Food for Thought

A restaurant with earth thoughts: The green heaven of Haven

A restaurant with earth thoughts: The green heaven of Haven

Haven celebrates on April 21 with a special Earth Day Wine Dinner that includes a feast from executive chef Randy Evans’ farm-to-fork menu and sustainable wines from Parducci and Paul Dolan Vineyards. But then again, every day is Earth Day at Haven.

The charming 5,200-square-foot LEED certified green restaurant has an environmentally friendly design created by Collaborative Projects’ Jim Herd, Geoffrey Brune and Melanie Pereira that features open ceilings, minimal finishes, repurposed wood and kitchen appliances and energy-efficient lighting. During the summer the restaurant’s overhangs, floor-to-ceiling green screens and fast-growing shade trees help reduce air conditioning use.

Which, by the way, is provided via two inflatable ductsox that disperse chilled or heated air evenly. Evans says the utility bills are about half of what they would be with a regular restaurant.

But that’s not all. Evans creates his menu from locally sourced produce. If Monica Pope is the queen of Houston’s Slow Food movement, Evans is the crown prince. And he’s now growing some of his produce.

Gardener Andrew Phlegar and sous chef Kevin Naderi recently gave us a tour of the activity behind the eatery where crews were busy building a garden shed and Phlegar was planting, well, just about everything.

“Herbs,” says Phlegar, holding up several little pots. “We have three kinds of basil, three types of tomatoes, greens, bell peppers, serranos, habaneros, squash, zucchini and eggplant.” And there are stevia plants, also known as sugarleaf because of the sweet taste. They’ll find their way into glasses of iced tea and the classic cocktails made from Texas liquors. All this bounty is being planted into the four-by-60-foot bed lined with cedar logs from Cat Spring. And it will be watered from a 500-gallon cistern that catches rainwater off the pitched roof of the restaurant.

Those decorative pots by the front door harbor bay trees and the area around the parking lot has baby orange and lime trees coming up, while Pleasant Hill grapes cling to the chain link fence separating Haven from McGonigel’s Mucky Duck next door.

Respect The Pig Gods

There’s something else hung along the fence behind the garden as well. Three pig skulls glistening in the morning sunshine. Skulls that will soon be joined by more of their brethren.

“Randy gets whole hogs from Harrison Hog Farm,” Naderi explains. “He slaughters them here and I get to cook down the heads.” Say what? “I make head cheese! It’s really, really good.”

Lest you think head cheese is that nasty lunchmeat from a cellophane package, you should trust the sous chef on this and try some of his. I did. It’s a delectable and creamy meat, which has now joined the list of things I never thought I would eat but do.

So, in using the entire pig, it makes sense that the skulls wind up as garden décor. And when the garden is finished it will supply about 150 pounds of produce this year. Eventually it will also sport a few tables for garden parties where guests can enjoy the atmosphere while imbibing in the bounty and sipping some of the creative cocktails infused with the produce. Surely the pig gods will smile down on such an endeavor.

Haven may just be the most Earth friendly spot in town. Chef Evans is proud of his creation, although sadly he couldn’t join us for the garden tour. Seems he was a bit under the weather that day. Food poisoning, he told me on the phone.

Seems he’d eaten a late night snack from a fast food joint after work the night before. I guess even the most dedicated greenies among us backslide now and then.

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Haven's 4-by-60-foot bed lined with cedar logs from Cat Spring, watered from a 500-gallon cistern that catches rainwater off the pitched roof of the restaurant Photo by Barbara Kuntz
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Sous chef Kevin Naderi with more seedlings to plant Photo by Barbara Kuntz
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Gardener Andrew Phlegar tends to garden-to-fork plants found throughout Haven's grounds. Photo by Barbara Kuntz
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Naderi cooks down chef Randy Evans' whole hogs from Harrison Hog Farm to make head cheese. Photo by Barbara Kuntz