My family just got back from a trip to New Jersey to celebrate my Grandpa Mel’s 95th birthday. (Here’s an interesting fact about my grandfather: he was a practicing dentist for 63 years – even after a stint in WWII and initially being denied entry into dental school because he was Jewish.)
If I had to describe the whole trip in one word, it would be RELIEF. For one, I got to see my grandpa for the first time in two years. For another, I got to eat Italian food made by Jersey Italians, which is a whole thing for me. For yet another, we found out that North Dakota would be in the middle of a “Winter Event” early on in our trip, which meant that in spite of my attempt to not borrow worry, I spent the entire time thinking about getting home – and, obviously, we did get home (although delayed by a few hours and in the middle of a blizzard*). Also, Kyle kept muttering about how he wasn’t exactly psyched to snowblow in the middle of the night; and, when we got to the house, we discovered that our super-duper awesome neighbor had already cleared our sidewalk and driveway.
However, the greatest point of relief came in being with my little sister, Erica. Erica lives in North Carolina, and the last time we laid non-virtual eyes on one another was for my 40th birthday in January 2020. Anyway, I’m not going to spend the next fifty paragraphs talking about my level of emotion around that entire thing and how my sister is the best; instead, I’m going to tell you about A&E’s Great Restaurant.
A&E’s Great Restaurant – “A&E” being short for Amanda and Erica, no relation to the TV station which totally stole our name – was a part of a veritable empire of A&E-related businesses: A&E’s Great Ice Cream Parlor, A&E’s Great School, A&E’s Great Broadway Review, etc. Founded in 1988 with the rest of the A&E portfolio, A&E’s Great Restaurant was borne after I received a waitress order pad for my 8th birthday. Erica was five at the time, and the early years of A&E’s Great Restaurant served a lot of marshmallows and dry Kix Cereal because our single patron had a pretty specific palate.
By patron, I mean Erica. As the younger sister, Erica got all of the really crappy awesome roles. When we played Barbies, she was Ken. When we opened A&E’s Great School, she was the student. At A&E’s Great Restaurant, she was both the diner and the cook because I didn’t want to do those things. Also, it was my order pad.
For the next three-ish years, the A&E brand grew and contracted based on the social climate (and because the aforementioned Barbies took up a lot of playtime bandwidth). A&E’s Great Restaurant, however, remained strong – reaching its zenith during Hanukkah of 1991, when my sister and I were gifted an entire restaurant set complete with DIY menus, waitress/chef headbands and aprons, play money, and a fancier (i.e. with curly writing) waitress order pad. We decided to use this material expansion to take A&E’s Great Restaurant global.
A few days later, A&E’s Great Le Restaurant opened in Paris for a very exclusive audience of two (our parents). As we didn’t live in France, we flew them there in a six-person luxury jet that looked a lot like our living room chairs lined up in two rows with leather clothing belts stuck around the back of each one. It was roomy. I, the stewardess, served water and fruit roll-ups on the flight. Erica was the pilot.
I had typed up the menu using the cursive typewriter at Silverman’s. It offered:
- Le crackers and cheese
- Le microwave dinner (variete)
- Le sparkling water
- Le Oreo cookies
Our diners elected to try the entire thing, so we gave them a prix fixe price of $1,000 each. We later changed this to $25 each when we realized we didn’t have that kind of cash in play money. They were most impressed by Le Oreo cookies, which a guest dessert chef (me) opened up, scraped out the middles, hand-rolled said middles into balls, and stuck them back on the cookies.
A&E’s Great Le Restaurant was such a rousing success that the two patrons booked us for their 25th anniversary celebration nearly a decade later. Erica and I repeated the entire event with six of my parents’ friends, although I think it’s safe to say that it wasn’t nearly as cute to have a college-age woman do a seatbelt demonstration using a pants belt. Erica was still the (pilot and) chef; she made pasta. We served the Oreos untouched.
The photo above is of my mom, sister, grandpa, and me at the birthday lunch. While the meal lacked a variety of microwave dinners and cursive fonts, it did have sparkling water.
This week’s news has Mrs. North Dakota, “A Heart Like Water,” and a Chick-Fil-A baby. Read on.
Grand Forks’ Lindsey and Brice Enger are a part of a 200-person worldwide push to get FDA approval for a gene therapy in order to reverse the now-fatal degenerative Batten Disease. They are looking for signatures to a petition in order to get the FDA’s attention – you can sign it here. (Grand Forks Herald)
Congratulations to Minot’s Caitlyn Vogel – Miss North Dakota – who was named first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant! (KX Net)
The Prairie Rose Quilt Guild sewed 280 Christmas stockings for the Eagles Auxiliary’s Giving Tree Party. (McKenzie County Farmer)
A Bismarck-made film – called “A Heart Like Water” – about the early settlers in the Dakota Territory opened to a full house in Minot. (Minot Daily News)
This is the story of a Bismarck husband and wife who had to leave the Chick-Fil-A line to go and have a baby. My favorite part: “Since their order had already been placed through the app, Zika’s husband was a little hesitant to get out of line.” (Keloland)
* The arrival into Grand Forks was a total North Dakota experience. The snow was blowing so hard that I couldn’t see any lights until we actually landed on the ground (I posted a picture on Insta). It took forever to taxi to the airport because the concrete was so icy. The jet bridge guy (I’m sure that’s his official title) came over the intercom before we deplaned (and while the baggage crew attempted to get their little truck unstuck in the snow) and said, “Everyone needs to be very careful getting off because the bridge is covered in ice. The roads are terrible, and so you need to drive very, very slowly. It’s a blizzard out there. Welcome to Grand Forks.” Everyone laughed.