Saturday, March 13, 2010

Vice City Saturday Night

New Haven comes alive on Saturday night. The streets seem to be no longer owned and paid for by the rich and powerful, but instead by the drunk and unruly and the police who keep this heated pot from boiling over. If the meek shall inherit the earth, everyone else will be stuck on Crown Street.

Hans slapped Mendez's stubbled face. He then turned his back on his confidant. “I just don’t understand why they aren’t playing Tony Bennett.” Mendez whispered, half-defeated, rubbing his cheek. “And I would like to smoke inside. Not that I smoke, but if I did… and why isn't AMC on? I think there's an Elvis movie on tonight, 'Kissing Cousins,' maybe.” Mendez had been suffering from IBS all night; Irritable Blogger Syndrome. “Here’s a dollar. Play ‘Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars’ on the jukebox.”

They were alone. Not literally, but in their exhaustion and late night slump they were two islands, isolated by liquid and ice cubes. Tides of gin, undercurrents of Red Bull. They sat in their favorite booth at their favorite bar, The Anchor, with last-call creeping up on them too slowly to retire for the night and too quick for one more beer. They had wished to start a new blog post titled, “Saturday Night in New Haven: The Ultimate Guide by the Ultimate Guys: A.K.A. Hot Fun in the Late Winter that Feels More Like the Early Spring, but We are Having Fun So Who Gives a Damn? Not Me Not You…” Or perhaps "The Pawn Who..." But sometimes intentions do not matter and long titles do more to confuse than to convince.

People laughed joyfully around them. The regulars. The staff. The cook who wears shorts year round. Everyone was enjoying their night. Everyone but Hans and Mendez.

“Lets recap,” Hans said to a Mendez so depressed he could not even enjoy his beer. "We were comped. That’s the big time. Not every night can end with us shirtless firing flare guns at each other. We gathered a lot of information for the post...” Mendez stopped listening. How would he be able to blog about a night that never happened? No dancing, few laughs, less necking than Dracula at a garlic harvest. He felt like he had tried to jump fourteen trash cans with his training wheels still on.

Hans and Mendez's night started late because of a ten-round game of 52 card pick up. The game went into overtime, leaving our bloggers thirsty, hungry and exhausted from competition. They decided to hungrily promenade around Crown Street: the hairspray, the Tap Out shirts, the vomit, the humanity. They chose to dine at 116 Crown St, a restaurant too refined to neighbor Hula Hanks.

116 Crown appears to be classier than the Howells. The music was "hipper than thou" if the time period was 2007. Hans and Mendez were taken to a table in the far corner of the restaurant. a man providing the music from an i-pod motioned towards our notebook and reel-to-reel recorder. The Disc-Jockey then touched his ear, motioning to the hostess to seat us. Framed pictures of the beach line the brick walls, they are lighted with expertise. Young people use their lips to smile, speak, kiss and sip straws and bottles.

Stacey, our waitress had arm tattoos worthy of the Louvre; a pair of crown jeweled eyes protected by the London Tower. Her feet stepped with purpose across the dining room. She was a lion tamer controlling the majestic and powerful animal of a packed dinning room on Saturday night. "Bloggers," She pretended to sneeze into a small walkie-talkie housed in a decoy TD Bank pen she kept on her shirt collar. She filled our water glasses unsuspecting that we had heard her. "Roger that and over," The pen buzzed a moment later. We would later reap the benefits of a blown cover.

The menu features drinks more exotic and expensive than your average Elm City spot, allowing customers to sample unusual, unique, and unexpected elixirs. Kitchen ingredients are used heavily: Fennel and raisins in the Lemonatha and Benediction respectively. Hans ordered the Limelight, a vodka Collins with Cointreau. The drink is refreshing and not as sweet as the menu suggests. In the upcoming months the Limelight will be the perfect non-female companion for those beloved balmy midsummer New Haven nights.

The bloggers debated over the edible section of the menu. Mendez declined Hans' suggestion of a pizza with Manchego cheese, a moment he noted as shameful, instead choosing The Firenze pizza and a sandwich named the John D. Rockefeller. The Firenze pizza is white pie topped with spinach, house cured "Manhattan" bacon and Tuscan white beans. Shockingly the pizza looked better on the menu and on the dish than it tasted. The bacon was so lightly cured it should be renamed "Canadian" instead of "Manhattan." The white bean and spinach did little to excite the bloggers either.

