The paella beckoned, and we responded.
Girding our loins---and trust me, that's every bit as uncomfortable as it sounds, especially when you're of a certain age---and packing our various and sundries, we began the largely tedious trip up the severely overcrowded and in constant state of repair and improvement (without ever actually repairing anything and with never a noticeable bit of improvement) I-5 corridor from Portland to Seattle.
To Queen Anne Hill, to be precise, where our old friends live in genteel splendor, above it all, as it were, on a period-piece hillock in the middle of the metroplex that Seattle has become.
Having stopped at the midway point on our journey to refresh ourselves at the obligatory Burgerville, the Northwest's quirky answer to California's In 'n' Out Burger---how many burger stands do you know that offer not one but two veggie burgers, the second being a Yukon Gold and White Bean grilled patty? Huh? Huh? I thought so!---and indulging in the seasonal and not-to-be-missed Northwest Blackberry Shake in the company of what seemed like most of Centralia and Chehalis on a warm but not hot and blissfully cloud free Sunday
Interruption: What does it say about the Northwest when Burgerville has about ten advertisements for BLACKBERRY SHAKES AND SMOOTHIES all over the joint, yet when you get the said blackberry shake, the bill says underneath the total, "Our Blackberry shakes are made from 100% Marionberries exclusively from Oregon" with a combination of precision and pride? I don't know either; but I like it.
And what does it say about me that when I see the word 'marionberries' I think of hundreds of tiny little black Washington DC Mayors with cocaine-encrusted noses? Something disturbing, I have no doubt.
Where was I.... Oh, yes, we arrived on Queen Anne only to find the party had already begun. With our friends, no one ever waits to open a bottle of wine, and a quorum is more than one. Sometimes not even that. Fortunately, the festivities had progressed only to aperitif wines, and we had been told that sherry would be suitable since the theme was putatively Spanish (keeping in mind that this group is as good at staying on any theme to the same degree that they are at waiting until the guests had arrived to start drinking), and we had sherry.
Another interruption: What does it say about sherry when people are told that sherry would be appropriate and three different bottles of sherry are produced....and all three are Lustau? I know it says we have passing good taste, sure, but it must say that the average well turned connoisseur either knows how good Lustau is, or Lustau must be the only choice available. Sure enough, there were three Lustau--a Puerto Fino, a Manzanillo 'Papirusa', and the Rare Amontillado 'Escuadrilla'.
All this wonderful sherry was consumed with roasted garlic, jamon iberico-wrapped blanched asparagus, wood roasted piquillo peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese, almonds (duh!), mixed olives, and fat green olives marinated with thyme and citrus zest. And although it didn't say it anywhere, with this group of Northwest yuppie liberal aesthete types (moi included), I'm sure everything was co-oped, sustainably farmed, organic, biodynamic, fair traded, free ranged, and locally sourced whenever and wherever possible, with fully biodegradable wrappers. I mean, we don't even think about it anymore, y'know.
In subsequent chapters, the paella finally appears, and is worth the wait; copious amounts of wines are produced, some actually Spanish for those who stayed on theme, some very much not Spanish from those with ADD; and the appearance of angels. Or if not the angels, the purported angel's share, although they lost quite a bit of their share that night.