|Some enchanted evening
||[Oct. 16th, 2003|10:18 am]
Some years ago I read book that featured one scene that has stayed with me. The protagonist's friend was famous for her dinner parties, for bringing together interesting, disparate people and artfully arranging them in a room to bring out the most fascinating aspects of each. Her choices sometimes seemed obscure or even ridiculous, yet proved to be brilliant, like a chef who uses an unexpected spice to bring out a surprising flavor.
Paulius, the owner of the Velvet Tango Room, could be this friend.
We came to the attention of Paulius when Ferrett's and my reviews of the Velvet Tango Room caused a ten-fold increase in his website hit rate. Following a referral back, he found our reviews and sent me an email thanking us for them. He also invited us to the annual Clam & Spam party, held for the benefit of the back room crowd. At $60 each, plus drinks, it was going to be a spendy weekday evening, but how could we resist? We RSVPed our appreciative acceptance.
Last night was the event, and we arrived at the VTR to something close to celebrity treatment. Paulius and his wife greeted us with gracious thanks and made us feel welcome, like it was a treat having us there.
But here's the great thing about the evening. They treated everyone just as well, showing affectionate regard for all their guests. We were seated in the "snark zone," close to where the cooking was occurring and able to overhear any sort of frustration, impatience, irritation that might have cropped up. And there was none. All I heard was concern for their guests and attention to detail.
When the cooking slowed down, Ferrett and I asked Paulius about the backroom membership. He sat down with us and explained that they have a policy of waiting until they feel that a front room patron "gets it" before extending a backroom invitation, and that there are some people who do their best to finagle an invite but just aren't the kind of people he wants back there. Though it wasn't said explicitly, it was obvious that the invitations had little to do with glamour or looks. There were a few beautiful people, but there were also plenty of average-looking folk. No, Paulius is looking for people who interest him, who have an indefinable spark. Who will, in short, be an asset to the backroom. It is clear that he's passionate about this club, and that the quality of the membership is far more important than the quantity. It's a business, yes, but it is also an avocation for him.
Currently the membership is about 35 people because of job transfers that diminished the ranks. A good number of them were there last night, and the ones we spoke to were gracious and interesting, a tribute to Paulius' taste in members. Within fifteen minutes, we had gotten a lead on writing opportunities in Cleveland, and it was clear that there will be friendly greetings when we return.
The evening went by too quickly, and the need to arise for morning meant we had to draw it to a close. To our complete surprise, we were told that the evening had been taken care of, that we had been the guests of the owner. We were delighted and humbled (and so shocked that we forgot to leave anything for the waitress - a horrendous oversight we'll correct the next time we visit). We departed to warm farewells and admonitions to return soon.
Believe me, we will.