Flexibility learned as pop-up chefs proves invaluable to restaurant owners Amarys and Jordan Herndon in Palm and Pine's first year.
- story by Kim Ranjbar
With the city's recent entry into Phase 2 a few weeks ago, French Quarter newcomer Palm & Pine reopened their doors to limited dine-in service. Although the Rampart Street restaurant has been offering takeout and delivery since the COVID-19 shutdowns began, many friends, fans and newcomers are masked and ready to enjoy the unique food, cocktails and atmosphere curated by chef/owners Amarys and Jordan Herndon.
Whether the pair steeled their resolve facing obstacles prior to opening Palm & Pine or they have always possessed an enviable level of grit, the Herndons faced the pandemic head-on. Determined to do right by both their customers and employees, they have fought to keep the dream alive.
“We're committed to finding a way to stay open as long as possible,” says Amarys. “We'll find a way to build the connections with our guests and be flexible to whatever the need is.”
The neighborhood restaurant began its crusade offering “All Y'all” free meals every Monday afternoon, feeding not only furloughed employees in the industry, but also all workers integral to the culture of the French Quarter, including artists, performers, and musicians. The Herndons also retained most of their small, tight-knit staff, offering hours and pay for those who were ready and willing to stay.
“We tried to conduct our business to where we could still pay anyone that wanted to be here,” says Jordan. “If they couldn't be here and wanted to take another route, we were fully supportive of their decision.”
Joining the Krewe of Red Beans’ #FeedtheFrontLineNOLA initiative proved to be a lifeline for the Herndons, as well as for several other New Orleans restaurants. “It was a pretty big project to take on, like a big catering gig,” says Jordan. “It's not what we were built for, but we quickly adjusted.”
Making the transition from casual fine dining restaurant to offering only takeout and delivery created its own challenges, from preparing meals that would withstand the rigors of delivery (and delay), to testing containers for durability.
“We don't want anyone to get something that we worked hard on and have it not be edible because of the container or whatever else,” says Jordan. “At the same time, we're still trying to stick to the things we believe in, like using biodegradable boxes.”
Samplings from the current brunch menu
It's hard to imagine hospital staff being anything but delighted to open one of their boxes to find a green chile chicken tamale with black beans and almond rice, or hoisin-braised pork and fresh salad dressed with their house-made nuoc cham.
The prospects of returning to business-as-usual seem all too far away, particularly for the restaurant industry, but the Herndons remain resolute, even with the added safety precautions.
“There's a lot less touching with guests and plates, and things are a little more sterile,” says Amarys. “Sure, it's good for our health, but not so great for the vibrant dining scene of New Orleans and what we all love about it. But we'll find a way.”
sampling from the lunch and dinner menus
While the Herndons and their “unbelievably amazing” staff would love for you to visit, they also completely understand diners who choose to play it safe. With that in mind, the chefs have shared a little taste of Palm & Pine for those who are eager, but unable to return (yet). The following recipe for a sweet and spicy Venezuelan condiment or avocado salsa is extremely versatile, whether you slather it on a sandwich, use it to dress a fresh salad.
“We really like sauces and condiments a lot,” confides Amarys. “Even when we're not cooking at home, you can always find homemade or even purchased condiments in our fridge, along with beer and wine, even if there isn't anything else … like eggs [laughs].”
The recipe’s yield is two quarts, which might seem like a lot, but Amarys assures that the sauce will keep for several days in the refrigerator when stored in a tightly-sealed container and holds up well to freezing.
Yields 2 quarts
1 sweet onion
2 jalapenos with seeds
1 large orange bell pepper (can substitute with any sweet pepper)
7 cloves of garlic
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch parsley
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
Juice of 3 limes
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 large carrot, grated
Salt to taste
Grate the carrot and set aside. Dice everything else into a manageable size so that it can be easily processed in a food processor or blender. Add all ingredients, except the grated carrot, to your processor or blender and blend until smooth. After blending, Place the purée into a mixing bowl and add the grated carrot. Season with salt to taste.
Find more stories on French Quarter Journal's home page, or check out our Hunkering Down blog.
Though she was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, Kim Ranjbar felt New Orleans calling her home as soon as she hit puberty. A graduate of granola U (a.k.a. Sonoma State University), Kim took her passion for the written word and dragged it over 2000 miles to flourish in the city she loves. After more than seventeen years as a transplant — surviving hurricanes, levee failures, oil spills, boil water advisories and hipster invasions — Kim hopes to eventually earn the status of local and be welcomed into the fold. Check out her blog at http://sucktheheads.com/ or contact her at email@example.com.
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