Friday, March 1, 2019

I Got Soul, But Not From Tacos

When given the choice, I chose to shirk my civic duty.

Weeks ago, Mr. Wright had reserved us two spots at the Mayorathon at the ICA and I readily agreed to an evening devoted to taking a mid-term temperature on how our mayor is handling his duties. Since he was never my first choice for mayor in the first place, it's not surprising that I haven't exactly been thrilled with some of the decisions he's made.

But when it came down to it, when Mr.Wright admitted that he could go either way on going or not, I was that irresponsible person who voted for fun over civic responsibility. Let someone else do the heavy lifting tonight.

So when I walked outside to greet him after a full day knocking out two deadlines, I already had a plan in mind and it began with wine at Saison Market. It was early enough that things were quiet at the market, so after scoring glasses of house Rose and red, we retreated to our favorite table in the middle of the room to allow the place to fill up around us.

I told him how Mac and I had once again gone down to check on the status of the pipeline this morning only to find the water had receded enough that we could walk it. What hadn't receded was the abundance of fine white sand that rose in sand dune-like mounds on either side of the easternmost end of the walkway. We only got about a fifth of the way out on the pipeline itself because waves were still rolling over most of it.

I told him we'd stopped midway along to take a selfie of our smiling faces against the roiling whitecaps behind us as documentation of what a long stretch it's been that we've been unable to get on it from Brown's Island.

My plan once our wine needs were sated was to stroll down to Second Street for some Soul Tacos and we did set out, but the moment we walked by Saison's window and saw the unoccupied bar, Mr. Wright had other ideas. Pointing out that our favorite stools were available, he suggested dinner on them instead of on unknown stools.

I am nothing if not flexible.

Besides, as Mr. Wright pointed out, had we gone to Soul Taco, we likely wouldn't have been keeping to our Spanish drinking theme, a goal easily accomplished with the floral and complex Raventos Blanc Brut Nature "de Nit."

So we'll say we did it for the research. Penedes, we're working our way to you.

As darkness fell and Saison began to get busy, our taco replacements arrived. A dish of roasted and fermented turnips, crispy on the outside and yielding on the inside, wasn't new to us, but we always agree that they'd make a turnip lover out of anyone. For a change, the cast iron cornbread didn't arrive in cast iron, but the familiar corn and sweet notes were there, along with that magnificent crust, my favorite part.

Watching the bartender work his magic, I commented that after six years, he must be able to do his job behind that bar blindfolded and he chuckled and agreed. The only exception, he said, was when he does the seasonal change in the cocktail menu because then bottles of booze get rearranged and it takes a week or two for him to feel blindfold-confident again.

Another tidbit he dropped was that next week is spring break for VCU - hooray, a week of easy parking and no parties in the 'hood - and that always means a week of tiki/island-style drinks at Saison. Beckham and I went a couple years ago and drank far too many fabulous rum drinks for our own good, so chances are high I'll drop by next week.

In a repeat of what we'd had at Adarra, we dined on fish stew, which was called a rundown. This time it was a melange of monkfish, rockfish, mussels, shrimp and catfish with small chunks of sweet potato swimming in a broth of coconut and habanero, a one-two punch of sweet and spicy best sopped up with the large pieces of grilled crusty bread rising out of the stew.

For a change, our conversation centered on my history, why I'd made certain decisions, how I'd put up with things I'd never tolerate now. You know, the usual soul-searching you do when the right person wants to understand the past in order to better plan the future. Good stuff.

Constitutionally unable to resist something called fig and chocolate torte, I was nonetheless gobsmacked when what looked like a quarter of  torte landed in front of me. Fig bits in the dense chocolate torte and whole figs atop it meant my fig lust - actually, our shared fig lust - meant mouthfuls of the darkest chocolate alternated with pops of the ultra-sweetness of fig.

And, no, that monster slice did not get polished off because after a lot of wine and food, apparently you can have too much of a good thing. The remainder followed us home because no fig/chocolate is ever left behind in my world.

Did we regret selling out our mayor and soulful tacos for an intimate dinner in the corner of a busy restaurant?

Don't make me laugh. As Mr. Wright likes to say, we've got 40 years to eat tacos.

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