The 14th Annual James Beard Foundation Journalism
May 7, 2006
Reprinted From: www.jamesbeard.org
Born in Baton Rouge, Cynthia Font Schneider has parlayed her
passions for cooking, art, and historic property restoration into a
career as one of Louisiana's top restaurateurs and art promoters.
In 1992 she helped open Café des Amis, where her Cajun cuisine and
Saturday, morning Zydeco breakfast drew raves and brought the
eatery worldwide recognition. Café des Amis-and Schneider's
restoration of the historic building that housed it, along with the
two historic homes she transformed into country inns-helped
revitalize Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. Schneider won the 1999
Acadiana Arts Award and the 2000 Governor's Arts Award in
recognition of her outstanding arts promotion efforts. In 2001
Schneider turned one of her restoration projects, a 1920s building
once beloved by bootleggers, into the Grapevine Café and Gallery,
where diners now feast on Schneider's Louisiana-accented cuisine
amid a showcase for local art and music. Schneider was named
Acadiana's Business Person of the Year in 2003.
Cynthia Schneider of Grapevine Cafe' and Gallery, along
with a group of other South Louisiana chefs led by Chef John Folse,
prepared a Louisiana-style meal for 260 journalists at the annual
James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards dinner at the Grand Hyatt
Hotel in New York May 7, 2006.
Louisiana food and its influence on the nation's cuisine
was the theme at both of the award ceremonies with a portion of the
admission fee dedicated to the Gulf Coast Renaissance
Schneider prepared her famous white chocolate bread
pudding for the event and as no surprise to anyone who has tasted
it, it was a huge hit.
"I recall a particular incident where after the
event, I was winding down with family and friends in the lobby of
the hotel and all of a sudden a group of reporters from the Los
Angeles Times yelled out 'there's the bread pudding lady!' They
came over and talked on and on about it being the highlight of the
evening. Needless to say, I was thrilled and in awe of the entire
The James Beard Foundation, named for the late
food writer, is a not-for-profit foundation founded to preserve and
celebrate America's culinary heritage and serves as a resource
center for the restaurant and food
"The honor of being associated with such
notable Louisiana chefs as Chef John Folse, Chef Emeril Lagasse,
and Chef Susan Spicer to name a few, was personally and
professionally a dream come true. It was an emotional and thrilling
experience to be part of such a prestigious culinary team... and
the media exposure was huge!"
THE CHAMBER VOICE and the
Donaldsonville Chamber of Commerce congratulate Cynthia Schneider
and The Grapevine Café and Gallery for the prestigious
representation of our city.
Southern landscape painter Steven Schneider is inspired by
the natural world and relies on it as a dominant subject.
Steven describes his creative process as a trinity of mind, body
and soul. Mind involves perceiving the perfect balance and harmony
of the color notes, as they exist in nature. Body connects with "In
The Moment Painting", compressing time and experience into tangible
expression. Soul presents itself in the healing spiritual
energy of familiar land shapes.
"My wife Cynthia and I have been received warmly and
look forward to being a part of Donaldsonville's future, a cultural
Mecca with free exchange of ideas and opportunities for individual
growth," states Schneider. "With the opening of Schneider Gallery I
throw my hat in the ring and intend to work hard to make
Donaldsonville proud to have me as a resident."
"I am very excited about all the possibilities
here in Donaldsonville," states Schneider, "I call it the 'New
Frontier': Once a thriving center for commerce and trade and now a
sleeping giant waiting to be awakened by the spirit of the people.
We have an opportunity to forge a bright future for D'Ville, rich
with cultural expression and an environment of inclusion and hope.
I draw great inspiration from the teaming freight activity on the
Mississippi River, the wide open farming vistas and the depth of
Donaldsonville's historic significance."
Schneider's works are held in private and corporate
collections such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Lafayette, Louisiana,
Belle Alliance Plantation.
Donaldsonville, Louisiana and have appeared in numerous
publications including Southern Accents Magazine.
