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macon bistro & larder

As the lacquer fumes had not dissipated in any meaningful way by yesterday evening and we couldn’t use our table anyway, T and I decided to go out to eat. When was the last time we did so in spontaneous fashion? Who knows!

Anyway, I decided it’d be fun to pour myself into some jeans, slip on some heels and try to find seats at the bar of macon bistro & larder, a new’ish spot in Chevy Chase, DC, that I’ve been wanting to try for some time based on my friend, Jody’s, extremely positive review. The name derives from the chef’s childhood home in Macon, Georgia, and also from his travels throughout Europe, including Mâcon, France. Honestly, I can think of few better combinations than Southern (and French) food and French wine, and I will tell you that from the moment I stepped in site of macon, I loved everything about it.

DC-area folks might be familiar with the old Chevy Chase Arcade on Connecticut Ave, NW, between Livingston and Morrison Sts, NW. It’s a Classic Revival building that was erected in 1925 and is now a member of the city’s historic register. Inside, there’s an old-fashioned barber shop whose motorized pole still spins red, white and blue candy cane stripes out front, a jewelry store and what once was the Avant Garde Gallery and Frame Shop is now macon. Avant Garde relocated to a corner property further south on Connecticut, under new name (Chevy Chase Art Gallery) but same ownership (dear Kiu Kavousi).

macon is a fantastic addition to Chevy Chase, a wonderful neighborhood that boasts many fine businesses -Child’s Play, Circle Yoga, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Periwinkle and more- but little in the way of excellent food. We secured the last spot at the bar, one stool on the corner, and a friendly face soon brought a seat for T too. The lovely woman to my left and I struck up conversation over her deviled eggs and my phone case, the bartenders were both knowledgeable and charming despite being crushingly busy, the ambiance throughout was abuzz with happy chatter and good vibes and T and I settled in quickly and easily. The aesthetics are fantastic- love the fixtures over the bar, the layout of the place, the wallpaper, the chairs. Whoever did the restaurant did a fine job.

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Martini de Lamartine and macon’s bar as backdrop

The Martini de Lamartine quickly caught my eye as the cocktail with which I had to start my night, and it was so tasty that I ultimately had two. Vodka, St. Germain, orange, lemon and a twist, it was adult koolaid at its most sophisticated best: dangerously smooth and well-balanced. T had an unremarkable Saison beer but to be fair, the bartender told him it lacked character so he was forewarned.

People, the second thing to immediately jolt me to attention was the offering of Essie’s biscuits with honey butter and pepper jelly. No restaurant purporting to be Southern could get by without biscuits and pepper jelly on its menu so I was both relieved and thrilled to see the real deal here because, as I’ve mentioned, I was really grooving on everything about macon. Everything is made in house, and the combination of warm biscuit -tender and with a great crumb- slathered with creamy, room temp butter and perfectly seasoned, perfectly spreadable pepper jelly made me close my eyes for a moment and immediately commit to ordering biscuits from macon’s larder to go. Happiness washed over me anew with each bite, chased by liquid zen in each sip.

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macon’s biscuits, honey butter and pepper jelly

Whenever T tries a new restaurant, he orders either the house burger or the steak frites (if either is available). This is his standard test of quality (mine is roast chicken), and the results indicate to him whether or not a joint will last. Palena, for example, has a perfect burger in T’s opinion, and he is certain this is one of the reasons it’s been a successful staple in DC for so long. No burger at macon but, perhaps obviously with the â influence, steak frites shone from the menu light a beacon straight to T’s eyes. He handled the lack of ketchup with aplomb, not least because it was replaced by a garlic aioli, and was quite satisfied to surmise that the steak had been cooked sous vide first and then seared and then finding he was correct. Though you cannot tell from the photograph, the steak’s exterior was beautifully shellacked but its interior seemed to still quiver with life. Way too rare for moi, but T liked it.

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hangar steak with herbed butter, handcut frites and garlic aioli

As I am wont to do, I couldn’t decide on an entree so chose two starters instead. I like this option because it allows me to taste more of the menu and get a better feel for the place as a whole. And so, while I was tempted by the roast chicken with collards and onion confit (for reason, see above paragraph), I ultimately decided on the savory blue cheese cheesecake with a pecan crust red wine vinegar peaches and frisée and the bibb county salad which was a perfect combination of bibb lettuce, spiced pecans, shaved radishes, braised beets and a to-die-for buttermilk dressing. I could literally eat this exact salad every day.

