Saturday, November 18, 2017

Pardon My Asking What's New

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. ~ Rilke

Leave it to me to find reassurance in poetry. Moral: When life throws up roadblocks, find a way around them. And, yes, there's a metaphor somewhere in there.

My first message of the day Thursday was from a Frenchman, wishing me happy Beaujolais Nouveau day. My second was from my parents, asking if I was free for lunch Friday since they'd be in town for a car repair. Granted, I already had Beaujolais Nouveau dinner plans Friday evening, but what's one more meal out?

On that subject, my favorite comment ever was the friend who sincerely asked, "Does your apartment even have an oven?" Well, duh, where do you think I dry my gloves after cleaning snow off my car?

After picking the 'rents up at the dealership out on godforsaken West Broad Street, I drove them right back into the city, past scores of chain restaurants, to take them to Garnett's. Not because there's a sandwich named after me there, although there is (the Bon Vivant), but because I knew the combination of well-made sandwiches and killer desserts would be right up their alley.

What hadn't occurred to me was not just how mobbed Garnett's would be at mid-day on Friday, but how noisy. Dad dealt with it by sucking back a South Street Brewery Virginia Lager while Mom complained about the incessant chatter and unpleasant frequency of the table of millennials behind her, wishing for it to cease and desist.

If there's one demographic they don't spend much time around on the Northern Neck, it's millennials.

But they loved their sandwiches - the Colonel and the Dutch Aunt, which probably somehow reflected their personalities - especially the side of housemade pickles. It took all three of us to conquer a massive slice of crumb-topped blueberry peach pie, but we managed just barely.

Meanwhile, I listened as they exchanged their typical differences of opinion. Dad doesn't hear something said and Mom claims it's because he has selective hearing. He swears she talks so softly no one can hear her and eats like a sparrow. She thinks he talks too loudly and he says he's just making his point. If I've heard them say these things to each other once, I've heard them hundreds of times and I only see them once or twice a month.

Which means they've both heard it all thousands of times. Apparently after 62 years of marriage, there's a fair amount of repeated conversation that's just accepted as part of the bargain. On the other hand, he continues to hold doors open for her and she's always noticing when he requires something.

More belongs to marriage than four legs in a bed. ~ Rilke 

After returning them to the dealership, I had only a brief afternoon to work before meeting Holmes and Beloved for dinner and their annual bacchanal starring Beaujolais Nouveau.

When I strolled into his house, they'd already cracked the first bottle of the young wine. On the counter sat additional bottles for future sipping because Holmes believes it should be consumed in copious quantities while you can get it.

After the ritual toast to the harvest (notably France's overall smallest since 1945), we piled in my car to head to Camden's to check out the new all prix fixe, all the time menu. Naturally, our meal was to be accompanied by the star of the evening, in this case, Manior de Carra Beaujolais Nouveau (but only after a pretty funny exchange with the hostess who'd seated us), although I couldn't resist a celebratory glass of Cava to start.

The hardest part of any prix fixe menu is choosing three courses while observing the paramount rule of dining with friends: no one duplicates an item. We lucked out there because there were so many appealing choices to work from.

For starters, we had a sensational salad of watercress, house bacon and pickled cauliflower in champagne vinaigrette, turkey liver mousse to die for (the grilled bread was just a way to get it to our mouths) and a savory bleu cheesecake with honey that made Holmes, who'd never even heard of such a thing, a believer in savory cheesecakes.

Please, I made my first savory cheesecake when Clinton was eating Big Macs in the White House and people joke about my kitchen? Get with the program, man.

I hadn't gotten together with Holmes and Beloved since the first week of August, so there were plenty of updates on both our sides to discuss. Holmes shared stories and Beloved showed photos from their trek to St. Michaels, Maryland, where they'd done some memorable eating and drinking at an Italian trattoria called Limoncello that they highly recommended.

Don't talk to me about Limoncello unless it's in Sorrento, Italy where the best lemons in the world grow and Limoncello was birthed. I've only been once, but I'm ready to go back any time.

Alas, conversation was derailed when our entrees showed up. He-man Holmes had chosen London Broil and was soon crying uncle about how good it was but how large the portion size. My crispy-skinned pecan-smoked chicken thighs got a nice sweetness from apple slaw, but I could also appreciate the well-cooked black beans and rice that shared the plate.

But top prize went to Beloved's melt-in-your-mouth steelhead trout over creamy polenta and peas, a wondrous combination I intend to return for so I can eat the whole thing rather than just have a couple bites.

