Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Garden

I thought this week I would share some pictures from our 29 South garden.  The heat is obscene here.  After a sweltering lunch on the restaurant porch last week the thermostat in my car read 112 degrees, and dropped to a cool 105 as I cruised home.  That is with almost 100% humidity mind you.  It is disgusting. Unbearable. Maddening heat.

In this excruciating weather there is a woman who has kept our garden flourishing.  Her name is Shannon and she has been a life saver.  I want to share some of her work here...I give her full credit for taking my sprouts and nurturing them to fruit.  It is by her hand that this garden survived this season.

Like a pepper plant, Shannon is petite but has a bounty of energy.  She is a yoga teacher, volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club to help tend their garden, as well as the garden co-ordinator for the 9th Street Community Garden.  I don't know how she manages to do it all.

I put my trust in her to care for our lovely little green space, and from the Red Velvet Okra....

to the blackberry bushes which barely fruited last year, but this year are dripping with berries...the garden is gorgeous.

I took this picture last week, and now the berries are ripe and a gallon was harvested today.  It is extraordinary how quickly fruits and vegetables peak in this heat.  You have to catch them fast, before the bugs do...and luckily I have a wonderful lady who has her eye on the ball for me.  Thank you for working your magic Shannon!


Saturday, June 19, 2010

To Life

The Sprout turned 3 months this week.  Unbelievable.  This is reason to celebrate.  She made it through "the fourth trimester."  Humans come out not quite fully cooked, so to speak.  As a species we are not even able to hold our own heads up for months after birth, while other horses...are strolling around with their mothers in a matter of hours.

To watch the first 3 months of human life for a second time has been extraordinary.  With Li' Bit I was just so overwhelmed with the insanity brought on by sleep deprivation combined with the pressure of keeping her alive that I did not have the peace of mind to observe what was really happening.  No longer a rookie at newbie handling, I am exhausted, but much more relaxed with The Sprout, so I am able to enjoy the beautiful filthy dawning of a human life.

The soul begins awakes from a deep sleep during the first and second is a slow and somewhat painful process as it starts the body's engine.  The body's systems are set in motion...the nervous system with spastic flailing, the digestive system with lets just say...a good cleaning of the pipes from both ends and the other systems of the body jerk into drive. By the third month it seems like the soul has the clutch down, but is still learning the gears. 

While that first true smile melted my heart in month 2, it was when The Sprout found her hand and recognized it as her own in month 3 that really struck me.  About three weeks ago she raised her tiny fist three inches from her face and stared at it cross eyed.  She held it there for about ten minutes, studying it intently.  I was afraid her eyes were going to be stuck crossed she was looking so hard at her hand.  She did this off and on through out the day, for about a week until one day she slowly brought it to her mouth. 

The Sprout began sucking on her fist with such vigor that it made a terrible slurping sound.  It was almost disturbing to watch.  The first time I thought maybe she was hungry, but then she did it after nursing.  Slurping, sucking, and gulping at her hands in a frenzy.  I just looked at her and thought, "Newborns are so weird."

The movement of bringing hand to mouth is probably the one of the most important motion in a hand's repetoire don't you think?  There are so many sensations involved with the hand in the mouth.  The taste of salt for the first time in sweat being one of them.

Recent studies show that this movement is actually embedded in the general list of spastic reflexes that make newborns so squirmy. But the moment they recognize that hand as something they can control, when it is no longer a spastic reflex but a tool...that is when you see the lightbulb ignite behind your child's eyes.  She sees her body for the first time as her own, and it is a powerful moment.

A tiny fist raised high in the air... I think "Power to the people."  But really, it is an image that can be summed up in two words, L' Chiam!  To life.  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Drool Puddle

This week at 29 South we debuted a new menu...our classics are still there, but thought you might like to know what Chef and his crew have up their sleeves this summer season...just giving you fair warning before you read this post that you might want to grab a hankie to mop up the drool.

A Simple Crust of Bread : This is brilliant.  A crostini with whatever Chef deems a worthy spread on any given evening. This particular evening the crusty bread was topped with creamed brussels sprouts and Benton Country Ham.

Pan Roasted Scallops:  This pretty little dish includes two perfectly pan roasted scallops sitting on either side of a sweet corn flan that is good enough to slap your grandma with a carrot and a pea coulis...flavor and color totally spot on.

