a valentine from the heart

Heart in Hand Restaurant, historic Clifton, Virginia

Nothing says, I love you, better than chocolate.

Even better if it’s homemade.

I know, Valentine’s Day is practically here. You don’t have a lot of time, and even if you did, the thought of making something fancy and labor-intensive has you contemplating a trip to the nearest bakery or candy store.

But here is something supremely delicious that will not require hours in the kitchen or purchasing stock in Williams  Sonoma. Best of all, this recipe has a history, and it comes from the heart — the Heart in Hand, that is, my favorite restaurant in Northern Virginia.

Twenty-something years ago, my husband and I discovered this quaint Southern country treasure at the end of a long winding road, just over the railroad tracks.The restaurant occupies part of a turn-of-the-century clapboard building that once housed the Buckley Brothers’ General Store. It started in 1982 as a one room lunch and tea place, a cozy stop for visitors meandering around town looking for antiques. By popular request, the restaurant soon began serving dinner and holiday meals, and eventually branched out into catering.

Famous people have come flocking, too: Nancy Reagan, George Will, and Cybil Shepard, as well as Supreme Court justices, senators, and other congressmen. The opening scene of the movie, Broadcast News, was filmed here with William Hurt and Holly Hunter.

But why do we love it so much? Maybe it’s the warm-from-the-oven spoon rolls, the Tennessee ham bone soup, the pan-fried catfish with pecan butter, the breast of duck with gingered brown sauce, or the poached Norwegian salmon (lemon beurre blanc with capers). Or just maybe it’s the I-can’t-decide-because-everything-is-so-danged-delicious dessert menu, served amongst charming antique furniture, quilts and folk art.

Which brings us to our Valentine dilemma. Nothing but the best for those you love, right?

Friends, I give you pie. Not just any pie. We’re talkin’ Geba’s Iron Skillet Chocolate Pie. Suzanne Worsham, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Travis, says: “This is my mother’s (Geneva Winningham of Cookeville, Tennessee), Chocolate Pie recipe. As a child this was our everyday favorite pie. Now at the restaurant it is the number one dessert sold!”

There’s nothing like a family recipe. Tried and true. Full of love and happy memories. The restaurant’s name is a tribute to “our forefathers who worked hard with their hands through the love in their hearts.” So be sure to add your love when you make this divine dessert.

(serves 6 chocoholics or 8 smaller servings)

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
5 eggs, separated
2-1/4 cups milk
4 rounded T dry cocoa
4 rounded T flour
1 tsp real vanilla
1 9″ pie shell (deep dish)

Mix all dry ingredients. Melt butter or margarine in 10″ iron skillet (or Teflon lined skillet). Add dry mixture, mix lightly. Combine beaten egg yolks with milk, add to mixture, stirring constantly. Cook slowly until really thick. Remove from heat, add vanilla, blend well and pour into baked pie shell. Cool and serve with sweetened whip cream.

Note: The sugar mixture can be cut by 1/3 or 1/2 if you desire a less sweet chocolate.

Also, you can make a meringue of the 5 egg whites (room temp) to which a pinch of salt, pinch of cream of tartar and 1/4 tsp vinegar have been added. Beat until stiff and add 10 T of sugar until well blended. Put on pie, pile high with uneven finish. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.

(from Cooking with Heart in Hand, by Suzanne Winningham Worsham, 1987)

Cautionary note: This pie may cause swooning and undying adoration. You may also notice a tendency to attract love slaves.

17 thoughts on “a valentine from the heart

  1. One of the reasons I enjoy Suzanne’s cookbook so much is that most of the recipes don’t call for any exotic, hard-to-find ingredients. Her emphasis has always been on using the freshest ingredients possible, and presenting the dishes with nice personal touches (like the heart-shaped cookies pictured above, served with the pie).
    Although the cookbook is currently sold out, she says a third printing is coming this spring.


  2. I’m sure you’ll love the food and atmosphere. Such a respite from the usual chain restaurants, where you feel like a processed customer. Allow yourself a lot of time to savor everything.
    BTW, across the street from the restaurant is a general store where the first scene of the movie, “Witness” (Harrison Ford), was filmed!


  3. OK. So tonight’s my daughter’s actual birthday. (Big slumber party throw down last Friday notwithstanding…) And I believe I can make this. (I do not always feel brave or comfortable in the kitchen…) I believe I can and I believe that her year will kick off in a rip-roaring way if I can. So. Off to the shop…


  4. Hey Jama… Last minute panic. Do you think it would taste okay in a whole wheat crust? I ended up just using the ingredients I’ve got on hand. Is that just gonna be too dang earthy?


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