I've always found the Elbys a bit...Masturbatorial. The scene is good, but these felt like RVA giving itself a handjob without seeing what's really going on.
I think the phrase you're looking for is circle jerk.
So opined Facebook. After opting out last year, I gave the Elbys another shot last night, also breaking form by going with a date, albeit a couple date who'd spared no expense to outfit themselves in the evening's theme: the speakeasy era.
Overheard in the ladies' room during the soiree: "I can't believe I bought a hundred dollar dress and ended up wearing a $30 one."
Honey, you still got me beat by $30.
The best I could do was reaching to the very back of my closet and pulling out a black beaded dress I'd originally bought in 1997 for the first Library of Virginia Literary Awards and worn only once since. My only real effort, and it was minor, was crafting a stole of sorts from a fringed dress Pru had donated to the cause, tying a beaded choker around my neck and (gasp) putting on my mother's jade earrings.
I met a woman wearing a fabulous floor-length shell pink beaded dress and when I raved about it, she admitted it had been purchased as her wedding dress - "We dated for five straight years and I finally asked him if he was ever going to propose or did I have to?" - and now she's determined to wear it as much as possible.
As beautiful as it looked on her, I could understand why.
Some people's ensembles got the era right but not the day part. It was, after all, an evening affair, meaning that period bathing costumes (there were multiple) seemed a tad out of place. Not so all the fur stoles, headbands, fascinators, boas and of course, flasks.
Sitting in the theater waiting for the awards ceremony to begin, Pru commented that she'd ended up behind the tallest person in the theater. "And the brightest!" she whispered, alluding to the man's flamingo-colored blazer.
I overheard the group behind me discussing the nominees. When one pointed out that Mama J's gets nominated every year but she'd never been to it, her friend agreed, suggesting they make a date.
But it was when one asked, "Is it in Jackson Ward or Church Hill?" that I knew my intervention was required. Turning around in my seat (and no doubt dislocating a bead or two in the process), I brought the trio up to speed, answering their questions on what to order at Mama J's and the best and worst times to go, noticing midway through that the woman to my right was nodding as I spoke.
Have you been, I asked her rhetorically since why else would she be nodding in agreement. "Yes and you're right about all of it."
Nota Bene's owner Victoria took the very first award for Best New Restaurant, sounding honestly caught of guard by the win in a category with some supremely strong contenders: Laura Lee's, Shagbark and Spoonbread.
Chef of the year David Shannon looked magnificent accepting his award in black leather pants and stylish motorcycle jacket, but when he thanked his boyfriend for his patience with restaurant hours, Mr. Flamingo Jacket turned to his Republican-looking friend, rolling his eyes and making a disgusted face.
Knowing their thoughts on a matter which was none of their business only made it all the sweeter when David's restaurant L'Opossum won Restaurant of the Year at the end.
Earlier, while complimenting David's ensemble, I'd commented about how fun it is to see all the restaurant people out on the same night. He likened it to prom, but I couldn't relate since I hadn't gone to mine. Curious about his, he laughed and admitted that since he couldn't go with his boyfriend, they'd each gotten fake dates and gone as a foursome.
I told him how impressed I was that they'd gotten beards for prom and not just any prom, but one themed "Stairway to Heaven."
Now that I've been to Reservoir Distillery for a tasting, I could appreciate why they won Local Food or Beverage Product of the Year for their Rye Whiskey. When Triple Crossing Brewing Company won Brewery of the Year, I whispered to Pru that I'd been there several times and she looked at me like I had two heads.
For jazz, darling, solely for jazz.
Strong women corrected alternative facts. Before the award for Wine Program of the Year was announced, the hosts read from the judges' opinion, praising the winner for its global wine program. When Secco won, owner Julia wasted no time in correcting that statement. "Our wine list is not global, it's European."
Personally, I think the judge should have noticed that in the first place, but that's just me.
For the first time, the room where the party was held downstairs was large enough to accommodate all the attendees, although, as is standard at the Elbys, there were not enough bars set up. At one point, I counted 30+ people in line to get a glass of wine, meaning you may as well get in line again as soon as you get your first glass.
I call that a flawed system.
We made the food rounds, danced a little and as per usual with the Elbys, food and drink runs out in short order and everyone cuts out for an afterparty where the real fun happens. And, this year, the compliments.
Our group had decided on My Noodle for karaoke and as a restaurant owner I've known for 20 years and I headed to the garage side by side, he marveled at how much time had passed since we first met during the grunge era. It was when he said, "You're even more attractive now than when we met!" that I was reminded why it's good to have old friends.
My Noodle was already hopping and a song I didn't recognize was being sung only slightly off key by a couple when we walked in and the bartender squinted his eyes at me, saying, "I know you." In no time, we were handed shots of Plantation Barbados 5 Year Rum, coincidentally by the guy who'd dated the woman in the pink wedding dress for five years before proposing.
The bartender I knew came from behind the bar to enthusiastically belt out Neil Diamond's "America" - I happen to know that Beau knew every word to that song - and I'm guessing by his polished perfromance that it wasn't his first time doing it, either.
When he finished showing off, he crafted cocktails for our group, mine a tequila, vermouth, pineapple and lime combo that appealed to a tequila-loving friend who ordered a repeat.
Other Elbys refugees arrived and before long the place was a wonderfully warm mass of humanity dancing, drinking, talking and flirting. At one point, I felt someone rhythmically bumping up against me and turned to see a woman using my backside to get my attention. It worked.
Our tweeting dictator wannabe would've hated how diverse the crowd was. I know I danced with no fewer than four successful immigrants and who knows what was going on with everybody else?
A guy who asked me to dance waited till we were on the so-called dance floor before assuring me that he and his wife have an open relationship, so he'd love to meet up with me away from the crowds.
I'm not going to lie, the dancing was great, but it was becoming clear that either the restaurant community is sex-starved or the Elbys make people horny.
Hardly surprising when you begin an evening in masturbatorial mode.