I’m still reeling from a dinner I had recently. It was hands down the best meal I have had in Morristown in a very long time, if not ever. As our busy little town continues to grow more and more exciting new eateries continue to open. A restaurant called South and Pine entered the scene a few months ago. The restaurant took over one of those spaces that has turned over about four times in the past two years. I’ll admit, I found myself guilty of just assuming it may be another doomed venture from the start. When my best friend went on a dinner outing there and returned to let me know it was fantastic, my interest was sparked.
On a beautiful Saturday night we finally made our way to South and Pine. We had no reservation and simply figured that we would hope for the best. As we walked up to the hostess stand a table outside left and we were the lucky owners of a prime eating location. The hostess overheard our conversation, as she led us to our table, about ordering wine to be delivered (yes, Morristown has a wine shop that offers this service! See-Cambridge Wines) she kindly offered to call and put in our order. As we waited for our pinot noir, our perky waiter arrived to offer up menus and take any additional non-alcoholic drink orders. I opted to order a peach ginger iced tea. It sounded so refreshing and he said it was house made. I typically don’t like sweetened teas but the crisp, subtle fruity flavor of this particular tea was delicious.
As we almost always do at new restaurants, we asked our waiter for recommendations. He not only provided us with options but he also proved to be passionate about the food they were serving. His descriptions and excitement over his favorite dishes solidified our orders. Crispy Squash Blossoms would start our meal off, followed by hangar steak and what the waiter referred to as the best fish he has ever eaten. I’m going to apologize in advance for the grainy photos that do not do the food justice! It was just too dark outside by the time our food arrived.
The squash blossoms were like little pieces of heaven. So often things are deep fried and become so heavy and oily. These were flash fried in a very light coating and had the consistency of how every fried food should taste. The coating did not over take the sweet squash blossom’s flavor. That also goes for the creamy ricotta filling and broccolini pesto it was paired with. The components all worked together but still made the squash the star of the dish.
We were still raving about the first course when our main dishes appeared. I had the order of the bronzino with smoked corn relish and tomato aka the waiter’s best fish he has ever eaten. I have to tell you, I may be jumping right on the bandwagon with our waiter. This dish was so complex with flavor, so tasty, that with every bite I too was convincing myself that it was the best fish I had ever eaten. The crispy skin was cooked to perfection. The smoky corn gave the dish the essence that it had been cooked right over an open fire. The creamy tomato puree provided the hint of acid needed to balance out the flavors. As much as I didn’t want to share one bite, I found myself feeding my fiancé continued mouthfuls so he too could revel in this dish.
My fiancé’s hangar steak was also cooked to perfection. The horseradish hollandaise was a hit (although I’ll admit I did not try). His only complaint would be the size of the portion. But, with the caliber of the food at our table it was hard to grumble about anything.
I don’t typically order dessert however, when I am in the midst of an exemplary dining experience such as this one it’s always hard to say no. I was excited to hear that there was no set dessert menu and what the chef was making for the night was two simple desserts. To me, this means I’m not getting a defrosted piece of cake and that I’ll hopefully be served a homemade treat. I went with the chocolate pudding, marshmallow fluff topping and homemade graham cookie. The pudding was very rich, the fluff was caramelized but the spiced, crispy cookie was the standout. The dessert was way too large for even the two of us; then again neither of us are huge dessert eaters.
As you can tell by now, I would highly recommend South and Pine. I had done my homework on the restaurant before going and learned that their chef, Leia Gaccione, was former executive chef and chef de cuisine for Bobby Flay. Her culinary talent and focus on seasonal ingredients completely shined through in our meals.
We also had the pleasure of having a long conversation with the manager, Steve. He was so passionate about the restaurant and their commitment to quality food. He encouraged us to continue to come back with the turning of each season so that we could try the new seasonal dishes. The menu is short and he explained that they would rather have the staff learn to both cook and sell a few dishes that they have mastered rather than put out a ton of mediocre meals.
Everyone on their staff had a genuine enthusiasm for the products they were serving up. It was such a pleasure dining at South and Pine and if I haven’t encouraged you already to make a reservation; head to their website to learn more: http://www.southandpine.com/
I’m already salivating with anticipation for my next visit!
…all for the love of the dish