With the city’s recent entry into Phase 2, French Quarter newcomer Palm & Pine reopened their doors to limited dine-in service just this past week. 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 obstacles they faced prior to opening Palm & Pine steeled their resolve, or that they have always possessed an enviable level of grit, the Herndon’s faced the pandemic head-on determined to do right by both their customers and employees while fighting keeping 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 all workers integral to the culture of the French Quarter, including artists, performers, and musicians. The Herndon’s 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 and their #FeedtheFrontLineNOLA initiative proved to be a life-line 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 a casual fine dining restaurant to offering only takeout and delivery offered 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.” It’s hard to imagine hospital staff being anything but delighted to open one of their boxes to find green chile chicken tamale with black beans and almond rice, or hoisin-braised pork and fresh salad dressed with their house made nuac cham.
The prospects of returning to business-as-usual seem all too far away, particularly for the restaurant industry, but the Herndon’s remain resolute, even with the added safety precautions. “Maybe there’s a lot less touching with guests and plates, and maybe 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.”
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 recipes yield is for 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 C distilled white vinegar
Juice of 3 limes
1 C water
1/4 C 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.
*Article originally published in FrenchQuarterJournal.com on July, 7 2020