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I love everything about food – eating it, reading about it, and especially watching cooking shows. Thanks to my loyal viewing of Top Chef, Iron Chef America and Next Iron Chef, I’m learning so much!  It was Next Iron Chef that introduced me to now Iron Chef Jose Garces – the introduction being figurative… we haven’t met yet, but I like to think that we could be friends.

For my birthday this year, I wanted to go to one of Chef Garces’ restaurants and I must say that from the beginning of my search, I had an amazing customer service experience.

On December 13th, I sent out a tweet asking my Philly friends which Garces restaurant they liked the most, mentioning @GarcesGroup purely for referential purposes – I wasn’t sure which location would be best for a group of 10 for a fun, casual birthday dinner.  To my surprise, the Garces Group tweeted me back, and not just once… we had a fun little tweet chat in which they were very helpful by answering my questions about large group reservations – I didn’t even have to look up the phone number myself, they gave it to me via Tweet!

I immediately called for our reservation, where the good customer service continued. The woman who answered the phone was so friendly, taking time to genuinely answer my questions.  I was couldn’t wait for my birthday!

When Sunday, December 18th arrived, I could barely contain my excitement.  I had been semi-stalking the Tour of Distrito photos, wondering where we’d be seated.  The swings in the upstairs lounge looked so fun, not to mention the insanely awesome lucha libre mask wall… c’mon, how cool is this?

When we checked in with the hostess, there was a really beautiful wall behind her with shelves covered in brightly colored bottles.  Then –  something magical happened.  The hostess pulled on one of the bottles and a door opened up, leading into the most incredible room…

Since we had a large group, our set-up was a little different than pictured above; we had 5 of the multi-colored round tables lined up length-wise across the room.

I’m not sure how I missed this on the web tour, but I’m so glad I did, purely for the surprise factor of it all.  The flat-screen TV was a bonus for all of the football fans, because when we found the right channel, we saw the Eagles were destroying the Jets – thank you Eagles for THAT birthday present!

Our server was extremely nice.  Nine out of our ten people had never been to Distrito before, and he was very patient with all of our questions, especially my asking “how spicy is this?” about at least 5 menu items that I was eyeing.

To say the food was amazing would be a tragic understatement. I don’t have the foodie vernacular to describe the specific nuances of our dishes, but each bite was absolutely delicious.  I LOVED the tapas style portions – it was so much more enjoyable to have smaller portions of multiple dishes than to fill up on one entree.  And there are no words to describe my dessert, El Fuerte, which I begrudgingly shared with my bestie, Lauren (had I been alone in the room, I would’ve eaten the entire dish myself and probably licked the plate – it was that good).

I was so swept up in the evening that my picture-taking was not up to par, but I did manage to snap a few pictures on my iPhone (below).

I’d like to extend my most heartfelt appreciation to the entire staff at Distrito (hostess, server & food runners) and to whomever is behind the @GarcesGroup Twitter account.   You all made my birthday a special one – and we will DEFINITELY be back in the future!

My birthday meal: (L-R) Frijoles Refritos, Mole Verde & Los Tacos Camarones y Chorizo

The server “heard” it was my birthday, and was so tasteful about it… a simple little candle on my dessert plate. To my extreme pleasure, there was no embarrassing group of servers singing some corny birthday song at the top of their lungs; Distrito is a class act through and through.

El Fuerte for Two: flourless chocolate cake, vanilla mousseline, espresso ice cream (sans spicy peanuts).

My dessert "partner in crime" - my best friend, Lauren (left) and myself.

Lauren's husband, Kamari, belting it out karaoke.