D.C. Eats: Graffiato

My friends and long time readers know I’m a big Top Chef fan. On my last visit to D.C., I was sadden that I wasn’t able to see Mike Isabella at Zaytina, because he had left to open his new restaurant. In Fall 2011, Graffiato opened in Chinatown. I knew it would be on my Must-Dine list for my next trip to D.C.

Image courtesy of Graffiato’s website
Because of Mike Isabella’s popularity from his 2nd place finish on Top Chef All-Stars, I booked my reservations early. Graffiato has an energetic vibe, and Kelly & I loved the rock and roll music playing while we entered. We were taken upstairs, where the main dining area is.

Kelly persuaded me for us to partake in the Chef’s Tasting, a sample of some of the best dishes. As our waiter Jarrad said, it’s the stuff they are really proud of. I was nervous, since I do not eat seafood, but Jarrad was accommodating, saying, no one has ever been disappointed. The table behind us also ordered it, and as Jarrad had told us, not everyone will get the same dishes.

Our first course featured flatbread with pepperoni sauce. This sauce got so much attention when Mike cooked it in the finale, and was the one thing I really wanted to taste. Oh. My. It was everything I had hoped it would be. I wish I could have bought a bottle of it to take home! Also in the first course was broccolini with feta, walnuts and pepper relish, burrata (like mozzarella) with pearl onions, and a ham plate, with speck, smoked ham and bresole, drizzled in olive oil and honey. It was all divine. I could have stopped there and been happy.

Flatbread With Pepperoni Sauce

Broccolini, Burrata

Smoked Meat Platter

Our second course was roasted cauliflower with pecorino and mint and lobster risotto. I had let Jarrad know that I would be willing to try the risotto, which I did. I did not care for it, but Kelly loved it. Along with the cauliflower, it was the only leftovers we took home. Jarrad felt bad I didn’t respond well to the risotto and wanted to know what I really wanted to eat- he’d bring that out. Kelly told him I’m a meat gal, so he promised to bring that out next.

Cauliflower and lobster risotto

The third course offered hand cut spaghetti, wild boar, pork belly, and crispy brussel sprouts. I dare anyone to eat those brussel sprouts and not become a fan. We already liked brussel sprouts, but Graffiato preparing them with pancetta & maple pushed us to clean the whole plate. The boar was also excellent (it was my first time eating that). The pork belly was very tender, and the crispy skin on the outside was perfect. The spaghetti prepared so simply with basil and cherry tomatoes was delicious.

Hand Cut Spaghetti, Brussel Sprouts, Wild Boar

Pork Belly

Dessert was a chocolate tart with pine nuts and sea salt gelato. The combination of salty & sweet sent my senses reeling. A great ending to a fantastic meal.

Chocolate Tart With Sea Salt Gelato

I was well pleased with my meal at Graffiato. I appreciate that they use local ingredients and local farms, as well as supporting local vineyards. Kelly partook in the wine pairing with our meal, and was delighted to have a wine from a local vineyard she had previously visited. The atmosphere was fun, the food fantastic, and I felt we got our monies worth for our meal. I hope on my next visit to try the Porky’s Revenge pizza, which has sopressata, pepperoni, sausage, tomato, stracciatella.

Check out Graffiato’s website to book your reservation, and peruse the menu before hand. You won’t be disappointed!

Top Chef Tour

Top Chef Alums Ryan Scott & Richard Blais

I was ecstatic to hear that the Top Chef Tour was returning to Denver this year. Geoff and I have watched every episode, including Top Chef Masters. I was intrigued by the idea of being able to taste a dish, since that is obviously missed by just watching the show. My excitement was pushed over the edge when I secured my tickets and found out one of my favorite chefs would be there. The chefs for the Denver tour would be Ryan Scott and Richard Blais, both from season 4. Richard is one of my fav chefs from the entire series. His talent, and love of cooking came across both on the show and in person. I had to restrain myself from getting all stalker on him and repeating to him stuff he had said on the show, 3 years ago. Hey, I told you I’ve seen every season, I also watch the re-runs whenever they air.

Geoff & I with Ryan Scott

Me with Richard Blais

I was able to meet both chefs, and enjoy some humorous banter while they cooked a dish for us and 40 other fans. What did I learn?

1. Ryan says always let your meat rest before you cut into it. He suggests you wait as long as it takes to drink 2 beers.

2. Every time you say “blaised carrots”, Richard gets $6 from the copyright.

3. If you are looking to add the umami (the 5th taste) effect to your food, add some worchestershire sauce.

Here is the dish they prepared:

Leg of lamb with a lima bean ragoût, a tomato, raisin, date chutney, some goat yogurt foam, topped with sea beans and pearl onions

It was a fun event, and I would totally go again. I’m interested to see what lies ahead when Top Chef returns for season 7 next week.

