Friday, August 10, 2018

Wait and See When the Smoke Clears

You're insatiable! But yes, most likely.

To be clear, what I was asking about was whether or not I was invited to Pru's screened porch party  after our dinner and theater date this evening. Considering that it had been only four days since I last enjoyed porch pleasures with her and Beau, she saw my request, perhaps, as a tad greedy. How much outdoor conversation can one woman need?

What she failed to consider was that our Sunday night verbal extravaganza had been a party, a birthday throwdown for Beau and had included two other couples besides the four of us and Queen B. We were the mortified guests who arrived an hour late to find all the other guests patiently awaiting our appearance so that the first of many bottles of Moet Chandon could be opened and poured.

I take full responsibility, since I'm the idiot who'd looked at the invitation and somehow seen 4 instead of 5:00. The good news was, once the champagne began flowing, no one seemed to care that it had been delayed. Not to mention they were all sipping on something or other, just not bubbles when the cat dragged us in.

This was a backyard party and a lavish table had been set up under a huge umbrella. It wasn't long after we took the only two vacant seats that Pru began delivering the fruits of her days-long labor: beef and veggie kebabs, six pounds of perfectly steamed shrimp, corn on the cob, fresh butterbeans and crusty bread to sop it all up with.

It was some time early on in the meal when the humid air broke and a gentle rain began falling. It was an inconsequential enough weather change that everyone continued eating and talking because between the arbor and umbrella overhead, the rain wasn't inconveniencing anyone. Or at least that's what those of us who were still dry assumed.

In fact, my date and Queen B were out of range of the covering and being doused continually while we sipped and supped.

By the time it came to the attention of the rest of us, the two of them were completely soaked. Queen B's feather earrings were reduced to a couple of rain-slicked points that in no way resembled feathers. My date's shirt and shorts could have been rung out there was so much water in them.

Neither had so much as mentioned how wet they were getting while it was happening, making us dry diners feel a little guilty for not noticing. But once it became common knowledge, Beau, the birthday boy but ever the good host, retrieved another, smaller umbrella and attempted to set it up. The result was that new lines of drippage were created and before long, my chair and the back of my dress were soaked through.

Still, no one suggested leaving the table because how often do you get to have a summer supper in a pouring rainstorm? Honestly, it only added to the good time vibe, although at times it drowned out whatever music Alexa was playing.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me...

There was a lot of talk about travel, with Beckham and the Beauty telling us about their recent foray to New Orleans and how underwhelmed they'd been by some of the food they ate in what is considered to be a stellar food town. The history couple shared that instead of going to Paris this year, they're forcing themselves to embrace a trip to Glacier National Park, even though it's going to cost as much as the City of Lights.

Pru and Beau continue to insist they want to do a Scotch-tasting tour of Scotland at some point, and that was enough for Beau to bring out a bottle of very good Islay, which suited Beckham but not everyone, so a bottle of Highlands Scotch followed, while Pru and I wisely kept to bubbles. "Brown liquors are for cozy winter nights, not summer," she sniffed.

The chocolate ganache birthday cake from Morsels got high marks from everyone and again brought up the story of Beau's first attempt at making ganache, a culinary misadventure involving using evaporated milk instead of condensed milk, resulting in a ganache with zero sweetness and a whole lot of bitterness. Problem was, the cake was a birthday offering for Pru, who prefers milk chocolate.

Beau loved it, but he was the only one. He has since stepped away from ganache-making.

It wasn't even midnight, though it was some time after the in-depth explanation of fencing from a guest who does it and the shared anticipation of next month's beach adventure for six of us that people began thinking about work tomorrow and making their farewells.

Translation: not nearly enough time for conversation beyond the constant bouncing from party guest to guest to join discussions already in progress.

Tonight's requested porch time was only the final stage of an evening that began at Secco for dinner, which for me meant chilled melon gazpacho with pickled blueberries and feta, followed by arctic char with creme fraiche. But I'm here to tell you that the most swoon-worthy part of the meal was a summer vegetable tian - a gratin-like dish that made better use of zuchinni and squash than I have ever put in my mouth - savored with Louis Pato Baga Brut Rose to kick things off and a bottle of Moreux Sancerre Blanc "Les Bouffants" to follow, because, as Pru is so fond of reminding us, why would we ever leave the Loire?

Looking at the dessert menu, Beau was bummed that our favorite butterscotch pudding was no more, but I happily had the lemon curd tart with toasted meringue, candied violets and edible flowers, causing shock waves among friends who think I must have chocolate to close out a meal.

Not so, mes amis, let's not forget that I'm also a sucker for coconut cake. Not all desserts must be chocolate, as Beau reluctantly acknowledged with his buttermilk gelato, which managed to be decadently rich without the characteristic tang of buttermilk.

You live, you learn, according to Alanis Morisette.

After a drive up scenic Route 301, we landed at Hanover Tavern to take in "Crimes of the Heart" and enjoy some Southern gothic family drama. And while watching a play about three southern sisters dealing with each other and their long-time roles in the family provided plenty of fodder for a compelling story, those of us with five sisters know that there's so much more that could have been mined on the subject of sisterly love, family history and devotion.

Don't get me started.

Take it from the oldest of six, Maggie Roop masterfully nailed the weight of carrying the life-long responsibilities of being born first, playing oldest sister Lenny as equal parts substitute mother and general peacekeeper, with little regard for her own needs.

And while the entire cast was strong, has anyone ever changed her pantyhose while giving a monologue and made it more hilarious than Maggie Bavolack as Chick? Talk about comedic gold.

Despite not getting home from Hanover until after 11:00, we closed out the night on Pru's screened porch, talking about the success of the birthday party - really, how often in life do you get to peel shrimp  and sip champagne surrounded by pouring rain? - the top-notch acting in the play and how little James Bond experts Pru and Beau recalled of "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," which I'd just seen a few nights ago at the Byrd.

And that's just what I can mention.

My point is that I'm apparently not the only insatiable one since conversation flowed until the clock was hitting 1 a.m. and I finally headed back to Jackson Ward, where the recently returned student population was roaming the streets in search of a party.

My oldest sister advice to them would be to start by checking out the screened porches.

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