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savory cheesecake (blue cheese) with red wine vinegar peaches and frisee

The cheesecake was good but not memorable in any way. I loved the toast points with which it was served, and I liked the consistency of the cake, but it lacked something. I can’t put my finger on what that something is, but it needed to be lifted to more ethereal and flavorful heights.

Though peach cobbler and coconut cake were on the dessert menu, we were too stuffed to consider a final course and so called for the check and our to-cook-at-home biscuits. T’s butt had fallen asleep from sitting for so long, so I told him to go walk around the neighborhood and get a pint of ice cream at CVS because I knew he’d want it later, and I’d settle up and meet him in a few.

The meaningful interaction

He agreed, and as I walked out of macon several minutes later, floating along with plump satiety and phone in hand so that I could buzz T, a middle-aged woman approached me and asked if I could help her get something to eat. I’d been so lost in my train of thought that I didn’t see her walk up, and I’m glad because my being unaware forced me to simply respond rather than think too much about anything.

“I’d be happy to. What are you hungry for?”

“Well, Starbucks is closed but there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts.”

“Where is there a Dunkin’ Donuts around here?” I asked. “I didn’t know that.”

“Oh, we’d have to take the bus.”

Y’all, I was not going to take the bus anywhere at this point, not least because I really did not wish to abandon my husband and our date.

“Let’s not get on a bus! What about a hamburger? Do you like hamburgers?” I asked as I saw the American City Diner on the next block.

“Oh yes, I love hamburgers.”

“Great, let’s go there. Do you like cheese on your burgers?”

“Oh yes!”

“OK, I can’t sit with you because I’m meeting my husband, but let’s go in and get you settled and order your burger.”

“Can I have a salad too?”

“Sure.”

The waitress who greeted us could not have been lovelier, and I was so touched by how respectfully she covertly took my money and agreed that yes, the woman could have “so many croutons” and went to great lengths to find the ranch dressing that was MIA because the woman really preferred ranch.

At this point, T called me to inquire about my disappearance, and I told him to meet me on the corner in a few. I love T because he didn’t ask any questions and when I told him the story, he didn’t ask about what her meal had cost and he didn’t remind me that he would not have made the same decision. He simply said, “It’s really great that you provided her a good and hearty meal.” What love, huh?

Sometimes it’s nice to just say yes. I often think about this when the boys ask to do or build something that I really have zero interest in or desire to do. “Just saying yes” honors them, though. It’s a small way to show them how much I love them. To simply follow their lead, to let them decide, to not feel judged or hemmed in. To feel that someone cares about them and what they wish for in that moment.

I wished the woman a good meal and walked back out into the night. As we drove off, I could see her through the lit window, sitting comfortably inside the warm diner, and I hope she enjoyed every crouton and that big old cheeseburger.

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When the children are away, the parents will play (and laze)

People, it is absolutely remarkable how zen my home feels when the children are happily elsewhere. Since they are with my parents who take them swimming as much as they want AND feign interest in Pokémon AND take them for sno-cones and donuts, I know that the children, who are elsewhere, are most definitely happy. Since that’s the case, we are rolling in lazy zentasticness over here. Swear to g, y’all I neither changed out of PJs or brushed my teeth until 1:30 this afternoon. Why bother with either when A) it’s raining and B) you have nowhere to be and so C) you can clean Oliver’s, aka Tiny Hoarder, room? I cannot even tell you how much stuff I purged from that “treasure chest.” You heard it here first if he ends up starring in a hoarder reality show some day. Some of the “treasures” with which I dispensed:

  • a paper lunch bag FULL of pine needles, chipped bark and a faux gem
  • a secret stash of assorted gum and candy wrappers
  • a giant petrified raisin
  • various paper crowns, tee-pees and feather-bedecked hats(?)
  • multiple drawings of pokeballs and butts

I felt wildly productive and free.

As I stood up, my calves seemed locked into some sort of bad position that can only derive from lack of use. It therefore seemed appropriate (necessary) to visit a long-lost haunt known as the gym. I stretched, did some cardio, saw some friends and finally returned to my car at which point I realized, upon seeing a sort of diagonal angle of myself in the car window, that my bosom looked extremely unbalanced. Long story short, only one of the boob pads in my sports top was in. I give up on boob pads because A) they’re annoying to remove for the laundry and then put back in because (and perhaps this is my failure) they always end up with an odd crease that seems to show through and alert everyone to the fact that I have boob pads in; B) they remind me of people who put other folks’ pictures on dating sites: you are definitely going to be found out, person, and you will then look like a total tool.

