Monday, December 14, 2009

Testing Out the Bar at Balliceaux

Waitress to bartender, glancing at me and commenting on Christmas music, "I don't want to hear, like, Frank Zappa's version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." I felt her pain.

That was at Balliceaux tonight where I was pleasantly surprised to find a nearly full house on arrival. When I told the hostess I wanted to eat at the bar, she put her arm around me gratefully and practically led me there. Both times I'd been, I'd eaten at a table with a friend.No sense wasting even a two-top on a solo diner and she obviously appreciated that.

I do like the uniqueness of Balliceaux's menu choices. As I was perusing it, the pastry chef called out my name; I know him from several restaurants ago. He told me about his dessert-making and insisted that I try one and let him know what I thought. Oh sure, like I have to be asked to order dessert. He inquired as to what I was planning to eat for dinner and said any of my choices were among the best on the menu. Of course, that could just mean we have similar taste, but I allowed myself to feel flattered nonetheless.

First off, I had the Seafood Stew with rockfish, oysters, bacon and fennel; the bartender told me it was the best of the three soups only after he served it to me. I liked that it wasn't obscenely rich but had loads of flavor. I may have enjoyed the abundance of rock fish even more than the oysters.

Despite the bartender's warning that it was large, I ordered the Butter Lettuce Salad with fried Brussels Sprouts, pickled shallots and blackberries in rosemary vinaigrette. This was an unusual and excellent combination of flavors, the highlight being the fried crunch of the Brussels Sprouts leaves and the incredibly sweet and ripe blackberries. At this time of year, they are undoubtedly from south of the equator and yet they tasted like something you'd pick on a hot summer day in the south.

I was dying to try the Lamb Sausage Shortstack, but I knew if I did it would prohibit any possibility of dessert and, well, I had given my word to the pastry chef. My wine of choice this evening had been the Trentadue Old Patch Red for its black cherry and black pepper qualities, so instead I ordered another glass of that whilst deciding on a dessert.

My choice of sweet was the Mocha Torte with pine nut gelato, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. The torte itself was a two-layer affair with a lighter chocolate cream between layers and a dark chocolate icing on top. Don't knock pine nut ice gelato until you've tried it. Delicious.

Just as I began my torte, a woman sat down at the bar and we recognized each other, having met at Garnett's the night they opened. Small town this is, as the bartender pointed out. We were shortly joined by Jennie from The Sweetest Thing Bakery, my favorite cupcake baker in rva. She and a friend completed our foursome at the bar, making for some exceptional shared conversations about my tights, old dogs and the inevitability of seeing the same core group of people out and about in this town. Point proven at a four-seat bar tonight.

At the end of the bar where I sat was a piece of wooden folk art with a painted figure and the words, "Peace on Earth" carved onto it. Mindlessly studying it before the other bar guests arrived, I was thinking how that simple sentiment summed up everything I could hope for this holiday season.

Well, that and a happy ending. That's all I want for Christmas.


  1. wish i could be the one to give you that happy ending.

  2. Tough to respond to an anonymous comment like that.