Mary Dumont calls it the “urban concrete problem of a chef.” No matter what restaurant’s kitchen she’s cooking in, she always has a simultaneous desire to be on the farm, to connect with the source of her ingredients. But as she prepares to open her first restaurant, Cultivar, in the renovated Ames Boston Hotel at the end of May, she’s found a solution: A hydroponic farming unit from Freight Farms will be parked on the edge of the restaurant’s patio.
“It’s kind of bridging that gap for me. You want to be outside and growing, but at the same time, the demands of the restaurant are that you have to be there,” says Dumont, who previously helmed the kitchen at Harvest. “Over the course of a year, it can grow an acre and a half of lettuces, herbs, small vegetables and all kinds of things. Almost anything, except for something that’s really tall like corn.”
The resulting harvest, whether it’s microgreens or 5-inch-tall baby carrots, will be incorporated into Cultivar’s menu, which will include crudos, local wild fish such as striped bass, vegetable-oriented
dishes such as burrata with grilled radishes and dry-aged meat programs for lamb and grass-fed beef. Most housemade pastas, like the nettle bucatini, will feature a product that has been harvested or foraged.
“A lot of dishes are like that. We’re bringing in what we’re growing and can forage. And we’re using the producers who are around here,” Dumont says. “[The Freight Farm] is a little one, so we can’t grow everything out of there. The intention is to grow more specialized things in there and compensate with the use of other farms and other producers.”
Harvested products will also play a role in the cocktail program from Dan Lynch, who will use a lot of house-grown herbs in drinks and emphasize small-batch gins. There will be seating for 14 at the bar, which is separated from the nearly 95-seat dining room by a 12-seat communal table. The upstairs space—overlooking the Old State House—will hold 100 for private dining, and another 40 can fit on the first-floor patio, decked out with couches, fire tables, planters and a 54-inch glass wall erected to protect the space from wind. At the far end of the patio will be the mobile farm, which will be put in place with a crane a few weeks after the restaurant opens.
“It’ll be a sort of backdrop for the patio. It has wood on the outside, and you can grow on the top of it, which is awesome,” Dumont says. “The bottom line is to close the loop in the growing cycle and be in contact with every part of the guest’s food experience. We’re the ones who are planting it, growing it, harvesting it, bringing it into the restaurant and then presenting it to the guest.”
Cultivar Ames Boston Hotel, 1 Court St., Boston (617-979-8203) cultivarrestaurant.com