Once in the car, I ripped out the remaining pad and threw it into my console. It occurred to me that if someone looked in my car, it’d be really weird to see a beige, oblong foam pad in there so I hid it with my grocery list.

When I arrived at the grocery, I hid the damn pad again because obviously I needed my list. The market was so busy I started to wonder if I’d missed news of Armageddon happening tonight, but I channeled my zen and let everyone have the right of way. Where did I have to be? Nowhere. Karma people, karma.

Back in the car, I threw the boob pad in my purse where it remains (note to self: remove it because discovery by anyone else will be embarrassing) and headed home in a jolly mood. Intending to make granola and ricotta, I instead had to haul immediate ass upstairs because Tom decided to relacquer our table and I am certain I lost an enormous number of brain cells in the short time it took me to throw everything into our fridge. It seems we will be going out to eat tonight. And you know what? We can.

This staycation is SUCH a gift. Thank you, Mom and Dad!

Last night’s dinner

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braised short ribs atop hominy stew a la Hugh Acheson

Yesterday, I was overcome with such a serious yen for short ribs that it felt like a schizo imperative. We ate well last night, in part because of this moment of craze. Braised short ribs atop hominy stew (thank you, Hugh Acheson), watermelon-feta salad (I know, serious obsession) and my crispy Brussels sprouts with lemon, capers and Pecorino. Outstanding. Then we played Monopoly, and I got creamed. Then we watched The Knick which is beyond fabulous and totally redeemed my glum over having been stripped of Boardwalk. If y’all are not watching Clive Owen and this fab new show, you need to start doing so!

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crispy Brussels sprouts with lemon, capers and pecorino

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Airport Security: Is it Effective?

It was both thrilling and awful to leave my little ones yesterday as they commenced their annual Big Boys Week with my parents. While it is always such a complete and fun success for everyone and though I am enormously excited and in real need of this incredible week off, Jack was so teary and looked so truly sad that my heart hurt more than a bit.

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a very old work

As it turned out, I was stopped by security who felt it imperative to X-ray, sniff and scan six ways to Sunday this little clay tchotchke I made decades ago in a summertime arts camp, unearthed in my closet while in Lake Charles and decided to bring home with me. I was absolutely flummoxed as to why this crude item was so suspicious and needed such intense examination, but while it was being scrutinized, Jack and I blew kisses and made crazy hand gestures to each other through the glass windows separating the waiting and security areas.

He dried his eyes, realized anew that his beloved Pokémon badges were in his “fancy” case (an old jewelry box of mine) in his hand and moved on, distracted in the darling way kids can be until they’re old enough to learn otherwise.

On my flights home, I read and napped and thought about what a wonderful, though exceedingly brief, time I had at home. Three generations of us plus some cousins who came to visit, a magnificent Louisiana thunderstorm, Nelson’s donuts (the best in the world), archery, sweat, Spanish moss hanging languidly from ancient Oaks, lots of swimming and a great meal out at a new restaurant called Calla.

Food

Mom and Dad took me out my last night there, and I liked the look and feel of Calla as soon as I walked in. Chic and current but infinitely comfortable and relaxed. I had on a dress and heels, a physician had on his scrubs and there was pretty much everything in between, fashion-wise. I love that kind of place.

The most immediate best thing was the wine list which was completely and refreshingly devoid of the usual suspects. Amen, Calla, amen. I loved the Albariño I chose, so much that I ordered a second glass. Mom enjoyed her French Sauvignon blanc and Dad his Cabernet.

Calla adheres to the ever-popular small-plate style, and with nary a pause, I started us off with some blue crab beignets with almonds and mint; a beet, pistachio, tarragon and goat cheese salad; and a compressed watermelon and avocado salad feta and jalapeño. The heat in the latter dish overwhelmed all else, but the beignets and beets were terrific. Please pardon the low-quality iPhone pics; I was trying to be sly.

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blue crab beignets with mint and almonds

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roasted beets with tarragon, goat cheese, pistachios

Later, I went for a cheese plate with lavash as well as a bowl of fantastically-seasoned red snapper ceviche. Ooh, for another round of that. And I simply had to have dessert and wisely chose the chocolate tart with candied orange peel and a ginger snap. Fan.tas.tic.

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chocolate tart with candied orange peel and a ginger snap

Fashion

Before moving into the fashiony fluff, I want to say thank you to the many (!) of you who read my piece about Ferguson and white privilege and all who commented, here, via email and on Facebook. Thank you.

