The Not-So-Secret Garden: Six Houston Restaurants That Grow Their Own Grub
In this week's cafe review, I take a look at Coltivare, the new restaurant from Revival Market's Ryan Pera and Morgan Weber. The small but alarmingly busy spot has been getting a lot of buzz not just about the unique Italian-inspired menu, but also about the ample backyard garden that supplies much of the restaurant's produce.
Photo courtesy Coltivare While eating on Coltivare's back patio, you might catch a chef picking produce from the garden.
Back before the restaurant opened, I was treated to a media preview dinner at Coltivare. After trying a few dishes, I was taken into the backyard to see the garden. It was already dark, but in the light from nearby street lamps, I could see tiny buds poking out of rich soil.
Coltivare's public relations manager Geralyn Graham took me around the various raised beds, pointing out what each newly sprouting sliver of green would become. It was January and still quite chilly, but I could already picture how lush the garden would become under Houston's warm spring sun.
Flash forward to April, and Coltivare's back patio area is in full bloom. Vines snake up the fence surrounding the property and bushy mint plants sway in the breeze as cars speed down White Oak. Inside, the menu reflects the abundance of produce, as well as the seasonally rotating plants in the garden. There's no need to ask if something is fresh or where it comes from. You can see it with your own eyes.
Photo courtesy The Grove Sunset over the rooftop garden at The Grove
Though Coltivare isn't a full-on masterpiece in my book just yet, the small restaurant has a lot going for it, and one of the biggest draws is that lovely garden. It's not the only Houston restaurant growing food on-site, however. Here are a few other eateries in town where the food is fresh as can be.
Haven was one of the first local restaurants to receive praise for its use of ingredients grown on-site. Thanks to the dedication of chef/owner Randy Evans, the garden has evolved since the restaurant opened in 2009 to include 10 citrus trees in addition to numerous herbs and greens. There's even a stacked hive full of bees that produce honey for desserts and a few select dishes using pollen from the plants in the garden. A manager tells me they just harvested most of what was in the garden (carrots, radishes, cauliflower, lettuces), but they're getting ready to replant it with summer produce. Some of the herbs and veggies in the garden are also used at Cove, the raw bar inside Haven, but most of it ends up on tasting menus or special dishes at the Evans's restaurant.
The garden at The Grove isn't even on the ground floor--it's one story above on a second floor patio. The space, which is about 2,700 square feet, currently features strawberries and herbs like mint, rosemary and oregano, all of which make their way onto diners' plates at The Grove. There's even an active beehive in the garden, which allows the bees to gather pollen from the plants and chefs to gather honey from the bees. The list of specials at the restaurant is ever-changing to reflect what's ripe in the garden. Look for tomatoes during the summer and herbs, herbs and more herbs the rest of the year.
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