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Posted on Apr 9, 2012 in Dear Diary, Food | 33 comments

Birthday Week Has Begun!

Happy Monday, folks! For those of you who celebrated them, I hope that you had a wonderful Easter and Passover weekend! In addition to a family-filled Easter Sunday (complete with an epic post-church brunch!), this weekend also included an amazing birthday dinner! Since my birthday falls on a Wednesday this year (ZOMG! TWO MORE DAYS!), and my Mama’s going out of town next weekend, we decided to have Part I of my epic 24th birthday celebration a little early. (You should all really prepare yourselves for how many times you’re going to hear about my birthday over the next week. Heh. Hehe.) It’s become kind of a birthday tradition go out to dinner at a be-still-my-foodie-heart type of restaurant, and this year was no different. Where did this wondrous event take place, you ask?


Why, Graffiato! (Photo cred for most of the pics in this post, save for a few food ones, goes to my brother Ben!) I’ve been wanting to try out Top Chef All-Star Mike Isabella’s restaurant ever since it opened. Finally, I had an opportunity to do with my whole family (minus Taylor, plus Sean) in tow!


General consensus of the restaurant? Awesome! Both experience- and food-wise, it was SO much better than our experience at Founding Farmers last year.

Graffiato has prosecco on tap!

The restaurant itself is pretty tiny – it’s a narrow rectangle with a long bar and maybe like eight (if that!) booths lining the wall. The 7 of us occupied the biggest table in the place, which was next to the prep/serve area of the kitchen — always fun for me. The decor is kind of dark and industrial, and the general feel is pretty casual. There was loud 90s rock music playing over the speakers (Smashing Pumpkins, etc) and the service was a little on the slow side at first. That said, the quality of the food MORE than made up for that in my opinion! OMG THE FOOD.

Flatbread with pepperoni dipping sauce

Potatoes with lemon and parmesan; brussels sprouts with maple, pancetta, and egg; burrata with cipollini onions; wild mushroom soup with smoked mozzarella arancini (!)

Graffiato serves Italian small plates and pizzas, so between the seven of us, we got to try a little of almost everything on the menu. It was glorious.

Crispy pig head; lamb fettucine; lobster risotto; marinated octopus (!!)

Sucking pig lasagna; “Papa Smurf” pizza with potatoes, prosciutto, caramelized onion, and gorgonzola; “Countryman” pizza with black truffle, fontina, and a soft egg

Ben also got a delicious hanger steak, and Dan got a caesar salad that had cream cheese-filled croutons (I KNOW.), neither of which I got pictures of. The highlights of the meal for me were the brussels sprouts (duh), mushroom soup (so creamy and delicious), the lobster risotto (incredible!), and the grilled octopus (don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it!). I also LOVED the soft egg on Jenny’s pizza, it was so creamy and took on an almost cheesy consistency!


Since it was tapas-style all the plates came out at different times, so in between noshing, I got to open a few presents too!



And before I knew it, it was time for dessert!

Did you want some cake with that cleavage? Bahahahaha.

We ordered the warm chocolate cake, which came with a candle in it and salted caramel gelato on the side (epic), and the blood orange cheesecake.




An amazing (and decadent!) start to the most awesome week of the year! I’m going to really have to reel it in the rest of the week, since Sean’s also taking me out on my actual birthday (Wednesday), and then I’ll be drinking my weight in Butterbeer come Saturday! AUGH I LOVE MY BIRTHDAY! 😀

Are you a birthday person?


  1. I hate Mike, but OMG this food looks amazing!! I might have to let go of my anger at Top Chef to enjoy it!

    And you look like a sexy little pin up LOVE the outfit and the red lips!

      • I never hated him, I just always thought he was a little on the cocky side during his TC tenure. I was rooting for Bryan to win though!!

  2. Yay for birthdays!! All that food looks incredible, and you look quite pretty too. 🙂 Where did you get that adorable sparkly cardigan?

    • Aw, thank you Rachel! I got the cardi at Target!