Most of time, I am in elastic-waist pajamas or clothes that very closely resemble them. I think this is swell. However, perhaps idiosyncratically, I love fashion. Clothes and shoes make me feel very happy and excited, even when eyeing them through windows or in magazines. Can I just share a few fab things with you?

Oh my goodness on this sleek, lush skirt. Not many could wear this, and I hate the shirt, but yowzers on this skirt.

gucci

SKIRT!

Secondly, isn’t this cape magnificent? For some bizarre reason I showed it to Tom. He immediately said, “I can’t believe you want to buy that! Where and how would you wear that?”

bally

cape!

This was one of those conversations that made me wonder if T and I had ever met. I am not a cape person. I have never owned a cape, do not feel I could pull one off, have no place to take a cape AND said nothing about buying this (probably outrageously-priced) one. He walked himself down.

Lastly, who doesn’t love Cara Delevingne’s eyebrows?! I do.

topshop

cara’s eyebrows!

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Last week, outside the gym locker rooms, I saw a friend. He’s a great guy, and I also love his wife. We met nearly four years ago when our children started kindergarten together. They are both incredibly successful professionals and their kids are the sort you meet and think, “What terrific kids!” Which of course also means, “What terrific parents.”

We started catching up, and I asked if he was still travelling fairly constantly for work. He’s been on the road regularly for the past year and told me that pace hadn’t yet relented. Hopefully this fall. He must be a million-miler on all airlines by now.

Chit-chat transitioned into a powerful conversation about race in America, and for the next twenty minutes, I mostly listened, entranced and sad.

He and his wife are black. Did you have that in your mind’s eye? Or did that make you pause slightly, like the jury in A Time To Kill when Matthew McConaughey instructs them, “Now imagine that girl is black.”

We talked about what’s happening in Ferguson, the Eric Garner homicide, my friend’s own experiences as the victim of bigotry and racism since he was young. He told me about having been called the “n word” too many times to count, about having the police follow and pull him over for no reason and then question his ownership of his own car. He told me about the treatment his wife has received too; ugly, discriminatory profiling.

The albatrosses they now possess, constituted by years of these encounters, have made them think long and hard about how they need to prepare their children to be black in America. As he told me how -emphasizing perfect diction; learning how to handle being called the “n word” should that happen; teaching irreproachable behavior when in the presence of any authority, especially the police - I stood there, dumbstruck and heartbroken. We are definitely not in a post-racial U.S.

Our boys have been friends for years, and the way they walk down school halls or the baseball dugout now might be just the way they saunter through malls or towards a movie theater in another ten. My friend said that even though they (the boys) wouldn’t bat an eye, others might. Strangers may “look at them differently. If the police pass …” and something appears even the tiniest bit off, “nothing would happen to your son, but something could very easily happen to mine.” He said everything much more eloquently than that, but hopefully you get the drift. Remarkably, he didn’t sound bitter. He sounded resigned, and that crushed me.

For my heart hurt with those truths, throbbing with the painful knowledge that because I am white, I won’t have to prepare my kids in the same way. I have read and heard so much, especially lately, about black parents who are scared for their children (particularly for their sons) to simply walk down the street. Who fear for the hateful assumptions others will make for nothing more than the color of their skin. They have had to work, as will their children, harder than white peers for the same, or lesser, outcomes.

Trayvon, Michael, Eric. Black men walking on American streets one moment, dead the next. Killed. I’d be terrified too.

But those are never the worries I have for my sons. I fret about many things, but I take for granted -subconsciously; because I can- that they won’t be profiled and judged. That ability to not worry? That is white privilege and it’s despicable. That this privilege is another’s burden, too many others’ burden, enrages me and makes me cringe. It is morally indefensible.

Realizing the time, my friend and I quickly hugged and said goodbye. I thanked him profusely for the gift he gave me in this conversation, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I don’t think I will and I do hope we’ll pick up where we left off sometime soon. Discrimination is ugly and divisive, the sort of horribleness that necessarily exalts some while denigrating others. It reminds me of the caste system in India, an antiquated, racist scheme that I I suspect many Americans would condemn, despite the tragic double standard inherent in doing so.

In such an unequal system, the “exalted” must and should play an enormous role in fighting the injustice. It is additional discrimination to put the onus on the denigrated to themselves do better and overcome. Like hetero allies do in the fight for LGBTQ rights, so too must non-blacks rise up in protest of the Eric Garner and Michael Brown homicides. Garner was killed by a police officer. Killed. On a street in a chokehold, begging for breath while some ignorant idiot continued to apply pressure. And for what? Selling cigarettes when he shouldn’t have been?