Adventures In Eating

I’m sure it is a documented fact that Melissa & “experimental eater” are not words often found in sentences. I even blogged back in November about my picky palate.

Reading through a Whole Foods newsletter, I was struck by the idea of eating sausage, beans & rice. I had never thought to try it before, and once I committed to the idea, I still wasn’t sure how it was going to be prepared.

I always cook my rice in my Zojirushi rice cooker (it’s awesome!). As for beans, I usually eat them from a can, and even then they are only ever red or kidney. When my husband suggested black eyed peas, I was a little frightened. What would they taste like? Would they taste like peas? Or worse?

To add further experiment to the dish, I picked up some andouille sausage at the meat department. Never tried it before, always a little afraid it might be too spicy. Which might scare me, but worse, might turn off Elijah, who won’t eat anything remotely spicy.

I left it to Geoff to find a recipe, and he did (thanks Emeril!). I left the entire dish to him to concoct, save the rice, which I can make.

Here’s the finished product:

End results? Not bad. The first bite threw me a little, because I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I cleaned my plate, as did everyone else. A new dish to add to the recipe binder!

Best Restaurant

I like to eat. I like yummy food. I also like a restaurant that fixes problems well. My vote for Best Restaurant goes to Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ.

The food is awesome. Southern BBQ, yes please! While we don’t eat in often we’ve experienced great things from them while using drive thru and call ahead.

Before they opened their doors at Southlands, I walked by there with my girlfriend and they just so happened to be handing out coupons to come try the food, for free, so the waiters & cooks could get some experience. Uh, hell yeah I want free food! The experience was great. The food blew me away.

The first time we used the drive thru it was a blizzardy night and we arrived home to discover one of the orders was missing. I called the store, they apologized and sent a cook to my house with the missing item and a $20 gift card.

Another time, we called ahead to place our order and the computer was down when we went to pick it up. We waited close to 10-15 minutes when the hostess finally came out with our food and gave it to us, free of charge. This was $100 worth of food, that we got for free because we had to wait a bit.

I praise Jim ‘N Nick’s to everyone I know. We want them to stay around, and with customer service like that who could blame us?

Seriously delicious food. Find one and go!

Top Chef

I try to avoid a LOT of reality tv. I’m not into the kind of drama & smut they produce. But I LOVE Top Chef. From the first episode I was hooked. The cheftestants all had a passion for food & cooking, and it never really seemed about being on the show to be a star. These people were here to show off their kitchen skills and grab the title.

Every season brought forth a favorite to root for, and sometimes someone to root to go home. Now as the years go on, I love to hear that the chefs I grew to love are going on to successful projects.

I even eat up the reunion shows, because it gives you a chance to see a chef in a new light. I was never a fan of Stephen (season 1) until the reunion show when he apologized to Candice and allowed me to see he wasn’t such a meanie. Now he’s one of my favorites. Reunions can also turn me from a chef I previously liked, like Marcel-who comes across as someone with so much animosity.

The judges they have are awesome and the guest judges they get are great. These are also people who are passionate about food, who push the chefs to do their very best.

More than just a show, Top Chef has expanded my mind to try new ingredients and better my skills in the kitchen. I say Bravo to Bravo for a great program.

My favorite chefs: Harold (s1), Dave (s1), Lee Anne (s1), Stephan (s1), Miguel (s1), Sam (s2), Elia (s2), CJ (s3), Brian (s3), Casey (s3), Dale (s3), Richard (s4), Stephanie (s4), Antonia (s4), Hosea (s5), Fabio (s5), Jeff (s5), and this season Kevin & Eli.

Mamas & Morton’s

Last night Morton’s Steakhouse in downtown Denver was overrun by the Mile High Mamas. I made my second appearance in as many weeks to a blogger event. Look out social calendar!

Seventh Generation donated some samples for us to try and let us know about the upcoming Million Baby Crawl on November 18. Their goal is to pass a law that will update regulation of toxic chemicals. While my “babies” aren’t crawling anymore, I do believe we need to keep our kids safe. I try to buy products now with the environment and my kids in mind. These moms all felt the same way.

I won’t be able to attend the “crawl” here in Denver, but I have shown my support on their website http://seventhgeneration.com/million-baby-crawl

As for the samples, they are going to make a great addition to our camping supplies. And Morton’s- the food was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the filet mignon sandwiches with mustard mayonnaise. Delicious!

Thanks Mile High Mamas!