The extravagant John D. Rockefeller fell short as well. Pork belly, asiago, cornichons, smoked prosciutto, baby lettuces, fried oyster, dijon mustard, and sriracha aioli are some very big and beautiful ingredients, unfortunately the parts are greater than the sum. The dijon mustard is the only ingredient Hans and Mendez could taste. For their follow up visit they will order the sandwich to be deconstructed, and served as a ten course meal. For a 15 dollar sandwich one expects more than atmosphere.

Stacey came to the table to clear our plates just as the Disc-Jockey started to play a nameless club anthem from our collective adolescence. "Sorry about the music, its someone's birthday," she explained. She motioned for the D.J. to cut the music.

"Excuse me," Hans said opening the notebook. When blogging no detail is too small for exposition, not even a tired song being played. The D.J. started to sweat. His sweater became a dry wick as his Old Spice began to lose its potency. The scratch of Hans' pen was excruciating white noise to him.

"Stop the record," Stacey sneezed.

"I wonder if she likes Leos," Mendez thought. The Disc-Jockey took a small listening device out of his ear and threw it on his D.J. booth. He ran to Hans and Mendez's table with as much composer as he could Dijon muster.

"Gentlemen, Gentlemen," He opened his arms. "And bloggers, why its always a pleasure to have members of the press." He continued to ask how Hans liked his drink, Mendez the pie, always trying to glimpse what had been written in the bloggers' notebook. He was not the D.J. at all, but a manager of the establishment. "Stacey, if you would excuse us" he said watching her retreat to ensure that she was out of ear shot. "We have a new flower, gentlemen," He exclaimed with a half whisper, half yell. "Yes, it is new. Well I suppose that it has been around since creation... nothing is new, nothing can ever be new. New love I suppose, but were we not all born for a reason? Was this love not designed while we where in the womb? Yes gentlemen, yes? I have taken the liberty of ordering one for you. I trust you will enjoy it." The music faded. The ipod's battery had died. The Manager quickly turned fingering the AA's in his pocket. "Do remember me gentlemen." he said.

Because Hans managed to convince Mendez the night before every Journalism exam that a "Cheech and Chong" marathon was on television, they know little of journalism ethics. Like their idol, John Roland, they accepted the gift which was not a bribe in any way. Stacey promptly brought the gift to the blogger's corner table. The Szechuan flower is a small ordinary looking bud that once chewed acts a psychedelic supplement for taste buds. It feels as if pop rocks are steadily going off in your mouth for ten minutes. Sips of water taste like liquid mettle, breaths of air unnatural hurricanes. Eventually the effects wore off. It's a neat gimmick, the joy buzzer of the food world. "Why would any one ever serve that?" Hans asked. "I wonder if she dates Leos," Mendez responded.

The two bloggers, eager to experience and write about the rest of the Saturday night scene left 116 Crown. They rode the elevator to Johnny Davenports. Davenports was as lively as a sleeping basset hound in silk pajamas, three glasses in of warm milk. They walked to Stella Blues, a Crown Street bar which does not have metal detectors nor any real night life. Hans and Mendez peeked in and saw some familiar faces. They followed their hellos with farewell. Perhaps some food at Louie's Lunch, the famed burger eatery, would resurrect the remains of the night. A sign on Louie's door read "Closed- Out of Food." Geronimo?

All these dead ends wore on Mendez, and he silently cursed the Elm City. Hans tried to cheer mopey Mendez by leading him to the Anchor. Mendez then tried to get drunk off as many St. Paulie's Girls as he could.

116 is a great place for a first date with cocktails, a meeting with visiting 5th Ave. friends over cocktails, or even a solitary night of tasting cocktails. Essentially if the night is about cocktails 116 Crown St. has to be one of the destinations. We can't recommend the food because like the order of their menu, drinks come first. As far as the Disc-Jockey/Manager is concerned, we liked his style. We think that he runs a nice place earning the New Haven Eats it Seal of Approval.

There are eight million stories in the Elm City. This is one of them.