It was a dark and stormy night (a Friday in New York City, to be precise) on which even Edward George Bulwer-Lytton would have stayed in; the weather down South had blown wind and cats and dogs of rain up the coast, and street trash sped across a mostly deserted Houston Street like it too wanted to evacuate for the last weekend of the summer.
As Jon and I hurried to our favorite dive bar, we reminisced about our first time there, which was a month or so after we met. The dive is next door west of Nolita House, and I do not know its name, nor do I want to. The name has been a mystery to me for the last 5+ years, and I'm happy for it to stay that way so that we can continue to call it just, "our dive bar."
After playing a rousing game of we've-got-the-whole-back-room-to-ourselves musical chairs, Jon and I settled into a stiff-backed leather banquette. He with his preferred Sierra Nevada Pale Ale draft, and me with my appropriately named Dark & Stormy. When I saw it on the drink board, I took one glance outside and knew I couldn't resist. The dive's recipe called for rum, fresh squeezed ginger juice, Rose's Lime, a splash of soda, and two slices of lime wedged on the rim. The tartness of the lime juice was enhanced by the ginger's spiciness and both were countered just so by the smooth rum. My dearest took a sip, looked at me like I was a madwoman, and yowled that the drink had burned a hole in his throat. I smiled unsympathetically and noted that I'd like another except it was time for dinner.
While our flavor palates don't always align, they're similar enough that Jon and I could share all of the swoon-worthy pintxos (tapas) during our virgin meal at Bar Carrera. This one-year-old this month bar and dinner spot is next door to and owned by the same smart dude as Bar Veloce, and focuses on Iberian wine, Spanish sherry, and Basque tapas. We ordered all five of the plates that the waiter recommended, which at $3.50 a pop are easily the best deal in the city. As we waited for our food and sipped glasses of red, I admired the lean set-up of the kitchen: there were no empty bottles or adornments for show. Each foodstuff and piece of equipment behind the bar was there to be used, from the small deep fryer for patatas brava, to the olive oils, breads, cheeses, chocolates, and only mildly offensive Serrano ham legs.
Along with the patatas brava, which are served with red-pepper mayo, we had the pan con tomate on grilled brioche topped with olive-oil powder; 80-day aged Serrano (not at all offensive to the taste); crisp yet luscious chorizo sandwich on a honey mustard coated baguette, and the most heavenly slices of juniper glazed pork belly served with white bean puree...you know how the phrase "melt-in-your-mouth" is sometimes used to describe something that is tasty but does more of a crumble-as-you-chew disintegration in your mouth? Well, the pork belly really did melt over my tongue. Oh the delight of the real deal!
I skipped with light food coma delight as we walked home discussing plans to return and order the rest of the menu on a future date night (yay, a second date!). Next time, after I taunt Jon with another Dark & Stormy at our dive, I will also order a glass of Bar C's Txacoli Txomin Etxaniz, a white wine that's traditionally poured from as high as the bartender can arch his arm. The bartender/waiter at Carrera is tall, and boy did that wine look pretty as it toppled into others' glasses.
I have started writing for a new women's online magazine called Form and Style (formandstyle.com). For the time being, my first story, on women and cooking, is subscription only. If you happen to read it, yes, the description of the fridge's contents was an apt description of mine until the boy and I moved in: condiments, low-fat milk, olives for martinis, a Brita pitcher and some leftovers.
If you live in or near Charleston, go see 36 Views at Pure Theatre. My BFF Dana directed it and my Matt is in it.
Crikey. Rest in Peace, Crocodile Hunter.