Posted August 7, 2013

Roof-to-Table: The Ultimate in Local Dining

Eat + Drink ALX CHI LA PHL SD DC

I go up where the air is fresh and sweet (up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowd
And all that rat-race noise down in the street (up on the roof)
On the roof, the only place I know
Where you just have to wish to make it so
Let’s go up on the roof (up on the roof)

— The Drifters, 1962

It seems there’s more than a little bit of wisdom in that doo-wop chestnut, and many Kimpton chefs and bartenders are heeding the call to go “up on the roof.” And they’re coming back down with more than just lungfuls of fresh air.

A number of our restaurants have wholeheartedly embraced urban agriculture, growing fruits, vegetables and herbs in rooftop (or patio) gardens for daily use in their kitchens and lounges. And the list of goods they’re growing rivals that of any farmers’ market: carrots, beets, pumpkin, cucumber, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, sorrel, stinging nettle, chamomile, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, mulberries, figs, lettuce, lemons, tomatoes, peppers, sage, parsley, spinach, eggplant, okra, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, chives, leeks, arugula, chard, kale, mint, lavender, grapes, persimmons and crab apples.

This daily dose of freshness is a boon to diners and drinkers, of course, who get to experience produce that never bounced around in the back of a truck or saw the inside of a refrigerator, but it’s also right in keeping with Kimpton’s EarthCare program. It’s a natural extension of our commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices, from composting to offering discounts for drivers with hybrid cars.

Not only do rooftop gardens help reduce temperatures in the concrete jungles of our cities, they also help absorb and slow down rain run-off that can overwhelm sewer systems. And in many of our gardens, the containers used are recycled materials ranging from plastic juice jugs to pickle barrels. At San Diego’s Jsix, Chef Christian Graves uses the unique VEG (Vertical Earth Garden) system. The tubular structures are hydroponic, requiring no soil, but still use 80 percent less water than a conventional garden.

Chef Dennis Marron of Poste Moderne Brasserie.

Other Kimpton properties that are flexing their green thumbs include: Chicago’s South Water Kitchen and 312 Chicago; Urbana, Bar Rouge and Firefly in D.C.; and Square 1682 in Philadelphia.

Rooftop greenery has been around since the days of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But here’s to the new wave of chefs and bartenders who are creating wonders of their own … up on the roof.

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