It was at The Grove last Tuesday night that a dinner took place between representatives of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and executives from some of the leading US shale oil companies.
That meeting — between the two big adversaries of the oil world — was heralded by such mystery and intrigue that there would surely have been evidence, or witnesses, to the dark deals that had been done there.
If skulduggery had actually taken place, by Thursday all the signs had evaporated, and all that was left at the Grove was a busy, buzzy Bayou City night, and the lovely Ashley, who served me and my friend at the glass-topped bar.
“Is it just the two of y’all,” asked Ashley when we arrived. I assured her that indeed we’all were just two, and sat down to look at the menu.
I could not help wondering: What did the oil peacemakers have to eat? Maybe Mohammed Barkindo, the general secretary of OPEC, who had extended the invitation to the shale men for the second successive year, had gone for the “local catch ceviche (served raw)” with a side of “cauliflower koshary (V GF avail)”?
Perhaps Tim Dove, chief executive of Pioneer Natural Resources and the leader of the shale men, had selected the “cowboy ribeye 18oz” with a side of “Gulf shrimp and grits? Whichever, I would never know, because Ashley had not been working that night, and anyway all the big power-broking dinners took place in the more discreet banqueting facilities of the first floor.
So we just sat down to a simple Houston supper. Neither I, nor my friend, were especially hungry, so we went for what The Grove calls “small plates”. I ordered “blue crab mac and cheese,” while my friend asked for “Jefferson County fried rice.” And some bread and butter as starters.
This is Texas, of course, so you expect everything to be just a little bigger than anywhere else in the US, and therefore in the whole world, but when the bread arrived I knew we were facing a serious challenge. It was a whole, huge loaf, with a small churn of butter beside it, and it would have fed a deprived family for many days.
Then arrived the “small plates.” Mine was comparatively modest in size but you just knew it held latent filling power. After only the first couple of mouthfuls, I knew I would be defeated, but would enjoy being vanquished.
My friend’s dish was aptly named, because I swear the plate itself was the size of Jefferson County. Marinated beef, fried egg, broccoli, baby bok choy, chile (sic) oil and peanuts all wrestled with each other for space on the enormous dish.
My friend joked that it was like a socio-demographic map of the southwestern part of the US, charted out in food. Being from that part of the world herself, she would know.
I got two-thirds of the way through mine, my friend did rather better with hers. We slumped into a post-prandial glow before we said goodbye to Ashley and headed out into the night, all happy, sated and contented. (I don’t know why the English use the phrase “fed up” as a pejorative.)
I wondered if that’s how Barkindo and Dove felt as they left The Grove a couple of nights before? If so, there must be a big friendly transaction coming any time soon.