Nick Ryan Loves Eurydice

The Spouse and I had dinner at Nick Ryan’s this past Saturday evening, then we were off to the Guignol Theatre on UK’s campus to see Sarah Ruhl’s play, Eurydice.

Before dinner, we had had a wonderful day out and about. Because the winter had been so harsh, and our moods had taken a dark turn correspondingly, we wanted to squeeze all the life we could out of what has been the gift of a beautiful day. The temperature reached up into the 60’s, the sun shining gloriously, and we found ourselves driving south along US 68 with the windows down and the radio up!

We took the new Nikon out for a whirl and ended up in Harrodsburg at the old Fort Harrod State Park, which is a scrubby little place in the late winter, sun shining or not, which is disappointing given that it is an important spot in Kentucky history.

The Spouse and I took some photographs, some of which I hope are interesting. Mostly, Spouse shot with the Nikon and I with my iPhone. There is no complaint here. I was in a free and easy kind of mood and not inclined to fiddle with knobs and turn-y things.

I always feel like a cowgirl, shooting from the hip with my iPhone.

After a quick drive home to shower and primp minimally, we were off to Nick Ryan’s. This was the Spouse’s first visit to Nick Ryan’s Saloon. I had been there once for lunch with some work friends. I greatly enjoyed my lunch at that time and was excited to finally have convinced Steven that we needed to have dinner there sometime. Who is to say why he was so reluctant? I know it isn’t the price, as it is within our dining out budget. I think he may have thought it is too hoity-toity.

We started with the crab cake appetizer, and a couple beers. The Spouse had the Shotgun Wedding from Country Boy Brewing, I had – forgive me – a very pale ale of provenance I cannot recall. I tasted his and he mine and we agreed that they were both right nice beers.

The crab cake was delicious. It was nicely browned on the outside and the interior was beautifully moist and flavorful. It was a nice thick crab cake. There was nothing lacking. The crab cake sat on a layer of a mustard sauce. I loved the grainy tanginess of the sauce; the crab cake was topped with a handful of fresh greens.

For the main course, The Spouse had the braised beef short ribs and I had the lamb special.

The short ribs were delicious (yep, I had a taste of that as well). Braised in veal stock, as per the menu, they were fork tender and very flavorful. I almost regretted that I did not order these as I had short listed them when considering my entree!

The Spouse’s only complaint was that his meal did not come with asparagus as advertised, and the substitution was not discussed with him prior to being served.

Perhaps other diners would not give the substitution much notice, however, The Spouse does not particularly care for green beans and had been looking forward to the asparagus, his most favorite of all the vegetables in the world, I exaggerate not.

In addition to the green beans being, well, not asparagus, he was put off by the mushiness of the green beans. If he had to eat green beans, he tells me he would have preferred they had not been mushy. As for this point, I would like to say that I love green beans and as a girl with strong Appalachian roots, I prefer my green beans well cooked until all the fight is gone, cooked to the bitter end with pork. These beans had little bits of pork and to my palate were wonderful.

The point of that is to let you know we hold no grudge against Nick Ryan’s for serving green beans. Just, you know, let a fellow know!

I chose the lamb special, which was clearly a deconstructed gyro and I enjoyed it immensely. The lamb was shaved thinly and plated in a nice heap. There was plenty of meat, almost too much, but I was a trooper and ate every last bit.

The meat was dressed with a yogurt sauce and cucumber shavings (there is a professional word for this but I don’t know it!) topped the lamb. The lamb was accompanied by two sides – a pepper stuffed with jasmine rice and feta cheese, as well as a hearty slice of spanakopita (Greek spinach pie).

The sides were both delicious, but the one complaint I have is that, served together with the lamb, there were too many flavors! Not that I didn’t eat the whole thing (ha!) and not that they were not absolutely delicious. I just think there was too much going on the plate. The two dishes together created a heaviness that competed with the beauty of the lamb/cucumber/yogurt sauce combination.

We should all have such problems to complain about, but there it is.

Enroute to the Guignol, I found myself considering what I thought would please me more – keeping the spanakopita or the stuffed pepper? What substitution would better replace the one that would be let go? I came to the conclusion that I would have loved to have kept the spanakopita and replaced the pepper with a roasted tomato, topped with feta and little shavings of red onion.

Good thing I don’t have to please fussy diners! And heaven knows, at my home, you’ll be happy that the food is ready on time or that I haven’t forgotten the salt. Or bread. Really, I am no chef.

So let this be known, green beans and stuffed pepper (both delicious, I reiterate) be damned – we left the restaurant with no regrets. Our food was splendid.

We also left with no dessert. The meal was just that satisfying!

We left Nick Ryan’s and struggled through traffic to make it on time to the Guignol Theatre for Eurydice, written by Susan Ruhl.

This was a retelling of the original story of Eurydice, Orpheus’s wife who dies and descends to the Underworld. In the original telling of the tale, as I recall, Orpheus, a great musician, making music so fine so as to even tame wild animals, uses his grief-driven music to convince Hades to allow Eurydice to return to the land of the living. There is one caveat – Orpheus must not look back at Eurydice until they have returned from the Underworld. Orpheus ascends, but turns to embrace Eurydice before she had fully exited the Underworld, and Eurydice has to return.

In this production, Orpheus is a great musician. He and Eurydice marry but at the wedding party, she is approached by a man (the Nasty Interesting Man) who says he has a letter for her from her father, who has died prior to the setting of the play.

We meet the father and learn that he was not fully washed of memory when he drank from the river Lethe, and so has been mourning his daughter and trying to get notes to her in the land of the living.

I won’t give away the story but will say that, in addition to the father, there are stones (big, little and loud) who play the role of a Greek Chorus, and they are wonderful!

This play was performed “in the round”. The audience was small and intimate. We sat in the front row so we were literally right at the edge of the performance.

The set involved an elevator but otherwise, was really very bare. The costuming looked circa 1940s perhaps, except for the stones who were full on Scottish punk-types with kilts and hair that would have made any Sex Pistol fan of my generation proud! I can’t express how wonderful those actors were. We enjoyed them immensely and they brought unexpected humor to this tragic tale that was not at all out of place!

I thought the actors were all very talented. Eurydice was a little giggly and pouty but I still liked her. I’d like to read the play to see how she was written; one would think it would be a more difficult decision to leave your wedding party to go to the apartment of Creepy Guy just because he said he had a letter from your father than it played out on this stage!

The actor who played Orpheus was wonderful. I felt his grief and confusion.

The young man who played the father stole the show for me. Somehow, he managed to convey grief, but also persistent hope that a parent who has lost a child (or who is lost to a child) might feel, that hope that somehow they can meet again; that there was some way, if one only thought hard enough, to work around the situation and make the loss just not so.

I thought the scenes with the room made of string that the father constructs for Eurydice were heart-rending. What parent doesn’t want to fulfill a child’s wish? It is significant that her father creates this room from twelve strands of string, which ties into to an earlier scene in the play. This room made of string recalls Orpheus’ love and music as well as remembrance. When the father dismantles the room broke my heart. It made me weep, it was played so well.

All in all, a wonderful meal and a wonderful play brought to close a beautiful day!

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