This praise is often given in restaurants when one’s palate has been satiated with great food. However, our compliments go well beyond Chef Salvatore’s mastery of cooking; it extends to other Fire & Sage restaurant staff including manager Kelsey Mellen, evening manager Mayra and our waiter Abdu. The Fire & Sage is a restaurant located at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center.
The incredible meal my wife and I enjoyed at the Fire & Sage is not the end of this story and is certainly not the beginning. The story begins the day before with events in our lives that filled us with happiness and sadness, anger and hunger. A week prior to all this, my wife Karen, son Travis and I flew from California to Baltimore, Maryland to send our son off to attend Johns Hopkins University. With hugs and kisses to our son, we left our hotel in Baltimore and drove to Washington D.C. for an extended small vacation. We arrived at our hotel, the Washington Marriott at the Metro Center and dropped Karen off to check in, while I returned our rental car.
Washington Marriott at Metro Center.
[Photo courtesy of Marriott.com]
I took a cab ride back and returned in time for us to leave for a scheduled tour of the Pentagon. The day was filled with emotions not just from leaving our son to attend a faraway university, but also from the strong emotions we experienced visiting the Pentagon and being so close to the anniversary date of September 11th, when so many Americans lost their lives to terrorists. When we arrived back at the hotel, we stopped in our room to put away few souvenirs. It was then that Karen discovered that her Google Nexus 7 tablet was missing. She searched her bags many times, but she could not find it. The more she looked, the more she became frustrated and upset. I called our Baltimore hotel and spoke to one of the housekeeping staff, who searched our former room to no avail. I took a cab to the rental car agency and spoke to their manager. They were able to locate the current rental driver, who searched for the tablet with negative results.
I returned back to our hotel with the disappointing news. Emotionally drained and hungry we headed down to the Fire and Sage restaurant for a late night meal.
Fire & Sage restaurant. [Photo courtesy of Marriott.com]
The hostess handed us the menu which listed a thin crust mushroom pizza cooked in the restaurant’s Woodstone brick oven. We were greeted by our waiter who said that they were not serving pizza. He explained that it was a slow night and they had turned off the oven. We both were astonished and frustrated that nothing was going right. We really wanted that pizza.
Woodstone brick oven pizza. [Photo courtesy of Marriott.com]
Perturbed, I told the waiter, “Nothing for me”. Karen was famished and grudgingly selected a goat cheese sandwich with soup.
When the waiter left, I looked over toward the kitchen area where three chefs were working. I walked over to them and said, “So there is no pizza tonight?” One chef looked at me puzzled and said, “Of course there is! What would you like?” I smiled, “Your mushroom pizza!” He asked if I wanted one or two and explained that one pizza was enough for two people, but he would cook two if I wanted! I said that one would be plenty for us and thanked him. I sat down and told Karen that the chefs were making us the mushroom pizza after all! We flagged down whom we thought was another waiter, but who turned out to be a busboy, and canceled our order for the goat cheese sandwich. A few minutes later, however, the waiter brought the sandwich and soup anyway. Karen explained that we had canceled the order with the other waiter. He said he was the only waiter. When he started to take it away, my wife said, “I’ll take it. I don’t want you to throw it away.”
The waiter seemed angry or annoyed that we were able to order the pizza anyway, as if we had somehow “gone over his head”. I was puzzled why he told us one thing and the cooks did another. Karen took a bite of the sandwich and sipped some of the soup and did not like it. The waiter returned with our mushroom pizza and Karen asked for him to take the sandwich and soup back. We really only wanted the pizza. The waiter then said, “But you ordered it.” She was not happy that she had to pay for something she did not like or wanted in the first place.
I said, “Let’s just pay for it.” Karen said that we wanted to talk to the manager. Moments later, the manager arrived and said that there was no charge for our entire meal. We said that the pizza tasted great and it was just an issue with the sandwich and soup. She insisted there was no charge and left. As we got up to leave, the waiter approached and I handed him several dollars to cover the tip. He looked at it and placed it on our table and adamantly refused to accept it. His response was not in a pleasant and gracious way but rather angry and contemptuous. His facial expressions spoke volumes and we concluded that we had somehow insulted him, by our complaints regarding the food. I felt that his overall behavior and attitude was not representative of the good Marriott name and I also did not appreciate his disingenuous comments. When I walked over to talk to the manager, the waiter hovered nearby as if intent on hearing what I had to say.
A couple days later we were enjoying our breakfast when the Day Manager for the restaurant, Kelsey Mellen, approached our table. She apologized for the previous night’s misunderstandings and said that our concerns would be addressed. She then invited us to have dinner at the restaurant that night, where she said that their Chef Salvatore would cook a special meal just for us with their compliments.
That night we were greeted by our new waiter Abdu. The other waiter was on his days off. Our first course was an incredible fresh salad prepared and crafted by the Chef Salvatore.
Chef Salvatore salad creation.
This was followed by the main course of scrumptious chicken and Risotto rice.
Chicken and Risotto rice dinner.
Our waiter Abdu suggested desert and recommended the homemade lemon tart with a raspberry sauce and raspberries or a plate of their homemade apple/walnut crumble with vanilla bean ice cream. Then he stated, “Why not try both!” and brought them out for us to share.
Lemon tart with Raspberry sauce and raspberries.
Apple/Walnut Crumble with Vanilla Bean ice cream.
My happy wife.
The waiter came back and offered Cappuccinos as a finale. As it turned out, this would not be the finale. When we arrived back in our room, we discovered that there was a bottle of chilled Merlot, a tray of chocolate dipped strawberries and a personal note from the manager Kelsey Mellen.
On our last morning at the Washington Marriott, I had an epiphany. What if her Google Nexus 7 tablet was not left at our last hotel or not left in the rental car? I went to the hotel registration desk, turned in our room keys and asked the hotel clerk if by chance they had a lost and found. I described Karen’s Google Nexus 7 and he said he would check. While we were having breakfast the hotel clerk walked up with a smile on his face and handed Karen her Google Nexus 7! Apparently, in that short time when Karen had arrived at the hotel to check in, she made one stop at the ladies’ restroom and left her tablet there. An honest Marriott employee or hotel guest had discovered it and had turned it in.
Now that we are back at home in California, our focus is directed towards adjusting to life with “Empty Nest Syndrome”. Though we will certainly keep in contact with our son via phone calls and text messages, we will anxiously wait for when he comes home to visit during school holidays. Our trip to Baltimore and our extended stay in Washington, D.C. was filled with life-long memories. The initial negative experience that we had with one waiter was overshadowed by the courtesy and outstanding service by the aforementioned management and staff of the Fire & Sage restaurant. They deserve a huge “Thank you!” Chef Salvatore, manager Kelsey Mellen, evening manager Mayra and our waiter Abdu made right that which had gone wrong. Their level of extended hospitality went well beyond simple measures that would have sufficed to rectify the situation. They exemplify the great standards of the Marriott Hotels.