Wednesday, September 28, 2011


This was a summer of crazy weather and personal journeys through hell and back. It was also a summer of lessons and growth, and it began and ended with concerts at the Charlottesville Pavilion.

The first show was The Arcade Fire in early June. The night was hot as hell at show time  — well past 90 degrees still. The band turned it on, though. The energy was great. I got texts from friends close to the stage and decided to hang back after aborted attempts to wade into the roiling, steamy crowd. it was a good show, though, and somewhere on my phone is a happy picture that belies the tensions that were already in the final stages of destroying our relationship.

The counterpoint to this show was seeing The Avett Brothers with the kid a couple weeks ago. Where the Arcade Fire show was tightly choreographed with a defined setlist. The Avetts show was the opposite. It felt loose from the moment they hit they stage, down to forgotten lyrics and missed cues. Still, it was a brilliant show. They were obviously happy to be on stage and engaged with the audience. And it felt more honest than the tighter, cleaner show at the beginning of the summer.

In the end, the bookends seem more stark than sandwiching a concert in on an "off" night in early June and taking the kid for a show I knew she'd enjoy in early September. (I wasn't the only dad who thought that, either, given the number of dads with daughters on the lawn that night.) The real kicker, though, is that I remember the tension at the first concert, and soon after, all hell broke loose. It wouldn't really calm down for another two months or so. In that time, life took some drastic turns; I discovered how powerful and insidious PTSD could be; and I spent a great deal of time gaining perspective, healing myself, and working on my relationship with the kid.

And that's where The Avett Brothers show really stands out in stark contrast. We barely made it to dinner at Mas Tapas and barely made it to the show, but I felt more relaxed than I'd felt in ages. Chalk the easing up to some positive turns in life in general and feeling like I'd finally been released from a strange, bad dream. Chalk it up to that, in part. But chalk it up also to watching the kid play with her glow sticks and smile as she curled up on the blanket next to me as the concert was winding down. And chalk it up to realizing — finally — that I was back in ways I hadn't been for years.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mas and more Mas

My previous visits to Mas in Charlottesville have all been exercises in controlled gluttony. You finish your meal realizing you have eaten perhaps double what you should have, but the food has been so good that the satiation feels grand.

 Tonight, it was just the kid and me.

 We scraped into the parking lot behind Mas with barely an hour to spare before The Avett Brothers concert. The wait was far too long, but the hostess had a bench with a not-really-table table that she could spare. Next thing you know, she is asking the kid which kind of juice soda she wants and what beer I want, and we're settling in at the nook in the corner. Not exactly perfect planning, but things were working out.

The kid was tired and distracted, but we covered the menu and put orders in. Anchovies, spinach and manchego salad, hummus, lamb sausage, and empanada with Caremont chevre. The dishes came out with remarkable speed, particularly considering how busy the restaurant was.

 The kid tried the anchovies; she wasn't sure about them, but it was a start. She liked the hummus though it was a tad spicy. The spinach salad? She hated the dressing. Hated it. One of the servers stopped by, and I took a step I rarely take which was to say that the salad wasn't to her liking. Next thing we know a comped spinach salad with oil and vinegar arrives. She wolfed it down, and minutes later we were paying the tab to get to the show.

How were my dishes? Terrific. The empanada with Caremont chevre, jalapenos and applewood smoked ham chunks was delicious. The merguez with a habanero-cider chutney was delicious. The anchovies were as delicate as they could be. And I could only finish the empanada.  As I told the excellent hostess, one of these days I will remember to order half of what I want to order.

The real win there wasn't the food, however, it was the service. They took care of us in ways that will be sure to bring me back. Kudos.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Culinary Catch-up...

Between the Maine trip, the puppy, general growth and healing, and management of a pithy nine-year old, I've written a half dozen blog posts — in my head. Ah well... Friday is as good a time as any to do a little catching up.

  • The lobster in Maine was good as always, but I have to admit that I'm more a fan of crab these days. Lobster is rich and delicious, but I like the softer flavor of the peaky-toe crabs we have up there. The crab cakes are delicate, and adding crab to a lobster risotto made for a delicious rethinking of a classic.

  • The other night, I had to scrape together a quick entree for a dinner party. There would be kids involved, as well as an adult who has cut meat out of her diet. Without time to go to the store, I pulled a bag of mixed seafood — scallops, shrimp, and calimari — from Trader Joe's out of the freezer. I sauteed up a couple cloves of garlic and a small, chopped onion in olive oil, added a bit of crushed chili and paprika. I sauteed the seafood quickly and added a half cup (or so) of red wine added. That was followed by a can of diced tomatoes and a cup (or so) of vegetable stock. Simmer for 20 minutes and serve with cous cous. Call it a poor man's bouillabaisse or perhaps a scrappy Portugese seafood stew. Whatever you call it, it was great. Thank god for a well-stocked larder.

  • The kid has begun to take her own stock in cooking now. I made Penne al Tonno last night for a quick tasty dinner, and she asked to make her own pot of pasta. Why? So she could make her own pasta for the next day's lunch. On vacation, she made two excellent grilled cheese sandwiches for me. What's next? Risotto?

  • Recent beer stand-outs have included a very nice seasonal bitter at Gritty McDuff's, an excellent Scotch ale from Atlantic Brewing, the BFM merlot cask-aged Grand Cru, and enough Life and Limb to satisfy me until they release it again.

Friday Fun — Old Favorites

I'm trying to lighten things up a bit here at Impolitic Eye, so this week I've decided to dig up a few old favorites. Cheers.

I first came across this Morcheeba track a few years ago, and it pops up from time to time when I need a reminder that the darker parts of me are worth letting go.

Wilco at its poppy best. And as always, Tweedy's lyrics are filled with truth.

I had the chance to see these guys on a last-minute whim in June. The night was hotter than hell, but they put on a great performance regardless.