Living the gluten-free good life in D.C.

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Art & Soul – Capitol Hill

April 7th, 2009 by Brooke

We decided to check out the much-acclaimed Art and Soul on Capitol Hill over the most recent Restaurant Week, which, I hate to admit was in February. It was Wednesday night so it was pleasantly busy but not completely packed. We started with cocktails and I had an absolutely divine Vermont maple syrup-infused martini that I would have again tonight and tomorrow night and the night after that if I could.

The menu is vast – there is something for everyone. Beef, some fish, some chicken, a pork, and some very enticing nods to southern soul food like corncakes and shrimp and grits. I was excited.

And then I told the waiter I was gluten-free.

If he had just said “I don’t know much about that, let me get someone,” it would have been a perfectly dignified response. But instead he fumbled, he fidgeted and he started to make pushy recommendations about the rockfish – which I did not want. His demeanor infuriated me so much,  and made me so uncomfortable and skeptical that I asked Adrian if we could leave. And, in hindsight, we should have. It wasn’t that he didn’t try, he did “try” I suppose, and he was nice, but he wasn’t very collected and just came across as very dumb.

So I pulled the old Wheat Flour Allergy Card to see if it had any traction.

I asked about dishes I wanted to try and he dutifully went to the kitchen each time only to return with  completely asinine answers like:

“Every single cut of meat is floured before cooking.”
“I know that grits have gluten so those are not an option.”
“You can’t have the chicken – it’s marinated in buttermilk!”
“I know they use wheat flour in the mashed potatoes.”

And my personal favorite – “If you can’t find anything that works, you can always have the mac and cheese.”

It was like I spoke a different language. Again, we should have left. But, through my teeth, I said, “Go tell the chef to fix me a cut of beef in a pan being careful to add NO wheat flour and put it on a plate with some sauteed vegetables.” And he did. And it wasn’t bad – it was a beautifully marbled rib-eye and the baby carrots were delicious. I had no complaints about the food I was finally served but damn, it was a long and windy road to get food on my table.

Bottom line: We won’t be going back. It was a terribly frustrating experience.

I would much rather go to my local standby, Tallula, where I’ve actually laid eyes on a server’s  color-coded food allergy card with menu ingredients. Or, better yet, Oyamel, my new favorite downtown hangout which serves most every delectable morsel with or in a handy gluten-free corn tortila.

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