Friday, March 8, 2019

The Difference Between Absinthe and a Sunset

It was like a AAA page ripped from 2013 or 2015.

First was Amuse, where Mr. Wright and I were greeted by the blond Californian and directed to the bar. En route to be seated, a familiar server said hello as she passed with a tray of drinks. Outside, it was still light, if a bit gray.

Like so many nights of the past, it was no trouble at all to wile away several hours at the very end of Amuse's bar, while behind us tables went from set and ready to occupied and messy and the room's volume steadily went up.

But the bar was uncrowded enough that the bartender found time to read from her paperback book when she thought no one was looking. I'm always thrilled to see a millennial reading an actual book, but come on, aren't you supposed to be working?

Always with Spain in our sites, we sipped Jaume Serra Cristalino Cava while spooning up bites of winter squash bisque singing with fall spices and sorghum. Good as it was, it definitely tasted more like November than March, but then I always have my eye on the arrival of warmer days.

Needless to say, I'm overjoyed at the time change arriving this weekend and restoring some sense of hope for what's to come.

A salad of local greens with spicy cashews and apple slices was dressed with green goddess, a round of whipped Feta atop it all. Mussels and housemade bacon swam in a bowl of white wine and butter, heavy on the butter, with a piece of grilled bread for sopping. Truth be told, it should have arrived with at least two slices, because I'm a firm believer in the "let no broth go unsopped" philosophy.

After we finished eating, it was time to think about the second A, absinthe. I interrupted the bartender's reading to suggest that if she filled up the absinthe fountain with ice water now, it would be ready when I was. "Do you want one now?" she asked. Was I not clear? I assured her she'd be the first to know.

She solved the problem of having her reading interrupted again by pouring a glass of absinthe, laying the absinthe spoon across it and placing a sugar cube atop that and setting it in front of me. I was already seated adjacent to the absinthe fountain (appropriate, no?), so setting up my own drip only made sense.

That and years of practice.

My chocolate pate touched down before my absinthe drip was finished, so I went ahead and fell on that sword and began forking up bites of what tasted like chocolate butter. Decadently good.

Finally, the sugar cube was history. Taking a sip to welcome the green fairy took me back to all those times dating back to 2011 when I'd found myself sitting at Amuse doing the same.

Some pleasures are timeless and a nice meal before a drip will always be a satisfying way to wile away the evening, especially with such good company.

Eventually, bathed in the seductive glow of the green fairy, we made our way downstairs for the final A, art. I'd set my sights on seeing "Hollar's Encyclopedic Eye: Prints from the Frank Raysor Collection," a sizable show of 200 or so prints of the 2500 the artist made during his life.

Or, at least given the absinthe buzz, see part of it.

A distinct pleasure of the exhibit was using one of the handheld magnifying glasses available to really see the prints, which, whether engravings or etchings (one was both, the figure engraved, the background etched), are incredibly detailed. I learned what a compromise view was, neither bird's eye nor straight on.

And the range of subjects chosen for the show was startling, everything from close-ups of women's hat styles to insects to long views of people playing yard games in a town square. Hollar's ability to capture the texture of a brocade dress or the intricate curls on a royal's head came to life with the magnifying glass.

Then before we knew it, it was time for the museum to close, leaving Mr. Wright and me no choice but to abandon Hollar for greener pastures. And therein lies the difference between all those old times sipping absinthe at Amuse and now.

Oscar Wilde claimed that a glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world. Anything? I'll have to disagree.

The green fairy knows that when you're finally in the right pasture, there's are several things more poetical. Greener is good.

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