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!
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.
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.