I bundled up, expecting it to be cold and icy from yesterday's "snowpocalypse/snowmageddon/(and my personal favorite) snOMG." I was inside all day and didn't realize that the storm pretty much missed Boston. Off went the hat and gloves. It's beautiful out there today! After about 45 minutes on the Green Line, I arrived at Haymarket, and Caffe Graffiti was just a short walk away, right on the Greenway and near the corner of Hanover. I found Hagan outside, taking photos of the restaurant. After initially trying the wrong door, which led to a disappointing "guess they're closed" moment, we found the right door and headed inside.
I had read some of Hagan's 93 Plates blog posts, as well as some posts - including a few pretty negative ones - by other bloggers who participated in it, but I decided to go in ignoring my preconceived notions as much as possible and just enjoy the opportunity to meet someone new and eat some (hopefully good) food. Since I live all the way out in Brighton, I don't get out to the North End as often as I'd like, so this was a good excuse. 93 Plates is done, and this meal was part of Hagan's audition for Groupon's "Live Off Groupon" contest where the winner will have to spend a year quite literally living off of groupons.
We ended with cannoli. I'm hardly a cannoli aficionado; I've had maybe two or three in my life since I'm not really a fan of ricotta. But the filling in this one had a nice liqueur flavor that made the ricotta much more tolerable for me. The chocolate-covered shell was tricky to cut into; it required some careful maneuvering so as not to send shards of cannoli shell over to the neighboring tables. Once we broke up the shell a bit, I found it quite tasty. Our waiter also brought us a couple free cappuccinos - the pride of Caffe Graffiti. I'm also not much of a cappuccino drinker (sorry, I guess this paragraph is pretty useless) but I really enjoyed this one. It was topped with a nice cocoa powder that cut the bitterness a bit. Also, it was very strong caffeine-wise. If only you could see how quickly I'm typing right now!
Some 93 Plates participants have accused Hagan of being a media whore, only being in this for the website traffic and publicity, but since he openly admits that these are his motivations, I didn't have much of a problem with it. Hypocrisy would have been a bigger problem, but he wasn't pretending that food blogging was part of some nobler goal - he was very straightforward about what he wants from this. As such, I feel inspired to share my motivations for going to this particular meal: (1) free lunch, (2) fun adventure on a lazy day/an excuse to get out of the apartment, (3) content for a blog post. As far as this blog goes, I'm still not really sure what my motivation is. I love to eat and I love to write, so there's that. But on some level, I guess it's also been about wanting some attention, finding a way of connecting with people, marketing myself as a writer and photographer, and yes, occasionally accepting free food. That last one troubles me a lot, but one thing I learned in journalism school was that you can do anything you want as long as you tell the reader what you're doing. I feel justified in accepting free food as long as I tell the reader I'm doing it and provide an interesting story that people will enjoy reading. I've been invited to some food blogger dinners at restaurants where they wine and dine you and hope you'll write nice things about them, and though these experiences do seem kind of dirty somehow, it's given me a chance to discover new restaurants that I may not have checked out otherwise, and I've met some interesting people. But the exploration of the ethics and motivations of food blogging is an ongoing and complicated process, so for now, I'll just end by saying that Caffe Graffiti is worth checking out, especially once they have their 40-seat sidewalk area set up in the summer. Prime people-watching!
Check out Hagan's post here.
Full disclosure: Hagan paid for our meal, I left the tip, and the cappuccinos were comped.