By: Maggie Heyn Richardson
August 30, 2006
Reprinted From: www.225batonrouge.com
Restaurant hounds love a good rural road trip. Catahoula's
in Grand Coteau, Joe's Dreyfus Store in Livonia and Breaux Bridge's
venerable Café des Amis have long lured in-town foodies through
cane fields and chemical plants to their pleasing, rustic
Donaldsonville's Grapevine Café and Gallery is another in
the line-up. Launched in 2001 by the team who created Café des
Amis, the Grapevine features works by local artists, the occasional
band and dressed up Creole fare. The menu is practically identical
to the Café's, so you won't go without the requisites that made
that spot famous: turtle soup, barbequed shrimp, cane syrup
duckling and white chocolate bread pudding.
The Grapevine has been around now for five years,
solidifying its own identity with distinct elements. It's a
pleasing, art lover's place that features an airy interior and an
ample outdoor terrace. The restored 1922 building is
characteristically narrow and elegant, but the vibe is casual and
We visited on a recent Saturday night and watched a steady
flow of locals and road-trippers arrive. From an RV outside, a
party of 40-somethings unloaded to celebrate a rehearsal dinner.
The bride and groom, distinguished by their pre-ceremony veil and
top hat, were surrounded by 12 of their closest friends. The
Grapevine is memorable enough for an occasion like that, while also
appealing to the t-shirt clad soft ball team seated
I couldn't help but kick things off with the turtle soup,
because when it comes down to it, it's a tough dish to master and
most others pale in comparison. Literally. The turtle soup here is
as dark as midnight due to its patient, deep stock. Diminutive
chunks of turtle mingle with just-detectable cloves and garlic. A
swirl of sherry on the surface is all it needs to be quickly
slurped and sopped up ($5.25, $10.15).
And that job-the sopping part-goes to the Grapevine's
efficiently delivered fresh French bread. It's not perfect, but its
gumminess is trumped by its usefulness. We also used it to push
around the barbecue shrimp Pont Breaux style, an award-winning,
sauce-heavy, heads-on shrimp dish that's famous for splattering
($12). If they offer a bib, take it. Nevertheless, the flavor is
rich and sweet, and there's something satisfying about dragging the
flesh of a newly exposed crustacean through such wondrous
Crab cakes, a special that night, were also just so-so.
The meat was plentiful, but the lasting impression was largely
By now, normal humans get full (immaterial, I know), so
the Grapevine's plain-Jane salad is a nice palate-cleanser. Red
leaf lettuce, tomato and one signature pickled okra are about all
you'll find, but the homemade parmesan peppercorn and blue cheese
dressings are both tangy and noteworthy.
It's not easy to pick among entrees. The ample menu
features regional fare like soulful chicken fricassee ($10), roast
duck with cane syrup and pepper jelly ($20) and tons of Louisiana
seafood dishes like crawfish bisque or pie and the savory stack of
cornbread, fried or sautéed catfish, and crawfish etouffee. Such
dishes are heavy, but unlike so many area restaurants, the
Grapevine's versions escape being ridiculously
I sampled the sesame encrusted black drum, because drum is
always a nice find in a world that's been long stuck on tilapia
($19). Succulent and springy, the fish is covered with a salty lime
and raw tomato topping. Very pleasing. With all entrees comes one
of my favorite Grapevine recipes, the smoky, stewed okra. Not that
I'm a big okra fan, but that's exactly the point. This particular
version is slime-free, hefty, and full of character.
Meanwhile, we watched the efficient, unobtrusive servers
deliver white chocolate bread pudding to tables all around us
($4.50). The Grapevine's not-to-be-missed dessert frankly makes its
other sweets, while decent, futile. The individual "muffin" of
bread pudding is simple, not overly sweet and rich with egg yolks.
But it's crowned by a pool of white chocolate sauce that stretches
sinfully over the plate.
The menu is set to change soon, so be on the lookout for
Grapevine's Cynthia Schneider is featured in the COUNTRY
ROADS MENU COLLECTION 2007, along with Chefs Randy Cheramine, an
instructor at Nicholls State University's Chef John Folse Culinary
Institute, Regina Charboneau, owner of Twin Oaks Bed &
Breakfast in Natchez, and Jeremy Langlois, executive chef of
Latil's Landing Restaurant and Café Burnside at the Houmas House
Plantation and Gardens.
The chefs were asked six questions such as what every cook
should always have at his or her disposal, what tools help perfect
their own style of cuisine, the specific things that you rely on,
their "secret weapon" in the kitchen, or any unusual kitchen
Cynthia was quick to say her secret weapon is dried shrimp
and dried shrimp powder as flavor enhancers. No secrets were
divulged about the white chocolate bread pudding. That secret
The Postwar Upheaval of the Mechanical
William Goodman's The Postwar Upheaval of the Mechanical
Family is a sardonic yet tender examination of two important
psychological and socioeconomic impacts of World War II: the
fragmentation of the American family and the intensified influence
The thematic content of the exhibition is evinced by means
of quasi-assiduous juxtapositions of painted and photographic
images, typographic fragments, and negative space, which coalesce
to yield a tacit nostalgia for nostalgia. The predominant
pieces-wry, comical compositions with mildly vitriolic titles-rely
on techniques and styles from prewar artistic movements to convey a
disdain for the seeds of conspicuous consumption that germinated
during the postwar years, and many of the tender pieces, such as
Vanishing Apparition and Binding Sisterhood, are sparsely populated
collages whose melancholic sentiment is heightened by self-styled
"ancestor" photos taken by William's paternal grandfather during
his naval enlistment in the Second World War.
William's work has recently been exhibited at Brick
Gallery (Clarksdale, MS), cyt O. gallery (Chicago, IL), and The
Cedars (Jackson, MS), and in 2006 his art appeared in the Katrina
Remembered exhibitions at District Fine Arts (Washington, DC) and
the DUMBO Arts Festival (New York, NY). Corporate collectors
include Viking Range. William lives and works in
By: RON STODGHILL
Published: May 25, 2008
Reprinted From: www.nytimes.com
STRIDING across the rain-soaked field of an
abandoned Louisiana plantation, Mitch Landrieu, the state's
lieutenant governor, waved his hands impatiently. "C'mon, you've
got to see this," he called out, sounding more P. T. Barnum than
politician. Marching beside him was the Whitney Plantation's owner,
John Cummings, a wealthy Louisiana lawyer turned preservationist
who, with Mr. Landrieu's help, hopes to prove that the old Southern
plantation, or at least this one, is still very much in
Centuries past its prime, the Whitney Plantation
sits grandly beneath a canopy of oak trees along a dusty road in
St. John the Baptist Parish, a sleepy river community 35 miles
northwest of New Orkeans. The estate, promoted as the most complete
plantation in the South, is an antebellum gem. It includes, among
other things, a Creole and Greek Revival-style mansion, an
overseer's house, a blacksmith shop and the oldest kitchen in
Louisiana. Built in the late 1700s by Jean Jacques Haydel Jr., the
grandson of a German immigrant with a penchant for fine art
, the house walls are adorned with murals said to be painted by
the Italian artist Domenico Canova, a relation of the neo-Classical
sculptor Antonio Canova.
Yet Mr. Landrieu is far less interested in the
Haydels than the legacy of the 254 slaves who once inhabited the
nearly dozen shacks behind the big house during Whitney's reign
among the largest sugar farms in Louisiana. His muddy shoes planted
in front of a row of neatly situated sun-bleached shacks during a
recent visit, Mr. Landrieu nudged a reporter toward what he likes
to call a living museum:
"Go on in. You have to go inside. When you walk
in that space, you can't deny what happened to these people. You
can feel it, touch it, smell it."
He compared the experience to visiting the former
Nazi death camp at Auschwitz.
