For Mother’s day this year, my husband and I couldn’t get reservations in any of the usual restaurants in town. Then my Pickleball friend Sally posted a picture of a beautiful plate of soft shell crabs on Facebook. Sunset Grill has “fresh and fabulous seafood,” she wrote. I called. They had a table for us.
Tucked behind Old Dominion University Campus, not many know about this little treasure of a restaurant in Norfolk.
Catherine Demartino, the owner of Sunset Grill, moved her restaurant from Willoughby to its current location. It is not yet discovered by many, but the locals know where they can find delicious seafood. She travels to the Eastern Shore of North Carolina to buy fresh crab, oysters and other seafood.
The big surprise of the night for me was the mulberry pie, served with both ice cream and whipped cream!
I have a soft spot for mulberries.
My friend Parvaneh had a mulberry tree in her family’s courtyard in Shiraz, Iran. We used to hide in its flowing branches and stuff ourselves with the juicy black berries. We both remember them being bigger and juicier than the American variety.
When I had just come to the United States, I thought blackberries were mulberries and wondered why they were seedy and not as sweet. I also wondered why people thought the fruit was a nuisance.
In Virginia, the fruit often falls on the ground and no one bothers to pick them. I am an urban scavenger and often look for mulberries along my walks on the Elizabeth River Trail in Norfolk. Other walkers often give me a funny look for standing underneath the tree and eating them until I can’t reach the upper branches.
More and more I have realized that my favorite trees are being cut down. There was a beautiful white mulberry tree by the church a few blocks away. I was devastated when I went there during the mulberry season just to find chopped wood where the tree had stood so majestically.
Black mulberries do stain the ground. The white ones make the area underneath them slippery. Thus, they are eliminated. I often but dried mulberries from Persian grocery stores and eat them with a cup of hot tea.
Catherine, who is a Master Gardener intern, lamented that eliminating mulberry trees, also takes away their environmental benefits. The trees can grow up to 30 feet and can live for 300 years. They attract birds and pollinators.
Like PawPaws, mulberries don’t have a long shelf life and are not sold fresh at grocery stores—not in the United States.
In Iran, we believed that mulberries cleansed the system if eaten early in the morning. When I lived in Shiraz, an old man with a wooden cart came down the street early in the morning to sell his hand-picked mulberries. My grandmother bought the berries for breakfast.
Catherine creates delicious pies from these mulberries and serves each slice with a fork, a spoon and a straw: a fork to eat the crust with, a spoon to eat the mulberry filling, and a straw to sip the last of juices mixed with melted ice cream.
Mulberry pie recipe:
3 cups mulberries, stems removed
1/4 cup salt-free butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose floor
Mix all ingredients gently
Use a store-bought crust at 400 degrees for 35 minutes, or until the pie starts bubbling!!
I don’t know how to make a pie crust. I often make a crumble instead.
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg, slightly beaten
Mix the first 4 ingredients. Add the eggs and mix until moist.
Put the Mulberry mix in a baking pan. Sprinkle the mixture on top. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes.
4027 Bowden’s Ferry Road, Norfolk, Virginia