Thursday, December 13, 2018

Too Much Champagne is Just Right

If I was in charge of planning holiday celebrations, they would all include Champagne and eggnog.

But that's probably the bubbly and nog talking.

Our sole original intent was to make it to the Acacia Mini Bubbles dinner for three courses and three variations on the most festive of wines. Pru and Beau had both signed on for whatever the night held, with Beau (the non-bubbles fan), promising to show up with an open mind. While he's not as quick to have his head turned by sparkling wine as we are, he at least approaches these dinners with a willingness to have his mind changed.

And, truly, what more could a woman ask of a friend (or lover) than an open mind?

Driving to Acacia, Beau chose an unusual route that stranded us twice between double-parked cars on still snow-packed Mulberry Street, where Pru lived for many years. Some of our best friendship memories involve me going to Mulberry Street, where I'd scoop her up - planned or unplanned - and we'd have an adventure, many of them involving dancing.

Those halcyon, unemcumbered times are fondly referred to as the Mulberry Days and always spoken in a reverential tone. In fact, Beau slowed the car in respect as we drove on to Acacia.

As the front-of-the-house manager (and wife of the chef) greeted us, I couldn't help but be impressed with her attire: a t-shirt listing out the various forms of bubbly - Lambrusco, Cava, Prosecco, Cremant - with the most important, "Champagne," spelled out in silver sequins, a gift from her husband. Finishing it off was a ballerina-length black tulle skirt that turned the clever t-shirt into the most festive of attire.

When Pru noted that she had the same skirt, I couldn't resist suggesting that she wear it on New Year's Eve. If ever a girl can get away with tulle, it's at bubbly events or the turn of the calendar.

Moving on to more important matters, it should be noted that as always, Acacia's food offerings were superb.

Beginning with Azienda Agricola Brancher Prosecco di Valdobbiandene Superiore Extra Dry, we were immersed in sparkling wine. Accompanying the wine with its hint of residual sugar was smoked salmon atop a cauliflower pancake and topped with pickled onion, capers, egg dust and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Yet again proving the power of pairings, none of us were raving about the Prosecco until the fattiness of the creme fraiche obliterated the sweetness and made the Prosecco shine. Pru immediately dubbed it a perfect brunch sipper, reminding me of that Noel Coward quote, "Why do I drink Champagne for breakfast? Doesn't everyone?"

Not often enough, no.

As an added bonus, wine rep Brandon became our hero after announcing that mankind should drink as much sparkling wine as possible and that Champagne is his favorite beverage, bar none.

He then went on to extol the beauty of the Prosecco region and assured us it was still an uncrowded oasis for bubbly lovers (note to self).

While devouring that tasty course, conversation turned to the long-term prospects of Pru and Beau, a couple who have known each other for 35 years. When the subject of Pru tiring of Beau came up, he noted that she would have to pry him out of her life with a crowbar.

"Like a barnacle," he explained, sublimating his manhood to the metaphor and cracking me up.

Next up was pure decadence: crab fritters atop braised cabbage with Surry sausage in a creamy truffle sauce. With this, Brandon had paired Mont Marcal Cava Brut Rosado, thus satisfying my love of bubbles and Rose in one fell swoop.

The exquisite and oh-so mid-Atlantic pairing of crab and pig made all three of us inordinately happy because, let's face it, the combination is about as Virginia as you can get. When I wished that this combination could become an entree, Beau reminded me that it would be obscene to have any more of it.

So excess is bad now, right?

I parted ways with my friends when it came to the main course. My choice was sauteed rockfish over spaghetti squash under a blanket of clam chowder sauce, served with Larmandier-Bernier "Longitude" Blanc de Blanc, the pairing a symphony of whites and beiges.

The dynamic duo opted for braised beef short ribs over Yukon Gold potatoes with sauteed Swiss Chard made even more delicious for being paired with what Brandon described as "not like any other Champagne you've ever had," Andre Clouet Grand Cru Brut Rose.

Between the unexpected strawberry notes and creamy mouthfeel, it was completely seductive, the only problem being they each had glasses of it and I didn't. Being friends, however, I did get tastes. Of note was how well the wine paired with the Swiss Chard, of all things.

When it came time for dessert, a shared chocolate cremeux was sufficient because everyone was in the mood for liquid dessert.

For me, it was my own glass of that Andre Clouet Grand Cru Brut Rose, while Pru decided to do a speedball: a cup of French press coffee plus a bastardized Irish coffee (no Bailey's) that redeemed itself with a massive float of whipped heavy cream.

The non-Alpha male among us debated the liquor menu long and hard before deciding he wanted 15-year old Singleton, neat, please. Pru, in fine form two-fisting caffeine, leaned over and observed, "None of that octoroon whiskey for him," referring to the blended whiskeys.

Get enough quality alcohol in a person and she'll say anything.

Knowing the best way to keep Pru happy all winter, Beau placed an order for the Cava and the Brut Rose and, on that note, we headed out into the night. My suggestion of a final stop at a holiday bar seemed a festive way to wind things down, so we drove to Carytown to check out Miracle on Cary, the latest incarnation of the Jasper.

Seeing a line come out the door was almost a buzz kill, one I mitigated instantly by suggesting Christmas Session instead. While I've been to Rapp Session's holiday pop-up in the past, neither of them had and they were easily malleable agreeable by this point.

Beau is fond of saying that I always get my way, but I prefer to think that I just verbalize what others are thinking. And, yes, I'm still campaigning for that fried chicken and grower's Champagne party, my friend.

Regardless of how we'd ended up there, Christmas Session was the right choice, festive and low-key with only a half dozen other people around. Looking at the drink menu encased in a Christmas card, I opted for the Ebenezer, a potent blend of Mezcal, Hornitos Reposado, Agave, Cocchi Americano and Hellfire bitters while the happy couple each asked for a Rebel Without a Claus.

Because our friendship is based on tasting reciprocity, Beau and I each took one sip of our drinks before handing them off to be tasted by the other. Immediately we both knew we'd ordered the wrong drink and the switch was made.

The Rebel, a creamy blend of kettlecorn-infused rum, Frangelico, heavy cream, simple syrup and mole bitters in a coupe glass tasted like swanky eggnog and smelled like nutmeg, a combination I found irresistible, while he needed smokey, strong brown liquors with a giant ice cube.

Pru and I were on our second round of Rebels and feeling fine when Beau started snapping pictures of us under the strings of colored lights like we were subjects in a holiday magazine spread. We kept the theme going by ordering a final Rebel, which our affable server delivered with two sets of straws for ease of consumption.

Picture-taking brought up the subject of me not using photos on my blog - my recent picture of a snow penis on my car being a natural starting point - which I reminded them is impossible because the dated Blogger platform doesn't support photos beyond the main image and profile photo.

Words, people, I'm trying to use words to paint a picture, not pictures. Anyone can do that.

By the time we rolled out of Christmas Session, we'd outlasted all the selfie-taking groups from Rappahannock, heard enough holiday music for the rest of the season and topped off our evening of bubbly with multiple glasses of Christmas Past.

A girl couldn't ask for much more on a Wednesday night.

Except maybe to get home to a mailbox with a sweet card from Mr. Wright full of words that made my night, as well as a note from a local curator telling me, "I so appreciate your writing and the way you make information about something visual come alive."

And that, dear reader, is why you'll never see the photograph of the snow penis here. I've got enough to do just making my adventures come alive.

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