We needed booze and food, though I was more interested in the booze and Serena was more interested in the food. As we walked, she was telling me about her kid’s new martial arts class, which is a lot like listening to someone tell you about their dog’s new groomer. It turns out that neither kids nor dogs are worth talking about for more than five minutes if you don’t live with them.
“Yeah, okay, I live a really fun life,” she said sarcastically as we turned a corner. “Honestly, I’m really jealous of your scenes.”
I get that a lot from people who don’t understand that writers only write about the interesting parts, and that most of our lives are spent hunched in front of a computer just like everybody else.
“Here we are,” I said, pointing us to the building, which was crowded enough that I was suddenly worried we might not get a seat. People were in the entrance to Farmhouse, spilling out on the street, holding tiki-bowls with glowing, blinking lights, and drinking from giant straws.
The inside was dark, filled with tables around pillars, and a bar with travel advertisements for Thailand projected on the wall behind it. “What … what IS this?” she asked as we went inside the dark room, the noise of the crowd roaring over us.
“You said you’d wanted a Thai place,” I said. “It’s called Farmhouse. It’s actually really good.”
“This … no I grew up on a farm, this is not a farmhouse! This is not … oh God, do you think I grew up in the wrong kind of farmhouse? Were there farmhouses like this just down the road, and I missed them? Because I think I would have liked this better … look at the flowers they’re wearing on their heads! I would have wanted flowers like that! And … their bowls are so glowy … I kind of want a giant glowing bowl of alcohol … ”
We had clearly walked into the middle of a party, but the server said there was room at the bar. We said yes. Farmhouse, to be clear, is not a “bar,” but a “restaurant that has a bar.” The distinction matters. But we spent the first 10 minutes of our visit establishing that, yes, they serve giant bowls of alcohol with disco lights in them that you drink through giant straws, so, really, this was not about the food.
We also discovered that if you order a large soup, it comes in a bowl that is lit on fire. “Can we do that? Can we get alcohol served in a bowl with glowing lights and soup that’s lit on fire?” Serena asked. We were going all-in on stunt presentation this night.
The drink in question is a “Kick-Boxing Bowl”: Brut, Sato unfiltered rice wine, passionfruit, lychee, and umami chili salt. Disco lights are added, we were told, as part of a Thai tradition of “full moon parties.” At 38 ounces, it was the only drink we would need that night. And it was … all right. Distinct, for sure — rice wine, fruits, and salt were an unfamiliar taste to my palate — but look, if you’re not at a place that specializes in punches, you’re going to be lucky if booze served to you in a giant bowl is mediocre. That’s how this works.
“You know,” Serena said thoughtfully as we tried to maneuver the bowl the exact right distance between us to allow us to drink out of the crazy long straws, “the last time I had a glowing bowl of alcohol was back when I was in college. I’d turned 21, I’d won an award, and was flown down to L.A. to get it. I went out after that to a Tiki Bar, Trader Vics, to celebrate, and I didn’t know ANYTHING about drinking, and I shared a glowing bowl of alcohol with one of the organizers of the award ceremony. And then we slept together. That … was a really bad idea. It turns out. You don’t want to do that.”
“Well,” I said, “did you learn your lesson?”
“Yeah, I did.” She sipped through a giant straw. “He’s still a mess, though.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Oh. Did you ruin him?”
“No, he was a mess before I got there. And really, when you think about it … if you’re a 35-year-old awards organizer sleeping with a 21-year-old award winner …. You’re probably not okay in the first place.”
Around us, the room was vibrating with energy. Nothing was actually happening, but between the dark room and the blinky drinks and the fast-paced music and the projection of Thai tourism movies on the wall, it felt more like a club than either a bar or a restaurant.
“Are you seriously telling me,” Serena said, “that you’ve been here before but never had a blinky-lights drink?”
“Well, I usually come here around lunch …”
“WHY DON’T THEY DO THIS FOR LUNCH?”
“It seems like it’s a different crowd …”
“I need that in my life! I want a place to go for lunch that turns it up to 11!”
The food came, which is universally excellent: We ordered a shrimp appetizer, a fried chicken and curry, and — of course — a large bowl of soup with a fire in the middle.
We stared at the movies about exotic Thailand projected on the back of the bar as we ate. “You know,” Serena said, “these shots are gorgeous, but if I were to go there, I wouldn’t be in a drone. I’d be one of the people on that street, or walking in a trail in that jungle, and, that would be a totally different experience.”
By now we were encountering problems: Since we were sharing plates, they had to be placed precariously between us at the bar, which meant we had to move the tiki bowls, which meant we were no longer the perfect distances to use the extremely long straws. And we had to work around the flaming bowl of soup, until the fire went out, after which it was just a bowl of soup.
This is what happens when you go all-in on stunt presentations. But no sooner had we started to grumble about the inconvenience, a group of servers banging drums and playing instruments danced over to a table to perform a house happy birthday ritual. It wasn’t any good, but it was distracting, which is almost as good for people who don’t want to worry about the details. That is the whole principle under which most clubs operate.
“I need more Wednesday nights like this,” Serena said, laughing.
“You needed a break from life that badly?”
“Honestly, I still want to grow up here.”
To be fair, the lights were really blinky.