Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dinner and a Show

Two evenings in the past month have found me heading on I-64 W to Charlottesville for a concert. And who wants to hear music on an empty stomach? One more reason to sample some of Central Virginia's better restaurant scenes.

Before a Wilco show, we had a nice dinner at Zocalo, which means 'center of town' or town square in Spanish colloquial speech. It is aptly named for its convenient location on Charlottesville's Downtown Mall, just a stones throw from the concert venue. I started with a beer at the bar with a platter of traditional Spanish cheeses including a manchego and another one with a tamarind jelly. For a first, I had a spicy tuna tartar prepared with red corn tostadas, cucumber relish, pasilla-negro vinegar and tequila crema. The tuna was almost an afterthought to this spicy blend. Delicious but perhaps too strong a combo to truly taste the tuna. For a main dish I took a seared duck breast- well cooked and served with a decadent manchego carmelized onion bread pudding, braised swiss chard, and a chipotle port compote.
By the way, Wilco was tremendous.

A few weeks later three friends piled into a minivan with a cooler of beer to venture back in time to see the Police. For me, it was 26 years in the making. My first concert had been the Police at Shea Stadium in New York (with a fresh REM opening act). We had a lovely meal at MAS, a cool Tapas restaurant in Charlottesville's hip Belmont neighborhood. We munched on a variety of tasty dishes:

Pan al horno (to-go or warmed brick-oven bread w/ extra virgin olive oil)
Nueces picantes (spicy Marcona almonds and walnuts)
Boquerones ( blanched white anchovies marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, and herbs)
Tortilla espanola (organic eggs, potatoes, onions, and sea salt)
Carne asada (marinated hanging tenderloin -grilled rare only- w/ smoked tomato alioli)
Ensalada de calamari (soicy squid salad w/ salt capers, lemon, and parsley with baby arugula
Pato asado (Catalan-style: slowly braised duck confit w/ fig-sherry glaze)
Chuleta de cerda con mojo( pork chop, pan seared, served with almond, basil and garlic mojo)

Dinner was the highlight of the evening. While the Police can still play well, their show was a bit cold and reserved, without much soul.

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