasted in ordering, the better to move on to important conversations before its arrival.

Like Christmas Eve dinner in some Italian families I once knew, our meal came entirely from the sea.

Rosy pink tuna tartare got crunch from cucumber, richness from avocado puree, salt  from olives, and bold color from seaweed salad, but it was fried pearl onions that surprised and delighted most.

Richer than I needed, the crabcake on English muffin sandwich didn't disappoint, but I'm of the Maryland camp that believes the binder should be minimal and this was a very creamy crabcake.

For a crab purist such as myself, it doesn't come better than a blue crab tartine that layered hunks of backfin with guacamole and micro-greens on grilled and oiled rustic bread with a chew so fabulous it was challenging to cut with a knife and fork, but utterly satisfying once in our mouths, especially after a swipe through the spicy honey drizzled on the plate.

Trying to cover eight days worth of life in between bites that were worth devoting our full attention to wasn't as easy as it sounds, but we did what we had to do to de-brief each other, scrutinize the clientele and lick all three plates clean simultaneously.

All in the name of holiday cheer, you understand. I will say that we felt far less harried than some of the anxious-appearing groups around us who were clearly in the vise-like grip of holiday responsibilities looked.

We were slackers in Christmas comparison, really only out to indulge ourselves.

To that end, we'd donned our gay apparel for Richmond Triangle Players' production of "Scrooge in Rouge," which was just the seasonal ticket for a play that combined the traditional (an offbeat retelling of "A Christmas Carol" as done by an English music hall cast) with the completely irreverent, namely cross-dressing, bad puns and references to oral sex, or any sex, really.

I mean, how do you think Bob Cratchit (or Bob Crabcakes, as he's repeatedly referred to here) wound up with all those snotty-nosed children if not for a healthy drive?

Even Tiny Tim and his tiny crutch were fair game for mocking to great hilarity. It's not often you hear, "Break a leg, Tiny Tim!"

 Oh, yes, and there was a dancing pickle.

Interestingly, the cast was the same as it had been when RTP had premiered the play in 2009, for which I had a reference solely because there's a poster for the original production in the ladies' room. I knew it well because you notice everything over years of waiting in line to relieve yourself.

Hands down, my favorite member of the cast was Steven Boschen who managed to play roles as disparate as a virginal beloved and a tubercular little sister in a series of wigs and costumes that only occasionally made him resemble Boy George, but in the best possible way. Between his stellar singing voice and gracefully feminine man hands, he made me laugh more than anyone else.

And, let's face it, laughing during this frenetic season is undoubtedly the best medicine.

I understand Prozac and Prosecco work well, too. Whatever gets you to falalalala.

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