24 October 2012

Staff lunch #1: Fiola, Washington DC

I was in Washington early in October on just an overnight trip. I owed my DC staff a celebration in appreciation for the hard work on all of the fly-ins we conducted this year. So I set something up for after my meetings. I wanted to try someplace new, and came across Fiola. I made a reservation, and it was the perfect choice. 2012-10-24T19-53-49_0

It was a quiet, relaxing, somewhat elegant venue. The service was friendly, knowledgeable, attentive, but not intrusive. And the food …

So often my reviews of an Italian restaurant in DC begin with the words: “Why can’t we have Italian restaurants like this in Minnesota?” I didn’t want to do that again. So I tried to think of a different reason to rave about Fiola’s food. Then I had a revelation. It was sort of like the dog that didn’t bark. (Sorry if the literary reference isn’t obvious. Click here to read about a Sherlock Holmes story where the clue that solved the murder was the dog that didn’t bark.)

When you look at Fiola’s web site, there’s no hyperbole about “local” or “organic.” Instead, the emphasis is on “freshness” and “quality.” Despite the passionate claims of locavores and organic evangelists, they’re not the same thing.2012-10-24T19-53-49_1

I felt our lunch at Fiola was great because of the careful attention to high quality ingredients expertly prepared and matched to the customer’s preferences. We started by sharing two appetizers, a burrata with roasted tomatoes and pesto and a plate of prosciutto with figs and balsamic vinegar. Since ‘discovering’ burrata at a DC restaurant earlier this year, I’ve become a shameless devotee and order it as often as I can.

Then we went on to the entrĂ©es. I had risotto with two beautiful, tenderly prepared scallops. The al dente rice was flavored with a shockingly brilliant green pesto sauce. I’m a pretty good risotto maker. But this was exceptional.

One co-worker had fettuccini ‘carbonara.’ It looked beautiful, and she said it was delicious. I don’t often order carbonara, so I don’t know if this is common, but hers was served with a fried egg on top. I thought it was unusual but visually very interesting. (Perhaps my only quibble about the lunch – her egg was overcooked, and the yolk didn’t flow over the pasta when she cut into it.)2012-10-24T19-53-49_3

Another co-worker had lobster ravioli. The fresh, tender ravioli were served in a rich creamy sauce with two generous pieces of lobster meat.

My third co-worker was having trouble deciding. She wanted pasta, but couldn’t decide what to order. The server casually asked what she wanted on her pasta. She said a simple marinara sauce. He said that would be no problem. She amended her request and asked for a meat sauce. Again, no problem. But it’s not on the menu, she commented. No problem. Now that’s the kind of nonchalant commitment to customer wishes that is so impressive.

Since it was a celebration lunch, we did have desserts – chocolate mousse (Tartufo di Cioccolato), almond gelato, pear sorbet, and apple pie. 2012-10-24T19-53-49_4

Alright, the menu called it an apple almond tort, but it was close enough to apple pie for me.

Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous. I would love to try Fiola for dinner sometime.

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