by Eric Ginsburg
It’s easy to be distracted by Tim Nolan.
It began with the DIY wreath, as Nolan led me into the back room (also known as the brewing area) of Hoots Roller Bar, where co-owner Eric Weyer had been making a phone call near the barrels and where Nolan had stashed the beginnings of a gigantic homemade wreath for the bar.
In the taproom, two parties were interacting like oil and water, occupying the same space but not exactly mixing. The Forsyth Community Food Consortium, a food-policy and advocacy group, had set up a station with nametags and some snacks near what we’re going to call — for lack of a better term — the lawyer birthday party. The consortium organized the early-evening affair last week as its first social hour, drawing from a wider net than the crew that typically holds down meetings.
Not knowing how late it would run, I aimed to show up stylishly yet thoughtfully late, about 25 minutes after kickoff. At first I only recognized Marcus Hill, the tall and friendly lead coordinator for the group.
It’s awkward to host a social hour at a bar that isn’t closed for you, private-event style, unless you know everyone coming. We tried our own at Hoots a while back, actually, though unlike Hill we forgot nametags, making it all the more cumbersome to find your people. A bar isn’t the best place to meet someone for the first time (unless I guess you’re into blind dates) in part because it’s awkward to approach strangers already and the setting — nametag or not — only adds to the burden.
These are all things I forgot until I arrived, and so after greeting Hill, I happily followed Nolan out of the room.
Back in the bar, I let Nolan distract me from the social hour again, as he offered a shot of chilled fernet served out of a Jagermeister machine. I’d never had fernet that way, I told him, to which he replied something like: “Of course you haven’t, unless it was here. I came up with it.”
That’s often how it goes when I run into Nolan, usually at the West End Mill Works, where he bounces between making the cocktail menu at Hoots to playing with a new toy he’s working on related to the distillery next door. The last time I’d seen him, just a couple days earlier, he shared some visionary ideas for downtown that are still in the making.
Nolan’s worked behind some of the best bars in the city, and already earned his share of ink in this publication (as well as his mug on the cover), and so he generally knows how to strike a balance between being a host and when to slip into the background. Acknowledging that I’d come for a reason other than him without me hinting at it, he peeled off when appropriate.
And by then, another quasi-friend had arrived, also responding to a Facebook invite from Hill, and I transitioned to catching up with Dan Rossow who works over at Reynolda House. Whether the dapper Wake Forest grad one year my senior realized it or not, I used him as my portal to the party. Before long, I’d introduced myself to Andrea Littell of Townies WS and Matt Troy of the Piedmont Wind Symphony. And Troy hadn’t even shown up for the event on purpose.
Just like that, I was in. I’d forgotten how awkward these sorts of things can be, but I’d also forgotten that with a small window, events like this are easy to crack wide open.
The Forsyth Community Food Consortium does cool and important things, though I glossed over it here. Visit forsythlocalfood.org to learn more about the organization.