Every chef I’ve ever met speaks about the importance of fresh ingredients and working with what’s in season. What better way to control the quality of what you serve, than to grow it yourself?
Unless you’re a regular, you probably would never know the volumes of produce grown behind one of my favorite restaurants in Cleveland, L’Albatros Brasserie + Bar. A tour of their garden left me hungry for a fresh summer salad and ashamed that I haven’t been taking better care of my own garden!
Chef de Cuisine, Temple Turner was gracious enough to show me around and walk me through what they’re growing, and what they make from their more than modest garden.
The staff works with a gardener, Lois, to plot out their plots and designate the best picking times for things like thyme and basil. Turner says they are trying to get as many greens in the ground as they can fit. They use things like Swiss chard and kale for salad specials.
Their two cascading watercress tables are just amazing. They harvest from there every day for use in Watercress Cesar Salads and for garnish on nearly every other entree.
Fragrant concord grapes cover the back fencing. Turner says they’ll use it in a sorbet, a compote for desserts or a sauce on a protein. Same goes for the bright and bold currants.
About 20% of their produce during high season comes from their own garden, but they’d like it to be more.
“It provides some options when a picky table or diner asks to switch things up. We pick out something from the garden as an alternative, harvest it and cook it on the spot…fresh from the garden,” the chef says.
Peppered throughout the plots are baby strawberry plants. The fruit easily wilts almost immediately after you pick it. So rather than incorporating them into dishes, they’ll offer them up to diners during garden tours. Two or three times a night, guests are brought out into this little oasis after their meal, as a way to showcase what the restaurant does with the space.
Even the flowers you’ll see decorating the bar, dining room and bathrooms come from this same garden
“It was tough to get it off the ground, and coordinate what they could harvest but once that was determined it got easier,” says Turner.
With limited space in the kitchen, trying to coordinate when to harvest and clean large volumes of their own produce in the kitchen is tricky. But when you taste things like this watercress salad, made up on the fly in the L’Albatros kitchen, you’ll see it’s worth it.