Personal politics aside, in an era of
proliferating theme parks and "Girls Gone Wild" spring breaks, it
is entirely possible that hanging out in former slave quarters -
or, for that matter, the adjacent so-called "nigger pen" lockup -
runs counter to most Americans' idea of a vacation. But in
post-Katrina Louisiana, where an antidote to recent images of black
disillusionment, despair and displacement has so far proven
elusive, the recently started African-American Heritage Trail
offers a disarmingly triumphant immersion into Louisiana's rich
black history and culture through such powerful juxtapositions of
freedom and bondage and the creativity that sprung out of both
Served up in heaping gumbo-style portions, the
African-American Heritage Trail is not always easy to digest: it
spans 26 sites, wending its way through museums, marketplaces and
cemeteries from New Orleans to Shreveport.
To be sure, this is one wandering, race-obsessed
road trip: not even those tasty Cracklin or Boudin balls at Highway
190 truck stops, or the reassuring baritone of the actor Louis
Gossett Jr., who narrates a fact-filled audiotape of people and
places, can always cut the lull of hundreds of miles of often
barren, rural highway. And if you're toting kids as this trailee
was, you might feel at points as if you're driving the
African-American Headache Trail.
But if you can hang in, there's a realism to this
traveling history lesson, with a richly tactile and authentic
quality. You'll find it as you stand in front of the childhood home
of Homer Plessy, whose refusal to move from the "whites only"
section of a rail car would lead to the landmark Supreme Court case
Plessy v. Ferguson; as you take in the story of Madame C. J.
Walker, the hair-care entrepreneur who bootstrapped her way out of
poverty to become the nation's first black female millionaire; as
you stroll through Armstrong Park in New Orleans, named to honor
the jazz pioneering work of Louis Armstrong. And of course it's
there in the Cajun and Creole cooking that puts an exclamation mark
behind each stop.
In a state that relishes its contradictions,
Louisiana's African-American trail is actually the brainchild of
Mr. Landrieu, the white liberal scion of a famous Louisiana
political family. In the 1970s, his father, Maurice Edwin Landrieu,
known as Moon, made history, and his share of enemies, when as New
Orleans mayor, he hired the first blacks into his administration.
Mitch, a self-proclaimed champion of social justice, said he
conceived the trail as a way of brokering dialogue between the
races at a time when the nation sorely needed it, an idea that
gained urgency in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"We want to transform the discussion about race
and poverty in America," said the 47-year-old Mr. Landrieu, who
served 16 years in the State House of Representatives (his father
and sister, Mary Landrieu, also a Democrat and currently a United
States Senator, held the same seat). "Many, many white people and
black people of good will have been separated by ideological fights
that have been powerful. But you can't transform the discussion if
you can't remember what happened."
Mr. Cummings puts it another way: "Is black men
not caring for their children today in any way connected to
slavery? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking. I
want to get beyond the moonlight and magnolia myths of the
There is a more practical basis for the trail
also. "There's not enough money to build a museum in every parish
in Louisiana," Mr. Landrieu said. So, over the past couple of
years, he has spearheaded an effort to link private-sector cultural
attractions into a network of state-sponsored tourism programs,
from bird-watching to golf tours. The African-American Heritage
Trail is but the latest example of fiscal creativity with
Louisiana's tourism program.
"The whole state of Louisiana really is a
museum," he said.
At the turn of the 19th century, Louisiana was a
major player in the Deep South in international slave trade, thanks
to its location on the Mississippi River and its rise as a sugar
capital. Far more compelling than its robust slave population,
though, was the culture that developed around it, as a blend of
French governance, liberal manumission laws and tradition of racial
mixing created an especially unique twist to an already peculiar
A trail weighted with such historical
crosscurrents could easily turn into a kind of four-wheel Rubik's
Cube in the wrong guide's hands. That is why what appears at first
blush a freewheeling journey that can begin and end virtually
anywhere in Louisiana is best approached with a degree of
There are some obvious reasons to start the trail
in New Orleans, including the fact that airfares to there will most
likely be cheapest. But perhaps the most compelling reason to begin
in New Orleans is that one of the oldest, richest strains of
African-American culture flows directly from there, or more
specifically, from Tremé, which according to historians, is the
nation's oldest surviving black community. On the northern fringe
of the French Quarter, Tremé, also known as Faubourg Tremé, bears
resemblance to a well-to-do Caribbean community, with
pastel-colored Creole and shotgun-style cottages and Greek
Revival-style homes lining narrow shaded streets.
