Eat This

Chef’s Garden is Centerpiece of Downtown Restaurant

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Just last week I met a chef from the hot DC restaurant Poste Moderne Brasserie when he was volunteering at the Washington Youth Garden and he invited me to come see their courtyard garden.  Coincidentally, I worked in this historic building back in the '70s but hadn't seen it since its conversion to a luxury hotel and this upscale restaurant.  The last time I saw this space it was hot, barren and unused.  Now it's filled with not just a kitchen garden but also a comfy-looking lounge area, outdoor kitchen and bar, and this inviting dining table.

If you agree with me that the best gardens are filled with people, you'll like this part, about how the "Chef's Garden" is used.  Every Thursday an intimate group goes with executive chef Rob Weland to the farmer's market just a block away, where he chats up farmers and buys dinner.  Then back to the restaurant for a five-course meal "showcasing local and artisanal products", served in the garden.  Another popular event is the "Poste Roast" for 6 to 12, a meal built around the fresh-roasting of the animal of your choice. And all sorts of private affairs, too. 

It's nicely evoking those scenes in French and Italian movies of leisurely, sometimes riotous meals on long outdoor tables with wine bottles everywhere.  Somebody, invite me!

Fullscreen capture 5192010 55723 PM-1

Photo of Rob Weland by Michael Harlan Turkell.

Asked about his history as a gardener, Chef Rob claims he didn't know what he was doing five years ago  when he started gardening here, so he's learned along the way.  Previously he tended a roof-top herb garden at one of his culinary gigs in New York City, but it took moving to D.C. (when his wife got a State Department job) to turn him into a serious gardener.  Rob's an interesting guy (drummer in a rock band, road bike racer, brand new dad) and here's a  nice profile of him.

But back to the garden.  New this year are fruit trees, and he's planning a Three SistIMG_8647ers garden next.  He thinks the secret to the garden's success is its serious composting system – 6 bins' worth. 

Chicago-Style

I was telling Rob about another type of city restaurant garden – the one behind the home of Chef Rick Bayless in Chicago.  Gardenbloggers visited during their meet-up last year and the photo below shows not Bayless himself but his hired gardener telling us all about it.  For more photos of the Bayless garden I recommend the Flatbush Gardener's photo set

By the way, Bayless
was all over the news this week due to his guest-chef gig for a state dinner at the White
House.  So far, no word of any social-climbing intruders this time.

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Posted by on May 21, 2010 at 4:38 am, in the category Eat This.
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11 responses to “Chef’s Garden is Centerpiece of Downtown Restaurant”

  1. What’s with the freaky photo-stamping in Turkell’s shot of Weland?!

  2. greg draiss says:

    very cool

    The TROLL

  3. Michelle says:

    LOL, I was about to ask the same question, but you beat me to it Xris. It’s a comically poor failure to deceptively make those rows of veggies look loooooong.

  4. Michelle says:

    . . .otherwise, though, wow, I would love to eat there! Thanks for the great article.

  5. That’s about as local as local food can get. You can garnish your own dishes without getting up :-)

  6. This fab restaurant also uses locally grown cut flowers for it’s indoor decor. Wollam Gardens in VA provides them with the most beautiful cut, seasonal flowers around. All restaurants-especially those that promote Eating Local should buy locally grown flowers as well.

  7. Ficurinia says:

    Seeing these stories makes my heart happy. Seriously happy!

  8. Liza says:

    I love it – anything that gets people interested in eating fresh veggies is great in my book.

  9. Laura Bell says:

    Love this idea !

  10. John says:

    Of course Rick Bayless has a hired gardner. There is no possible way he could grow that beautiful garden and run his restaurant and media empire. Still, you’ve gotta admire the man.

  11. I so agree with Local Color Flowers that loca-vore and mainstream restaurants should extend that local-food-sourcing principle to their flowers and plantings. My biggest pet peeve is going in and seeing a single florist carnation at each table. Every farmers mkt here has someone selling locally grown bouquets and single stems – not hard to source. In winter, go with cut branches or potted plants – sedums, mini conifers, ferns, etc.

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