Times Like These That Make Up the Middle

V comes in the house grinning, “I got my bonus!”

Looking up from the Boston Bruins versus Pittsburg Penguins hockey game that is currently being played under my close supervision I reply, “So where are you taking us to dinner, Rockefeller?”

“Oh, I don’t know – you pick.”

The playful banter is on…”Not my money…”

V runs through several options which are all good. Clearly she wants me to weigh in, but I am steadfast in my resolve and I provide the same answer for each, “Not my money…”

V joins in the fun, “Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley? Kenny and Zukes?” These are places we love to go to when we are in Seattle and Portland.

I provide the same answer, “Not my money…”

“Ok then, it’s settled. “ V declares, sensing an opening. “Friday we are going to Grill On Gage. Saturday we are going to the wine shop, “Wine&More” and the final regular season home game of the Ams. On Sunday we are going to Thomas O’Neil’s. After all, Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day and we should go somewhere that has an O’ something in the name. Don’t you think?” She quickly adds, “I’ll pay for Friday night. We, are going to pay for the rest. Date night money?”

“Wow! That is quite the weekend you have planned for us. I hope you have enough money for all that! Wait! What? Date night money? Sounds more like Date Weekend! I hope I have enough stamina for all that! I should start resting up to make sure.” With that I put my feet up, close my eyes, and start snoring. The gag is up though when Boston scores the first of their two goals and I have to open my eyes to see the replay.

Friday evening finds us driving to the restaurant. Joe Bonamassa “Driving Towards Daylight” is in the player and his cover of New Coat Of Paint (written by Tom Waits) comes on. That’s just how things work sometimes. As we make the turn from Steptoe onto Gage I swear I could smell the smoker. My stomach was making noises before we even get to the parking lot. That is no joke and V is laughing at me, not with me.

V&I took my mom to lunch here about a month ago on the spur-of-the-moment after taking her shopping. I won’t go into the details of that adventure, except to say that I am seriously considering petitioning Pope Francis for V’s sainthood.

We walk in and seat ourselves. We like that part. Even though there are guests in the restaurant, we are still able to find a suitable table. A young fellow, Ryan Yates, is setting up his gear to provide music for the evening. I can’t help but notice he has nice guitars; a Gretsch electric, and a Fender acoustic. His style as we discover later is Rockabilly but not so loud as to disturb the ambiance or so we can’t converse. We are warmly welcomed to the establishment by Diane and Marade follows us to where we decide to sit to make sure we get started off on the right foot.

Fully in the moment now I can hardly contain my laughter. Its V’s money so she is in charge of ordering, even the wine. We look over the wine list and ponder the possibilities. There is a good variety of options and the price structure is easy on the budget, which is unusual for a restaurant in the Tri. V selects the 2012 Elsa Bianchi Malbec, an Argentinean Malbec from the Mendoza region.

Elsa Bianchi

Elsa Bianchi

Is that a sign that I should ruminate further on the sainthood petition for V? So much for me being a Washington Wine Bigot. That being said, the wine color is a deep purple and it is easy to see it aligns with the expectations for the varietal. We share our customary “Clink.” Experiencing the wine reveals it is smooth, light in tannins, with a nice finish. The wine is very drinkable, as most of the Mendoza Malbecs are. In fact, in a double blind tasting V&I hosted not too long ago, the inexpensive Mendoza region Malbecs came in 1, 2, and 3 while the Washington State wines came in at 4, 5, and 6. In fact, the wine placing number 6 cost three times as much as the wine which placed number 1. So there you go, expensive is not always better. However, it must be noted the Argentine vines are much, much older than Washington’s.

V has never experienced eating soft shelled crab, so without a doubt, that has to be our shared appetizer. It is plated with a ginger waisabi mayo and a sesame leek salad.

