Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Date on Downing Deserves No Blue Ribbon

2007_02_blueribbonbarI had a bad date last night.

I know, it’s a shocker. But this one took place at one of my absolute favorite neighborhood spots—a recommendation of the suitor—so it was extra disappointing. This was a first date, one I agreed to after a quick flirtation and number exchange when I was out with Celest at a favorite winter’s night watering hole, Park Bar, the other night. He was tall and handsome, had discreetly transferred our drinks to his tab, and lives in the West Village, like me. When we talked on the phone a couple of days later, he suggested a drink and snacks at Blue Ribbon Bar. Score! Good taste in the meet-up suggestion. This was promising…

Then it wasn’t. First, it was clear he’d already had a couple of cocktails when he showed up for our 9pm date. He wasn’t sloppy drunk yet, but I don’t like to feel like my date has been killing time with his work friends over successive rounds of beer before meeting up with me. I’d been at home, writing my blog, cooking chicken stock for soups this week and playing with different makeup looks for my selected date outfit. I don’t show up tipsy; neither should he!

Once at BRB, for some reason, he thought it extremely clever and chuckle-worthy to continually ask me,

“So, do you live at 10 Downing? Huh? Do you live at 10 Downing Street?!” Then he’d laugh, “No, I know you don’t, because I do! do live at 10 Downing. Makes me pretty powerful, huh? Got it?”

“But, really, exactly where do you live?”

(Note: Blue Ribbon Bar is on Downing St, at Bedford, so I guess that’s what started him off with this bizarre “joke.”) Now, I get the “10 Downing/ pretty powerful” reference (I did live in London, after all, and I read newspapers); it’s just not funny. And his arrogance was building. (Also, I would never tell someone exactly where I live, on the first date. I’ve had way too many unfortunate attempted drop-bys by unsuccessful suitors to go for that.) This was all annoying, but it was nothing compared to where his arrogance was leading him—to the wine list. One of my favorite lists in the city, understand.

I really am not a snob about my wine knowledge. I’d say it’s middling, compared with a lot of folks, but I am interested, well-traveled, devoted to learning and exploring, and I know what I like and what I don’t. Anglianico—like. Pushy date with an agenda to prove his superiority and thereby woo me into his bed—don’t like. He started with,

“Let me make a recommendation. You have to have a glass of the merlot.”

His tone was condescending; I’d only just picked up the list. When I told this story to Amanda the next day, she quickly pointed out that the smart move for a man who is trying to impress a woman is to ask her for a suggestion, especially if they are at one of her favorite places. I agree; that would have been the savvy move. The fact of the matter is, I wasn’t even planning on looking for a glass of wine this evening, since sherry is usually what I start with at BRB. I was planning to peruse the finos and olorosos and muse on whether I wanted sharp and citrusy, or deep oak and caramel flavors before dinner. I especially wanted sherry since I had already ordered the cumin-spiced almonds (oh, how I love them!) to munch on, when I first sat down…But no, he insisted I didn’t know what I was doing skipping the Merlot, so he railroaded me and ordered a bottle of his fave. At this point, I wasn’t ready to commit to an entire bottle’s worth of conversation with him, so I feared he’d be going home really wasted after having had to drink the better part of the bottle by himself while I ordered, and paid for, my own Amontillado.

That is, in fact, pretty much how it went down. He began insistently pestering me with mundane/offensive questions such as:

“Where are you from? Is your hair dyed? How old are you? (!) What do you do to pay your rent? And how much is it, anyway?”

—all of which was simply pretext for him telling me his story on each of those points:

“San Francisco, originally. Where my family owns the blah blah blah building…my dad is over sixty and still has a full head of dark hair, so I’m certain to have the good genes…I’m 32, but most of my friends are, like, 10 years younger than me…I’m one of those ‘Trust Fund Kids,’ (age 32, remember?!) with a sick apartment. You’d love it…”

Thankfully, Thomas, the manager at Mas across the street, walked in the door and waved hello to me. This was my signal to dump Downing St. and get to enjoying my evening. So, I smiled broadly, told him I appreciated his invitation, but felt like we weren’t really connecting, and that I didn’t, in fact, care for the Merlot, though he was gracious to have suggested it. Then I said I thought I’d go over and sit with my friend at the other side of the bar and I hoped he would have a great night.

Thomas drank beer and I sipped my sherry as we laughed and talked about how much I miss the late-night hours at Mas. We chatted with the bartender, who let us taste a couple of special wines they were offering by the glass. We munched on a sampling of imported olives: cerignolas, black belbis, and a kalamata-like variety. And we mused about the texture of the raw Mexican honey that they serve with the cheeses, all of which are from Murray’s. The night was turning out well: good company, delicious spirits and fantastic small plates. Downing St. seemed to have found someone to lecture on the superiority of his wine selection, but I saw her walk away and assumed he must have told his clever “do you live…” signature joke. A couple minutes later, I felt something hit my arm. I looked down, then up and across the bar, and realized Downing St. had actually thrown a piece of bread at me and was now scowling in my direction! Like in kindergarten. I was shocked, but I looked down and at the bread in my lap and realized it was focaccia—my favorite Blue Ribbon selection! So I picked it up and spread it with some triple crème…

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