Meanwhile, Holmes had heard scuttlebutt and was seeking confirmation, details and rationale. A lot can happen in 3+ months, friend. A good portion of our entree conversation was given over to the Leonardo painting that just sold for $450 million, with Holmes insisting that if turns out to be a fake, Christie's should be fined heavily and put out of business.

When it came time for our final course, the choices were easy but finishing was more challenging after gorging ourselves on the first two courses.

There was no way I was getting anything over than the chocolate butter walnut-crusted chocolate torte I've been devoted to (for, what, 16 years now?) and Beloved got the same. Only Holmes opted for lavender creme brulee and scraped the bowl clean as we finished up the last of the Beaujolais Nouveau.

We rolled out of there determined to have a record-listening party despite our overfed state, only to run into a roadblock as we came across the Lee Bridge. There must have been a dozen cops, lights on and flashing, lined up, along with a sign alerting motorists that a traffic checkpoint was just ahead.

It wasn't that my alcohol level was too high at that point, but we were intent on starting the party, so I seamlessly slid over to the Second Street exit and in no time we found ourselves settled into Holmes' wood-paneled man cave for the next four hours. Beginning with Linda Ronstadt's classic 1983 album, "What's New?" so beautifully arranged by Nelson Riddle, we got off on the unlikely subject of crinolines because of the album cover photograph of her in a strapless pink gown.

From there, we zig-zagged through their Plan 9 and estate sale record finds, which, given Beloved's old soul status and musical taste, meant all kinds of gems from the '50s and '60s. At one point, Holmes presented me with an early Christmas present (Joni Mitchell's "Court and Spark"), a shame since that is the sole Joni Mitchell record I already own.

Errol Garner's "Paris Impressions" may have been my first album of harpsichord music by a multi-talented jazz pianist. "The Swingin's Mutual!" by Nancy Wilson and the George Shearing Quintet sounded like a happening 1961 party in Manhattan. We gave Earl "Fatha" Hines' "Live at Buffalo" record a shot but Beloved soon gave it a thumbs down, deeming it not right for a swingin' Friday night.

Holmes took us in a new direction with the Giorgio Moroder-produced Bowie song "Cat People," although somehow, I was the only one of the three who knew who Moroder was. Clearly they'd checked out of popular music by the Flashdance period. As is his habit, Holmes slid in some Stephen Stills via the CSNY classic "Deja Vu."

That's the beauty of a listening party where the host not only has multiple formats - record, CD, cassette - but extensive collections of music for them all. Since we take turns choosing, the fun of it is trying to play something that'll surprise, impress or please the other two.

And the music is really just the background for a wide-ranging conversation about what's going on in everybody's life and the world beyond. Tonight that included the tsunami of men finally being challenged on their inappropriate behavior toward those of us with girl parts.

Beloved shared the recent saga of one of Holmes' friends ostensibly going in for a goodbye hug and groping her like he had a right to. "What the hell are you doing?' she'd accused him. It's barely been a month since a male friend I've known for 6 or 7 years took the liberty of placing his hand inappropriately low on the small of my back (aka the top of my butt), to which I rather rudely asked, "Is that your idea of making a move?" and shut him down.

Friendship has its priveleges, but that's not one. I've got no problem with a man's hand being in that place as long as it's the right man, preferably someone who appreciates that undersung curve.

Love is like the measles. The older you get it, the worse the attack. ~ Rilke

Tonight, the swingin' was mutual, the food was superb and the Beaujolais Noveau was drinkable. I don't know that you could ask for more the day after the third Thursday in November.

Well, of course I could, but I'd be discreet enough to ask for it silently. Final feelings and all...


  1. Yes gentle blogger Garnett's does have ample fare. A wide variety of sandwiches & desserts. Maybe soup to -- However sometimes the crowd betrays it's wee dimensions. A crooked building after all. Plus a spot for quiet conversations whether romantic nor business it is not. One thing it does not offer is the extraordinary Italian Sandwich, which the previous, (a lifetime ago), occupant Park Ave.Inn did..just the usual Salami, Provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion but the killer ingredient -- the special homemade anchovy sauce. If you like that sort of thing --Unbelievable!!

    Errol Garner plus Stephen Stills, "4+20", I'm with you there...

    carroll whitney

  2. I'd be curious who in this town might make their own anchovy sauce these days. How could it not be wonderful?

    t's always an eclectic mix of music with Holmes.