Saturday, November 05, 2011

The Vices that Made Virginia, Celebrating

Monkeyrotica and I went to the second annual The Vices That Made Virginia, a sold-out annual event supporting sustainable food and agriculture for our second year. We had really enjoyed last year's experience, with great food, amazing wine and spirits, and fantastic people, so when we found out they were repeating the event, signed up immediately. The cherry on top to the soirée was the event's date: Monkey's birthday. We headed out, ready to enjoy ourselves. Taking a lesson learned from last year's cold and muddy experience at Woodlawn Plantation, I layered up my clothes, sported my galoshes, and managed to be perfectly, appropriately dressed.

An Arcadia t-shirt for sale at VTMV
When we arrived, we were a little early and the main tent hadn't opened yet, but the space was already thronging with people. What was the deal? I overheard someone talking about getting their tickets through Living Social, an online site for crowdsourced discounts, and understood immediately how and why the overall scene was much different from last year. Last year's group of people were primarily associated with the food industry, or the sustainable ag community, or just really into the restaurants/wineries/distilleries that were being featured. The overall effect for the previous event was a group of afficionados who felt privileged to be at an "Event Celebrating the Cause." This year, it was more like being at a tourist attraction. The Living Social ticket included an early arrival with a pre-event, cut-the-line bus pass for an additional fee. That explained that.

We got in line for drinks, then walked over to check out the handrolled-cigar area with my cranberry champagne in hand to catch a glimpse of the artisans at work. I think Monkey was able to see what was going on, but there were too many people blocking the low table, and I couldn't see a darned thing, so I hung in back until he showed up with his treasured new cigar in hand. We tried to head back outside, but were stuck. There were a clump of morons who were standing around, lighting their cigars right in front of THE FREAKING DOORWAY, oblivious to all the people on either side of them who were either trying to enter or leave the building. We pushed through, but I couldn't help ranting to Monkey about what idiots they were, and how despite getting shoved, they were all still in the same clump, being idiots, and I started feeling a lot better. Maybe it was the champagne or just that I let off some steam, but this is when I started to have a good time.

Portrait of Nylonthread and Monkeyrotica at Woodlawn Plantation
We skulked over to the main tent as the clock was closing in on 4 p.m., when the event was scheduled to open. Monkey knew (and the Living Social crowd likely did not) that the most scrumptiously delicious, large, and fresh (local, sustainable) oysters would be waiting at the back of the tent. We made a beeline for it. I scarfed down about a half dozen of the lovely oysters while he put away close to three dozen of the plump and briny delicacies. Nearby, there was a table set with Oysters Bienville, a salad of julienned brussels sprouts with maple-roasted pecans, and a selection of roasted root vegetables, all of which I sampled. All were wonderful and I couldn't help but think how lucky I was to be surrounded my so many fabulously prepared foods. The tent was filling with people as I squeezed my way past tables of food: pork shoulder, cheese ravioli, thinly sliced cured hams, and stopped at the shrimp and grits. The cook from Tallula was wonderful to watch — an artist with his presentations and adorably smiley and sweet to boot. As soon as he brought out a tray of small bowls each with shrimp lovingly arranged on a grit cake, cream sauce, then dressed it with basil oil and micro-greens, all the bowls were gone within 15 seconds. Monkey and I were squeezed next to his table and became entranced by this, so we timed it.
Tallula Eat Bar's shrimp and grits, just plated
I love this photo. I was waiting for just the right moment, after the cook finished plating all the dishes and before they were gone and almost missed it! See the grabbing fingers?

Sipping butternut squash bisque
We left the crowded tent to catch some air (read: Monkey got his cigar on) and the remaining shafts of sunlight for the day. We estimated the crowd count totals: 800? 1,000 people? A waiter handed me a small cup of butternut squash bisque and I savored every creamy drop. There was a photo booth, stocked with period costumes and wigs for silly people have record of themselves being silly. The staff were putting out space heaters around the tables where every third guest was smoking a cigar. Replenished, we headed back in to brave the longest line: pulled pork with apple-herbed coleslaw. People were queued up from the front of the tent to the back. We were feeling patient, so found the tail-end and stood. After finally making our way to the table, we enjoyed our servings. The pork was nice, but lacking in smoke flavor (however, there were smoked pig heads adjacently displayed — bait and switch?). Perhaps because of the large crowd, they weren't able to prepare for the large quantities with a smoker the way they did last year and went for oven roasting instead. Still tasty, and the slaw was a perfect accompaniment.

As we made our way to the front of the tent, we introduced ourselves to and joined a trio of friends at a small table and began making small talk with them when someone nearby yelped, "pies!" A swarm of diners advanced on the dessert table, and like a seething mass, dove in and out with multiple pie slices. The adventurous types at our table (not me! I watched and laughed from the sidelines) arrived with arms full of doubles of each selection for the group: chocolate-bourbon pecan pie, pumpkin pie, and key lime pie. I had one slice each of the key lime and pumpkin. Those sweet and creamy desserts called an end to our outing. We said our goodbyes and headed off to get the kids.

Happy birthday, Monkeyrotica, I hope you enjoyed our evening out! I wouldn't have missed any of its flavors, sour or sweet. Much love to you.

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