Most of those taking a seat at Rose’s Luxury are unknowingly participating in the latest culinary movement: tapping or building private farms to grow produce exclusively for that restaurant.
The Capitol Hill hot spot started its own farm last year in Hyattsville, Md., just 10 miles outside of the city. The humble plot, which is owned and overseen by Ashby Henderson, grows enough fruits, vegetables and herbs to supplement the menu.
Produce is biked in via messenger and served later that night. Come spring, Rose’s Luxury servers, chefs and other staff will be encouraged to do some of the harvesting themselves.
“We have the ability to control the exact quality of the produce in our dishes,” says owner and chef Aaron Silverman.
Beuchert’s Saloon in Eastern Market has its own farm in Poolesville, Md. Dubbed East Oaks Organics, it provides eggs, chickens, fruits and vegetables for the restaurant. The kitchen is lined with jars of preserved fruits and pickled vegetables from the previous season’s harvest.
The abundance of produce during growing season means diners at Beuchert’s enjoy unexpected specials. “Last summer we had so many tomatoes,” chef Andrew Markert says. “I used the leaves to make pestos and eventually created a special ‘tomato board’ [an assortment of tomatoes prepared in various ways].”
Bidwell Restaurant in Union Market also cultivates its own produce, just in higher pastures using aeroponic planters of tomatoes, melons, lettuce and more.
The advantages of the aeroponic garden are vast: The rooftop setup uses up to 95 percent less water than conventional farming, roots aren’t exposed to pests or pollutants, and, of course, the produce couldn’t be fresher.
“Nothing sees a refrigerator if it doesn’t have to,” says owner-chef John Mooney.
It’s not just restaurants that are reaping what they sow. Frederick, Md.-based Flying Dog Brewery is set to open a new brewery on a hop farm in Loudoun County in Virginia this summer.
At times, though, even the most seasoned farmers can be at odds with nature’s recalcitrant ways.
“You’re at Mother Nature’s whim,” says Kate Lee, garden director for DC Greens, an organization that connects District residents with their food sources. Lee assisted Rose’s Luxury with its plants in the early stages.
So why go through all of the trials and tribulations of sourcing sustainable produce? “Because I believe in it,” says Bidwell’s Mooney. “I just became my own source.”
Rose’s Luxury, 717 Eighth St. SE; 202-580-8889.
Beuchert’s Saloon, 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE; 202-733-1384.
Bidwell Restaurant, 1309 Fifth St. NE; 202-547-0172.
You may also like: