Olmsted offers produce from its back garden directly to the table. And that’s just one of the reasons everyone’s heading to Brooklyn to try out New York’s latest eaterie. Baroque Access fills us in
Recently opened restaurant Olmsted is causing waves on the dining scene, and for good reason. The restaurant, located in Prospect Heights, two blocks from Prospect Park, uses produce, herbs and spices from their garden in the backyard. But that’s not all. The dishes are all unique takes on usual restaurant fare. Yes, you’ll find asparagus salad on the menu, but how many other places serve it with a wheatgrass aioli? Frozen yoghurt is delicately scented with honey and lavender, a unique combo if ever there was one. And even the cocktails, like the Lavender, are quite unique, a very fascinating concoction of bourbon, herbs de Provence, black walnut and sherry.
The décor is in keeping with the pastoral theme: there’s repurposed wood everywhere you look, and the garden is a highlight of a visit here. Greg Baxtrom is one of the two owners as well as the chef here; he’s spent the past 10 years working in some of the most exciting kitchens imaginable, even going as far afield as Lysverket in Norway to hone his skills. His current home, Olmsted, has been serving up to 50 patrons at a time unique dishes since May this year. Of course, the menu is heavy on the veggies, but with the bounty growing in the back yard, this is to be expected.
The menu is seasonal, the lush garden even has a living wall and the dishes are always delicious, and always unexpected combinations. Greg’s partner is farmer Ian Rothman, who founded Fairweather Farm in Massachusetts and is also renowned as the horticulturalist at New York’s Atera. This isn’t the first restaurant he’s worked with to assist them in going green, and he also worked as a consultant for the farming nonprofit Project EATS. Greg and Ian met at Atera, united with the desire to build a more sustainable food system, their restaurant is the shining result.
The front of the restaurant is deceptively simple. The storefront is modest – the backyard garden is very much the highlight; here you’ll find six outdoor benches arranged in a U-shape around the perimeter of a tiny urban farm. Patrons sit on cushions sipping orange wine, nibbling fried pickled fiddlehead ferns or puffy chips made of crawfish. The garden is the theater and the dishes produced from its array of greens is quite astonishing. Once you’ve had your cocktails and snacks, it’s time to head indoors to enjoy the main attraction, the food.
Part of the luxury of Olmsted is the price of the food – it’s really inexpensive, despite its creative flair. And it’s refreshingly simple, too. Sample watermelon sushi, thin slices of Long Island fluke served and paper-thin rounds of confit lemon wrapped around tiny sticks of watermelon. The secret is in the thin layer of herb oil that’s infused with clippings from the back garden.
The menu is seasonal, but a strong favorite is the gazpacho, one of Olmsted’s signature dishes. Unlike the red Spanish version, this one is created using green radish tops and potato. It’s poured for you at your table over pickled slices or radish and accompanied by a cloud of lemon foam. Sheer bliss.
The menu is tapas-style, with lots of small dishes that are ideal for combining, sharing or sampling. Do try the homemade pretzel rods wrapped in prosciutto – a real treat. Main dishes abound, and there are daily specials, too, but what is the secret to Olmsted’s success is taking a few well chosen ingredients and combining them with a simplicity and ease that lets you savor the food in its entirety.