Sunday, April 28, 2013
It doesn't smell like a pier stand or a seafood joint you might run across on the East Coast but it kind-of feels like one. The menu is both straightforward and odd and the food is great.
I say joint partly because that's the name; 20 Feet Seafood Joint.
Spoke and I checked it out Friday night. I grabbed the dry Riesling from the fridge and we headed toward Casa Linda, our mouths watering at the thought of a really good seafood spot having opened close by.
(20 Feet is currently BYOB and I do wish they'd consider staying that way though if I'm honest, come August, a cold Hendricks and tonic with cucumber could hit the spot alongside a bowl of those famous Green Room Mussels.)
We couldn't wait to eat but we took our time, hoping to grab a different table as soon as one opened up, to escape the ceiling vents blowing cold air upon us, which granted, I'll surely appreciate in the summer as I sip that gin and tonic and try to cool down...
Once comfy, we split an order of Fish and Chips, cutting the last, third piece, right down the middle, threatening our better half if they tried to edge out any bigger chunk of the plump, snow-white cod. I'd read about the fries so I was expecting them to be exceptionally good. They were; hot and crisp with a light touch of herbs. The Lobster Roll, served chilled, we saved for last, and it was about as good as I'd heard; simply dressed meat bursting out of a buttery, almost brioche-style, bun.
Tables all around us were sharing Blue Point Oysters. If I'd had a large conch shell to put up to my ear, I do believe I'd have heard it summoning me to make this the place, the joint, where I get over my fear and learn to enjoy raw oysters.
Until then, there's so much to entice me and all of you at 20 Feet Seafood Joint; Caesar salads with shrimp, salmon, or pork belly, five types of Po' Boys, chowder, clams, and main dishes like Blackened Shrimp Scampi with Parmesan Grits. Check the counter for daily specials.
Did I mention Falafel, Ramen, and the Mexican Shrimp Cocktail?
The restaurant is just down the road from the Dallas Arboretum which I frequent and that's a good thing for I love to walk the entirety of the vast park. You see, I fear, 20 Feet could quickly mean 20 pounds.
20 Feet Seafood Joint
1160 Peavy Road, Dallas, 75218, 972.707.7442
Look for the pale blue Jolly Roger flag flying high!
Sunday, April 21, 2013
I was sure a day would come when I would be able to return to the café, confident I could handle the memories of those many hours spent there with my mother, enjoying wine and food, watching people and watching afternoons turn into evenings. We had favorite tables and favorite chairs, sometimes preferring a window, most often a seat by the fire. We knew which tables wobbled and which corners were always drafty.
The first La Madeleine was built in Dallas and I have precious memories of sexy breakfasts there with Spoke when we were love-struck-giddy and ravished, and time stood still as we shared full baguettes and cup after cup of strong French coffee.
This café is in my mother's suburban neighborhood and she loved it.
One afternoon many years ago, right around Easter, we met at La Madeleine and spontaneously celebrated the results of her recent cardiac workup for atrial fibrillation. She was happy and relieved. I was happy and relieved. A few days later I wrote her a poem and stuck it in the mail.
sharing the good news
The Doc in the poem is now my cardiologist and as I left his office last Wednesday, happy and relieved, and with a half-hour to spare, I knew it was the day for me to bravely return for the first time since her death, to our café.
I sat by the fire.
I did not cry.
Poem, Easter 2004
Monday, April 1, 2013
The film Bella opens with the line, and I'm sure you've heard it before, "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."
Has your life turned out the way you envisioned it?
Would you choose to do some things over if you could?
I was considering all of this at the Easter Brunch table Spoke and I hosted. We were a relatively small group and of the people present, the totality of our life histories included loves, deaths, children, divorces, good health, illness, good fortune, tragedy...
We had great conversations for at the table sat many people of faith; people who believe that from bad comes good.
Our guest ChuChu, a lovely lady from Ethiopia, lost her house in a fire last year. She has lived in Dallas for fifteen years but has only one cousin in town so when she arrived for brunch yesterday she exclaimed, "I have a family now."
