Tastings: Southwood Kitchen
Fine dining meets down-home hospitality and laid-back vibes.
Fine dining is no longer reserved for Saturday date nights at white tablecloth establishments. Chef Jeremiah Matthews offers fresh ingredients and haute cuisine cooking techniques in a laid-back setting at his new Daphne eatery. Matthews is a familiar face in Baldwin County, having steered the stoves at The Colony in Fairhope and Jesse’s in Magnolia Springs. His efforts have earned him a loyal following along the way. When the opportunity fell in his lap to take over a space on Highway 98 and create a concept from the ground up, he jumped. Southwood Kitchen was born.
Matthews is well traveled and well educated, culinarily speaking. He got his start in restaurants as a kid, washing dishes and working the line, then quickly found focus and attended culinary school at the esteemed le Cordon Bleu in Paris. He worked in Michelin-starred kitchens there and sharpened his knives in the Burgundy and Dijon regions as well before settling back in the States. A stint as a backcountry chef in Wyoming sharpened his creative process — how, in the middle of the mountains, do you cook a world-class meal with only ingredients that were packed in on horseback?
Southwood Kitchen melds classic French preparations with bold creativity, decidedly Southern ingredients and seafood straight out of the Gulf. Matthews adds that most true Southern dishes have French ancestry, so it is a natural combination. Every protein listed on the menu has a farm name printed alongside it, a testament to his goal of offering fresh, high quality local ingredients. Although the staff takes great pains with the food, the dining experience is comfortable and casual. The word “approachable” comes up again and again. There are no tablecloths, no reservations, no pretension. Prices are also accessible.
The dinner menu changes daily. Whatever fresh local seafood, meat and vegetables are available that day inspire his creations, so don’t expect to have your favorite dish every single time. There is always a prime steak available, although it’s often not printed on the menu. You need to ask for it, “like a super-secret club,” he laughs. This is the kind of place where it pays big to try something new, so go out on a limb and see what the chef has in store!
On the Menu
Alabama Crab Claws (above left)
Two dozen of the freshest jumbo blue crab claws are tossed in a lemon garlic miso butter sauce and topped with colorful local micro greens. While fried claws are the norm in this town, this delicious preparation of the crustacean takes the prize.
Venison Osso Buco Gnocchi (above right)
Braised venison shank is fall-off-the-bone tender and served over delicate homemade gnocchi. Shiitakes, a few roasted root vegetables, edible flowers and the most divine pan juice finish this irresistibly comforting bowl.
A delicate filet of fresh Gulf fish is breaded in almonds and sesame seeds for a super crisp crust, then served over creamy spaghetti squash and tender grilled vegetables. The whole thing is drizzled with a flavorful saffron chive beurre blanc.
This fatty cut of pork deliciousness is cooked to perfection with a crisp exterior and served over a sriracha sweet potato puree and roasted okra, then drizzled with a bit of pickled garlic chimichurri for a decadent bite.