Centuries of belly dancing tradition have culminated in an effective way to make me feel uncomfortable. I have no idea how I'm supposed to react to it, as I found out last Tuesday at Avant Garden (411 Westheimer, 713-526-4648). When a costumed woman is twirling and gyrating for a small group of people — at a benefit for Haitian earthquake victims, no less — is it all right to feel aroused? Is it rude to not feel aroused? Do the fiddle player and hand-drum guy think I find them arousing if I periodically shift my gaze in their direction in order to seem less like a creepy, unblinking strip club patron? I tried thinking about the history, but it's hard to imagine the dancer as a hippy infidel slave girl when you saw her parking her Jetta earlier that night. As it usually does, alcohol came to the rescue. I settled on paying attention to my drink, an excellent infused gin and tonic that bartender Chase recommended, instead of watching the attractive lady with the exposed midriff bending at interesting angles a few feet from me.
1 1/2 ounces strawberry- and fig-infused gin
To infuse, place several fresh strawberries and fresh, crushed figs (or whatever fruit or herbs you want, or Skittles) in a glass container full of the gin of your choice. Let sit for two days. Pour over ice in a rocks glass and add a little tonic.