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        by C. Jeanette Tyson

     

     One of my recent nights out involved a red wagon hauling a cooler, wine out of a plastic jug, Marcia Ball heating up a withered but enthusiastic crowd, and my three-year- old twins dancing themselves into a lather and occasionally bumping into a guy with the word "Anarchy" tattooed on his arm.     
     I love this town. I love the way it sounds and the way a wagon feels bumping over the fields.      
     I love that my children, as children, are welcomed into the townís scene and will grow up with a strong sense of place.


    
But apparently a year ago Reed Clemons opened a joint in northwest Austin designed to take me away from all this. One of Austin's major restaurateurs, Clemons owns Mezzaluna, the Bitter End and part of the Granite Cafe. When he realized the town didnít need another Mezzaluna up north, he closed it down and came back with something completely different.
     Itís called Reedís Jazz and Supper Club. You can hear live music, eat fine food, slow-dance with someone you love, all while wearing your feather boa. Made to order for the multi-tasking mom, níest pas?
     And speaking of things moms need, Reedís is a great place for making you feel as though you were altogether elsewhere.

     Where? Oh, New York, Chicago, maybe Washington DC. When? The 1930ís come to mind, maybe the 40ís. Think speakeasy, with its illicit, indulgent and exceptionally well-tailored atmosphere.
     Just inside the entrance, a huge sweep of stairs leads to the dining room where the light is low and the tables are close. Iíd suggest this for those liaisons dangereuse or eluding those pesky paparazzi. My friends and I, however, found a table and stayed downstairs, with the bar and the band.
     The bar area, with its Italian tiles and low-hanging lights, has a swank feel. Though Budweisers disappointingly outnumbered martinis at the bar, a few cosmopolitans were spotted among the crowd. Yards of lush red velvet drape the walls, enriching the acoustics and the feeling of nostalgia for more elegant days.
     The Marc Devine Trio, the house band, kept things lively with some very tasty jazz, playing a Dizzy Gillespie song called Birk's Works and a few Bobby Timmons pieces such as Dat Dere and Dis Here, Mack the Knife, The Way You Look Tonight, Teach Me Tonight, Someday My Prince Will Come and Loverman. With songs like Del Sasser, he ventured into hardbop territory. I was there on a Wednesday but vocalist Denia Ridley joins the band on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the word is, it would be well worth going back.
     Reedís menu is a la carte and an interesting mix of traditional and modern. The signature salad is nicely sweet and tangy with mixed greens and candied pecans, feta cheese, marinated onions and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The 8oz filet was cooked perfectly to order and could have been accompanied by any of four different kinds of potatoes which all looked fabulous if fattening. I tried the asparagus instead, which was thick and exactly as crispy as one would've hoped.
     After having the Miso-Sake Seabass with Shitake Dumplings I should have known to add Tokyo to that list of far and away places. The fish was light and tender and perfectly balanced by the down-to-earth dumplings.
     You know those dishes that make you hold your eyes open really wide and not only because the foodís a bit hot? Thatís what happens with The Hot and Crusty Red Snapper. Corn flakes, pepper flakes, almonds and ginger get your admiration as quickly as your attention and deliver a much different kind of heat than that from Texas or New Orleans. Itís served over a cooling bed of jasmine rice.
     I liked Reedís because youíre able to hear the music, hear your friends talk and hear yourself think all at the same time.
     Among other things, and without being able to tell you exactly how I got there, hereís something I thought about:
     The old Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass album, the green one with the girl covered in whipped cream. It was tucked into the small stack of albums my parents had and seemed so risquť, not only because good girls didnít dress like that, but because it meant there was a side to my parents that had nothing to do with me and that I didnít understand at all. No one I know seems to be able to forget that album cover. I met a woman here in Austin who was asked to be that whipped-cream girl, but she didnít do it because her husband objected which may or may not be the reason she divorced him. Even the idea that she might have been that woman made this woman seem wild and exotic.
     And I thought about my mother and father getting ready to go out on Saturday nights; it seemed like every Saturday but was more likely once a month. Our town was large enough to have a country club but they didnít belong to it. It was a military town, sturdy enough but with a raw, combustible edge. Nothing there would warrant the use of the word sophisticated. Yet I remember a yellow chiffon gown my mother wore, and a blue one, too, and her bright red lipstick and her hair just so. And my father in his Sunday suit, scrubbed clean with his hair slicked back and the smell of Old Spice trailing him. Where the hell did they think they were going and who the hell did they think they were?
     I know now that it doesnít matter. They parked the Radio Flyer in the garage and went uptown, to a place like Reedís. And for awhile, they thought they were someone else.
 
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C. Jeanette Tyson is AustinMama's beloved foodie in the field. Got a tip, suggestion, idea or feedback for A Little More on Your Plate? Send it to Jeanette at: foodie@austinmama.com

Reed's Jazz & Supper Club
Sitter-worthy? Oh yes.
9901 N Capital of Texas Hwy N. #150
Austin, TX 78759
Phone: (512) 342-7977
www.reedssupperclub.com

       

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