Located between Houston and Austin in the expanse of cattle pastures and springtime bluebonnet wildflowers, The Inn at Dos Brisas is more than just a place to “relax and be at one with nature.”
“If you find anything out there on the farm tour, bring it back and we’ll work it into tonight’s menu,” says Zachary Ladwig, Chef at Texas’ only Forbes Five Star restaurant, The Inn at Dos Brisas. Set across 313 acres, this Spanish hacienda-inspired spot is where Ladwig and his colleagues exemplify the farm to table concept for all of Texas. Not only can you eat an elegant, expertly composed salad garnished with microgreens (hand-selected fresh not more than a few hours prior to serving), visitors are also invited to pick their own addition to lunch or dinner, should they want to.
Beyond the stylish, dark-wood-accented haciendas with their own heated plunge pools, equestrian center and Texas’ only Forbes Five-Star rated restaurant, Dr. King, the farm superintendent with a degree in plant breeding and genetics, is tasked growing all that Ladwig needs to compose his increasingly creative menus. “Zach is always asking for new things and I’m always up for giving it a try,” says Dr. King on a tour of the grounds, pointing out watermelon remnants and the flourishings of a new winter vegetable patch, alongside the two Great Pyrenees dogs (Hank and Bear) tasked with keeping the deer away from the Swiss chard.
In any one year, 150 crops are organically grown on the farm at Dos Brisas: from thirteen varieties of lettuce grown in a hydroponic greenhouse and then picked three times daily for perhaps the freshest salad in Texas served up by Ladwig at The Inn, to a variety of melons, persimmons, countless microgreens and twelve varieties of tomato housed in a sci-fi feeling hot house. Even flowers planted by the landscapers don’t go to waste when Ladwig feels a creative whim coming on.
“I pick the best greens and spend a lot more time trying to choose the best leaves for Zach,” says Greenhouse Manager Jordan Doria. “It’s a lot of care and attention that goes into even sourcing the delicate little micro green leaves for Chef to garnish with.” he says.
The proof, of course, is in the eating. “I don’t write my menu down until I’m in the field looking, tasting, and feeling - then I use what we have,” says Ladwig. Unerringly seasonal and prescriptively imaginative owing to the daily challenge of “making something with what you have,” Ladwig’s dishes can change daily to accommodate for what is harvested fresh on that same day. This includes poultry, also kept on the farm at Dos Brisas - though the menu is weighted heavily towards a cornucopia of veggies.
A standout is a re-worked Caesar, using local red snapper from the Gulf in lieu of anchovies, broccoli florettes, wood sorrel (for a hint of citrus) for the dressing, served atop a single line of broccoli stalk with parmigiana, pretty nasturtiums and crostini. Or now one of Chef’s tried-and-tested favourites, chicken steamed on a bed of hay (sourced from the property), in a castiron pot that is lined and sealed with brioche. Even Ladwig’s “simple crab-melt sandwich” picnic lunch is a dramatic affair, served on sourdough with avocado, finely sliced, pink-hued radishes, and a generous sprinkling of microgreens.
In a bid to tackle waste and share the farm-to-table concept with other Texan locals, all produce that is not needed by Ladwig is taken to Houston’s bi-weekly farmer’s market, planting the seed for sustainable dining way beyond this here hacienda.