Softshelled Crab and Ginger-Waisabi Mayo

Softshelled Crab and Ginger-Waisabi Mayo

For the entree’ how could the choice not be something smoked, with that aroma wafting its way wherever the prevailing wind takes it? So we share the dry rubbed ribs and what a perfect complement to Malbec. All that can be said at this juncture is Chef Brian knows his stuff and we are grateful, as the sign reads outside, “Chef Brian Hodges is in the house.”

The Ribs

The Ribs

As dinner is nearing its conclusion, and as V was buying, we add two flutes of Treveri champagne (you may remember them from a couple of previous posts) to assuage my guilt over not supporting the Washington Wine industry at dinner, celebrate a bonus in this economy, and as a compliment to a creamy, luscious, crème’ brule’ for desert. The food presentation was as artistic as any metropolitan restaurant we have been to, delicious, and reasonably priced as well. We were indebted to Connie for keeping our water glasses full but not being intrusive. That seems to be a lost art in restaurants these days. Half the ribs and the remaining Malbec went home with us. What a night!

Treveri and Creme

Treveri and Creme

Saturday morning was spent puttering around the outside of the house sprucing up the various planting beds, raking leaves Winter had deposited where they were not wanted, and V impatiently pointing out this or that plant’s effort towards getting started on Spring. I don’t recall this being part of the plan. However, V has to have her dirt therapy as I call it. Spelled another way for me though is w-o-r-k.

Using the excuse of V not over-exerting, I call a halt to this episode of Green Acres and draw V’s attention to the fact the day is getting away from us if she still wanted to visit the Wine&More shop she had been anticipating.

Somehow or other, as if by magic, V goes in the house and then comes right back out again looking like a hundred thousand dollars. I save the million bucks compliment for times like next weekend when we attend the Columbia Basin College Foundation function. It is wise not to spend all that money in one place, I’ve been told.

Located in Kennewick’s expanding Southridge area, the Wine&More shop is a collection of wines most of which we haven’t seen in other stores, home decor, and gift items. There is also an area where the owner, Anita, has setup for hosted wine tastings and bistro. She enthusiastically greets us, explains her vision and passion, and shows us around the shop. V&I decide to take her up on the offer of a $10.00 flight of three Italian wines. The lineup includes a Barone Fini Valdadige Pinot Grigio, a Barone Fini Merlot, and a Tormaresca Torcicoda Primativo. Our notes on the tasting:

The Pinot Grigio is light in color and nose, sweet, but not overly so, flowing from the front palate, continuing through the middle, and a crisp clean finish. V said she tasted apple with her first sip. The Merlot was a bit “rugged” and tannic for me; I wasn’t a big fan at that moment, I am a Washington Wine Bigot after all. I am used to the more fruit forward Merlots from California and Washington. An example of those would be the Chateau St. Michelle, Indian Wells 2008 Merlot, the winner of our Fall double blind Merlot tasting we hosted. V gives me a wink; she knows what is going on in my mouth and head as if she were actually in my skin. That’s scary and fun at the same time. The Primativo was bigger, rounder, and fuller than the Merlot. Is this what the wine industry calls “approachable” I wonder?

We order a small appetizer to share from the menu and straightaway Anita goes into the back to fulfill our request. While she is busy we roam about the store a bit more. I am hoping that will give those Italians waiting for us back at the table additional opportunity to get some air. Perhaps I will gain a different perspective during the time away. I am told this is a commonly prescribed solution for when one finds oneself in a disagreement with no good outcome in sight.

Anita brings out the appetizer comprised of fresh small mozzarella balls swimming in a light tomato pesto and drizzled with balsamic vinegar resting on a bed of baby spring greens; arranged on the side are green olives, capers with the stems, and tiny slender breadsticks. All that and presented in a stemless Martini glass. V exclaims “How beautiful!” and Anita beams. Along with the appetizer she provides us with a sample of her special chicken salad wedge sandwich. Both items are full of flavor and we savor every bite.

After a couple of nibbles of the appetizer I go back for a taste of the Merlot. The ragged edges are now smooth. It was simply amazing how a little olive oil; herbs, tomato, balsamic, olives, salt, those little breadsticks, and additional time breathing transformed the wine into something rather pleasant. No disagreement now and that is the epitome of “food friendly” wine.