Throughout the 19th century, Tremé (named after
Claude Tremé, a Frenchman who split up the lots and sold them off)
was populated by free people of color - many of them fair-skinned
French-speaking Creoles - who identified more with their European
than African ancestry as they dominated the trades as merchants,
businessmen and real estate speculators.
In many cases, their ascension up the social
ladder was orchestrated through Cordon Bleu or quadroon balls,
private soirees in which wealthy Creole families presented their
daughters to white suitors for long-term relationships.
So fascinating are the quadroon balls that you'll
want to visit the African-American Museum, located in the heart of
Tremé, for more nitty gritty on these affairs, as well as the
lowdown on Tremé's most infamous Creole woman, Marie Laveau, known
as the voodoo queen, who is believed to have resided, at one point,
in the Passebon Cottage on the museum's property.
The centerpiece of Tremé, though, is St.
Augustine Catholic Church, which embodies much of the community's
complex cultural narrative. Built in the mid 1800s at the request
of people of color, St. Augustine remains the spiritual nerve
center of the New Orleans black community.
The church also has the distinction of being one
of the nation's first integrated churches thanks to a legendary
"War of the Pews" in which free people of color and whites
one-upped one another in purchasing family pews for Sunday Mass.
Free blacks not only nabbed two pews for every white family pew,
but also gave them as gifts to their enslaved black brethren. After
church, and filled with the spirit, colored congregants would
migrate to Congo Square (today within Louis Armstrong Park) where
they would sing, dance and play music in their native African
With the French Quarter so nearby, dinner at the
Praline Connection, a black-owned, child-friendly Creole soul food
joint in neighboring Faubourg Marigny, is a good way to cap the
evening - and the New Orleans portion of the trail. While this
unpretentious, affordable place, isn't exactly historic - it was
founded in 1990 - its gumbo has earned praise from locals, as have
the smothered pork chops and other specialties. And kids, exhausted
by now, will squeal as straight-faced waiters serve up fried
alligator as nonchalantly as a bowl of Cap'n Crunch.
A few sites on the heritage trail veer from Mr.
Landrieu's "living museum" construct, though they are not
necessarily any less satisfying. Among them is the River Road
African-American Museum, in the town of Donaldsonville, about 65
miles north of New Orleans. The River Road area is brimming with
historical significance: Donaldsonville elected the nation's first
African-American mayor, Pierre Caliste Landry, in 1868, Others who
hail from the area include King Oliver, Louis Armstrong's musical
mentor, and a corps of enslaved African-American soldiers who
fought with the Union at nearby Fort Butler.
The museum's founder, Kathe Hambrick, a native of
Donaldsonville, enthuses over their tales to audiences as though
reminiscing over her own family scrapbook. Ms. Hambrick started the
museum in 1994 after living for several years in California.
"Everywhere I turned, there was this word
'plantation,' " Ms. Hambrick said. "And every time I heard it, I
would get this knot in my stomach. One day I decided to take one of
these plantation tours. It was all about antiques, furniture,
architecture and the wealthy lifestyle. But I wanted to know how
many lives of my ancestors did it take to produce one cup of
Since then, Ms. Hambrick has assembled a
collection that combines everything from shackles and plantation
tools with antebellum maps and deeds from slave auctions. The
production is heavy stuff, and its details, while fascinating to
adults, may be less so to small children yearning to return to the
But a couple of hours north, the Louisiana
landscape opens wide, and as you travel along Highway 1 toward the
town of Natchitoches (pronounced NACK-ah-tish), home of the Cane
River Creoles, the hard stories in Donaldsonville fade under the
great magnolias that shade the entrance of Melrose Plantation. This
is where the love story of Marie-Therese, known as Coincoin, the
grand matriarch of Melrose, took place.
Raised as a slave in the household of a Louisiana
military commander, Marie-Therese was later sold to Claude Thomas
Pierre Metoyer, a French merchant. The two fell in love and she
eventually bore him 10 children. Marie-Therese and her children
eventually gained their freedom and became wealthy landowners in
their own right. As the story goes, Marie-Therese Metoyer owned
slaves but also bought many slaves their freedom along the way.
