Sure, you’ve heard of farm-to-table, but how about Roof to Plate?
While rooftop bars have proliferated in recent years, more and more restaurants are greening the roofs of their buildings with kitchen gardens, which allows even the most city-centered restaurants to grow their own ingredients. In Washington, D.C., the new Bidwell restaurant launched its roof-to-table garden this summer with more than 70 vertical growing towers that reach heights of 6 feet. The harvest supplies about 60 percent of the kitchen’s needs and is used in everything from goat-cheese-stuffed zucchini blossoms to mojitos. Homestead on the Roof in Chicago hosts an 80-seat rooftop patio next to a 1,000-square-foot garden that’s divided into boxes, beds and wall planters; it supplies about 50 percent of the restaurant’s vegetables. Atop the 20th floor, the Waldorf Astoria New York hosts nine raised planting beds, six fruit trees, numerous plant pots and six beehives — all of which supply raw ingredients for dishes and cocktails in the hotel’s three restaurants as well as in treatments at the spa. A pioneer among urban farmers, Noble Rot in Portland, Ore., harvests seven months of the year from its 3,000-square-foot rooftop organic garden that provides on-site produce.
What started at Next in Chicago three years ago has expanded nationally: prepaying for your dinner reservation. The system protects the restaurant against loss when diners don’t show. Of course, only the most high-profile places can afford to turn away business, making the system a clue to quality — or at least crowds. Newcomers include Volvér from chef Jose Garces in Philadelphia, Prix Fixe in Melbourne, Australia and Elizabeth in Chicago.