Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shower Part I: Restaraunt Review: The Naked Grape

I have never been a bridesmaid before, let alone the MOH; so when my sister-in-law asked me to stand up with her at her wedding I felt honored, and at the same time excited and nervous to shoulder the responsibilities that come with such a title.  At this point I am still not sure what all of these responsibilities are and am fairly certain that I am missing out on all sorts of stress and anxiety related to this timeless tradition; as it goes, she's a pretty low maintenance bride, perfect for my first go at being a proverbial lady in waiting.  I am also so fortunate to have a wonderfully creative and energetic partner in crime as the other bridesmaid (sister of the groom); we were equally enthusiastic to get started planning.  We began planning the bridal shower early this year in anticipation of the hiatus I would need to take for the birth of our first child.

We decided to go with an afternoon wine tasting with heavy hors d'oeuvres.  I sought out wine bars, restaurants and wineries in the Pittsburgh area that could accommodate us.  In my search I came across The Naked Grape, a wine bar and tapas restaurant in Sewickley.  What set The Naked Grape apart from the other venues was mostly my correspondence with their event coordinator.  She was incredibly helpful, sending photos of the space, offering flexibility in the wine tasting format and in general just being a pleasant and easy person to deal with; unlike some of the more expensive places I considered that surely reinforced the "wine snob" stereotype.  Although I had never seen the place I knew that this was the place for us, the antipasti and wine menus offered great selection at a reasonable price and the people and space were the perfect balance of breezy class and elegance that we were looking for.

We met with Ryta, one of The Naked Grape's owners, in June to taste and select wines for the shower; this bridesmaid deal is such drudgery!  In keeping with the precedence that the event coordinator had set, Ryta was incredibly helpful in guiding our decision, because although in our group we all love and appreciate wine, our knowledge is vastly lacking.  The success of this meeting can be measured by the response at the shower itself; many of our guests commented that they enjoyed the palatable and light wines we chose for our afternoon tasting and went so far as to record the selections for future reference.  We offered two whites, the Ricossa Gavi and the Eberle Viognier, and two reds, the Howling Moon Pinot Noir and Domaine de Solitude Cotes Du Rhone, all of which I recommend checking out.  At the shower itself, The Naked Grape provided cute and informative menu cards on the wine bar describing each of our selections and Ryta was there to offer further explanation and guidance to our guests as they tasted.

During our June tasting the chef provided us with some fantastic tapas to help with our food selection as well.  From the antipasti menu we chose four tapas, a flatbread, chicken skewers, shrimp crostini and vegetable strudel; all of which were delicious and offered a variety of Italian inspired flavors that went perfectly with the wine and setting.  

On the big day we had the entire restaurant to ourselves, they even delayed their dinner opening to accommodate the timing of our event.  The atmosphere is a charming portrayal of an outdoor cafe.  With warm earth tones, lantern-style sconces and a wooden pergola topping the wine bar, The Naked Grape was a perfectly casual, yet sophisticated setting for the shower.  Ryta and the wait staff were both present and helpful without being overly involved or intrusive.  I could not have been happier with The Naked Grape, in every capacity of the experience.  Mostly definitely worth considering for your next event or evening out.
Naked Grape on Urbanspoon

I also need to give a shout out to Vanilla Pastry Studio in East Liberty, where we got the dessert from.  The cupcakes were not only delicious, moist cake with smooth buttercream icing, but also delightfully cute.  We got four varieties, chocolate with raspberry icing, vanilla with coconut icing, and the classics, chocolate with chocolate icing and vanilla with vanilla icing.  Although I thought they were a little (or a lot) pricey for cupcakes, for this special occasion I though they were worth it!
Vanilla Pastry Studio on Urbanspoon

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