Sunday, March 1, 2015

Playing Festively

If someone asked me to plan my kind of date, it might go something like this.

Begin by choosing a restaurant where the ambiance is as seductive as the food (L'Opossum) and then suggest that you meet there (always have your own car, just in case) shortly after they open and before the masses arrive.

If you're smart, you'll choose a place at the bar because you know the bartender is a great conversationalist (Anton LaVey, materialism, societal accountability) and always willing to talk music with you.

Once your date arrives (a couple tonight), choose a bottle of the beautiful Domaine Bellevue 2013 Touraine Rose to toast each other. Theirs is a unique relationship ("We started drinking together 15 years ago, but we've only been together for five") and there's a lot of laughter between us.

Good dates should abound with laughter.

Like me, they are enchanted with the eclectic soundtrack on this date - Glen Campbell's "Gentle On My Mind," Helen Reddy's "No Way to Treat a Lady" and Liberace's version of "Theme from a Summer Place," during which a discussion of Liberace ensues and the bartender sagely observes, "I never knew much about him but now that I've done some listening, I think he plays so festively."

My favorite dates are feasts of food, so tonight I start with something new on the menu: juniper-encrusted venison carpaccio with lingonberries, pickled walnut seeds over rocket. It's Scandanavia on a plate.

From there, my dates and I share oysters in an absinthe mist (be still my heart, absinthe twice in three days), the decadence of buerre blanc-drenched escargots in and around a ham biscuit and Faberge eggs with caviar and Champagne Rose jigglers (I don't hesitate to devour these with my fingers), finishing our first round with the lobster taco with seared foie gras, an obscenely seductive note on which to end.

Since part of the appeal of a date is sharing stories, we do. The bartender joins us to discuss the Phil Ochs songbook one of us discovered today at an estate sale and music conversation develops (folky Ochs versus orchestral Ochs? early Leonard Cohen versus late? is there such a thing as too much Bowie?).

Possibly my favorite song heard all evening is Mercury Rev's "Laurel Canyon" but talk is most spirited about Suzy Creamcheese.

We are regaled with tales of dating a VCU art history professor who used to take photographs of dog poop everywhere he traveled and then insert them into his lectures between slides of Notre Dame and Chartres.

Appropriately, a second bottle of Rose accompanies our next course of Caesar salad, rack of lamb and black grouper while "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" plays. It's been so long since any of us heard it that we debate whether or not it's the original (it is, as it turns out).

A smart date defers the choice of dessert (and another bottle of Rose) to me and I graciously accept, opting for the sexual innuendo of hot black bottom a la mode topped by a dominant rich ganache and whipped cream and just to prove I can, le petite mort au chocolate (because who doesn't want an orgasm on a date?) set aflame with 151 rum.

By now, we are four plus hours into this date, a very good sign that food, drink and conversation are all hitting on the most pleasurable levels. No one wants to stop, so we order after dinner drinks and when one of us gets the Blackout 77, we begin by inhaling its impressive aromas.

One verdict is that it smells like Cary Grant in New York City back during the TWA era. The bartender admits to choosing the NYC power outage of 1977, an event he remembers from childhood, as a point of reference for the potent libation.

There will be two of these beauties before the night is over.

The Laura Palmer is served wrapped in plastic around the glass, its gin and muddled cherries a blood red reminder of poor Laura's fate. Balvenie tastes of, well, Balvenie, because sometimes for some dates, only brown liquor will do. I find myself drawn to Zaya 12-year old rum, a far cry from the Meyer's Rum of my youth.

By the time the date winds down, only a couple of tables are left, but they hadn't arrived when it was still daylight as we had done. Favorite parting compliment: "You are the coolest chick in Richmond."

Note to those seeking to plan the best kind of date: compliments should be part of the game plan.

But dates shouldn't end with a fabulous meal, at least not one on a Saturday night. Better to find yourself at a place like Balliceaux for Body Talk, with DJs playing records of boogie/funk/modern soul for a dance party that's in full swing as I shed my coat and join the throngs on the floor.

The dance floor itself extends to the walls of the room because the place is so packed, but it also means that even if you arrive technically date-less, you will have plenty of people to dance with. And what better use for all those calories and drinks consumed over the past six hours than a few more of non-stop motion?

I guarantee that by the time you get home, nearly nine hours after your date began, you'll fall into bed full, happily and almost talked out.

It will be because that kind of date is the most fun you could have without being kissed.

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