It was my Frances Mayes moment. That would be Frances from the screenplay Under The Tuscan Sun, not Frances Mayes the author of the book which is very different from the film. (Loved them both.) The character in the film, in one short scene, cooks for several people and she's obviously completely in love with feeding the people she loves. It is the beginning clue that by the end of the movie, she will realize the bounty and the richness of her life, though it's not the life she expected from the start.
I was equally as happy as Frances when I planned and prepared this Easter Brunch of deviled eggs, French cornichons, ham, shrimp and scallop cakes, potato-Parmigiano gratin, chilled rice with smoked salmon, spring salad with pistachios and warm, breaded rounds of chevre, white beans made creamy with crème fraiche and Herbs de Provence, biscuits and croissants with orange marmalade, lemon cake, fresh strawberries with whipped cream, all preceded by champagne and wine, followed by espresso...
(Put me in a movie!)
That Eddie, Ellie, Ernie and Colleen are no longer with us, in its way, opened our door at 3906 to new friends and good has come from bad.
I heard God laugh on Sunday but for the first time in several years, I am looking forward to the next holiday.
Friday, March 29, 2013
I've been listening to more jazz than usual lately. I've a study-sheet too; musicians listed by their instrument. My theory is, if I look at it often enough, maybe things will stick for I still get them confused, especially those who play several horns.
My dad, my mentor, knew them all and by the beginning notes on most of his era's recordings, he could tell you who-was-playing-what-with-whom-and-where-and-when... He never bragged, they were for him just moments of music which had made him so very happy.
I wasn't aware until his last years, how much I'd picked up and come to love, and of course now I'm very aware of the incidental lessons I took for granted. That jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd was influenced by Django Reinhardt is easy, I can hear it, and I've listened to hours of Jazz Samba recorded with Getz, but it's guys like, say, Lester Young... not so much.
Jo Jones was the drummer on many of the American Recording Society Jazz Division albums. I read he was instrumental in advancing brushes, replacing the bass drum for them in fact. That's an example of common knowledge so buried in my dad's history with jazz that he wouldn't have thought to talk about it yet here I am, finally ready to know more, much more, and he's gone.
Gosh, it hurts.
My dad saw many of the greats in his time, documented for me in a small turquoise book, the scraps of paper he placed between blank pages were a second thought to the opera notes which were the original purpose of the journal I forced upon him. Most of his favorites, musicians and vocalists, needed no last names, his scratchy writing preserving his memories for me; Anita, Basie, Billie, Carmen, Christy, Chris, Dizzy, Django, (in a Paris bistro!) Ella, Ellington, Frank, Heywood, Kaye, Kenton, Krupa, Lockjaw, Mooney, Peggy, Prysock, Rosemary, Sweets, Teddy, and so many more...
I had the insight to hand my dad my voice recorder one afternoon, with instructions to tell me anything that crossed his mind which might not be in the journal. Once he got the hang of it, he left brief entries for several days about the more obscure musicians he saw and the ones he wished he'd seen.
It turned out to be much fun for both of us.
I listened to the recorder for a second time, too soon after his death. It was so painful hearing his voice, the familiar way he'd phrase things, his glee, that I put it away and just this week, with jazz on my mind and a heavy heart which two years has begun to heal, did I try again. Here's a sampling of his notes to me.
"Hey Becca, I told you before and I'll tell you again, I saw Stan Kenton in Raleigh and he was terrific. This was when he had June Christy with him."
"I first saw Ella when I was fifteen years old, with a friend, Max Jones who was sixteen and able to drive a car. We drove to Forest City, to Ashville when Ella was singing with a band called The Chick Webb, who had a real good orchestra back in those days and Ella wasn't much older than I was. It was her first gig and did I get knocked out. Ooooo-whee! That helped start me on the jazz scene."
