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Roof garden at Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills helps Blue on Blue dishes bloom
Read past the organic yogurt parfait with "La Brea granola," and the menu at the restaurant Blue on Blue at the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills lists a golden beet salad with "Roof-top" arugula, English pea soup with "Roof-top" mint, and house-made pasta with black trumpet mushrooms and peas infused with a "Roof-top" lemon balm oil.
There is no farm called "Roof-top," and there is no farm on the restaurant's roof -- at least not technically. But climb the stairs through the back of the hotel, step out onto the flat gravel roof and you'll find five EarthBoxes, self-watering plastic planters about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide and 1 foot deep.
They're planted with various micro-greens, strawberries and tomatoes -- all of which will make it into executive chef Scott Garrett's kitchen. It's not exactly a flourishing edible wonderland, but give it a few years and it just might be.
"We're not growing enough to supply the entire restaurant, but this is a place to start," Garrett said. "For now, if I could finish every dish with something from the garden I'd feel pretty good about it."
The fledgling rooftop garden is the brainchild of Ryan Hoffman, the 24-year-old general manager of Blue on Blue. Hoffman, who had no experience growing vegetables in containers or anywhere else, did 10 months of research before submitting a proposal for the rooftop garden to the general manager of the hotel.
In this economy, Hoffman said he had no expectations that the Kor Hotel Group, which owns the Avalon and other properties, including the Viceroy hotels in Santa Monica and Palm Springs and the Tides in Miami Beach, Fla., would invest heavily in his garden experiment. But he did persuade the firm to give him $550 to buy the four EarthBoxes, some soil and fertilizer, three dozen plants and $30 of pipe to get irrigation up to the roof.
Then one day in early September, he put in 17 hours of work -- a morning shift at the restaurant and a planting session that lasted until midnight. Blue on Blue's rooftop garden was born.
So far Hoffman has bought all his seedlings from Jimmy Williams of Hayground Organic Gardening, which sells at the Hollywood and Santa Monica farmers markets. "Their nursery is on a rooftop in Hollywood, so we thought if it could grow there it could grow here," Hoffman said.
He has chosen plants that would lend themselves to garnishes -- mâche, basil and mint -- and Garrett has happily found ways to use whatever is grown. For a recent tasting menu, he sprinkled small purple basil flowers over pork chicharron with grits. (The herb's leaves were past their prime, but no reason not to use the flowers!)
And how will this garden grow? Hoffman has invited his garden guru, Darren Butler, to teach a three-day course at the restaurant on how to grow food in small spaces. The class is 7 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 21 and 28 and March 7. Hoffman said the cost is $150 per person, but free to low-income participants. Information: (310) 407-7791.
For more photos of the rooftop garden, look for the gallery posted with this article at latimes.com/home.