Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guerrilla Dining in the Alley

I am the last person to ask for love life coaching.

Still, when someone asks me to listen and make suggestions, I am more than happy to oblige.

So when that happened today, my only requirement was that we do it at Xtra's to avail ourselves of the sparkling special.

Another friend had recommended  that I check out the Wednesday night deal (a bottle of bubbly is $10) not long ago, so it seemed as good a place as any to hear her story and talk about the next step (or retreat).

And I'd have to say I was pleasantly surprised; the Simonet Vin de Mousseux Blanc de Blancs delivered more than a ten dollar bottle needed to.

It also greased the wheels for her to ask me about intense connections that don't fade with time, soul mates and comfortable but empty relationships. She has a lot going on right now.

Was I any help? I have no idea. All I can do is offer my take on a subject on which I am far from an expert. But, hey, she asked.

After a couple of hours, we could have kept talking except that I had a guerrilla dinner party to attend and I wasn't about to miss it.

A friend and two others are part of a collective that aims to offer locally grown and made food with hand-crafted cocktails in an alley for the ridiculous price of five dollars.

So every few weeks, they put out the word and several dozen people show up at the specified location to eat the one thing they've chosen to make. In the interest of this being RVA, there is always a meatless variation.

Last time it was  grilled pizzas and I missed it; tonight it was BLTs and I was not about to miss it.

But not your garden variety diner BLT. No indeed, this was locally cured and smoked bacon (done by yet another friend with a fondness for pig), Manakintown arugula, tomatoes, homemade mayo and freshly baked sourdough.

There was also a vegan option with tomatoes, salsa verde, raw onion, Romesco sauce, and romaine on the fresh sourdough. But who wants a BLT with no bacon? Hello, B is for bacon.

Arriving in the agreed-upon alley at exactly 10:00 as directed, I walked down to the dead end to find a sweet little setup  under a great big ball of a moon.

My friend was energetically making drinks on a wooden nightstand. I paid my five bones.

Tonight's libation contained gin, blueberry-rhubarb jam, homemade cane sugar syrup, egg whites and some magic ingredients which can't be disclosed unless I kill you immediately afterwards.

Taking my well-shaken drink, I moved to the long table decorated with a vase of onion flowers, where my BLT was prepared before my eyes.

The two cooking types chatted me up about their inspiration and their love of daily bread making as they slathered, cut and formed the perfect BLT, wrapped in brown paper and cut in half.

Taking my little feast to a nearby stone wall for a sit-down, I joined a seated couple to eat and share conversation about used book stores, the cooler weather and the beauty of this event.

The sandwich was perfect in every way. The bacon's depth of flavor, the freshness of the peppery arugula, the hint of mustard in the mayo and the crustiness of the home baked bread all made for a superior BLT.

Before long I was also joined by a friend of a friend and her paramour (who'd never had a BLT before tonight).

A guy I know from a hip restaurant arrived. One of RVA's favorite painters and his crew rolled up on bikes.

Like me, everyone was amazed at getting the loveliest of BLTs and a cocktail for such a ridiculous price. And that was before we were handed homemade warm zucchini bread slices for dessert.

As I sat there chatting with various people, one of the food guys came over and said, "It's great that you're still here. We want people to come, but even more, we want them to hang around for a while." I can hang.

All told, there were probably a couple dozen people there. The organizers are hoping for more like forty next time.

One guy had a BLT, then a vegan BLT and was taking his third BLT to go when he stopped to talk to me. Even at $15, it was still a steal of a deal for what he got.

And of course, already those in attendance tonight are worried that a massive influx will ruin the relaxed vibe that made tonight's event feel like a neighborhood picnic.

The cops rolled by at one point, but ended up giving us their limited blessing, a warning about the noise level (it was nearing midnight) and moved on.

And we went right back to sipping our purple gin, savoring our local bacon and meeting new people.

I hope guerrilla dining catches on all over Richmond. People who love growing, making and sharing good food gathering with like-minded souls under a full moon.

By the time they organize another one, it'll be a new moon and a whole new experience. I even suggested a possible alley right here in J-Ward for the next one.

With any luck, it'll be coming soon to an alley near you.

No alleys? Tough luck, I'm afraid. A guerrilla alley meal is truly something spectacular.


  1. How do you get on the list?

  2. I haven't forgotten you. The friend who invited me is away on vacation, so I'll check with him when he returns and let you know.