Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Wizard & I (aka BirFday post Vol II)

I am a self proclaimed wanna-be foodie.  Meaning I watch all the foodie shows - Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, Top Chef Allstars, Top Chef Desserts, Food Network Star, Chopped, Hell's Kitchen, Master Chef...

You get the point.

But here in southwest Virginia, opportunities are limited to be a real foodie.  Not that I don't try.  One of my new year's resolutions is always to try new foods & restaurants.  Yet I've never had Foie Gras, Sweetbreads, or Rocky Mountain oysters. 

(Don't know what a Rocky Mountain oyster is?  Google it.  Yes, they eat those - craziness.)

So...for the Pièce de résistance of my birthday celebration, my amazing sister (henceforth known as Trackpants) made reservations at The Spence.

For all of you who don't know what The Spence is, let me clue you in.  My all-time favorite TV chef is Richard Blais.

Although, Scott Conant comes in at a close second.  But Blais is my true favorite.  I'm a huge fan.  Not like stalker-I-know-your-birthday-and-and-your-favorite-color kinda fan, just a fan.  I watched him on his first season of Top Chef.  And I watched his heartbreaking loss in the final round. 

I had panic attacks every week when he returned on Top Chef: All-Stars.  (By the way, I'm still convinced they only had that season to have Chef Blais win.  He was hands down the best chef ever to be on that show.  He needed a championship ring to go with his bowl t-shirt...sorry, football reference.)

Part of his winnings were invested in opening The Spence - An Eatery.  Anyhow, I digress.

I have been to one of his previous restaurants, Flip Burger, and had the best onion rings and Cap'n Crunch milkshake in my short life.  If you're ever in Atlanta and you want a burger, you must, must go there.  The milkshake was made with liquid nitrogen...it came out with special effects.

Anyhow, Trackpants had the forethought to make us reservations at The Spence for my 30th birthday.  (I know I said that already, but The Spence only opened in May - it's a big deal.)

We get there and it's valet parking.  Ugh.  Valet parking is for Lexus', not Hyundai's or Honda's.  Could've crawled out.  I felt like Duck Dynasty rollin up in there.  But the valets were super fun and friendly. 

The hostesses were young and beautiful...and nice.  (We were late for our reservations.  Usually if you're late - you're out.)  I guess that's the difference between NYC and the South. 

I was dying inside already.

As we walk to the table, Techy goes "Look, Look, Look."  I look around and there stands the Wizard himself at the bar.  I do a double take.  He's in an apron...and looks like he's working. 

Wha?  As with most TV chef's, I imagined they lend their name to the place.  Maybe create a couple dishes for the menu, but they don't actually "work" there.  They're too busy being on Fox & Friends or something like that.  But there he was.  And my inner nerd begins to freak.

Then they seat us.  And we're seated at the chef's table.  And my nerd is now like in full-on Urkel mode.  We are staring into the kitchen.  We get to watch our food being made. 

They bring out rolls...with coconut butter.  I'll let that sink it.  co-co-nut butter!

Then we order starters - some kind of calamari, lobster, shrimp concoction that was fried.  Move over Paula.  Blais wins this round.  Perfectly fried - not too breaded, not too raw, just perfect.

As I peruse the menu, there is rack of lamb, halibut, macaroni & headcheese, foie gras, all kinds of things that are making my wanna-be foodie's heart palipatate.  Mr. DDA orders the Jucy Lucy - a burger and fries.  We drive 7 hours for a burger.  I know; blasphemy.  I settled for the confit salmon with cream cheese mashed potatoes.  Safe for my first foodie adventure but definite something new.

It was out of this world good.  And it came under this Dr. Seuss looking dome that they opened and smoke rolled out.  Bonus points for presentation for sure.  The taste though was insane.  My backwoods, southern roots wanted a little lemon pepper on it, but it was truly perfect.  I'm not totally sure what all that little stuff on top was, but it all went together perfect.

And those cream cheese mashed potatoes?  I wished I had a vat - not a tiny schmeer.  My only complaint.  :)  I savor every bite.

Then, the lovely waitress brings me a complimentary birthday dessert.  Does this look like any blueberry ricotta cheesecake you've ever had?

before & after
And I'm a happy girl.  I've seen the chef, I've watched the kitchen, I've ate, and ate, and ate.  I was so happy.

We're sitting there, waiting on our checks, and all I can think is how great the night was.  Then, over my shoulder, a head appears and says, "Hey.  Happy Birthday!  Thank you so much for coming." 

