Thursday, October 18, 2018

Date Redux

It was kind of Groundhog Day-esque, except with completion.

Last Thursday, Mr. Wright and I had set out for dinner at Aloi before seeing "The Laramie Project" at Richmond Triangle Players. Both had been closed because of Hurricane Michael, so we'd punted.

Tonight was our do-over.

Aloi welcomed us in with dim lighting, multiple community tables and the end two seats at the bar. He had his prospect and refuge and I had my seclusion, so everyone was happy. Although a few tables were occupied, the overall vibe was underpopulated and low-key, which is to say, very un-Scott's Addition-like.

So we liked it, contrarians that we are.

And the food was even better. Intrigued when I saw mushroom pate on the menu, I was unprepared for how fabulous a non-animal version could be. The creamy pate of local mushrooms was given a crown of crushed hazelnuts and smoked cherry gelee with a sprinkle of cocoa and had fat slices of crusty brown bread for spreading it on.

It was an umami bomb in the best possible way and I can all but guarantee that I'll order it again the next time I go. It was that unique and that memorable.

A warm Fall salad dubbed the Edible Garden got major points for the toothsome cannellini beans, Brussels sprouts, savory roasted squash, baby rutabagas and turnips dressed with celery root puree and horseradish ricotta, albeit a tad too much of the latter. Still, a warm salad on a cold night is one of the very few benefits of this suddenly cooler weather (I really can't think of any others).

Every bit as impressive was steelhead trout tartare bound with grapefruit aioli and mustard seed layered over beets and crowned with strips of sweet shishito peppers and dill. The sweetness of the beets complemented the trout in ways I couldn't have imagined, so when our water cracker supply ran low, we asked for more.

Honestly, I'm here to say that it's a rare restaurant kitchen that can determine the correct bread/cracker to dip/spread ratio. Can we get a TED talk on this? I can't be the only person who always needs more carbs on which to spread whatever yummy topping I've ordered.

Quelle horror, once the second batch of crackers were history, I resorted to finishing the tartare via fork to mouth. I mean, come on.

At half an hour before curtain time, we took a chance on ordering dessert, confident that we could scarf it and still stroll over to RTP with time to spare. A citrus upside down cake with chocolate ganache caught my eye and the dense and delicately flavored cake - not to mention the dumpling-size dollop of ganache - with candied orange on top was refreshingly different from the usual dessert menu standards.

My only complaint was bathroom lighting so dim I couldn't be sure I was putting my lipstick on properly, but perhaps that's not a thing in Scott's Addition.

Too catty?

Walking over to RTP, we tried to mentally prepare ourselves for the difficult subject we were about to see. If most of us learned about Laramie, Wyoming because of Matthew Shepard's brutal death, most of us hadn't thought much about it since.

But watching eight actors play over 60 roles - effortlessly shape-shifting before our eyes from one character to another -  was enough to bring many of the details back, causing me to realize how much I must have read about the horrific crime back when it happened in 1998.

Turns out I'd absorbed far more than I thought, yet hadn't allowed myself to think about it for years.

What was perhaps most striking about the script was that all the dialog was taken from interviews that the Tectonic Theatre Project had done in the year and a half after Matthew died. The reactions go from self-defensive to more open-minded and some of the evolving that the Laramie townspeople do is nothing short of extraordinary. For a small town to have so much international media attention focused on them for so long naturally resulted in some soul-searching.

I was most struck by a character Annella Kaine (yes, Tim's daughter) played, where she ruminated on how what happened wasn't who Laramie was as a community. Except that, she concluded, it had happened so it was who Laramie was, sadly. That's a powerful acknowledgement of something many others hadn't yet grasped.

With two intermissions, the play was technically long, even as it felt like it unfolded in real time. Hurrying the story would have been a disservice to the memory of Matthew Shepard, whose parents attended a performance of the RTP production a few weeks ago.

Walking out of the theater, my head was going in multiple directions. I'd been gobsmacked by what director Lucian Restivo and RTP had done with this incredibly well-acted production and the ensemble work demonstrated just how much talent is in this town for any given play.

But I also couldn't help but think about hate crimes and the state of the country today. When Mr. Wright mentioned that Wyoming still doesn't have a law against hate crimes based on sexual orientation (although 31 states and D.C. do) 20 years after Matthew Shepard was murdered, I couldn't believe my ears.

Theater that becomes a rallying point for change is theater for the greater good. We should all be grateful to Richmond Triangle Players for being part of the solution rather than the problem.

Not to mention how good they look doing it.


  1. Restaurant with perfect vehicle to spread ratio: Cork on Saginaw in Flint, MI. Smoked Whitefish Pate appetizer. I've ordered it three times on separate occasions, and I've scraped the tiny bowl clean with the last cracker every time. So satisfying. And the mushroom pate and Edible Garden sound wonderful - will be visiting Aloi soon.

  2. Now THAT'S what I'm talking about! Cracker to spread ratio that doesn't involve pleading, "More, sir!"