In our new feature, area growers introduce their gardens. This week Melissa Metz, garden manager for Sunny Point Cafe, tells us about the restaurant’s garden.
Mountain Xpress: Tell us about your garden:
Metz: The Sunny Point Cafe garden is located behind the restaurant at the corner of Haywood Road and State Street. It is less than half an acre, filled with raised beds and trellised gardening.
We started on the model of a potager, the French term for a kitchen garden that is located close to where the cooking is happening so that cooks can step out and snip fresh herbs or grab some greens for the evening salad.
What makes your garden unique?
We try to provide an edible oasis in the hustle and bustle of town. Everything that is harvested from our garden goes directly to the kitchen staff. Where the gardeners wield a shovel and spade, the kitchen, in turn, wield their knives to transform the garden goods into food on the plate. It’s a great symbiotic relationship.
Many restaurants, including Sunny Point, support local farms and purchase a great deal of local produce — a very necessary and excellent movement that has grown abundantly in our area. I hope our backyard can serve as a small snapshot of the greater food movement. Not only is it educational and important to discuss food issues and to talk about growing food, but it can be aesthetically pleasing, as well!
What do you grow?
The rainbow of crops runs the gamut from dinosaur kale, gherkin cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes to okra, beans and zinnias. We try to fit as much as we can in our little urban farm, where veggies and flowers align as happy neighbors. We also attempt to seek out unique varieties to add visual interest to both the garden and plate.
What has the garden added to the restaurant?
Besides a positive riot of color and activity and a source of extremely local and organic produce for the kitchen, the garden is a point of pride for the entire Sunny Point staff.
I think people are thrilled to see how the space is being utilized. Gardens come in many forms, all sorts of shapes and sizes, but the important thing is that gardens make one’s heart sing. For the people who make them, tend them, or just walk about them, it brings a sense of joy. Urban farming allows us to embrace the wonderful ethos of traditional farming, without leaving the city limits.
What’s you favorite dish to make, straight from your garden?
Here’s one with a seasonal swing, as rhubarb should be ready soon.
Strawberry salad with local goat cheese and a rhubarb vinaigrette:
For the salad:
6 cups fresh spring greens (baby spinach, arugula, deer tongue lettuce)
3 cups sliced ripe strawberries
6 ounces fresh local goat cheese
For the vinaigrette:
1 small shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup thinly sliced rhubarb stalk
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1/2 cup rice bran oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1. To make the vinaigrette, place shallot, rhubarb, honey and water in a small sauce pot and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook until rhubarb just begins to break down. Remove from heat and cool.
2. Add raspberry vinegar, mustard, oil, salt, and pepper to the rhubarb mixture and puree until smooth using a stick blender.
3. Wash greens and pile in a large bowl.
4. Place sliced strawberries in a small bowl and toss with 1/2 cup vinaigrette.
5. Top with crumbled goat cheese and serve with Salted Lavender Shortbread.