Monday, October 15, 2018

The Dark of the Matinee

There is a certain charm to an afternoon performance.

Unlike an evening play where you have to eat at a ridiculously early hour to be in your seat before the curtain rises at 7:30 or 8, a matinee allows for a leisurely morning and, after the production is over, a leisurely dinner.

It's all so civilized.

Mr. Wright and I met Pru and Beau to see "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" in front of Virginia Repertory Theatre, where they were hanging about like a bad smell anticipating our arrival. Since our seats weren't together, we used the time to discuss the fact that no one except Pru had read the best-selling book that had spawned the play.

She was not impressed when she found us lacking. On the other hand, she already knew what was going to happen, while for the rest of us, everything that unfolded would be a surprise.

"The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" managed to take the audience into the mind of a 15-year old boy who was both autistic and a savant when it came to numbers, a boy who couldn't bear being touched but was determined to accomplish something on his own.

The boy's determination to do some detecting to figure out who killed the neighbor's dog made for a sweet story, even as his father tried to shut his investigation down, while the discoveries he makes about his own family turned the simple detective story into something much heavier and darker.

Still, I found the production curiously satisfying since I never for a moment had any sense where the story would end up.

Leaving Virginia Rep, we made the easiest possible choice for dinner, heading directly across the street to Bar Solita, the latest offering from the Tarrant's team.

Right off the bat, they got major points for having taken the space conceived of by New Jersey bad boy chef (and #MeToo accused) Mike Isabella - a black, industrial, ornament-free cavern of a restaurant - and turning it into something softer with shades of green and yellow, curves and plants, all of which translated to Pru and I as having been accomplished with the obvious eye of a woman.

We especially liked the deep windowsills along the wall that provided room for multiple bottles of wine, purses, programs and anything else we wanted to stow.

Since Bar Solita is so new, it was a bit of a surprise that they were already out of the Sancerre Pru coveted, and for a moment, they thought they were out of our choice - Laurent Miguel Grenache Blanc - too, before managing to find a bottle of the easy-drinking wine. Meanwhile Pru and Beau made do with a Pinot Noir.

Everyone at the table was intrigued when we saw that they made a fig lemonade, so we each got one to satisfy our fig lust. Delicious, it was a tad light on fig for a true figophile.

Our server's first question had been if we'd come from the theater. Affirmative. With a bit of digging, I ascertained that the big news was that she had also read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time." Praise be, Pru was no longer alone in her literary leanings. The only problem was, our server explained that she had little memory of the story, so she wouldn't be good for discussing anything.

Pru may have thrown up her hands and given up at that point. We simply turned to food.

Mushrooms and sherry - garlic and olive oil-infused mushrooms roasted and lazing in a bath of sherry - were every bit as seductive as they sound. Next came shrimp swimming in garlic-infused olive oil with wedges of focaccia to soak up all that goodness with.

We were all so busy eating, sipping and talking that I regret to report that I have no clue what tapas Pru and Beau devoured. Tacos? Croquettes? I really can't say and they were less than two feet away.

Wisely, the Bar Solita folks had kept Isabella's wood-fired pizza oven. We made an excellent choice with the basil pesto pizza, notable for the roasted winter squash, housemade ricotta, red onion and shaved Brussels sprouts sprinkled with roasted and spiced squash seeds. Those seeds led to a discussion of toasting pumpkin seeds, something Mr. Wright is apparently fond of doing.

That he chooses not to salt them caused a mild conversational ruckus, but to each his own.

On the other side of the table was a breakfast pizza loaded with bacon, breakfast sausage, ricotta, mozzarella, red onions, sliced garlic and two eggs, which they claimed was delicious although unlike us, they couldn't finish it all. Amateurs.

As we dined, we covered all the important bases: bowtie-tying lessons, single malt Scotch, watching movies in the park and what we'd liked about Dubrovnik and Athens. We shared our new-found affinity for Mastika and our server, overhearing, texted a friend to find out if that was the same digestif she'd also fallen in love with. When she returned with a scrap of paper reading, "Mastica," we knew we were taken with the same Greek spirit.

Now, if only the Virginia ABC carried it. But they don't. A liquor run to Washington as part of my next museum trip now assumes greater urgency.

Dessert choices were a bit slim since, perish the thought, I wasn't about to eat baklava a week after returning from Athens. With no such issues, Pru and Beau couldn't resist the phylo-wrapped custard galaktoboureko, which also hails from Greece.

In fact, the only topic not nailed down as the sun set and we stayed put was when Pru is having her champagne and fried chicken party, although she claims the date is up to Beau. Inquiring minds are also curious about whether or not the absinthe fountain will come out for the big event, so stay tuned.

Because the beauty of a matinee is that you can have hours of these kind of discussions in between courses and bottles. The only end point is when the restaurant closes.

Gives a whole new meaning to afternoon delight.

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