At 29 South, farm-fresh ingredients and artisanal foods are the building blocks for a unique menu of creatively gourmet dishes.
In the spring of 2005, Chef Scotty Schwartz opened 29 South, a chic neighborhood bistro, in the historic Murdaugh house at 29 South Third Street in downtown Fernandina Beach. An award-winning and accomplished chef, Schwartz partnered with various local farms for the freshest vegetables and meats, even growing many of his own organic fruits and vegetables in his extensive garden behind the restaurant. My partner, Rumsey, and I stopped by one evening to visit with Chef Scotty, check out the garden, and enjoy a lovely meal. The restaurant is always bustling with happy diners and a fabulous wait staff ready to tend to your every need.
Our server, Bob, suggested we begin our meal with a glass of Cline Oakley Four Whites, a California blend. These blends are very popular these days, and this particular wine was light and crisp with an adventurous spirit—excellent with appetizers. The chef prepares a different bread selection every day, and, on this evening, we nibbled on a delightful foccaccia bread, which was warm and fragrant with herbs. We also sampled a Lumpy Blue Crab Cake. Served on a slurry of Old Bay butter with pickled watermelon rind, the cake was wonderful – all crab and very rich, with the watermelon rind bringing out the natural sweetness of the crab. I also ordered the Smokehouse Mussels, my favorite dish at 29 South. The Prince Edward Island mussels are exquisitely cooked in a smoked tomato mariniere. They’re so delicious that I always have to have them when I visit the restaurant.
Chef Scotty offered us a taste of two dishes: his small plate version of Surf and Turf and his Duck Salad. The first was a lovely, enormous sea scallop on ginger carrot puree with oxtail marmalade. What a creative and beautiful dish! With a small tasting portion, I was reluctant to share it with my dining companion. The salad featured cobb-smoked duck – similar to bacon—sitting atop a mound of spring mix with caramelized onions, crispy fingerling potatoes, a poached Conner Farm egg, and Sweet Grass Dairy Thomasville Tomme cheese. It reminded me of a delicious “breakfast for dinner” for gourmet lovers! With the duck, I enjoyed a glass of Four Vines Zinfandel and Rumsey tasted the Yangarra Grenache. Tasting of spicy berries, with a rich feel in the mouth, the zinfandel was wonderful with that dish. The grenache was extremely aromatic and earthy, with hints of cloves and berries.
For our main entrees, I was hankering for Springer Farms Fried Chicken. I love this dish, the batter is perfect, the chicken melt-in-your-mouth, and it is drizzled with Naked Bee Honey, cracked pepper, and served on buttermilk smashed potatoes. Rumsey and I also shared the Chef’s Foie Burger. Yes, it’s a burger made with Waygu beef and foie gras, served on a buttered Kaiser, and then topped with summer truffle brie, a slice of Benton’s country ham, and a Conner Farm egg. Wow! The foie gras added a velevety richness to the burger, and the creative toppings made it the most decadent burger I’ve ever tasted! Our wine pairings included Domaine Serene “Yamhill Cuvee” Pinot Noir, a medium ruby colored wine with spicy, complex flavors. We also sampled a Felino Vina Merlot from Argentina that boasted a very strong and fruity aroma. Both wines were just wonderful with our entrees.
Normally, I enjoy 29 South’s Coffee and Doughnuts for dessert, but this time I decided to try the Buttermilk Panna Cotta, which is served with Conner Farm strawberries dipped in Naked Bee Honey. I love this delicate Italian custard, and it made a sublime ending to another perfect meal at 29 South.