Tuesday, November 28, 2017

With Filter Clogged

A restaurant-owning friend once told me that the best part of his place being closed on Mondays was that Dutch & Co. was open.

I'm inclined to agree and I'm only a lowly freelance writer. But the last few days - because of course I had to work every day of the long holiday weekend - involved some mind-expanding interviews that, while enriching, left me with lots to ponder.

There was the couples counselor who broke down the stages of a relationship, what happens in each one and, more importantly, why they happen and what you can do to address them. I shouldn't be surprised at how much you can learn about yourself and your relationships simply by talking to an expert.

Then there was the historian and author who explained the Virginia roots of today's radical right to demonstrate how the country got itself into the worst political crisis in living memory. She'd done a fascinating research job linking up all the balls that have been in play since the mid-1950s to lead us to this unenviable place we find ourselves in 2017.

And by "lots to ponder," I also mean "in need of bubbles and conversation."

I found both when the Lady G scooped me up and I directed her to Dutch & Co. - a place she'd somehow never been - past all kinds of traffic jams, police cars with lights on and fender benders. Holy cow, did everyone forget how to drive over the long weekend?

If the stretch between Jackson Ward and Church Hill is any indication, they sure did.

The restaurant was an oasis of calm with a sole bar sitter our only competition for the bartender's attention. He had no problem talking Lady G into the cocktail of the evening, an appealing reddish concoction called Your Pal and starring Rye and Campari among other things. Sitting next to my Cava on the bar, the two drinks made a festive holiday tableau.

Because it had been seven weeks since we'd last met up, we were both bursting with trials, tribulations and totally trivial anecdotes, so we just alternated opening our mouths to debrief the other. We both have out-of-town sisters and had seen them, so that's a reliably rich vein to mine. Thanksgiving tales were inevitable, but so was fine-tuning our road trip plans.

It was only because we both paused to catch our breath that the bartender had a moment to inquire after our appetites. Given how much more we had to cover, it seemed easiest just to order everything on the bar menu, two glasses of Cava and get back to it.

What finally shut us up was the arrival of food. We slathered pork fat biscuits - so rich they felt heavy - with butter and applebutter. Panko-crusted fried cauliflower got the spicy Chinese treatment with chile sauce, scallions, cucumbers and basil, causing Lady G to note, "I could eat this all night long."

We wrapped smoked salmon rillette in salmon skin blinis and topped them with chive yogurt. And to satisfy our love of brine and off-season longing for the beach, we slurped Ruby Salt oysters from the Eastern Shore with abandon.

Once we'd achieved an elegant sufficiency, we went back to swapping stories. She won the evening hands down with a crazy story about a psychic sending her a message from her dead husband about his favorite Honda lawnmower requiring attention.

Don't you know Lady G immediately informed her current husband that the mower had needs?

"And this is what I love about him," she shared, laughing hilariously. "He went right out to the garage to check on it." Turns out the mower was in such desperate need of a new air filter that he was amazed it was still running, so he replaced that, changed the oil and sharpened the blades.

When she reported this back to the friend who knows the psychic, she learned that there was an additional message for her from her first love, this one presumably about something other than power tools, but Lady G has yet to reach her to find out.

The bartender had no trouble interesting us in dessert, although we eschewed a menu and just asked for whatever was chocolate. We're simple women, really. That resulted in salt-dusted chocolate semi-freddo showing up, adorned with plum slices that had been stirred with aged balsamic, all of it over a puddle of extra virgin olive oil.

It was a perfectly lovely marriage of sweet and savory and only derailed our back and forth briefly.

Since I'm not in a relationship, all the conversation about dealing with a man came from her. Since I get out far more than she does, I was the one telling her about the plays and cabarets I'd recently seen, although not one but two friends had invited her to join them for "Legally Blond" and she'd declined both offers.

I got that. We're not the legally blond types, if you know what I mean.

And speaking of, I couldn't help but notice the black pom-pom earrings set against a blond up-do on a favorite stylish waitress. Complimenting her on them, she said, "You know I love to thrift," and I did from past conversations (we're like-minded in that respect). Seems she'd bought a black sweater with small pom-poms around the neck and had removed two, glued them to earring backs and voila! Instant DIY earrings.

"They sell pom-poms in all colors, so you could do the same with a lighter color that would show up on a brunette," she suggested. A fine idea if I wore earrings (I don't) or had pierced ears (nope) or was crafty (please!).

Meanwhile, the bartender complimented our style, telling us we'd done it right, leisurely sampling around the menu to give the newbie a sense of the kitchen and the vibe. Safe to say it's not my first rodeo.

By the time the last of the bubbles was finished, the dining room was well over half full, including several restaurant people enjoying their evening off.

"We should come back here next time," Lady G announced, although next time's location won't get decided until next time. "This place is perfect."

Not news to me or my restaurant friend. Hell, her psychic probably already knew that.

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