January Marks Two Years of Cultivating A Restaurant Garden

By Jennifer Trandell / Photography By Jennifer Trandell & Andrea Weir | January 21, 2016
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The garden that feeds the creativity and diners at Coltivare

At 4:45 on a Sunday evening, the line snakes down the sidewalk from Coltivare’s restaurant doorThe eager patrons stand in anticipation of a locally sourced seasonal menuLending to the excitement is the restaurant’s 3000 square foot garden delivering ambience to the diner.  Coltivare is the Italian word ‘to cultivate or grow.’ For a chef cultivating a restaurant garden, the inspiration for sensational original recipes grows outside the kitchen door.  

When asked how the garden influences the menu, Chef Ryan Pera reveals, “In developing any new dish, I begin the process by talking to both my gardener and local farmers that we use to see what ingredients they have ready to harvest, as well as what ingredients are finished for the season. Then I go to my menuAfter I figure out where to utilize the new, seasonal ingredients in certain menu areas, only then do I begin the creative process of actually building a dish. Over the next few months of winter, garden grown citrus and lemony herbs of basil, verbena and lemongrass will flavor dishes like cool season backyard lettucessides of beets, radishes, or brussel sprouts, and Gulf Coast seafood on pizza or with pasta or potatoesThe unique menu is designed by Chef Ryan Pera to represent locally available fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood. From week to week the menu changes while signature dishes remain.  

Photo 1: Hibiscus sabdariffa, the magenta colored fruit is used in drinks and teas.
Photo 2: Seasonal whole roasted fish seasoned with garlic and herbs.
Photo 3: Table setting.

The garden at Coltivare is truly “labor of love” for Chef Ryan Pera and Cocktail craftsman and co owner Morgan Weber. When constructing the restaurant design, both owners envisioned the outdoor area for a garden with al fresco dining. However, according to the City of Houston’s regulations the land was to be used for patron parking. Pera and Weber began a grassroots campaign in the surrounding community in support of the garden. The goal was to convince the planning board that the space was better utilized as a garden than a parking lot.

After six months of petitions from the community and subsequent negotiations, the City agreed to the green space and the 3000 square foot restaurant garden was born. Designed in collaboration with Edible Earth Resources the distinctly urban edible garden supplies the restaurant with enchanting ambience as well as heirloom vegetables, edible flowers, lettuces, greens, figs, lemons, blood oranges, and year round herbs of sage, parsley, mint, and thymeThis January Coltivare Pizza and Garden celebrate 2 years of serving fantastic local cuisine. Come toast the winter seasonwhile enjoying the company of neighbors, friends, family, and delectable flavors from the restaurant’s thriving garden. 

Coltivare (coltivarehouston.com) opens for dinner at 5 pm everyday except Tuesday. Located at 3320 White Oak DrColtivare does not take reservations

Article from Edible Houston at http://ediblehouston.ediblecommunities.com/eat/january-marks-two-years-cultivating-restaurant-garden
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