Sunday, December 23, 2012

Will Return for Fudge

What a difference a day makes.

Last night, I'd had a party in the Bottom. Tomorrow I have a party in northside.

But tonight all I wanted was dinner out before the onslaught of holiday meals at home.

Rappahannock was still too busy to try.

But I'd been wanting to get back to 2113 since they'd changed chefs, so the good news was that while they had a private party going on in the back, the front was open to strays like me and my companion.

The new bartender not only introduced himself but asked our names and used them the rest of the night.

Pleased to meet you.

Tonight's vino was Honoro Vera Monastrelle with a sweet, smoky nose and good value for the money.

One of my favorite things about 2113 had been the music but it was toned down tonight, perhaps in consideration of the staid-looking party in the back.

It was lounge-y, but more downbeat than the last few times I'd been in and frankly, I'd have liked something a little more upbeat.

It is the start of the holiday week, after all.

But at least it wasn't Top 40 or classic rock, so I can only complain so much.

A glance at the menu showed that the focus had changed since I was last in.

Tonight's menu was very safe and not especially creative, although my guess was that it had to do with the party in the back.

Chances were that the menu reflected what was being made for the party goers, so I'll be curious to see the menu post-holidays.

Don't disappoint me, guys.

Tonight's dinner began with a spinach salad with candied walnuts (one of my favorite things), apples and dried cranberries, although the red dressing seemed to be more of a testament to them than any actual berries.

Truth is, all I was focused on was those lovely nuts.

Next came Italian mussels, recommended by our friendly bartender and while, yes, mussels are everywhere, these were especially tasty.

The mussels themselves were a combination of two varieties and the larger ones were so sweet and meaty I may have swooned.

Add to that a bowlful of white wine and butter sauce and we were happily sopping for quite some time.

After finishing the three pieces of bread that came with the dish, the manager stopped by to inquire if more bread was required.

It was.

I think if you're going to serve broth that good, you have to match it with sufficient bread.

As we ate, party stragglers continued to arrive, as did other strays like us, so while the place never got mobbed, we did have company.

Last up was pork tenderloin with tri-pepper wine sauce, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

See what I mean about safe?

It was not a dish that I would have chosen, but then I hadn't.

We were enjoying our wine, laughing and lingering so long that eventually the chef wandered out and chatted with us.

Or maybe his intent was just to move us along.

The product of a chef father and pastry chef mother, his roots were Italian and he told us about his 86 year old grandmother still making her traditional hard candy every Christmas.

He'd just gotten his annual five pounds, something he and his siblings got every year.

Even better, he scooted back to the kitchen and brought us an array of the candies, each in a distinctive shape (Santa's face, a bell, a wreath) and flavor.

They were exquisite, with flavors of rum or almond and with no cloying sweetness like commercial hard candies.

But a piece of candy does a dessert make, at least to some people, so we ordered the lemon cake with lemon butter cream frosting, drizzled in honey and nuts.

Now we saw the chef's pastry chef mom's influence in the dense, moist cake and delicately lemon frosting.

I found the honey and nuts to push the dessert into cloying territory, but the Italian present begged to differ, proclaiming it a classic Italian sweet.

Before we left, the chef encouraged us to come back in January when his new menu debuts.

He also said he'd have some of his grandmother's homemade fudge to share then.

Now there's an incentive to come back soon.

Emerging on Main Street, it was like a ghost town.

Clearly everyone was at parties or has already left town.

Or the end of the world had finally happened and we'd missed it while sucking on homemade Italian hard candies.

I suppose there are worse ways to go.

And better. Like eating fudge.

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