Sunday, March 11, 2018

Mid-Day Tropicale

I'll be honest, what I really wanted was a flaming pu pu platter and a hurricane.

But, alas, it was not long after noon on a dreary, rainy Monday and I was meeting Lady G for planning purposes, not to kick off a party. Although given how busy the place was - I think I passed exactly 2 empty tables being led to ours - there was a sort of festive vibe to the place.

Little Nickel is what had drawn me to southside for lunch (fact: I'm a sucker for a tiki bar) and the place delivered, from the colorful decor (c'mon, textured pink flamingo wallpaper in the loo?) and catchy menu to all kinds of dishes not seen in other Richmond restaurants.

Heck, before even sitting down, I ran into the cider king enjoying some Hawaiian nachos - that's bacon, pineapple and pork - with friends. Lady G and I immediately targeted the shrimp ukey, described as a bird's nest of carrots, sweet potatoes, shrimp, cilantro and tarot root, with a chili vinegar sauce riding shotgun, for its unique-sounding appeal.

And, yep, what was delivered looked very much like a green-flecked orange nest, which I promptly tore in half, musing to G about whether or not it was the kind of thing we should eat with fingers or forks. Before she could answer, I made an executive decision and went with bare hands, savoring every bite of the crispy, fried veggies with shrimp hidden inside.

I don't want to make it sound like we didn't discuss details for our upcoming trip (that came later), but first we had to catch up on life and love, meaning she couldn't resist reminding me, "I really miss the blog."

Sigh. Tell me something I haven't heard. And, if you ask and of course she did, I'll tell you how low I've been and why no one would want to read most of my words these days. I'm doing my readers a favor.

Then it was on to the main event. While she may have grown up in NOVA, G lived for over two decades in Massachusetts, meaning she responds to New England standards like Pavlov's dog. Translation: she ordered the filet o' Nickel, a fabulously battered hunk o' cod at least an inch thick and slathered with caper tartar sauce on a glossy bun and situated next to a mountain of salty shoestring fries.

Me, I couldn't resist the siren song of an avocado crab "cocktail" piled atop a mound of arugula with bits of grapefruit for sass and a pile of tortilla chips for scooping, should that be one's preferred method of delivery (it wasn't mine).

We took a tangent on the subject of tea (G has a multiple cup a day habit) when I told her I'd discovered Earl Grey with double bergamot (her squeal told me she's an Earl Grey fan) but it was so strong and caffeinated that it required some adjustment on my part. Given my lack of coffee drinking, I need to drink my lone cup of tea early in the day or suffer the consequences of a low caffeine tolerance.

"Just use the tea bag 3 or 4 times," she advises me. "All the caffeine's in the first cup. Make it and throw it away and then use the teabag for the other cups." Brilliant.

When we finally got down to the business of our getaway itinerary, it soon became clear how spoiled we are. Between the Smithsonian's various museums and the VMFA, Lady G and I rarely pay for art (the Phillips Collection being a notable exception), so she was gobsmacked when I told her nearly everywhere we were going put a price on our heads.

It'll be worth it, no doubt, but it did require some mental adjustment on her part. Then there were the choices: oddities or contemporary? the '60s or Monet? airborne or black history? Decisions, decisions.

By the time we'd worked out a non-stop itinerary, our smiling server was asking about dessert. Remembering our mid-century childhoods, we went with warm pineapple upside down cake, even better than our memories because Little Nickel's is rum-soaked and Mom's wasn't. Fortunately, the maraschino cherries are still just as artificially red and cloying as they always were, so some things never change.

It only took us two and a half hours to gorge ourselves and nail down 48 hours in the city that's been cholera-free since 1866.

These days, I'm not setting my sights very high. But at least I'm getting my sour puss out of town.

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