We want to linger but we must bid Wine&More a farewell – we have the regular season finale of Ams hockey on tap and the game is against the archenemy, Spokane Chiefs. We purchase a couple of home décor items and a gift then head home to make sure Sparky is fed, watered, and provided with, in his estimation very limited, “human time.” No matter how much attention he gets he always looks at you with a “That’s all?” look. Sorry buddy, have to go.

The Ams game, because it is so close to St. Patrick’s Day, is “Wear Green for Muscular Dystrophy” night. The Ams do a great deal for the community, and it is great to be a part of that effort. The recent Pink Ice night raised $24,000 dollars for the Tri-Cities Cancer Center and this night should be no different. The game itself, like most Tri-Spoke games, is a heated contest; see-saws back and forth and ends up going into overtime. Although the Ams end up on the short end of the scoreboard this night, because of the yearlong support of the community they are, and the Tri is, the true winner here.

It is important to note; the franchise has made a huge turnaround. Coming from a franchise that within a very short timeframe, hours from what I understand, would move out of the community to one which is only one of three teams in WHL history to win 40 games in 7 consecutive years. That is quite a feat, to say the least.

Our drive home after the game is filled with recalling one special moment after another. The young men are in the playoffs again and anything can happen. Did I mention the first round is against Spokane? Oh Baby!

“I am spent”, I pronounce as I enter the door. “We certainly packed a lot in today.”

V replies, “You certainly better get some rest, bucko. We’ve got lots to fill the day tomorrow.”

With a groan of “Oh God” it is good night, sweet prince. No fake snoring for me now.

With the dawn of a new day we discover we have plumbing issues in the kitchen. It appears the supply tubes to the faucet have worn out after ten years. On top of that it sounds like there is leak in the fill valve in the master bath’s toilet. Are you kidding me, on St. Patrick’s Day, no less? Two leaks in opposite ends of the house? C’mon now, I need a break!

Good thing the store is open early; I make the quick parts run and return. I am inspired all of a sudden and offer V the opportunity to come into the bathroom and observe the plumber’s crack.

She declines with “I don’t think I need to see that, thanks though.” She is a regular comedienne, I tell you. She is a real laugh a minute girl – she is.

As I am finishing up, I notice V in the doorway; we will just have to leave certain things left unsaid. Uh-Huh.

With the crisis narrowly averted, it is time to clean up and on with the final element of the “Date Weekend.” Dressed for the occasion, best green finery of course, we drive out to Thomas O’Neil’s. We have wanted to go to this winery for quite some time, just never have. Truth be told, a good friend of mine’s band, Primitive Circus, plays regularly there. However, with hockey and a seemingly endless array of other things vying for our attention, it is very difficult get out there. We arrive full of anticipation but that takes a sudden nosedive as we see from the sign on the door that they aren’t open on Sundays.

Ever the glass half-full girl, V says, “We will just have to make a point of coming out when the band plays. The weather is turning nicer and we should be able to fit it in. Let’s go have lunch just across the way at Shrub Steppe and call it a weekend. We’ve packed in quite a bit anyways. Don’t you think?”

How could I disagree?

Anyone who has been at B&V’s knows I am fond a certain toast. Not the toast V&I share – a different one. I usually play the role of the Irishman who stands and gives a toast, so why not make it a good one? The toast usually goes something on the order of, “Here’s to Beginnings and Endings, and times like these that make up the middle.”

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2 Responses to Times Like These That Make Up the Middle

  1. Kellie Hillis says:

    Your writing is awesome and entertaining Benn. You & vic need to teach Ron & I about wine. We love to drink it…..tht has to be a good start!

    • benndunn says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment! That is a big deal…Loving to drink wine is a good start to be sure, then being a student is the next step
      In Vino Veritas – a Latin phrase that translates, “in wine [there is the] truth”.


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