"Good ones that I never did get to see and think there'd be plenty of 'em but I've got a few right now... I never got to see, oh hell, Artie Shaw, Mildred Bailey... would you believe Nat King Cole? Oh, and really sadly, Sarah Vaughan. Johnny Hartman's another one I missed and would love to have seen."
He'd throw out a few news alerts; "Washington cherries are at a good price," a hint for a homemade pie, before he continued, describing nights with "Billy Eckstine and his big band", "Joe Williams with Count Basie", and "Arthur Prysock and Eddie Heywood" at a new Nashville hotel nightclub.
On a track not halfway through the total of his messages, my dad surprised me with a bit of praise at the tail end of his musings of Sarah Vaughan. He said "I've read your latest blogs... You know, you're a hell of a writer. I love the way you write." A trusted critic, I'll remember this and find it encouraging any time my thoughts and words won't come together.
Tonight I'm going to hear the Mark McKenzie Quartet. It's been a personal struggle, whether to go or not, today being Good Friday but I've made peace with my decision. If live music on a solemn night like this helps even one person, then it's a good thing I say for I know how hard holidays can be for those missing loved ones. I never expected them to affect me, knowing we'd been through the worst already, but I was wrong. The holidays kicked my butt.
So, I'm heading to the wine bar in a few hours, seeing it as the blessing it is, content to fill my soul with music and share the evening with friends. As my dad said at the close of many of his recorded messages, "I'll talk to you later".
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
This first day of spring was quite cool here but I've kept a distant window open, burrowing myself deeper under the coverlet if I get chilled.
Congestion and a cough have put me to bed for four days but I believe I've turned the corner as today turned a season.
I've been thinking of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. How terrible to be so sickly for most of her life, relegated to window views of Florence as seasons changed in the city she loved.
Four decades ill is unimaginable on any day but especially on this first day of spring.
"By this couch I weakly lie on,
While I count my memories,
Through the fingers which, still sighing,
I press closely on mine eyes,
Clear as once beneath the sunshine,
I behold the bower arise."
The Lost Bower, LXIX
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Monday, February 25, 2013
I think I was meant to meet her. It was arranged angelically I suspect, and though I don't know the who-how-why of it, the timing kind-of took my breath away.
For days I had planned this run to Alligator Café for my Academy Awards evening po' boy to-go. Jennifer was picking up fried green tomatoes and bread pudding to take to her dad who is eighty-six and has Myasthenia Gravis which is a rare, autoimmune, neuro-muscular disorder.
It was midday and that she was sitting at the bar sipping a glass of white wine while waiting on her order should have been a dead giveaway, Jennifer's spontaneous and unexpected offer-turned-insistence she buy me a glass while I also waited, is what sold me; I liked her.
Here's the freaky part. Last evening, Spoke and I had dinner, a long-awaited-twice-postponed dinner with two dear friends, at a similarly-styled restaurant. The husband of the couple has Myasthenia Gravis.
I know I am led to bars; the who-how-why of that very clear. Inexplicably, the people who have entered my life from these brief bar exchanges, while puzzling, often turn out to have purpose and rewards, enriching my life in some way.
Maybe it's nothing more than a rare coincidence that I met Jennifer on Sunday afternoon. Time will tell but I do hope I run into her again. The next glass is on me.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
A shot of Patron in the back of a limo? Yeah, I get that.
Bon Appetit's "Back Of The Napkin" featured Dustin Hoffman giving readers a brief glance into how his Oscar night is likely to play out. To summarize: he has a shot or two to calm his nerves, is then gracious to the least known reporters on the red carpet, gets through the evening win or lose, skips the parties to head home with a traditional and favorite post-show, fast-food dinner stop.
Tonight I may be rooting for Michael Haneke to win Best Director but I'll share private moments with Hoffman as I enjoy a messy Shrimp Po' Boy, curled up in our worn recliner, watching the show on recorded delay about the time he's eating an In and Out burger in the limo. Worlds apart we are but not really. Not so much.
I love that thought and I think if I met him, I'd love Dustin too.