This whole experience was surreal to me. You are reading about a guy who never wins anything. Raffle drawings, none — lotto jackpots, never. But this experience, this one was different. All of the stars lined up for this one and everything worked out perfectly. The way it goes is, you tweet any dish you want to chef Diana Stavaridis of BLD. If she chooses your dish selection, you and a friend dine for free Thursday evening and that dish will be Thursday’s plats du jour. It all started on a slow Friday afternoon at work. Me and my coworker were just chatting about technology, food, and the weekend. He was planning a date night to BLD, and noticed the “tweet-a-dish” on their website. He mentioned it to me and I, half joking and not at all trying to win just sent @BLDChefD a tweet. Knowing a bit about BLD and their menu, shrimp and grits immediately came to my head. After a week and forgetting about the whole contest, I got a tweet back from Chef Diana congratulating me! Surprised, I was more honored that they chose my dish than the fact I would be getting free dinner for two. Nonetheless, I immediately called and made reservations.
Walking into BLD, I didn’t know what to expect. Half nervous and excited, I couldn’t keep my hands still — probably why all of the pictures came out so blurry. We were seated instantly and the waiter told us what would be going on. I obviously underestimated winning this tweet-a-dish contest. I was expecting just a free entree for me and a friend, but I was wrong. I was given 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and 2 desserts. Yes, I was overwhelmed. Not only did I get to eat the dish I tweeted, I was able to see the dish on the menu as one of the specials. It was sureel to me to overhear waiters tell other people dining about the featured dish of the day. From a simple tweet, it went to a chef, and from that, it went on a menu, and into hungry patrons. To me, that was more special than a free dinner.
For the appetizer, I had the smoked Cajun mac and cheese and steamed mussels. The mac and cheese to me was interesting. It wasn’t really cheesy or heavy, but there was something to be desired. The noodles were nicely cooked and the taste was cheesy, but without the goo. My favorite part was the topping. Usually, it is a butter heavy cracker or panko batter crust, but theirs was something different. It was crispy and crunchy, almost like class, and it never got soggy — It wasn’t buttery or anything. These things served solely as a textural crunch, nothing more. It was refreshing to eat such a healthy and light mac and cheese. Most, especially mine, are butter heavy, cheese heavy, and gooey. The BLD mac and cheese was a pleasant change in taste and texture.
The steamed mussels were perfectly prepared. Sweet in flavor, the mussels were tender and not over-cooked. I was impressed at how soft and not rubbery the mussels were. They practically broke down in my mouth with little effort. In a broth of tomatoes, white wine, and chilies, the dish was hearty. The grilled baguette was perfect to sop up all of the broth — the broth was a tomato base and the white wine gave it a nice rich flavor profile. It was a solid appetizer.
The first main dish was the braised short rib. At first bite, I could tell this thing was cooking for a long long time. The meat just shredded off and the fat was rendered down, yet it was still juicy. Atop a mound of grits, and an au jus sauce, it was all a cohesive dish that was hearty. The arugula in the dish evened out the beefy flavor and rich sauce. The tomatoes gave it a nice acidic flavor which counter balanced the beef well. It was an impressive dish and I was lucky to have ordered this.
Of course, one of us had to order the tweet a dish plats du jour. Excited to see my dish come, I couldn’t wait to see Chef Diana’s take on shrimp and grits. At first bite, I immediately tasted the BLD(ness) of the dish. Hearty and delicious, it was like no other shrimp and grits I ever had. Yeah, most shrimp and grits are heavy on the butter and salt, but the one I had, my dish, was clean tasting. Without the use of much butter, the flavors of the tomatoes and other vegetables were prominent. The bite of the grits, more rice like than others, was a pleasure. No, the dish wasn’t heavy with oils and cheeses and butter, but the flavors were so clean and fresh, it was an eye opener. I didn’t expect this at all.
As I finished off my shrimp and grits, I began to realize the nature of this restaurant and the cooking Chef Diana does. I don’t think they have butter in the back of the kitchen. I don’t think they know what lard is or what bacon fat tastes like. This is a good thing! Yeah, bacon fat and butter make everything taste good, but to make dishes shine with the actual ingredients, vegetables and all, that takes true skill. I was especially honored when Chef Diana came out of the kitchen to our table to say hi. A simple thing as just saying hi made Chef Diana truly knows how to make a healthy meal taste amazing.
All this good food ended with great desserts. We ordered warm sugared popovers and banana cream pie. The popovers had blueberries baked in. Atop sat a mound of lemon buttermilk ice cream which was hand made. The lemon from the ice cream and blueberries inside the popover worked perfectly together. The bready, cakey popover mixed in well with the ice cream to make each bite delicious. The banana cream pie was amazing — the brownie crust alone had me hooked. The cream and the crust was good in itself, but the addition of bananas and rub caramel made everything perfect. This was a perfect combo of desserts with completely different flavor profiles — it was a nice way to end the meal.
After doing some research on Chef Diana, I was surprised to see that she had a few spots on TV. Her ticotta blueberry pancakes were featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. (Yum! Gatta try those ASAP.) She also guessed starred on The Next Food Network Star. Finding out that she is famous, I was honored to have met and spoken to her at the restaurant. It was nice of her to leave the busy kitchen and converse with her guests. All in all, I felt lucky, special, and honored. BLD is an upscale restaurant without the stuffy prices and atmosphere. Their specials and dishes alike are all affordable and the dim atmosphere makes this a perfect date spot. I am definitely coming back for brunch, as they are known for it, and definitely coming back for those blueberry rocotta pancakes. Until then, Thank you Chef Diana for your great food and hospitality. I will see you on twitter!