My dear friend Cindy is visiting town from New York. Happily, her project management conference happened to be in Seattle this year. (Or was it that she chose to attend the conference solely because it was in Seattle? I’m not going to tell.) She and I have been dear friends for nearly seven years, squealing with delight when we see each other, talking faster than anyone else in the place ever could, and laughing happily at the sound of each other’s voices. She is gorgeous, stylish, generous beyond belief, and constantly, abundantly joyful. She also has a wicked sense of humor, if you’re worried she’s a sap. Born in Nigeria, but raised in Great Britain, Cindy has this trilling accent that manages to sound full in her mouth and light at the same time. Whenever she calls me, she stars off by saying, “Hello, gorgous.” And whenever I say something with which she particularly agrees, she slaps me on the shoulder and says, with enormous emphasis, “Do you know what I mean?” in that accent. (Of course I know what you mean, dear. I said it!) I adore her, and having her here in the city is giving me boundless energy.
Of course, she had never met the Chef until this visit.
Cut to the chase. They adore each other. The three of us sat over dinner, devouring each other’s words and dining on the stories. By the end of the evening, both of them said to me separately (Cindy when she and I made the girlish both-of-us-go trip to the bathroom, the Chef on the car ride home), “My god, he/she is so real.” And best of all, we were really a trio, not a lovey-dovey couple and a friend. I adore the way the Chef adores my friends. It makes me love him even more.
Of course, everything these days makes me love him even more.
On top of all of Cindy’s gorgeous qualities, she also happens to adore food. I don’t mean like food. Enjoy food. Savor food. I mean, she ADORES food, the same way I do, the same way the Chef does. I knew we would never run out of conversation. Destined to visit the Chef’s restaurant on Tuesday, we needed some dinner downtown on Sunday night, close to her hotel.
I knew just where to go. Wild Ginger.
Two years ago, when Cindy came for a visit, we spent an entire, delectable evening at this theatrical, pan-Asian restaurant. I say theatrical because the place is enormous, with levels of seating, airy spaces rising to the ceiling, swanky bars, and perfectly set tables. And the food. Oh, the food. Seared ahi tuna bruschetta. Lychee nut martinis. Roasted duck with little buns and plum sauce. Cindy and I sat there all night, laughing and talking, and we didn’t finish eating our mango sticky rice until nearly midnight. We have talked about that night ever since.
So of course we had to go back. However, this time I had to eat differently. Could they accomodate me?
Yes, they did. Beautifully. And I’m writing this now — with a cheesy picture of ginger I took last night — so all those of you who must eat gluten-free know there is another option in Seattle. (Besides the Chef’s restaurant, where you should go first.)
What I loved most about our meal at Wild Ginger — aside from the company — was the thoughtful, thorough service we received from the staff. This is a restaurant that values great food, and they have hired waiters who know that food well. When I mentioned that I cannot eat gluten, in my usual way (“I’m so sorry to bother you but.…cannot anything with gluten…even a small amount…get violently ill in your restaurant.”), our waiter sent over their specialist.
Jennifer is, apparently, allergic to almost every food. That made her the perfect detective for my meal. Cindy and the Chef were kind enough to order gluten-free meals as well, so we could share the Hong Kong scallops, the herb-crusted sea bass, the banana peppers stuffed with crab and shrimp, the Bangkok Boar satay skewers, and the beef curry. Jennifer knew every ingredient of every dish, and when I asked, “Could we have this?” she shook her head, or nodded. Then, she went back to enormous kitchen and personally inspected the cooking of every dish.
At this point, our waiter, Tyler came over to ask if we needed anything else. I told him, effusively, how happy we were with everything, particularly the way they had taken care of me. Humbly, he said, “Well, Jennifer is allergic to everything, and I’m absolutely paranoid about any of my customers getting sick. So you have the best team.”
I love them.
Going to Wild Ginger proves to me again that it is entirely possible to eat gluten-free in a restaurant — even an enormous restaurant that feeds over 600 people a night — and eat well. More than well — exquisitely.
I know that many of you gluten-free readers are afraid to eat in a restaurant, or go only to chain restaurants that have special gluten-free menus. Respectfully, may I suggest? Please, stop that. If you choose a truly extraordinary restaurant that truly cares about the food, and you stand up for yourself when you order, you have a fabulous chance of eating one of the most memorable meals of your life.
Cindy and the Chef agree: gorgeous.