Je Voudrais…

Le Diplomate“Je voudrais…” was one of the first French phrases I was taught in my middle school French class. I vividly remember our teacher (“Madame,” of course) bringing in Coke and Orangina to our class so we could practice saying, “Je voudrais un Coca s’il vous plaît.” It was thrilling, I tell you. Of course, if I had used the phrase when placing my order at Le Diplomate last Sunday, I would’ve gotten some strange stares, both from the waiter and my dining partner. I’ll say, although I was slightly offended at the mangled French pronunciations used by my waiter, once the food came, it really didn’t matter. The food was rich but summery, meticulous but comforting. Having opened only a few months ago on the 14th street corridor, Le Diplomate has basked in an array of shining reviews. And with the sun peeping through bright red awnings and reflecting off the chummy yellow patio bistro chairs, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to enjoy brunch with a good friend.

Le Diplomate patioWe were seated after only about 20 minutes, preferring the short wait to eating inside or on the side patio (with a lot more foot traffic). We snagged a perfect table at the sweet spot between inside and out. With its towering ceilings, skylights and dining room completely open to the patio, Le Diplomate has completely mastered the dining “en plein air” effect. Entranced by the absolutely perfect weather, we were content to gaze lazily around at our fellow diners, slowly peruse the menu, and sip on the Mimosa Lorraine (Crème de Griotte, Crème de Pêche, Orange Juice, and Sparkling Wine) or Bloody Mary. More importantly, our servers were content to let us do just that.

Le Diplomate DiningWhen it did come time for ordering, I prattled off my list of allergies and asked if there would be anything problematic with my order. Although our server didn’t seem exceedingly informed, he was confident that the restaurant wouldn’t have any peanuts anywhere near my dishes. Peanuts aren’t really a thing in French cooking, thank goodness. mimosa and bloody maryI will note, however, that the bread basket brought over by another server did include a cranberry walnut bread. Although tree nuts are entirely safe for me, I still would have appreciated a head’s up. For many people I know, this would have been a big faux pas (see how I used the French, there?).

croissantOne buttery, crackly croissant later, the server brought our main dishes. I’m told that the egg white omelette with ratatouille was lovely, but I can only really speak for my dish: Eggs Boudin Noir. Baked “en cocotte” (in a vivid orange Le Creuset boat-like dish), my soft boiled eggs were surrounded by crispy, salty boudin noir (blood sausage) and roasted asparagus, with some crusty, grilled levain bread on the side. Outrageous. I assure you that this dish was responsible for my inability to move for several hours afterwards. Luckily, my afternoon consisted of lying on the grass in Meridian Hill Park people-watching and reflecting on my meal. And imagining a new one.

Eggs En CocotteYesterday, I decided to capitalize on the obviously genius combination of eggs, sausage and asparagus to make my own version of eggs en cocotte. IMG_1633With my CSA bounty at the ready, I made a delightful little frittata with scallions, chives, sharp cheddar, roasted asparagus, and chicken sausage. I may have then topped it with tabasco sauce. Not exactly French, but very delicious!

Le Diplomate | 1601 14th Street Washington DC 20005 | 202.332.3333


A Real Gem–er, Pearl

I dislike oysters. I might even say that I strongly dislike oysters. Accordingly, one might wonder why I was visiting a place named Pearl Dive Oyster Palace. However, my initial misgivings had nothing to do with oysters themselves—I was nervous about peanuts. Peanut oil, specifically. Unfortunately for me, many Southern-inspired restaurants fry with peanut oil or sprinkle crushed peanuts on dishes. Preparing for the worst, I made a point of calling ahead to discuss my allergy.

A manager answered my call, and immediately transferred me to the chef, who was more than willing to answer all of my questions. “I would love to talk to you about your dietary restrictions!” she exclaimed. During this call, the chef was able to assuage all my concerns about peanuts and corn. The restaurant didn’t use peanut oil, and she was adamant that any substitutions would be perfectly fine, and that the waiters would take great care of me. But here’s the real kicker:

Chef: So when are you thinking of coming in?

Me: I was actually planning on coming in tonight with a friend of mine.

Chef: Fantastic! What’s your name, and what time will you arrive? We can have all your information ready, and we’ll be prepared for you when you get here.

Pearl Dive doesn’t take reservations. It’s a first-come-first-served restaurant, but in order to guarantee an exceptional customer experience, the management bypassed their rules in order to make me feel welcome and comfortable in their restaurant. And my goodness that meal was extraordinary!

Fried Grilled Shrimp Platter

The decadent crab cakes I ordered were originally accompanied by a corn sauce, but the waiter easily substituted a carrot sauce that was featured with their special item of the day. From the Pearl Cup (Pimms, Plymouth Gin, Cucumber, Lime, Mint, House Ginger Beer) to the Rustic Apple Black Iron Pie For Two (Apple & Cognac Filling, Cinnamon Gelato), the meal was a rousing success, made all the better by Pearl Dive’s truly exemplary attitude about my dietary needs.

Three weeks later, I celebrated my brother’s birthday at Pearl Dive. Again, I was met with over-the-top service and understanding from the wait-staff. The server suggested grilled shrimp instead of the cornmeal-crusted fried shrimp, and even made a point of giving me my own personal breadbasket that hadn’t been contaminated by the cornbread. Another amazing meal.


Strangely enough, I’m really starting to like oysters…

Pearl Dive Oyster Palace                  1612 14th Street NW                 Washington, DC 20009

Do you ever call ahead to restaurants to discuss your food allergies? Is it necessary to talk to the actual chef?