“Love Your Vegetables” was Chef Zachary Ladwig’s note on the menu I received as a going away gift on my last day at The Inn at Dos Brisas. I had asked for the menu so I could relive, as much as that’s possible, the magnificent brunch I had enjoyed there a few days earlier. And, yes, I did love my vegetables in a whole new way after dining at The Inn’s restaurant—the only Forbes Five Star restaurant in Texas and home to 42 acres of USDA-certified organic farmland and a 7,000 square foot greenhouse.
Beginning with a “Hand Harvested Greens” salad composed of fifteen different Dos Brisas lettuces, herbs, and flowers dressed with Meyer lemon vinaigrette and moving on to Organic Sunchoke Tortellini in a broth of the morning’s harvest of young root vegetables, brunch continued with a Dos Brisas hen egg, sous vide cooked to perfection, panko crusted, and served in a foraged mushroom ragout. Like this brunch, every meal took full advantage of the Inn’s fruits, vegetables, and farm-raised chickens, along with the combined talents of Executive Chef Zachary Ladwig and Dr. Steven King, General Manager of Dos Brisas Farms. (Be sure to check out their new spring menus.)
Dr. King holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology from Cornell University and serves as an Associate Professor in Texas A&M’s Horticultural Science Department, and his commitment to sustainable organic farming is obvious. With Dr. King and Chef Ladwig, I walked through rows of broccoli, radishes, and turnips, tasting just picked kohlrabi and baby Brussels sprouts. Their unique working relationship contributes to the extraordinary level of dining at the Inn. To further that mutual understanding, they regularly have members of their staff spend a day “on the other side of things,” that is, cooks work at harvesting, and farm employees work with the cooks in the kitchen.
When we entered a greenhouse full of tomato plants laden with ripening fruits, Dr. King reminded us to value the often misshapen and oddly colored heirloom tomatoes—compared to the uniformly shaped and sized high production supermarket tomatoes. We saw herbs grown from seedlings waiting to be transplanted as well as a variety of leaf lettuce in all shades of green ready to be harvested according to Chef Ladwig’s precise specifications.
“The focus is on the available crops as the menus are planned, not on the meat or protein as is generally the case in restaurants,” according to Chef Ladwig. “Working here as a cook is great training because you learn how to be a chef and work with what you have, creating dishes at a high level. It’s a neat training experience.”
Few restaurants can claim a culinary team consisting of a farmer with a Ph.D., an award-winning General Manager Chef Jonathan Cartwright, formerly of the renowned Kennebunkport, Maine White Barn Inn, and an executive chef trained in Michelin-starred restaurants in New York and London. In addition, their 7,000 bottle wine cellar has received Wine Spectator Magazine’s “Best Award of Excellence,” another reason why the restaurant’s guests include locals from nearby towns in addition to visitors staying at The Inn.
The Inn at Dos Brisas is a member of Relais & Chateaux, an international association of hotels and restaurants that champions gracious living, culinary expertise, and preservation of local culture and diversity. The Inn’s owner, Doug Bosch, is the west coast delegate for Relais & Chateaux, underscoring his commitment to the organization’s goals of sustainability, conservation, and respect for nature’s gifts. As a working ranch, organic farm, and intimate getaway, The Inn at Dos Brisas provides not only a luxurious experience but one that celebrates its location in the foothills of Texas Hill Country.
As befitting an Inn in Texas, there are horses—in fact, one of the largest equestrian facilities in Texas. Basic and advanced horseback riding lessons are available, and guided trail rides are a favorite of guests as well. Sampson, the Inn’s half-Clydesdale, takes visitors on carriage tours of the grounds for a romantic experience. I enjoyed seeing the graceful creatures during my morning walk, and I even got a friendly greeting as I approached the fence near their stable.
Guests can choose other activities such as hiking through the Inn’s three hundred plus acres, fishing, biking, tennis, spa treatments, wine tasting, or informal lessons on organic gardening. With the Inn’s remote location, dark skies encourage stargazing, and binoculars are available at the front desk for that purpose. From March to the end of May, when we visited, you'll find Dos Brisas awash in colorful beauty with the Texas wildflowers. You can also take a complimentary drive in one of the new BMW 7000 series demo cars that are on property to explore the scenic Texas countryside.
Staying in one of the Inn’s five haciendas was as exciting as dining in their restaurant. The 1800 square foot home was exquisitely furnished and featured a living room and bedroom fireplaces and an expansive marble and tile bath with a large tub and separate shower. A screened porch included a very cool bed suspended from the ceiling on thick braided ropes, the perfect spot for swaying to a view of the meadow and pond outside—or stepping out to the private pool and deck. In addition, four smaller casitas are available for guests, creating an intimate experience with only nine accommodations overall, each with a golf cart to make it easy and fun to get around.
This historic property had a role in the Civil War when Union soldiers were held there as prisoners. It also spent time as a cattle ranch before Jennifer and Doug Bosch created their luxurious Inn, sharing its open meadows and peaceful surroundings with their guests.
Upon my departure, Dr. King gave me with a small bag containing several heirloom tomatoes and a head of leaf lettuce with roots still attached. Jonathan Cartwright presented the signed menus from Chef Ladwig, and I learned that the Chef keeps a file of his menus in case a guest asks for a replica of a meal. Although sad to leave, I was happy to look forward to a fresh salad and perhaps a repeat of that brunch on my next visit to The Inn at Dos Brisas.