THE PERIGIRINATIONS OF A PARIAH
DAY SIX: WASHING UP IN WASHINGTON D.C.
Another hacking cough had me awake at 3 am and watching infomercials from my hotel bed in Chicago until my morning porridge was delivered at 6am. By which time I had figured out how to be a millionaire with NO money down, build washboard abs, cleanse my skin, whiten my teeth and buy commemoration plates to sell on E-bay.
We had, in the interests of a later start, changed our flights from those that flew into Washington Dulles to some that flew into National. A smart move, no? NO. We had obviously thought without the horror that is Chicago O Hell airport and the stupefying incompetence that is United Airlines.
Suffice to say that, where as our original flight would have had us in town by 2pm, the delays to our alternate meant we did not arrive until nearer 5pm. This really is a hateful country to travel in by air.
I just had time to check in to my functional and standard room at the Renaissance Hotel before it was time to meet my chums for supper.
Hotels during convention times are scary things. During the BEA ( Book Expo of America ) they become more so as hundreds of thousands of people involved in the US book business flock into town. Mostly, it seemed, to hang out in the lobby of our hotel. It took me nearly fifteen minutes to find my chums. Mainly by a process of elimination where I assumed that they were not the ones with humongous hair or “caution wide load” backsides.
When we had finally gathered it was time for the short walk to our first meal of the fair.
As the name may suggest, it is a southern restaurant and my research showed that it gets very good local reviews.
Before we were seated we had to wait until all of our table arrived. I have never been able to get an explanation of why this is necessary. Anyone?
Still, it was worth the wait once we did get seated as service was seriously on the ball and friendly.
Pre dinner cocktails were a bit blah. My Manhattan was served in a highball despite a request for it to be up. A cosmo was insufficiently limey and a G&T was over diluted.
A dispiriting start if you will pardon the pun. But, things soon were rescued when the bread plate was brought to the table. Sublime buttermilk biscuits and cornbread with whipped butter. I tried a tiny bit of each but I could just as easily, devoured the plateful.
A few of us ordered the perfunctory house salads to begin with and we split a couple of orders of Fried Green Tomatoes. I don’t really get these but was assured that they were a very good example of the ilk.
More impressive though were the main courses. I plumped for the Southern Fried Chicken which was exactly that. Plump that is. I substituted the mash potatoes for sauted mustard greens and it also came with collard greens and pan gravy. Some of the best I have had in the US since I ate at Jaques-imo’s in NOLA.
Others went for Pork Chops on maple whipped yams, New York Strip and, devilled shrimp stuffed with blue crab and served on Mac & Cheese. I tasted a little bit of all and all were well worth trying. The whipped yams in particular. My chicken was by far and away the star, however. Golden and crispy with crunchy skin and moist flesh.
Desserts were, as they seem to have been since I set foot in the country, ludicrous. We split a peanut butter pie, a sweet potato cheesecake, a pecan pie and some sort of fruit basket in a brandy snap that had whipped cream and ice cream added just in case the fruit threatened to have any beneficial nutritional effect.
Not a cheap way to begin the fair with the meal for 8 coming to the best part of $500. But, a pleasant way to spend the evening before book fair and a good way to get over the horrors of travelling domestically within the US.