The restaurant at the Shadow Lakes Golf Course is going the extra mile to bring the freshest produce to its customers by growing vegetables, fruits and herbs on site in a plot next to the restaurant.
First Tee Host Peter Van Hook came up with the idea for the garden as a way to make Shadow Lakes’ restaurant stand out from the crowd.
“There are so many advantages to growing our own produce,” Van Hook said. “These victory gardens are beginning to become in vogue because this is the easiest way to supply the freshest ingredients possible. The food we serve here is already delicious, but the fresh ingredients bring something special that you won’t find at any other golf course. It’s also healthier to eat fresh produce, so there wasn’t a reason not to do it.
“When I first brought up the idea last year, people thought I was a little loopy, and it took some convincing, but once I got them to realize that the garden would be beneficial on multiple levels and that I would maintain it, it was just a matter of prepping the land to get things ready. We did a trial garden last year, but it was a disaster because the soil wasn’t right, but we changed the soil and now the garden is flourishing.”
Not only will the fresh produce enhance the flavor of the foods served at the restaurant, but growing its own ingredients will also save the restaurant money. That was all it took to bring Operations Manager and Sales Director Tim Eldridge on board.
“My initial response was ‘how much is this going to cost?’” Eldridge said. “He (Van Hook) came to me with this idea in January, which is the off-season for us and money is a little tighter, but this garden will pay for itself by the end of the year. We are already seeing results and are using fresh herbs, and the tomatoes will be ready within a week.
“This is a really nice change. We’re trying to do something different, and as far as I know, we are the only club in the area growing our own produce. We’re doing what we can to be environmentally friendly as well. There is nothing but positive things to come from this.”
Van Hook’s garden is bursting with heirloom tomatoes, and more ripen each day. The indeterminate plant, which will produce fruit until the first frost of the year, is expected produce tomatoes through December.
“These aren’t tomatoes you’ll find at the grocery store,” Van Hook said. “These are quality tomatoes: Black Krim, Big Rainbow, Tomosa, San Marzano and Brandywine. It’s gourmet, the finest you can get, and we’ll have them throughout the year.”
Chef Victor Napoles said he looks forward to using the tomato crop to make salsa and bruschetta. He also plans to incorporate the fruit into daily specials such as the restaurant’s Tomato Basil Fettuccini.
Sous-chef Regina Mopera said she likes to use the herbs in salads and soups. Van Hook is growing basil, chives, cilantro and Italian flat-leaf parsley this year, along with red and green jalapeño peppers. He said he hopes to expand the garden next year to include squash, zucchini and more herbs.
“We’re growing the good stuff,” Van Hook said with a laugh. “We’re not messing around with this.”
Baird’s Crossing, located at 401 West Country Club Drive in Brentwood, is open daily for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and for breakfast on Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Happy Hour is from 3 to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, call 925-516-2837.