Monday, May 25, 2009

Restaurant Widows

"Restaurant widow" is a term I first heard about 2 months ago from a house guest that was visiting from North Carolina. Her husband is a chef, and she would spend evenings with other ladies whose men worked in the industry. They called themselves restaurant widows.

The average chef, if he is lucky, works a 14 hour shift between lunch and dinner services, often times even more. 9 am to 11 pm five days a week as a minimum, and holidays...lets just say I have never spent a Valentines Day with my life partner, forget most of New Year's Eve...although Chef always manages to track me down in the last minutes before midnight. I think you have to be a little bit crazy to be a chef, and a bit of a masochist at that. To be a chef's life partner you have to be okay with a lot of alone time, and as a writer that kinda works out perfectly for me.

Last Monday night was beautifully blustery. Lil' Bit and I were trapped inside all day due to foul weather, so it seemed like a good night to get out of the house and go see what Chef had on his plate. He has been pulling some long hours lately, and that particular Monday was the debut of our Spring menu.

When the seasons change, so does our menu at 29 South. The items that are customer favorites, we let them be. For example, we would probably get a brick thrown through our window if we ever took the sweet tea brined pork chop off the menu, but we do change about 40% of our menu four times a year.

My favorite part of a menu change is getting to play guinea pig. I come in the first evening the of the new menu for an early dinner and feast on all the new items, giving Chef my humble opinion on presentation and taste. I tell you it is a rough life I live. This evening I invited my friend Andrea, fellow restaurant widow and lover of food, to dine with us. Her husband is also a chef and that evening he had been called into work on his day off. We had a great time catching up over some vino as plate after plate of fabulous food came rolling out.

So...drum roll is a run down of our new dishes.  
Each dish is absolutely fantastic, but I highlighted my favorites in red.

Small Plates:
  • Chive Risotto Cake with Little Finger Eggplant Caponata
  • Lumpy Blue Crab Cake on Pinot Grigio Butter with Lemon Marmalade and Salsa Rosa
  • Seared Scallop on Rock Shrimp Tamale with Adobo, Manchego, and Avocado Jicama Slaw (I am not a big scallop fan. The texture is usually too fleshy for my taste, but this was absolutely perfect.)
Small Salad:
  • Herb Roasted Tomato - Roasted Conner Farm Tomato with Buffalo Mozzarella and Baby Greens on Grilled Ciabatta (I have been on a big Caprese salad kick lately...and this is a really nice version of a classic. Roasting the tomatoes with herbs and olive oil concentrates the flavor of the tomatoes that are starting to come into season.)
Entree Salads:
  • Grilled Chicken basted with Pomegranate Molasses on Fingerling Potato and Summer Bean Salad
  • Pan Roasted Halibut on Curried Mussels with Cilantro Chili Salad and Minted Raita (This is one of those dishes you eat and you sit back after the first bite and realize you better eat slowly...because you are dining on something truly special.)
  • Filet Mignon on Roasted Shitake, Fingerling Potato and Onion Salad with Sweet Corn Chimichurri (for some reason I love the word Chimichurri)
  • Painted Hills Rib Eye on Rosemary Garlic Fries with Butter Braised Lobster Knuckles
  • Line Caught Wild Salmon on Pressed Beet Israeli Couscous, Roasted Scallions, and Saffron Citronette (I know it seems like I have a seafood bias, but the night I ate this we had Copper River salmon on the menu which is only fished for 3 weeks a year...uber fresh, and a gorgeous color, almost red.)
Sweet Tooth:
  • Buttermilk Pana Cotta with Berries and Naked Bee Honey (smooth, creamy, fresh...delish. Naked Bee Honey is from a local beekeeper husband/wife team who make hand-pressed honey in the traditional Tuscan style.)
  • Sweet Grass Dairy's Finest / An assortment of Artisan Cheese with Seasonal Condiments

Good Life Recipe #2 / Chef Scott Schwartz, 29 South

Buttermilk Panna Cotta

*Panna Cotta is a classic Italian dessert, and it is one of my favorite things to eat. If there is such a place as heaven I imagine it to be me floating in a giant bowl of panna cotta.

Serves 4


  • 1/2 packet (1 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup of plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/4 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/3 cup of sugar


  • In a small bowl, pour the 1 1/2 tablespoons of water in bowl then sprinkle gelatin on top. Stir and then set aside for 10 minutes allowing the gelatin to bloom.
  • Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of the heavy cream with all of the yogurt, buttermilk, vanilla extract, and vanilla been seeds.
  • Take the remaining cream and heat it with the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Remove it from the heat and add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve. Pour the hot cream - gelatin mixture into the cold cream- yogurt mixture and stir to combine.
  • Pour into 4 six to eight ounce ramekins or custard cups and refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cotta are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight.
  • When ready to serve top with berries drizzled with honey, and when in season and you are lucky enough to find them, roasted figs tossed in aged balsamic vinegar or saba.


Bob Sam said...

Yummm! Waiting is unbearable.
Counting the days...

emily said...

oh man, I'm having a hard time concentrating after reading about all this food.

on the widow tip-
it can be a little tough to grow up in the business when both your parents work full time there. Dad was the cook and mom was/is the waitress/hostess/bus boy/everything else...

I wanted so bad to be an indain princess when I was little but never could since my dad worked nights.

but as an adult I've felt so blessed to have grown up that way. growing up in a restaurant really gives you an awesome life perspective that I don't take for granted- and one hell of a work ethic.
Also- I'm not hating on the the free dinners. :)

keep up the great bloggo Nan! I'm really enjoying checking in with you.

Paige said...

I'm about to hop in my car and head up there for dinner from Miami! Thanks for the report on the new menu and to Scott for directing me to your fantastic and in this case, mouthwatering blog.

Chris said...

I have to come visit I want everything on the menu... XOXO, Ash