Monday, October 31, 2011

Yep - it's still yummy!

This summer my husband and I went to Mike Isabella's new restaurant Graffiato near the Verizon Center in DC for our anniversary.  What we didn't realize until the following week was that we went on day 3 of operations.  It was so good that there was no way to tell - really.  I posted about it here.

Today I did something I used to do a lot but now don't really get a chance to do.  I drove to my old place of employment (the US Postal Service HQ), picked up my mentor/boss/friend (hi, Paula!) and went to lunch.  We try to do this at least twice a year - gotta love Restaurant Week in January and August - but we missed a couple lunches this year so this was the first time we've seen each other since The Source by Wolfgang Puck in February.  (Yeah, I can remember almost everywhere she and I have eaten...then again I am in charge of picking the restaurants and have the memory of an elephant.)

Oh. My. G-d. Again.

Yep, it has only gotten better.  But I was impressed with more than just the food.  Service was even better than it was in July which means they have seriously ironed out the kinks if there were any, they have added some artistic graffiti to the walls (it may have been there before but I didn't notice it in July), it felt warmer and the volume was lower - then again it was lunch.  But there was one more thing that happened today that I have never had happen in a restaurant before.

They remembered my allergies.  All of them.

Here's the thing.  I don't talk about it much, but I have some rather strange food allergies.  I didn't know most of them until I was in my 20s and 30s, but then again I never tried most of these foods until then so how could I have known I was allergic to goat cheese, olive meat (but not olive oil), blue cheese, peppers and (the one I NEVER mention) chocolate?  OK - I knew about the chocolate one and have mostly grown out of it which is why I don't mention it anymore...that and I adore chocolate - but the rest, no idea until I actually tried them.  The good news is that my allergies are not anaphylactic but more stomach and a bit of itchy chin and throat.  I know that means I am probably more intolerant than allergic, but I would rather not take chances.

Anyway, when my husband and I went to Graffiato in July I mentioned my husband's allergy (anything that swam in water) when making the reservation then thought to mention mine as well.  We wanted to make sure we could to the Chef's tasting menu without hitting anything that would make us sick.  Mike was then asked if he could avoid our weird allergies, said he could and then came up with an awesome menu for us that we still remember course by course.  Especially the corn agnolotti.  We have bragged about this restaurant so much that we have folks saying they want to come visit just so they can taste the food there.  And they avoided every allergy, except the seafood one but only because I had mentioned I loved seafood and never got to eat it so he sent over some of his (amazing) squid as well, the waiter placed it in front of me and my husband didn't even have to smell it so all was good.

Fast forward to today when Paula and I got there for lunch.  After we were seated, given water and a few minutes to review the menu (blessedly short as lunch is a time crunch of course) the waiter came over and said the following.  "I just checked in with the hostess who told me that there are some allergies at the table.  I just want to confirm what they are and what 'olive meat not oil' means."

Wow.  I didn't say anything this time when making the reservation - I figured I had a basic idea of what the menu was and could probably avoid my allergies.  I'm pretty good at that these days.  It is actually easier to avoid goat cheese than fish and olive meat and peppers can be picked off since the allergies won't send me to a hospital - just make me feel yucky for a few days.  But they remembered.  They not only remembered - they asked.  And then, when we placed our order, the waiter specifically went to the kitchen and told them what my weird olive allergy meant.  (Who's allergic to the actual olive but can have olive oil?  How weird is that?)  And then when we ordered desert we asked about the cannoli and before we could order it the waiter specifically warned me about the hazel nuts which, thank goodness, is not an allergy I have to worry about.  How great is that service?

So - all you folks living out there with the strange allergies and afraid to tell a top notch restaurant about them.  GO TO GRAFFIATO!  Tell them your allergies before your first visit, do not be afraid to let them know.  They know how to work with the allergies, amend a recipe or tell you to avoid a dish because of the ingredients.  These servers actually care about their clients and let you know.  And it isn't just the servers - the entire kitchen seems to care about your allergies and still want you to have a great meal you will remember until your next great meal there.

It may help if you make your reservations through Open Table, I'm not sure how they are keeping track of allergies.  But however they are doing it, boy did it make my second experience there just as good as my first and I am more than looking forward to my third time round.

Thank you, Mike Isabella and your team at Graffiato!


pqresident said...

Graffiato is good. two blocks over from where I live. it does get pricey fast though if you order enough of those small plates. :)

Lisa said...

Agreed! Jealous you live so close, however I think my husband and my checkbook are thrilled I live so far away. Enjoy it and all the good food in your area!