Sunday, October 21, 2012

Coming from Reality

The game of musical kitchens has deposited one of my favorite chefs at one of my (and his) favorite restaurants.

Walking into Aziza's on Main, one of the servers hugged me and chided me at the same time for not having seen me in a while.

I'm okay with being rebuked as long as there's P.D.A. simultaneously.

Every table was full but the bar was wide open except foe one lone wolf, so we joined his party of one.

The one thing the wine list didn't have was any Italian bottles (they did have a half bottle of bubbles), so we steered slightly west to Spain.

A juicy and fruity Marques de Riscal Prximo Rioja set the tone for the conversation and the Saturday night in general.

And then it was on to Chef Philip Denny's menu.

The former Six Burner chef, in my opinion, always suffered the same fate as his predecessor, Lee Gregory.

During both their tenures at 6B, in my opinion, neither got the attention or accolades they deserved; maybe it was 6B's stuffy, older clientele, maybe it was their low key personalities.

For me, Six Burner never dropped out of my regular rotation because the kitchen was always talented even when the vibe was lacking.

So when 6B closed, I was eager to hear where Philip would land.

Nothing could have pleased me more than it being Aziza, especially since I'd run into him and his wife eating there years ago and agreed it was one of the best restaurants in town.

Looking at tonight's menu, I saw just the kind of creatively different dishes he delivers.

Our first choice was a ful mudammas of porchetta, crowder peas, butter beans, pink-eyed peas came with grilled pita to soak up the juices.

A stew-like mixture with flavors of olive oil, onion and garlic was chock full of perfectly cooked beans and a big curve of salty, fatty porchetta.

The richness of the pig was an ideal complement to the toothsome and savory beans.

For our next course, fortunately we'd reserved one of the two remaining shrimp with Chorizo raviolis left.

Any good diner knows that if you snooze, you lose, so we'd put our bid in early.

The dish featured wood-fired shrimp with finger lime, radishes and cilantro and onions along with plump ravioli stuffed with spicy Chorizo.

It was such a lovely interplay of flavors - bordering on spicy, some sweetness and the cilantro adding its distinctive note.

After devouring every bite, we used crusty bread to get the rest of that incredible sauce to our mouths.

The Chef was two for two.

Eschewing the new for the tried and true, we finished our bottle with one of Aziza's trademark cream puffs, causing my date to wax poetic on the subject of butter and sugar and the memories they conjure.

We all have our weaknesses.

By the time we finished, my only complaint was the music interruptus (a radio station with far too much talking), and I knew I'd be back soon for more.

We crossed east to west to go to the Westhampton Theater then to see the documentary "Searching for Sugarman."

After having seen previews for this Sundance winner at least four times (and maybe more), I was curious about this Dylan-esque singer from the late 60s-early 70 of whom I knew nothing.

The story is literally unbelievable.

Mexican-American from Detroit makes a couple of albums which are expected to do great things, but they go unnoticed.

Musician gives up music and goes on with non-descript life.

Meanwhile, records make it to apartheid-era South Africa, where his politically-charged songs of the life of the inner-city poor are adopted by the masses.

His records get airplay, everyone owns them, knows of him and meanwhile he's back in Detroit, poor and living an anonymous life.

It's only when two fans decide to try to track down the truth and learn if the urban legend of his onstage suicide is true that the film ends up getting made.

Once Rodriguez is rediscovered in the mid-90s, he plays sold-out concerts in South Africa and his career is resuscitated.

There are now people lobbying to get him a Kennedy Center honor. I'll sign that petition.

Had the movie been fiction, it would have seemed ludicrous.

As depiction of the facts, it was an hour and a half of stellar music,vintage photos and more recent shots of Rodriquez, a singer who put Dylan's voice to shame and sang songs of the poor.

Songs from his two albums "Cold Fact" and "Coming From Reality" were played throughout the film.

I now need to hear those two albums in their entirety.

Interestingly enough, when we left the theater I ran into a sextet that included two  friends.

They'd just seen the movie, too, and were as enraptured as we were.

The difference was, they'd been listening to Rodriguez's music in the weeks before they saw the film.

For a minute, I envied them their brilliance at preparing themselves.

My partner in crime saw it differently and I had to agree he was right.

Our first encounter with Rodriguez's voice and songwriting was as part of the movie and it was as ideal an introduction as we could have hoped for.

Now is the time to go back and hear his back catalog, now that we know the story and have an appreciation for the man and his life.

The cold fact is, this is a guy any music lover should know.

And I will.

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