KELLEY: Mad Hatter (Birth) Tea Party
We decided to go mad. We bought silly hats of ridiculous proportions. We bought tea cups and cupcakes and fashioned them into a mountain of sugar and butter cream. We were having a party — a Mad Hatter Tea Party — in honor of two birthdays: my wife and my sister, who were born on the same day across a six year gap. Location: Martinis at 515
Martinis is one of the newest establishments to open up in Historic Downtown Quincy. You may remember the location as Roderick P. Miller’s or even Ally & Co. after that. Owners David & Angie Wedding gave the spot a facelift that both updated and retained the building’s historical significance. Its classy layout, service and drink menu stamps another marker in the map of Downtown Quincy’s Essential Destinations.
Walking in for the first time, I felt right at home, comfortable, very much in my element. You can saddle a high chair at the bar, relax in the open lounge with wait-staff service, or steal away to a somewhat private lounge in the back with friends. The best part is the standards — the staff seems to care, they’re knowledgeable, they’re open to new recipes and flavors, and the drinks are served correctly. I’ve seen cool bars slip away — standards dropping as the wrong element takes over. I don’t see Martinis going that way at all.
In the role of mixologist, David lured away Chad Davis from the Spring Lake Country Club.
Me: “How’d he do it? How’d David get you?”
Chad: “He said ’We’re opening this place, and we don’t want to do it without you.‘ So I thought about it and decided to go for it.”
Chad is responsible for the martini recipes, but is also sharp in coming up with something new on the spot. Victoria will often challenge Chad with a simple direction: “Make me something good with champagne” or “Make me something fruity with Christiania vodka.” He always delivers.
The martini list is long and wonderful, dangerously so. Chad makes them in such a way where you can taste the alcohol, but it’s delicious because it‘s quality alcohol and it‘s mixed well. My first night there, I downed four of them in a flurry of excitement … I wouldn’t recommend that. My favorite is the Bobitini, made with Absolute Peppar and garnished with giant jalapeno olives that Chad makes, himself. Of course, there are plenty of non-alcoholy tasting drinks as well.
The Mad Hatter Tea Party — not to be confused with any political parties — happened on a Friday. Why the theme? Do we have a thing for “Alice in Wonderland”? Sure. More the classic cartoon than Tim Burton’s vision. But, really, the idea of hanging out with the Mad Hatter, alone, was just loony enough to be cool.
We planned everything out with Chad and the Weddings ahead of time, taking over the front lounge where a table was set up to play home to our mountain of cupcakes and food. Knowing our current taste for champagne-like drinks, Chad ordered a case of extra dry Friexenet “champagne” specifically for this event and concocted a lemon-tea flavored drink to serve as the special $5.15 martini.
Thyme Square catered with a spread of hors d’oeuvres that went fast. Thyme Square restaurant is another new destination in downtown Quincy that specializes in farm-fresh breakfast & house-made lunch and consistently puts out bright flavors from local sources. The Portobello mushroom sandwich and gazpacho have quickly climbed high on the “Kelley’s In List.” At the Mad Hatter Tea Party, Brian, Erica, and Chef Shupe of Thyme Square even stayed and hung out for a bit, despite how busy they’ve been since opening the restaurant.
And now, a Mad Hatter’s play-by-play:
The party started at 7pm. First, there was me, Victoria, sister Megan, and brother-in-law Justin. Un-Party Guests were present at the bar since we didn‘t want to privatize the Mad Hatter. “Champagne” was poured. We put on our crazy hats. People stared. Other Party Guests arrived — some with hats, some without. We bought rounds of $5.15 specials for guests and bottles of Friexenet for ourselves.
I brought my new mistress — a Canon 7D — along and started snapping off pictures with or without any approvals. Victoria and Megan by their mountain of birthday cupcakes. Jon Van Ness and Claudia Lasys posing. Jennifer and Pat Wendling posing. Todd Shackelford, Krystyna Freeman, Eric & Kathryn Thomas shouting “NO PICTURES!” Chef Michael Mitchell in a Fez hat. Nadine Mitchell in candids she would later denounce as cruel. Jim Schuetz giving his wife, Julie, antler fingers. Kathy Birsic asking for a pic good enough to be her Facebook profile. The Moms — Karen Wiseman and Sue Kelley — talking about whatever moms talk about. Greg Ellery looking like a director. Victoria looking beautiful.
A man at the bar said I should let him take a picture of me, but I would not relinquish my camera.
By 10 p.m., it was wall-to-wall bodies. Waitresses were running to-and-fro with trays of drinks. Chad was also running around delivering bevvys in a blur — a martini ninja. Fitness trainer, Angie Asmann, challenged me to raised-feet pushups and I accepted, leaving my ridiculously large hat on. Afterwards, a friend of my brother-in-law’s tried flirting with Angie and was seen doing pushups near her … it’s still unclear if he was challenged or if he just started pushing-up, unprompted. A friend of a friend of a friend — a.k.a. a stranger — tried helping himself to our “champagne” and, when Justin called him out, the stranger walked away mad and refused to hug-it-out later.
People were chain-smoking conversations — one after another.
There were intense discussions in far corners that no one would remember. There were momentary breakouts of dancing. The popular “Finger-Pointing Dance” that Justin and I invented in Chicago made the rounds amongst the guests. The food vanished. The cupcake mountain disintegrated. All but a few bottles in the case of Friexenet was consumed. Strangers became friends but forgot to introduce each other. I didn’t see anyone Tweet or check their Facebook page. The Social Network was Martinis at 515.
Chef Michael presented a gift to Victoria: his creation of Absinthe chocolate truffles that were so good we had to hide them. Someone asked if the truffles are illegal. I answered, “They’re so good they SHOULD be illegal, but, seriously, no Absinthe is legal” but I was talking to myself because I was pouring a drink. New friend, Heath, who wore a giant Dr. Seuss-looking hat, drank four Bobitinis before moving onto beer, but later blamed his next day hangover on the single Absinthe truffle he ate. I stopped and listened and heard laughter all night.
Megan and Victoria opened their gifts. I can’t recall if anyone sang “Happy Birthday“ to the birthday girls. Just now, as I write this, Victoria tells me: “No.” Pause for belated birthday song. Several of us switched to water. The night was winding down and the crowd was starting to thin out. As the hour hand drifted past 12, the Mad Hats came off. There was talk of late night, but Victoria and I decided it was futile to try and sustain the birthday buzz. We packed up. Homebound under the waxing moon.
Thankfully, neither of us saw the Cheshire Cat grinning down from the lunar face.
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