So far, the officers responsible have been slapped on the wrists. They’re still employed by the NYPD. The NYPD union protested the claim -despite video evidence and the autopsy- that Garner died from the chokehold, citing instead his being overweight and in somewhat ill health. Mayor de Blasio called for dialogue. What would be different if Garner were white? I suspect much. And by the way, that officer, the one who killed Garner and still has his job? He was accused twice in 2013 of falsely arresting and abusing people. Who’s the threat here? The problem?

We all should have a problem with cops like that. We all should expect and demand more. Dialogue should prevent these sorts of deaths. It’s a largely empty suggestion afterwards.

Remember Cliven Bundy? That racist, nearly-seventy-year-old in Nevada who has refused to pay grazing fees on federal land for twenty years? Remember him sitting atop his horse, flanked by an equally crazed militia, all of them armed out the wazoo, pointing their guns directly at the Bureau of Land Management agents and screaming about their second amendment rights? Can you imagine if a group of black men sat in their place? I don’t at all think it’s exaggeration to say that at least one would have been shot dead and the rest jailed for life.

Ours is far from a fair and just society, and after all the years and decades spent fighting for equality on many fronts, it’s deeply upsetting to witness events that strongly suggest we have moved forward not an inch. American inequality plays out socioeconomically, racially, geographically, religiously, along gender lines and on and on. At times the future seems so terribly bleak: what can any of us do? What can one of us do? What can I do?

Right now, I can look microcosmically at myself as a white mother of two. I believe it is my responsibility to confront racism head-on by exposing my children to its ugly presence; as they see its injustice and are moved by it, I can try to guide them towards behavior that combats such intolerance.

It is my duty to expose them to the abject poverty in which many Americans live and foster in them desire to work towards its end. It is incumbent upon me to repeatedly remind them just how fortunate they are and to instill in them sincere generosity and eagerness to give back, not out of a sense of obligation but rather the deeply held conviction of what is just.

I want to continue to ask and listen and learn and talk. To stand up alongside and for my brothers and sisters in whose shoes I don’t walk so that I see more clearly their paths as they both converge with and diverge from my own. It is my hope that as my children see their mother walking the walk, they are inspired to do the same. And that at some point, the weights of injustice and suppression that debase the fabric of our society are weakened to the point of insignificance and true regret.

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I am not going to lie, friends. Yesterday’s trip to Louisiana was sooooo long. When we got to Houston and found that our next flight had been delayed, and then delayed again, I thought I’d perish. The boys were rolling around on the filthy floors, eating messily and popping back into their mouths what fell onto said floors. I have a very high threshold for germ toleration but this took even me down.

Meanwhile, Jack refused to remove his Pokémon glove which resulted in his looking like a terrifying cross between Michael Jackson and an 80s poser dude. Please observe. And the ever-boogery Oliver realized that if he squeezed his nose shut with his fingers and then inhaled deeply, his nose would stay shut and skeeve Jack out. I called him Voldemort, and every time Jack looked at Voldey, his eyes watered dramatically.

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On our way

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Voldenose

It was with enormous relief that we rounded the bend towards the baggage claim in LC and saw my parents. Once home, I poured a glass of wine and sat myself down. Hope y’all are well. No cooking for me today but tomorrow? Yes.

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I woke up this morning to a large cat on my stomach and two mostly-naked boys vying for sides of me. It was nice really- everything and everyone all a’purr. And then something tweaked the loving balance, plunging it into mayhem and we had to jump ship and head for the kitchen. Alas.

The boys are now wearing “jet-packs” -J’s is his giant, rolling carry-on bag, and Ol’s is a hilarious one Tom made from part of a wine shipment box and some Duck tape- and racing around the house like loons. I hope they get all this out before we get to the airport. Send me vibes, peeps. I can tell Tom is literally quivering with the desire to be quiet and alone. I get that completely. He’ll have four days in his own home by himself, and I’m happy for him.

The pie I made on Saturday was fully devoured by last night. Save for a piece I gave to M, a friend who never says no to my offers of food, bless her, T and I ate the whole thing. I had it for breakfast and twice more yesterday. Excellent!

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peach pie

I also awoke to the news that Michael Brown was shot six times. SIX. In case you have been under a rock, he is -was- the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, MO, who was killed by policemen last week. I am seriously angry about this and Eric Garner’s death; he too was killed by a policeman, by a chokehold on a New York street. I have more to say about this but I’m not ready.

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