Sunday, February 8, 2015

Get Lucky

I sacrificed "Roadhouse" for Democracy.

And that wasn't an easy choice with a tagline like, "The dancing is over. Now it gets dirty." It's so bad, it's good.

Movie Club was showing the 1989 "B" movie classic but I'd already said yes to the Democracy Vineyards Valentine's wine dinner at Camden's. So while I would have loved watching Patrick Swayze play bouncer, I instead spent the evening with a couple of lobbyists who now make wine.

When I arrived, I found a room at capacity, a stool at the bar and an air of enthusiasm for what was to come in the room. Did these people not care that "Roadhouse" was playing a few miles away?

Turns out their minds were focused in other directions.

The evening began with the chef assuring us that the menu was laden with aphrodisiacs "guaranteed to get you laid!" He'd even gone so far as to underline them on the menu - scallops, bacon, pomegranate, cheese, salmon, fig, mushrooms, all kinds of yummy stuff. Our chances looked good for scoring.

One woman piped up saying, "Do we have to tell you when we do?" To ensure carnal success, he also put on the Marvin Gaye Pandora station to get everyone in the mood.

Ah, this was why people took a chance on the wine dinner over "Roadhouse."

The winery owners, he a former lobbyist and she still doing it, wound up sitting at the bar next to me, making for lots of great stories throughout the night as we chowed through five courses.

Scallop ceviche with apple gastrique and housemade bacon over kale was paired with a German-style apple wine called Village View Gold, made from a hybrid apple developed after Hurricane Camille. When the woman next to me left her kale, I finished it for her.

Declaration, a white blend, was a lovely match for a salad of arugula (inexplicably an aphrodisiac), roasted beets, goat cheese and pomegranate dressing with toasted bread crumbs. The winery owner's wife commented about how challenging pairing salad with wine was and how impressed she'd been with this combination.

Between courses, I chatted with the kale hater about the candle holders on the bar, raffia-covered Chianti bottles with candles in them leaving a waxy coating on the bottle. "They're so doggone '60s," she commented. True that, although then colored candles were used for a variegated effect on the bottle. This was more neo-'60s.

Grilled salmon over polenta cake with wilted spinach, dried mission figs (which I could eat all day) and Hollandaise got paired with Forum, a blend of 2/3 Merlot and 1/3 Pinotage.

When I mentioned that pinotage was a favorite grape of mine, the winemaker's wife and I got into a discussion of visiting South Africa. I haven't been since 2004 while she'd gone in 2010 ("Oh, you have to go back") and we compared notes on the people, wines and terrain we'd experienced.

It's so rare that I meet someone who has a frame of reference for that kind of talk.

The next wine was Suffrage, made with the Chambourcin grape and the woman to my right took one sip and smiled widely. "This is my kind of red," she said. "I'm a red meat kind of a gal."

Fortunately for her, our next course was rosemary roasted tenderloin of Angus with red wine Bordelaise, roasted oak mushrooms and fingerling potatoes. The tenderloin lived up to its name with a texture like butter and a robust beef flavor.

By that point, the room was noisy with the exuberant chatter of people after four wines and so much good food. Patrick Swayze was becoming a distant memory.

Overhead, the music was so good - Isley Brothers, Stylistics, Billy paul - that I pulled out my stock question, asking the women on either side of me about their first concert. One was John Denver and the other was the Supremes. Coincidentally, a Supremes' song, "You Can't Hurry Love" was playing at that moment.

The final course thrilled some and disappointed others. Gorgonzola cheesecake with graham cracker crust and 70% cocoa ganache turned the idea of a sweet dessert on its ear. Sweetness came in the form of Parliament, a Petit Verdot dessert wine with 7% residual sugar.

Now, me, I love stinky cheese. I'll lick a barnyard floor any day. Ditto the winemaker's wife. But the woman to my right took one bite of the cheesecake and her face curled up as if she'd eaten a lemon. Even after I suggested she sip the sweet wine, she found no pleasure in the dessert. Her loss.

Instead of the usual show and tell before each course, the winemaker had gone table to table to discus the wines with people, making friends along the way and working the room like a pro, which he was given his lobbyist career.

In fact, his wife told me that when he'd first asked her out 20 years ago, she'd assumed he needed a political favor. Her initial impression was that he was some kind of wheeler dealer. It was only after he pulled out an invitation to the Clinton White House Christmas party and asked her to join him that she saw him differently.

Of course she'd gone (and eventually married him) although she admitted to being too nervous to drink for fear she'd break something in the White House. "The velvet ropes were down and you could sit on the East Room furniture," she marveled.

She'd even seen the inscription on the state dining room fireplace with the John Adams quote that reads, "May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."

"They're going to have to change that wording and add 'woman' when Hillary gets elected," she laughed. Yes, they are.

By the end of the meal, everyone was stuffed, loopy and looking pretty satisfied with life. One woman gave her server a $100 tip. Lots of people ordered bottles of the wine we'd been drinking.

My tip was more modest and I can't afford to order wine but I'd enjoyed fascinating conversation with two very different women about how differently men are wired. And not everyone has a man, meaning not all of us were getting laid tonight even after all those assists from the menu.

Doesn't seem very democratic, does it?

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