Midway between Houston and Austin, Inn at Dos Brisas is an agricultural utopia. Explore the 300-acre grounds by golf cart or on horseback and serious foodies can tour the organic farm or even hunt for wild game.
When I think of Texas food, 'healthy' is admittedly not the first adjective that comes to mind. Yet at The Inn at Dos Brisas, I could eat salads every day for the rest of my life on the patio of my hacienda and be satisfied. A salad demurely labeled “Our Hand Harvested Greens” on the menu includes nearly two dozen different greens, shaved vegetables, herbs and edible flowers.
Every vegetable here is grown on the resort's 42-acre USDA-certified organic farm and 8,000 square foot geothermal greenhouse. Much of the fruit is from here too – kumquats, figs, strawberries and watermelon. Produce is harvested twice a day, so everything is at the abolute peak of ripeness.
Many items are exclusive to the restaurant, but crops like lettuce, tomato, watermelon, sweet corn and okra are also sold at local farmer's markets and to lucky Houston chefs like James Beard Award-winning Chef Justin Yu at Theodore Rex.
“I always tell people we grow 100 different crops,” Dr. Stephen King who manages Dos Brisas Farms tells me. “And that's an underestimate.” The farm and gardens are the heart of this 300-acre property and they're always working on new projects, like hydroponic lettuce beds.
Dos Brisas isn't a working ranch anymore since they don't have cattle on property, but there are a few hundred chickens for meat and fresh eggs and 20 or so horses in the equestrian center. A morning trail ride is a beautiful way to enjoy the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes and buttercups dotting the fields in spring. My guide was quick to remind me that actually these flowers are all weeds – in the eyes of a rancher, if it's not grass, it's a weed.
Even though they don't have their own cattle, the American wagyu beef served at the restaurant is from Marble Ranch in nearby Iola. Dinner is a splendid affair, beginning with an amuse bouche that showcases spring onions five ways.
“We start with vegetables first here,” Chef Zachary Ladwig tells me. “Then garnish with protein.” He's out in the fields several times a week getting inspiration for a daily evolving menu. Butter-poached flounder topped with a brunoise of early spring vegetables is a highlight and the mint ice cream is such a vibrant green it's hard to believe that it's natural. Ladwig tells me it takes more than a pound of fresh mint to make just one quart of ice cream.
Beverage Manager Rebecca Beaman is just 26 years old, but already a Level II sommelier. We immediately hit it off and bond over our love of champagne. She introduces me to a quite simply delicious Texan pétillant naturel rosé by William & Chris Winery made entirely from Cinsault and Mourvedre. It's refreshing, with rich minerality that's the perfect pairing for Ladwig's bright, produce-driven cuisine.
After a sumptuous dinner under the full moon, I drive my golf cart back to my hacienda, where the luxury only continues. There are four different bath salts with the jetted soaking tub, or I could take a dip in my heated plunge pool outside. One night is clearly not enough and I vow to brave the hot and humid summer to return for watermelon and sweet corn ice cream.