Sunday, September 10, 2017

Your Song Still Needs a Chorus

As 12-hour double dates go, it would be tough to beat one as epic as today's.

The four of us convened at my house for the trek to the Northern Neck with Pru and Beau regaling us with tales from their recent trip to Bermuda. I don't know which sounded more wonderful, the meals or the beaches, but I'd be willing to go back to make that determination.

Our first stop of the day was Dog and Oyster Vineyard where I had zero interest in sitting outside and every intention of parking ourselves on the expansive screened porch. We were shortly joined at our table by an older couple who were driving back from Hampton and stopped for a sip.

Consensus: the 2015 Oyster White required, well, an oyster (Beau scored a half dozen from the Byrd Seafood stand but not until after the wine was history), the 2015 Pearl was an easy porch sipper, the robust 2016 Rosie spoke to all of us (that 5% Chambourcin tank bleed), the 2014 Shelter Dog Red was a lovely, soft Chambourcin and the 2014 "Mellow" Merlot finished us off.

Half the time, the conversation at our table was so lively (a polite word for loud) that the woman pouring for us could barely make herself heard as she attempted to describe the wines.

In the center of the tasting table was a pile of oyster shells, plenty of which had been decorated using the array of colorful Sharpies grouped in a glass. There were mentions of a great girls' weekend away, several "I love yous" to specific people, artistic renderings of butterflies, sun and skies, and abstract squiggles.

My date studied the interior of a shell looking for something, much the way we find images in clouds, and cleverly used the shell's markings to fashion a face.

Beau wasted no time using a dark green Sharpie to design his own, which alluded to his willingness to relinquish the wearing of his pants to Pru. I added an orange sun so it wouldn't be so monochromatic and it was added to the pile for posterity.

We met the vineyard dogs - a couple of old beagles and a hound - in the closest vineyard while admiring the size of nearby grape clusters. Across the road, we spotted a couple bicycling across the field en route to the tasting room.

The scene was nothing short of a picture postcard extolling reasons to visit the Northern Neck.

From there, we wound our way back across the Whitestone Bridge - still being painted the most glorious shade of silvery sky blue - in search of riverside dining. We timed it perfectly: a large table near the river was being cleaned off as we approached the nearly full patio.

The next few hours were given over to sipping and supping (although I was the only one who'd expected this meal to be dinner, since the others had all skipped lunch and were ravenous) under cumulus cloud-strewn bright blue skies. An American flag on a nearby dock showed us the wind direction, although since I was facing it, I already knew from whence it blew.

On a trip to the bathroom, I ran into the chef I've known since the place opened, who was busy shucking oysters because of how busy they were.

We reminisced about how a simple tasting room concept had morphed into a place that's busy just about every day ("This place was never meant to serve 800 covers a day!" he lamented), causing me to apologize for adding to the weekend madness.

Pru warned our server that we were never going to leave and she seemed to take it in stride, allowing us to order leisurely until dusk. We started with bottles of Cave de Pomerols Picpoul de Pinet and La Galope Rose Comte to accompany the Old Saltes my date (the one who didn't eat raw oysters before taking up with me) and I inhaled and the pound of seriously spiced shrimp Pru and Beau needed.

As tables around us came and went, we continued the feast and endless commentary. Angels on horseback, a shrimp and crab roll, tuna tacos, a special of drum fish and a summer salad did a fine job of plugging the holes in our appetites.

Which is not to say we didn't save room for dessert. My date and I shared a stellar key lime pie while Beau tried an interesting take on pecan pie (airier and less Karo syrup-based than any I'd ever had) and Pru had her own key lime pie. When the two of them asked our server for coffee, she said they didn't have any.

When Pru inquired when they would, our server said, "Next month." Pru didn't miss a beat. "We'll wait."

Instead, we finished off the wine as the sun slid lower in the sky and plotted our next move on the drive back. A stop at Saison Market addressed their caffeine needs, after which the party re-commenced at my place.

And by party, I mean a swingin' scene that required playing not one but two Brass Ring records to get everyone in the proper frame of mind. We imagined my apartment crowded with guests and just how we'd samba through the hordes in search of a drink or new acquaintance.

For that matter, the Gary Farrell Pinot Noir didn't hurt the cause, either.

The two pants-optional science/audio nerds dipped down a rabbit hole that involved wow and flutter, pop and hiss and lost Pru and I entirely along the way.

Meanwhile, I kept the records playing with Roberta Flack (always a classic for a DC girl), Gladys Knight and the Pips (a live album that spurred a discussion of music recorded live), Linda Ronstatd (and correcting mistaken assumptions she had expired), Rickie Lee Jones (Pru: "All I need is a cheroot") and when we moved to the balcony for Pru's smoke break, Marshall Crenshaw's iconic first album under a midnight blue sky.

At one point sometime after midnight, Pru inquired about the time and Beau stood up, taking it as a signal they were leaving shortly. Instead, she explained that one announces one is leaving but the actual process of doing so involves another 30-60 minutes of conversation.

It's like a warning shot: we will depart the premises in an hour or so.

Frankly, I was fine with the notice. As one of our quartet pointed out late in the evening, her face hurt from laughing so hard all day. All of us nodded in agreement.

By that time, we were into our tenth or eleventh hour of non-stop chatter and humor, broken up only by putting food or drink in our mouths.

This groove may be out of fashion and these beats may be 30 years old, but any time you can maintain a solid 12 hours of enjoying every minute, you're doing something right. Must be the company.

A sore face is a small price to pay.

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