“Will you marry me, Susan?” were the words that popped up on The Grape’s venerable menu chalkboard one night.
“We’ve put proposals on the (printed) menu before too,” laughs long-time manager Mark Gilsdorf, who has plenty of tales about the love-related props and machinations the restaurant’s understanding staff has accommodated over the years.
“We had a guy bring in a little butter dish for the ring…another arranged for a two-piece band. Someone’s future brother-in-law tried to hide across the room and videotape a proposal.”
Gilsdorf says, however, they discourage engagement rings in dessert or wine: “Literally, one girl drank all her champagne without realizing the ring was in there, and he had to reach over and fish it out.”
In 1972, when owners Kathy McDaniel and Charlotte Parker opened the door to the former Pietro’s, the partners didn’t have any way of knowing they were about to set the stage for half the romances in the immediate area for decades to come. From proposals to anniversaries to romantic birthday celebrations…to even some famous lovers’ quarrels, The Grape is a genuine neighborhood icon.
“We see some of the same faces 28 years later,” says McDaniel, who Parker identifies as the “people” person of the duo. Of herself, she jokes about being just the opposite: “I wasn’t sure about opening the doors to let everyone in.”
McDaniel asserts supportively: “She’s detailed, culinary, discriminating.”
“The truth is, they don’t get along at all,” deadpans Gilsdorf on the women’s enduring alliance.
The balance of personal styles probably helps but, in the end, their formula is hard to nail down. The diminutive, softly lit rooms? The delicate yet sumptuous food? The elegant informality? Hard to say how myths and traditions get their start, but The Grape continues to work its magic night after night.
So stall that extra half hour for the table where the two of you held hands on your first date. The wine bar next door that McDaniel and Parker converted 20 years ago from Bernice’s Beauty Shop is a great place to start the evening.
Who knows after that?
Reservations accepted for weekday lunch and weeknight dinner; on weekends, large parties only. Valet parking and private room available.
Note: This dish is one of many customer favorites included in The Grape’s Cook Box recipe collection, available from the restaurant.
2 ½ cups flour
8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs. milk
1 ¼ cup heavy cream
4 oz. crabmeat
4 oz. cocktail shrimp, diced
4 oz. crawfish tail meat
1 small onion, diced
Pinch each of grated nutmeg, salt, pepper
DILL SOUR CREAM
½ cup sour cream
Small bunch dill, chopped
½ lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste
Place the flour, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor, and process until granular. Add the egg yolks and milk, and process until the dough starts to form a ball. Place in a bowl, and refrigerate for about 20 minutes. Roll out the cooled dough to fit a 10-inch pie pan or springform pan, and bake for about 20 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Cool.
While the crust is cooling, combine the eggs and cream in a mixing bowl, and whisk until fluffy, about two to three minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, then pour into the cooled crust. Bake for 45 minutes at 375, and then test with a fork in the center. If the fork comes out clean, the quiche is ready.
For the topping, combine all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl and spoon atop slices.
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