Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Two L'heures Happy

Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves. ~ Albert Einstein

Before Einstein, there was Henry Box Brown.

Meaning that my evening began at the Anderson Gallery happy hour for Jefferey Ruggles' talk on Henry Box Brown, the man who mailed himself to Philly to escape life as a slave.

I arrived and found a seat on the bench with a good view of the screen and close access to the cheese and cookies, as a nearby attendee pointed out.

Soon, I was joined by a WRIR DJ who, like me, was eager to glean some new information about an escaped slave with a plan.

As we awaited the start of the talk, we discussed Floyd Avenue and Cambridge, MA, and their very different worthiness as bike routes.

As a former thirteen-year resident of Floyd Avenue, I felt his pain about present-day Floyd.

Ruggles was funny, losing sight of his slide show as he shared endless details about Brown's journey from boxed cargo to globe-trotting entertainer, sharing his panoramics about life in Africa and as a slave with audiences all over the world.

Our speaker had even acquired original drawings of "A Nubian Slave,"  an illustrated and devastating series about the journey of an African destined for the New World.

At one point in the slide presentation, we saw a slide of Boston, the Charles River and Cambridge on the other side, necessitating me observing, "Speaking of..."

"Yea, I know, right?" the DJ agreed, referencing our earlier conversation.

The lecture was fascinating for its story of Brown's life, his struggle and his success at creating a life in Canada after abolitionists found fault with how he squandered his new-found freedom.

Wine, women, gambling and song.

Like it was their job to judge.

Friend and I bolted once the lecture ended, both with plans that would not wait.

Mine involved Amour Wine Bistro's l'heure heureuse, a happy hour involving four small plates for $12.

Who wouldn't be happy with such a deal?

They were the ones who had posted the Einstein quote and, frankly, anyone sharing that sentiment was speaking to me directly.

Moments after I sat down, I ordered a flight of roses and soon a man joined me at the bar, ogling my array of pink wines.

"That looks good!" he said, clearly coveting my roses.

What's not to love about Pere Cabouche 2012, Chateau de Valcombe 2012, L'Opale de la Presqu'ile de Saint Tropez 2011 and Bandol Mas de la Rouviere 2011?

Inquiring of the owner if any of my roses were not sweet (duh), he was assured that sweet was not an issue here.

He promptly ordered the exact same flight.

Oohing and ahhing over the array of roses, he told me that he'd been out shopping for his 32nd anniversary tomorrow.

The VMFA had yielded the jewelry for his wife's gift and Mongrel (natch) had supplied the card.

Just as he'd finished there, wifey had called and asked him to pick up dog food.

A side trip to PetCo. had delivered the dog chow, leaving him hot and sweaty (there is a heat wave going on, after all) and craving a glass of wine.

Sadly, he'd come in looking for a glass of Pinot Grigio.

It was only once he spied my four pink glasses that he'd succumbed to something far better.

As if I hadn't inspired enough envy, I proceeded to rub salt in the wounds by taking advantage of Amour's happy hour deal of four small plates for $12.

In short order, I devoured smoked trout "sushi" (English cucumber and smoked trout in orange-poached carrot roll with wasabi-soy-shitake reduction and candied ginger), marinated scallops with aioli and the freshest of melon and red onion salsas, summer gazpacho of English cukes and chilled watermelon gazpacho with a pickled veggie salsa and, finally, crispy prosciutto (baked prosciutto cups with tomato basil soubise, shaved Parmesan and the reddest of grilled tomato).

My pre-anniversary-celebrating friend was pea-green with envy.

Why not? In a city where all of a sudden every restaurant in town is doing early-evening specials, these four dishes were superb examples of big flavors and small prices.

Translation: score.

But he was also marveling at the array of stellar roses we were both drinking and eventually wised up, purchasing a bottle of the Bandol Mas de la Rouviere 2011, flattering me by saying he never would have a) tasted it, much less, b) bought a bottle if he hadn't seen me enjoying it.

I love being the reason people experience (and buy) wine.

Besides, I bet his wife will have a better anniversary because of that bottle, so my work here was done.

To his credit, he has a successful 32-year relationship under his belt, a fact he said causes amazement among his friends.

Once he left, I enjoyed  dessert, a trio of ice creams - lime, white peach and cocoa- with the ideal accompaniment, Muscadet de Beaume de Venise Domaine Saint Dominique.

Two words: perfect pairing.

I may be allergic to stone fruit, but I will never pass up white peach anything and the creamy mouth-feel of this peach ice cream was swoon-worthy.

Let my tongue swell and my mouth itch, for it is well worth the reaction.

The cocoa delivered raptures and I heard that there are people driving from D.C. to enjoy that cocoa bliss.

No surprise there.

While savoring dessert, I heard of the owner's impending trip to Paris and Provence, two destinations I have yet to experience and yet two places I long to know.

Even better, he's meeting a mutual friend there, a man who will ensure that they visit the best dance clubs and experience all that both cities have to offer.

A perfect travel companion, in other words.

By the time I finished the last of my flight, the final dinner guests were leaving and I knew it was time for me to clear out, too.

Driving home alone,  I wasn't threatening anyone's driving with my kissing, but I was awfully satisfied with the direction my happy hours had taken.

Tomorrow's goal: preventing a man from driving safely.

I can dream, can't I?

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