Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NorCal New Brewery: Greenhouse Restaurant

Tonight I took my wife, Tracy, out for dinner. She made it clear she wanted something light, low-cost and good, then suggested that we check out a new place in town she'd heard about from co-workers. After work we made our way to Greenhouse Restaurant in Roseville, Calif., and were delighted with the menu items (and prices). Greenhouse's focus is serving local, sustainable foods and most of the food is grown (or raised) within 100 miles of their location. When asked if I wanted a drink, I did the obligatory request for their beers on tap. Turned out the local/sustainable trend stopped at the taps, with Bud, Stella, Sam Adams, Wydmer topping the list. In fact, the only regional beer they had was Sierra Nevada. I was discouraged.

Our server then let me know there were two house-brewed beers available, a pale ale and a brown ale. I asked where they were made (they didn't have a visible brewery on site) and she insisted they were made right there, on location. I requested samples of each fully expecting to receive a couple of dump-and-stir beers that weren't worth sampling, but low and behold - these were good! The pale was full-bodied, had a healthy dose of sweetness and nice hops in the end. The brown was actually the beer that impressed me more, a surprise for my palate, it was nothing short of drinkable with very restrained grain astringency and not overly cloying in its sweetness.

Once again I asked our good server if they really brewed the beers on location or simply had a local brewery contract the beers (I've been burned on this before). Again, she insisted and it was necessary for me to check out their kitchen area. I wasn't invited back there, but I figured if I was quick and quiet, I could grab a quick look at the system. Sure enough, there, just to the left as you enter, were a very small mash tun and kettle (may be the smallest commercial brewery I've seen). There were no fermentation tanks and when I broke my own rule and bothered the staff, they were very kind and pointed me to the other end of the kitchen. Yep, as they said, there were two small fermentation tanks (if I had a guess, I'd call this a four-barrel brew house).

I couldn't find out who the brewer was, by name, but before we left I was filled in about the taps I had mentioned earlier. Turns out they're only placeholder beers until they get everything fully operation. Their plan is to have eight beers altogether, six of which will be organic. If the initial offerings are any indication, this place will be a great option for me here in my town.

About the Food

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the food, because it was fantastic. We shared three small plates: pork loin (they even asked how I wanted it cooked, which was a first for me - I asked for the rarest they could serve, which is 165 degrees I was told); scallops for Tracy (they were great); margarita oyster shooters (these were unlike any oyster we'd had before, in a good way).

The menu prices started at five bucks for a light salad (along with other options) and ended at 28 (for their local/sustainable rib eye). On average the dishes seemed to be in the nine to 12 dollar range (the most we paid was 12 bucks).

If you're in the area and like this sort of food, be sure to stop in. I'll be most interested in seeing where the brewery goes and how quickly they pull off the beers that don't match their mission. As they are now, however, the two house-brewed beers are worth finding.