Saturday, December 15, 2012

Late Morning Adoration/Lunch

When you don't get your act together until almost 4:00, you have to hit it hard.

Art and lunch made up the game plan.

I'd been eager to see the VMFA's "Domestic, Wild, Divine: Artists Look at Animals," so I grabbed a fellow art lover and made it to the museum exactly one hour before close.

Tucked away in a gallery back behind the marble hall, the show turned out to be a fascinating look at practically every collection in the museum.

Everything was from the museum's collections, but the sources were myriad: African, Asian, American, European, contemporary, ancient and everything in between.

I'll tell you what. If a visitor had only a short time to spend at the VMFA, this show would provide a splendid overview of the breadth of the collection.

And while every piece had some tie to the animal kingdom, some grabbed me for other reasons.

Like the page from an Indian text, "Todi Ragini," of a young woman with deer surrounding her.

The page represented a melody which expressed a delightful adoration meant to be performed in the late morning.

Maybe I was so taken with it because I like nothing better than to be delightfully adored in the late morning.

A ceramic tiger pillow, apparently a popular luxury item in 12th century China, caught my eye because I learned that tigers are a symbol of yin which is associated with darkness and rest.

Had I known this about yin? I had not.

I wish I'd seen Don Nice's huge "American Totem/Cornucopia" back in 1981 when it was first created because it must have seemed radical at the time with its Della Robbia like ring of pop art vegetables.

There was the mid-15th century Tibetan piece with the Lord of Death embracing Diamond Zombie.

It wouldn't have looked out of place on the cover of a metal album.

Fred Tomaselli's large-scale "Woodpecker" from 2005 was engagingly psychedelic (or is that just my past showing?) with its elaborate patterns and the pecker's bill made entirely of collaged beak images.

The show was hung wonderfully, with works of any given animal hung together for comparison's sake.

The only change I'd have made was with Joseph Raffael's fish painting, a view of fish in a pond from above (or even below).

The large painting belonged on the ceiling or the floor (perhaps under glass), the better to view it from the angle intended.

It's a stellar show and since it's up until next summer, I'll be the nag telling all my friends to check it out for an easy and insightful look at the VMFA's collections.

If they don't listen to me, the loss is theirs.

Afterwards, we made for the exit as guards warned us they'd be closing in five minutes.

Ignoring them, we stopped to check out the mini show of six Hogarth prints in the series "Marriage a la Mode," about the pitfalls of marrying for anything but love.

The detailed prints were Hogarth at his best with dozens of small details in each scene to further carry the story of the philandering husband, bored wife and flirtatious lawyer.

By the last one, the wife had taken poison, her child was kissing her goodbye and the venereal disease-ridden husband was acting like the offended party.

Have we learned our lesson here, people?

From bad marriages to the Boulevard, we walked up the street to Fat Dragon, hoping to slide in before the masses did.

And we did, but just barely.

Arriving just after 5:00, we scored two bar stools just before the crush of incoming humanity arrived.

The couple who slid in next to us, taking the last two seats, said it was their second time there.

Good indicator.

What did I like? The upside down woks as hanging lights. That happy hour went until 7 p.m. on a Saturday. The sexy bathroom with its wooden basin.

The music, which began as innocuous club-style music and eventually settled into something more indie.

What didn't I like? The massive screen killing the vibe at the bar (and set to the news on a Saturday evening? Please!).

The emphasis on beer (a much bigger beer list than wine, a bigger savings on beer during happy hour than wine, flights of beer but not wine) with an array of taps almost as long as I am tall.

So it's a beer place and I'm not a beer type. That's fine.

The menu did claim, "Sex is always on tap at the Fat Dragon" so I had to ask.

So I had to sample Sex Brut Rose from Michigan (!), which the barkeep said was wildly popular, but its soft fruitiness wasn't really my style.

On to the food.

Chili dumplings of shrimp and pork came in a pool of Szechuan pepper sauce that challenged my chopsticks but had nice heat.

When the Chinese BBQ baby back ribs arrived stacked atop one another, one of the bartenders spotted them and smiled broadly at us.

"Nice choice!" he said, giving us a verbal thumbs up for our selection.

The ribs came in the chef's housemade barbecue sauce, smoky and with a sweetness my companion read as almost chocolate-like.

Meanwhile, the crush of people arriving was mind-boggling. By 6:10 there was an hour wait.

Lots of beer lovers, I had to guess.

Next we tried shrimp and bacon lo mein, a concession to my fellow eater since I'm not really a pasta type.

Fresh tasting, the surprise here was twofold: way more shrimp than we'd expected and almost no bacon.

Correction: two bits of bacon in the entire dish.

Since the appeal of the dish had been the bacon (shrimp lo mein being fairly common), that was a bit disappointing.

Still, we inhaled it all, so clearly we got over the missing pig.

By that time, the throngs behind us were breathing down our necks anticipating us vacating our bar stools, so we gave the people what they wanted.

Walking back down Boulevard, we marveled at Fat Dragon's rabid Saturday evening (because it was barely even night yet) business (and busy-ness), trying to decide when we'd be back.

And I know exactly when it'll be: late.

I love that they're doing a late night menu until 12 during the week and 1 on the weekend.

Many's the time I have lamented the lack of late night kitchens still open, especially for after a play or early music show.

Thanks, Fat Dragon, for helping Richmond inch that much closer to a real city where you don't have to eat by 10 or even 11:00.

With our savory needs more than met, the last stop on our evening lunch tour was Shyndigz, which was surprisingly mobbed considering how early it was (7ish).

Spotted cow cake (chocolate with cream cheese frosting) got the nod and while it's not going to displace their signature chocolate caramel sea salt cake any time soon, it was a tasty (and enormous) hunk of sweetness to finish off our palates.

Now, properly cultured and fed, let's have a Saturday night, shall we?


  1. Always entertaining.

    Absent I was.

    To long roads with many twists and turns.

    Merry Christmas

  2. Back at you. Always pleased to have you check in and know I am entertaining you again. Merry Christmas to you, too.

    Hope to hear from you again soon!