Friday, December 28, 2012

You! Out of the Gene Pool!

'Tis the season for out-of-town friends to call.

So when one did today at nearly 5:00, all my plans went out the window.

The "where" was easy because there would be five of us and we wanted a cozy spot to catch up.

Voila Amour.

While there were several tables with happy-looking diners up front when we arrived, the bar was wide open and inviting so incrementally we began taking it over.

Our starting point was a given; we were celebrating old friends getting together and there's only one way I choose to begin drinking at Amour.

Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace works for me every time.

Once our quintet was fully assembled, the real fun began.

These friends are funny and anything but shy.

Before long we were discussing the kind of people who should not be parents when Holmes bragged, "That's why I took myself out of the gene pool."

I'm quite sure our laughter was heard in Cary  Court when we reacted to that statement about his efforts to save mankind.

Tonight's soup was a scallop and pumpkin bisque, an exquisitely rich combination with the brine of the scallops reminding us of the sea.

The visitor was telling us about her recent trip to Aspen and the $2,000 suite with butler in which she and her paramour had stayed.

She went on to describe her upcoming New Year's Eve dinner a deux, a meatfest consisting of prime rib and ham for two.

She revealed that she'd heard of a $1200 Spanish ham that she was curious about.

Holmes, ever the bean counter, lost it at that point.

Grabbing her cheeks, he warned her, "Don't make me bitch slap you on both cheeks! You are not buying a $1200 ham."

Since she'd just bought three pairs of $500 glasses she didn't need, his exhortations were probably in vain.

Our next course was veal sweetbreads in a sherried cream sauce in puff pastry.

One bite and I felt quite certain that this is what heaven tastes like.

A tiny glass of Madeira only elevated the dish to sublime territory.

You can be repulsed at eating thymus glands all day long, but the way I see it, that just leaves more for me.

Because sherried glands weren't rich enough, we moved on to meat cooked in its own fat, namely pork and duck rilletes.

The ramekins of shredded duck/pig were outstanding with the hot mustard to cut the richness.

Meanwhile, the conversation just got funnier and more over the top.

When Holmes mentioned a spring vacation, our visitor stepped in as his travel adviser, telling him what he did and didn't want to do and where he wanted to do it.

Holmes was not particularly interested in an action-packed trip, preferring sloth and gluttony to sports and rigorous activity, but the planner planned on.

It was a little like a comedy routine with each oblivious to what the other was saying.

In the meantime, I tasted my friend's poulet Bourguignon, with savory Polyface chicken cooked in a red wine sauce.

The thigh I had was the essence of a cool-weather French dish, all herbs and belly-filling warmth.

She's the pickiest eater on earth (a fact she'll readily admit) but even she seemed to be enjoying the lovely Virginia meets Burgundy combination.

Appropriately, the music was its usual French self, all accordions and breathy female vocalists and just what you'd want to hear while eating and drinking this way.

It was a marked contrast from my annual trip to Can Can last weekend, where the Rolling Stones blasted as I sipped my hot chocolate and I wondered if I was in a chain restaurant.

Throughout all of this, owner Paul maintained his best game face, refilling glasses, making suggestions and adding to the absurd conversation when it suited him.

At one point, a couple came in and because they are Amour regulars, Holmes and I recognized them.

They were just coming in to say hello to Paul, but soon were sucked into the verbal mayhem swirling around.

Luckily for us, they ordered wine and joined the conversation.

Before long the husband was telling us a Pope joke with accented Italian and we were all rolling in laughter at the corny punchline.

Honestly, it felt a lot like an intimate holiday party, just in a restaurant instead of someone's home.

When dessert time came, it was twofold: the irresistible chocolate caramel sea salt creme brulee and housemade clementine sorbet.

Despite how many times I've had that creme brulee, I'd be the first to admit I don't want to live without it, but after tasting the beautiful flavors of the sorbet, I wouldn't want to miss out on that, either.

A discussion of clementines ensued, and as one who eats two or three every day when they're in season (like now), I couldn't help but appreciate that unique flavor in a new form.

We were having so much fun that all at once the visitor realized that the last thing she wanted to do was drive three hours home, so Holmes invited her to stay over and plans were adjusted accordingly.

A couch three blocks away is infinitely more appealing than a nice bed in another state, especially when you're dreaming of a $1200 ham.

I only hope Holmes didn't have to bitch slap her before the night was over.

But even if he does, it'll make a great story for the next time we all get together.

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