Classic Frisse Salad:  I love frisse.  Love it.  And let me tell you, I would not normally think to eat a poached egg on salad, but the yolk drizzle with the herb dressing is fantastic.  The house cured lardon...chunks of chewy salty pork heaven...way better than croutons.

Chef's Foie Burger:  A half pound of Waygu Beef/Foie Gras Blend on a buttered kaiser roll topped with summer truffle brie, Benton's Country Ham, and a Conner Farm egg sunny-side is worth the heart attack...I promise.

Thai Bouillabaisse:  This tastes as beautiful as it looks.  A bouquet of sea life swimming in Forbidden Rice (Chinese black rice) and a curried nage, topped with lotus root and cilantro salad.  In other words, gorgeous.

Smoked Painted Hills Short Rib:  This piece of meat is not for the peckish eater.  Lacquered in blackstrap molasses it is a rib to be reckoned with to say the least.  I love that it comes with a side of homemade pickles.

Wild Salmon:  The best thing I ate this tasting...a lovely piece of fish on a pile of scrumptious roasted mushrooms in a pool of parsnip puree that just melts in your mouth, topped with minted smashed peas and Zinfandel syrup...this dish is bright, lush and wonderfully savory.  

And for dessert...the perfect compliment to a Foie Burger...a microbrew root beer float.  I am a huge float fan, and this is the perfect thing to sip after a big meal on a steamy summer night.

TADAAAA!  What did I tell you?  Drool puddle.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Last weekend marked the end of a maddening May!  This final month of Spring just buzzed by...don't you think?

Our month in a nut shell: 
With a newborn and two year old in tow we spent 2 weekends traveling, welcomed three rounds of house guests, threw an impromptu wedding...oh and I almost forgot Chef survived a minor surgery.

The beautiful thing is that we did it without killing each other. Which is a definite reason to celebrate..hence the empty bottle of Krug. Kidding...that was from the wedding reception, if you could call it that.

We kicked off the wedding weekend with a rehearsal dinner...the bride and groom, their 3 small children, our 2 little ones, Chef and I crowded around a big wooden table in the 29 South garden.  It was the first time we have dined in the restaurant garden and it was absolutely perfect.  It was wonderful just to let the kids roam around the beds while we enjoyed a leisurely meal.

The following morning we snuck onto the deck of one of this area's premiere wedding venues and held a renegade service.  We met at 10 am. I took pictures of the wedding party (all 5 of them) while Chef went and picked up the officiant.  Chef thought that the bride and groom were going to be dressed "resort casual" so that is what he told the officiant.  This turned out to be a miscommunication...the groom was wearing a suit, the bride a white dress, the officiant in a Hawaiian shirt.  At 11 am, a 15 minute service was held on a deck overlooking the saltwater marsh.

I photographed the service, Chef was videographer, and Lil' Bit was...I hate to say it...official winer.  She chanted "I hungry Mommmmy!" at the top of her lungs during the entire affair, while The Sprout looked on from her car seat.  Luckily the ring bearer was a 2 year old, and the flower girl just 4 herself, the best man 9 years of needless to say the bride and groom had a sense of humor about our hungry toddler. After the knot was tied we all took off for lunch poolside.

That evening, the new family came to our house and the reception was held at our kitchen table.  Chef prepared an Argentine asado, a.k.a meat fest, in honor of the groom's heritage.  For dessert we all shared a bottle of Krug.

It was a tiny beautiful destination wedding, and Chef and I felt honored to have been a part of it.

There is something to be said about small intimate weddings.  You really feel like you are witnessing something truly special when you are sharing the experience with just a handful of people.  This is the second itty bitty wedding Chef and I have been lucky enough to have received an invite.

The first was in 2007, a destination wedding in Virgin Gorda, BVI.   I spent the morning on a deserted Caribbean beach with the bride and the best man's wife, while Chef, the groom and the best man spent their time scuba diving.  We reconnected at sunset for a beach service and the reception was simply a dinner of fresh seafood at a local restaurant with a dance floor.  It was the best wedding I have ever been to... the only way to do it.

Intimate, authentic, and remote...those are my three choice words for my ideal destination wedding...and being a writer for a wedding magazine I suppose you could consider me somewhat of an expert...although I have no intention of getting hitched myself.  Chef and I prefer to be on the other side of the officiant..Happily unmarried.