Photos by Asia Morris.
The first of many to come, Restauration held a dinner party at Organic Harvest Gardens Wednesday night to celebrate their nearly six-month-and-counting relationship with the North Long Beach-based farm space. Restauration’s Executive Chef Philip Pretty and co-owner Dana Tanner introduced the farm and also announced future plans to the press and a slew of loyal patrons, family and friends in attendance.
Set to the sounds of the The Mimosa Jazz Band, guests toured the 1,000-square-foot farm space, sipped sangria and enjoyed oxtail doughnuts, crab deviled eggs, bloody mary oyster shots and later sat down to enjoy a four-course menu starting with a harvest tomato salad, warm octopus Caesar salad, continuing on to a succulent pork tenderloin and finishing with a banana nut cake and s’mores.
The Oxtail Doughnut appetizer.
As the sun began its descent and the surrounding trees became silhouettes, it became difficult to believe we were in the middle of a busy urban area and at the convergence of two major freeways. The sounds of the cars faded away to the clinking of silverware and murmurings of satisfaction as guests bit into tomatoes and other foods grown mere yards from their plates.
Roderick (Rod) Dodd and Adam Romick, two University of California Certified Master Gardeners, established Organic Harvest Gardens in 2012. Their main farm is located next to the 91 freeway and Los Angeles river trail, hidden away behind an apartment building. Just when you think you’ve gotten lost, the dust in the air kicked up by nearby cantering horses clears to reveal a somewhat secret paradise.
“I came down here and I was blown away, and it’s right here in the city,” Pretty said, still expressing a bit of the surprise he’d felt when first setting eyes on the site. “I’ve been here [Long Beach] my whole life and I never knew this stuff existed, so when I came up the first time I was like, ‘This is gold, I’m getting in.’ And as soon as I got in, there were eight plots, I took seven of them. From that point on, we’ve been adding more and more.”
The ingredients tended by Organic Harvest Gardens and used daily by Restauration include herbs such as lavender, mint, sage, parsley, dill and purslane (one of the best tasting garnishes, Pretty said) to long neck squash, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, peppers and even watermelon. Located offsite is also a greenhouse, where the harvest gardens team grows microgreens for the Retro Row eatery.
Executive Chef Philip Pretty in the farm space.
The restaurant visits the garden three times a week and the garden staff drops off produce twice a week, Pretty said, allowing Restauration to source more than 50 percent of its produce from Long Beach. Sometimes it’s a 12-hour work day, but what makes such dedication worth it, is leaving a legacy of culinary creativity behind, only using the best ingredients with the most sustainable practices, as well as setting an example for their team of cooks.
“I think that the legacy of the restaurant needs to be the cooks that we put out and the produce that we get, and outside of that—we have our own fishermen, we have Marin County is where we get all our beef, so it’s all grass-fed, farm-raised—I go to wherever we set up shop with anybody, I go there, I shake hands, I know who I’m dealing with, I think that that’s what keeps me going,” he said.
Starting at the end of this year, the Restauration team will begin transferring their produce to a farm of their own that’s twice the size of the several plots they use at Organic Harvest Gardens, and it’s only one dude ranch over from the site. The restaurant will be able to go from sourcing 65 percent of its produce locally to 100 percent, outside of citrus in the beginning. And with that, Restauration continues to hold one of the few places at the forefront of Long Beach’s farm-to-table movement.
Pretty joined Restauration as its executive chef in 2015 and earlier this year, bought out Rob Robertson to join owner Dana Tanner in guiding the eatery toward using even more Long Beach-sourced seasonal ingredients for its American fare. Notably, they also use beans from Rose Park Roasters for their handmade coffee ice cream.
The Pork Tenderloin with squash, zucchini, sorghum grain, corn, honey glaze and frisee.
“Coming here and physically getting down and picking my basil and planting stuff and learning about true seasons and being a part of that now is amazing,” Pretty said, who was also celebrating his birthday that evening. “I’m 37, so I’m ready for the second chapter of what I feel like Restauration is, [and that’s happening right] now.”
The Banana Nut Cake with white chocolate parfait, flambe green blueberries and sunhcoke ice cream.
Restauration is planning to host farm dinners on a quarterly basis. For more information, visit the website here and Facebook page here. Learn more about Organic Harvest Gardens here and through their Instagram @organicharvestgrdns.