And it's The Wizard - Chef Richard Blais...telling me...the nerdy accountant Happy Birthday.  Trackpants starts snapping pictures.  I love her.  And he says, "Would you like a picture?" 

I think I said something to the effect of "I eat napkins."  My brain was mush.  My culinary icon was offering to take a picture with me.

The Wizard & I
Then he begins to converse with my family.  Yes, my family.  Like he is genuinely appreciative that we came in.  And offers to take a picture with my family.  Wha?

"Just swappin some recipes" - caption by Techy
And just to clear this up, Trackpants is wearing clothes. 

I thanked him a thousand times...and yes, I'm considering sending a Thank You note

It was a fantastic night.  Better than I could've ever imagined. 

Oh - and for the money part - our total bill was $60.  Oh yeah!  

Thank you Techy, Trackpants, and Mr. DDA.   It was the best 30th birthday week a shoe loving, Football freak, wanna-be foodie girl could ask for.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Birthday Week (Vol. 1)

Last week, I didn't post - but it was an amazing week.  It was SOOOO amazing, I'm going to have to split this post into 2 separate posts.  (Only I could figure out how to celebrate a birthday for an entire week.)

Monday (aka Labor Day) was my 30th birFday (again, pet peeve...it's birTHday, people.)  Mr. DDA had to work.  So it was me & the three kids.  Not exactly my idea of fun.  But then we went to the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech game.  I'm a VT football freak.  I live & breathe it during the fall.  We had press box passes.  The game was amazing.  We won in OT. 

Aren't We Cute?
Then, came Thursday...Thursday was HUGE in our house!!!
First, it was the Little Man's birthday.  And in case anyone within 5 miles of him didn't know - He turned 5! 

Also, Thursday was the cast removal day.  Yes - you read that right.  Hannah got her cast off.

Finally - after 3 long months...  I was able to cuddle her, hold her, she was able to take a bath...  It was wonderful. 

That night we went to Red Robin.  Red Robin is one of the kids' favorite places (and one of my wallet's least favorites.)  But what was so significant was that we went there the night before her surgery.  And I sat there with tears in my eyes wondering how we were going to do it.  How were we going to make it 3 months?  And then there we were - 12 weeks later.  With it behind us.  With our little girl - mostly healed.  (She still needs prayer though.  She could have to go through this again in 2 years.)

And as if that day could not get any better - Eli came home from school that day and I quote, "I prayed to Jesus and asked Him to come in my heart."  So he had a double birthday.  My cup overfloweth.  I could've died that night without a single regret. 

Then, on Friday, we headed down to Atlanta for my official 30th birthday party.  We had a giant cookout for Techy & Mr. DDA's birthdays.  My sister had a huge dance party.  I thought I would be somewhat disappointed that I wasn't having a party with all of my friends.  But I knew that as much as I loved Mr. DDA, a party planner he was not.  And the pressure would be on him to step it up.  My solution was a weekend with my family in Atlanta.

My sister made the plans.  And it was all a surprise for me.  We were supposed to run my first 5K.  She even made us shirts.

I can't figure out how to download pictures from Instagram.
Thanks to my bad knees and my sister's septic issues, the 5K didn't happen.  But we did run our own 3.1 miles at a local park.  And even though my knees wouldn't hold up the entire time, I finished. 

Then we were supposed to go to the zoo.  But thanks to poopie problems, the zoo didn't happen either.  But a friend opened her pool to us.

So far, you would think the weekend was a disaster.  Actually, it was wonderful.  This is exactly what I wanted.  But about to get even more AMAZING.  The final surprise was dinner reservations at The Spence.

Now, I'm a foodie.  HUGE foodie.  I love all those cooking shows on TV.  But hands down, my favorite TV chef, is Richard Blais.  He won Top Chef: All-Stars.  And with his prize money, he opened The Spence.  And my sister, being the amazing creative person she is, thought to take me there.  It was an amazing night.  One so amazing it needs it's own post.  But here's a sampling.

Then, after dinner, Mr. DDA took me here.

They sell these:

Only £225.00 - Converted to Dollars - $359!  OUCH!
While, I would *probably* never have bought them, I just wanted to try them on.  But alas - they didn't even have them in black so the temptation wasn't even there! But I did at least get to look around.  And pretend I was rich - if even for 48 seconds.

Then church on Sunday.  Did I mention that my sister goes to the same church as Casting Crowns?  Yes, the REAL members of Casting Crowns. 

All in all the weekend was amazing.  So good that I couldn't even believe it.  I'm up 5.5 pounds.  But it was so worth it.  So, so worth it.

See you soon with my review of The Spence!