One of her sons, Nicholas Augustin Metoyer,
financed the first Catholic church in the United States built for
people of color. St. Augustine Catholic Church was founded in 1803
and is located in Natchitoches.
The story of the Metoyers seems to illustrate Mr.
Landrieu's belief that the trail "is about so much more than civil
rights - it's about hope." He paused, and rephrased his thought for
wider appeal. "This trail is really about how hope hits the
IF YOU GO
The Web site for the Louisiana African American
offers maps and detailed information on the trail's sites. You can
also call (800) 474-8626.
WHERE TO EAT
The Praline Connection (542 Frenchman Street;
504-943-3934;www.pralineconnection.com) in the New Orleans
neighborhood of Faubourg Marigny offers affordable local dishes
like gumbo and smothered pork chops. Entrees $12.95 to $19.95.
In a restored Art Deco building in historic
Donaldsonville, the Grapevine Cafe and Gallery (211 Railroad
Avenue; 225-473-8463; www.grapevinecafeandgallery.com) offers arty
atmosphere and lauded South Louisiana cuisine, like crawfish
étouffée ($13.95) and seafood gumbo ($5.25).
WHERE TO STAY
The major hotel chains might offer convenience
for families, but Louisiana boasts a wide array of B & B
alternatives. In New Orleans, the Hubbard Mansion Bed and Breakfast
(3535 St. Charles Avenue, 504-897-3535; www.hubbardmansion.com), set behind oaks along
St. Charles Avenue, blends modern amenities with classic charm for
about $160 a night.
Farther north, near Melrose Plantation along the
Cane River in historical Natchitoches, there's the cozy Creole Rose
Estates Bed and Breakfast (318-357-0384; www.creoleroseestates.com), a three-bedroom
waterfront getaway with scrumptious Creole meals cooked by the
host, Janet LaCour. Rates range from $145 for two people to $250
for six people a night.
Reprinted From: www.gonomad.com/destinations/0808/louisiana-donaldson.html
It takes effort on your part to motivate
and get yourself there, and once you arrive, you might very well
look around and wonder why you made the drive. The town's
appearance is tattered and at first glance it's not immediately
obvious what there is to do.
But if you stick around, and if you are willing to listen, you
will be drawn in. And when it comes time to leave, you'll be
surprised to find that there is a part of you resisting, a part of
you that wants to linger, a part of you that knows there are more
stories yet to hear, old stories, stories you didn't think mattered
to your fast-paced, contemporary life, stories you didn't think had
any power to pull you in. But it turns out that they
Just because you've left the big city behind to make the trek to
Donaldsonville doesn't mean you've also had to leave behind your
urbane taste buds. This small town is home to award-winning
Chef John Folse, a noted Louisiana celebrity, has a spot in town.
Don't expect to see him, however, unless you've got plenty of cash.
His Donaldsonville restaurant, Lafitte's Landing at BitterSweet
Plantation, only opens its doors for groups of six of more who are
willing to guarantee a $500 minimum tab.
For tourist without this kind of superfluous cash, a more
approachable local chef is Cynthia Schneider. Schneider and her
husband own and operate the Grapevine Café and Gallery, a bustling
restaurant where local art hangs on exposed brick walls. Cajun and
Creole are the names of the game on the Grapevine's menu and it's
easy to see from the packed tables that locals approve of the
Whatever you pick for your main course, make sure to save room for
dessert. Schneider was invited to New York City to bake her white
chocolate bread pudding for a James Beard Foundation event. It's
good enough for top chefs and surely that means it's good enough
for you. Like everything else in Donaldsonville, if you give it a
try, you won't be disappointed.
