Room At The Inn
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt Canapes with house-made chevre and garden herbs
The plump round of ratatouille on the plate was wrapped in paper-thin slices of bright cucumber and accented with a snappy emulsion of elephant garlic, while a lively mound of microgreens in balsamic vinegar kept it company in one corner. There was no mistaking the freshness of the vegetables in every crisp bite, bursting with the underlying taste of country soil and hot, summer air.
Tucked away in acres of Hill Country pasture outside of Brenham is the Inn at Dos Brisas. Aside from its obvious accolades -- it's the only Relaix and ChĂ˘teau destination in Texas (and one of few in the United States), and it houses the only Mobil five-star restaurant in the state, which keeps it in company with Charlie Trotter and Jean-Georges -- the property and its restaurant offer something more intriguing to genuine lovers of great food: the opportunity to eat meal that's not just farm-to-table, but table-on-a-farm.
Nearly all of the produce used in the restaurant to prepare each day's three meals is grown on site, in organically certified gardens overseen by Johnnie Boyd Baker, who personally tends each patch of vegetables, each clump of herbs and each fruit tree on the property with her crew of four employees.
Photo by J.C. Reid All of the cheese is made and aged on-site Photo by J.C. Reid Ratatouille in cucumber with microgreens Photo by Katharine Shilcutt The main dining room
But the restaurant is truly where the Inn shines. Guests can accompany Chef Jason Robinson to pick the veggies for their meal that night -- there are 463 different varieties of vegetables grown on site (150 of them tomatoes!). And if getting down and dirty isn't their thing -- as I imagine it's not for most of the guests, who are paying the $575 per night fee to stay at the Inn -- the wine cellar offers a staggering 4,500 bottles to choose from (some of them from as far back as Andrew Jackson's administration), and there's a chef's tasting menu to enjoy in the main dining room, surrounded by Bernaudaud china and an 18th-century fireplace imported from the Loire Valley. Yes, you'll need to wear a tie for this dinner.
You won't need to pay the nearly $600 per night fee to enjoy the Inn, however. A leisurely drive to Chappell Hill from Houston for the chef's Seasonal Tasting Menu for only $85 is
perhaps the greatest fine-dining deal Texas has to offer. The Quentin Tarantino of chefs
Photo by Katharine Shilcutt Bloody Mary with fresh tomatoes and pickled garden vegetables
As I finished off the last course -- an enormously inventive and surprisingly delicous eggplant beignet with eggplant cardamom ice cream and caramel -- and sipped the remnants of my garden-fresh Bloody Mary while gazing fondly at the rolling pastures and wildflowers just outside, I ruminated on what is a truly and remarkably Texan take on Thomas Keller's French Laundry the Inn at Dos Brisas is, and why it had taken me so long to get there.
To see more photos from the Inn, visit J.C. Reid's photo set.