It bodes well to enter a semi-fancy Central West End restaurant and hear Townes Van Zandt on the sound system. Somehow it feels more European, not less, to hear pretty rural American songs (rather than the requisite fancy signifiers of jazz or classical) floating through the air as upper-middles sip their chardonnay. To sit at a window table at Liluma at dusk during the rainy season is to experience a certain magic, as if a mini-vacation has arrived. You're here, alone, Euclid Avenue is just on the other side of a pane. Browsers look at you as though you're for sale, and you nod that, yes, you are. Above them, steel-gray clouds turn bad. Across the street, Coffee Cartel customers, jacked on caffeine, watch you watch them feel the day shift to night.
Storm coming, not yet here. Maybe it'll hold off until after dinner. Optimists eat on the outdoor patio; indoor pessimists feel a certain evil told-you-so satisfaction as the first drops arrive, then more, then the huge atmospheric bucket breaks, and the world, and the appetizers and entrées within it, gets drenched. Watch the open-air diners, faces pinched, blouses soaked and skin quite obviously melting! melting! as you sit inside thinking about nada except maybe the downpour sure is pretty and man oh man this glass of Lillet is aces.
The French aperitif White Lillet is a blend of white wine (85 percent) and liqueur (15 percent), the perfect stimulator before a nice dinner. Liluma, which opened at the corner of Maryland and Euclid last year, presents the drink as a Liluma Cocktail: White Lillet on ice with a strip of blood-orange zest. The resulting drink resembles a beige sangria but isn't: The first taste will hit your tongue with a surprise. It seems a little off -- white wine isn't supposed to be bitter, and this has a quinine tinge to it. Next sip, tastebuds duly adjusted, yields peachy-orangey clarity.
Sit a while longer, or order another. The rain's not letting up, and you don't want to melt out there. Plus, the calm during a storm, the one that exists underneath the thunder and lightning, is better than the calm before it. Something good will come of this; despite a little superficial human chaos, the world's not going to end. Or, as Townes Van Zandt sang, "In the night forlorn, the morning's born."
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