  3. YUM dinner was fantastic- glad we started the foodie birthday dinner tradition! 🙂

  4. I am a birthday person! I use to celebrate them a lot more when I was younger. My favorite thing to do is to eat Thai, get a massage, and do WHATEVER I want to do after that! I set my own agenda on my birthday and I love it!

    I’m looking forward to your week long celebration! Btw, your family is so beautiful!

    Eat Live Move: Intuitive Eating from A to Z

  5. Yum!! This looks amazing. And you look fabulously festive : )

    I love birthdays. Bring on the celebrating!

  6. As someone who fully forgot her birthday one year, I can definitely say “no, I am not a birthday person”. I just never feel like my birthday is a big deal, so I never do something big about it. To each their own though.
    At least you are using your birthday for a worthy reason this year: ie Harry Potter extravaganza!

  7. are you going to Harry Potter world this week?! Happy Birthday Week Gretchen 🙂 my friend Debbie always says you’ll live longer if you go hard on your birthday week!

    • I’m having a Harry Potter-themed birthday party as inspired by the trip to Harry Potter World that I already took back in February! 😀

  8. Great pics, love the dress. Happy Birthday week!

  9. Oh my gosh, how cute is that dress! Love that red lipstick too! Hope you have an amazing birthday – glad your birthday week is off to a great start already. 🙂

  10. Happy Early Birthday! I hope it is a delightful one all week long! I went to Graffiato during Restaurant and enjoyed it! Would like to go back again sometime. PS There is an upstairs too, but it is a tiny place! I can’t wait for Bandolero to open, Mike’s next DC place. <3

  11. Happy Birthday Week!

    Awesome review of the restaurant/food. We went to Volt for our anniversary last year and wanted to find something a little closer. I think this may be the winner!

    • Definitely! Just bear in mind that the atmosphere isn’t quite what I would describe as romantic, haha.

  12. OMG I could only say “I remember the pepperoni sauce from Top Chef!!” LOL.

    I’m still trying to come to terms with my birthday as something to celebrate. Weird upbringing, long story! Basically my parents didn’t believe in making a big deal out of things, so I never had a birthday cake or party or anything like that, although they did give the birthday kid a present, which is kewl. The result is really that I don’t know how to celebrate my birthday!! I always want A Birthday Thing but I don’t know what that thing really is or how to plan it for myself!! And I feel silly and awk for even wanting it. ARGH FAMILY ARGH. 😀 Happy birthday week!!

    • This makes me kind of sad! You deserve to celebrate your birthday even bigger to make up for all the missed birthdays!!!

      • Maybe I’ll take a page from your, er, blog and hit some small plates – or sushi! Honestly, the weird feelings about whether it’s okay to WANT a birthday celebration are way worse than missing them. stupid brain and feelings! On the plus side, it’s been a lot of fun to discover stuff as a grownup that I kind of missed the first time. Sledding, jack-o-lanterns, and husband and I have a date to fly a kite this weekend, weather permitting. It’s never too late! One of these years I’m going to insist we do christmas stockings, too. 🙂

    That’s right girl- it’s YOUR week. Celebrate all week long! I love it!
    I am so jealous that you ate there. I need to book a dinner there asap- it looks amazing! All of the food looks good, but honestly, I should just skip right to it and order a huge bowl (or tub) of salted caramel gelato.
    And, I still want to try Founding Farmers… (although it would be in the one in Rockville, not DC).

  14. Awww …. U look sooo purrty!! Outfit is cute.

    I like seeing everyone getting together and celebrating! Just fantastic. What families/friends should always do.

    HAPPY + HEALTHY BIRTHDAY year to you Gretchen!

    P.S. You are one of my 10 fav blogs. Honest to goodness!!

    • Oh goodness, thanks so much Marcee! You are definitely one of my favorite commenters – you always make me smile! 🙂

  15. Happy Birthday Gretchen! I’m a new reader and I absolutely love your blog. That foods looks ridiculous. I am salivating over the lobster risotto and Papa Smurf pizza!

  16. Love the April birthdays! I celebrate mine later this week as well. I hope you have an amazing birthday week!

  17. Ohhhh I want to try this place! And I have to know where the dress came from — please don’t say some little thrift store years ago or some far-off country…


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