The Grapevine Cafe & Gallery is owned by Cynthia and Steve
Schneider and is located at 211 Railroad Avenue in the heart of
Donaldsonville. This restaurant is in an old 1920's restored
building - brick walls line the spacious dining area. The building
has a long history as a bar, restaurant and gambling area. Al
Capone used to even frequent during Prohibition. Their specialty is
Louisiana Creole and Cajun cooking - rotating artwork lines the
walls and live music is scheduled on certain days. But the real
winner here is the award-winning food. Special emphasis is placed
on seafood and meats. You are in Louisiana - choose from a plethora
of Cajun crayfish dishes. We barely made it past the appetizer to
the main course! Select from mouth watering dishes such as crawfish
etouffee, gumbo, & several Andouille dishes.
Save room for dessert. With her personal bread pudding recipe
served at a James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards dinner in New
York City, you have to figure Cynthia knows what she is doing!
After tasting this White Chocolate Bread Pudding which is served
warm and topped with a white chocolate sauce we must say this is
one of the best bread puddings we have tried (and by this time we
were already stuffed with numerous tasty dishes!). The "gallery" is
located next door and features unique works of art by Cynthia's
to Cynthia and Steve Schneider and the staff of
The Grapevine Restaurant.
Country Roads Reader's Choice
Favorite Local Chef
Favorite Small Town Dining Destination
Favorite Birthday Location
Favorite Regional Dish - Rest of the Best
By: Judy Bergeron
- Restaurant reviewer
Reprinted From: www.theadvocate.com
An evening spent at Grapevine Café & Gallery wasn't just a
gastronomical feast, but also a visual and auditory treat as
Located in Donaldsonville's historic downtown, the quaint
structure features exposed red brick against pale green walls,
exposed beams, mosaic tile flooring, ceiling fans and recessed,
The Grapevine's south Louisiana fare was complemented that night
by original artwork on the walls around us. The eatery has rotating
exhibits by area artists, and two special commissioned pieces hang
above the two front windows.
"People are always asking about the snakes," chef and co-owner
Cynthia Schneider later told us. "They try to figure out if they're
poisonous or non-poisonous."
The horizontal sculptures by Gonzales artist Willie Willie are
colorful, and fill the space between the tops of the windows and
the ceiling . Using the "red on yellow, kill a fellow; red on
black, friend of Jack" adage, our group determined if the snakes
were real they would be poisonous.
In addition to the art, the duo of artist and co-owner Steve
Schneider on mandolin and Lester Kenyon on guitar and vocals
entertained diners for a few hours, playing '70s hits.
We started with an appetizer of crawfish cornbread ($8.95). The
large, piping hot square of bread was dotted with small crawfish
and topped with crawfish etouffee. The etouffee was nicely spiced
and, with the cornbread, was a wonderful pairing of flavors.
The house salads accompanying the entrees were an attractive
presentation of mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers and okra drizzled
with a house-made dressing of choice. We can recommend the ranch
and bleu cheese.
A guest tried the spinach and andouille stuffed fish of the day
($18.95), which was trout finished with a lemon butter sauce. The
trout was exceptionally fresh, and the melding of the flavors - the
smokiness of the andouille and the creaminess of the spinach-cheese
blend - were very complementary and not overpowering.
The crabmeat stuffed eggplant wheels ($17.95) were also quite
satisfying. The large slices of eggplant were battered and lightly
fried, then a thick layer of crabmeat formed into a cake was placed
between the two slices. The wheels were covered with the
Grapevine's signature red sauce, thin, light and tasty, and sat
upon a bed of angel hair pasta.
The ribeye ($26.95) was cooked to medium as ordered and served
alongside some more of that great lemon butter sauce for dipping.
The steak was packed with flavor and didn't really need the added
topping, crabmeat, but the mild and robust flavors again worked
Some of the entrees also came with creamy rough mashed (skin-on)
potatoes and the vegetable of the day, green beans. These were
cooked in a traditional Louisiana way, with pieces of bacon, adding
to the taste and texture.
In addition to to-go boxes, we took home two desserts, the lemon
icebox pie ($4.75) and white chocolate bread pudding ($5.75). The
pie was average, but the bread pudding, for which the restaurant is
known and for which it has won awards, was delicious. The pudding
was almost cake-like in texture, and the chocolate sauce topping
wonderful. A winner for us, too.
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