There’s some pretty cool stuff happening on St. John. Today we’d like to tell you a bit about the rooftop garden at Extra Virgin Bistro. It’s the only one of its kind in Cruz Bay, and I have to say, it’s pretty neat. Andrea Milam stopped by the restaurant recently to check it out. Here is her story:
Fresh is on the Menu at Extra Virgin
By Andrea Milam
Land is at a premium on St. John, which means fresh, locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be hard to come by. Extra Virgin Bistro is tackling this issue by going up. The restaurant’s flat rooftop is now home to countless potted plants and raised planter beds where restaurant staff grows and tends to tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and zucchini flowers, peppers, lettuce, carrots, beets, radishes, pineapples, watermelon, pomegranate, limes, avocadoes, several varieties of rosemary, parsley, mint, tarragon, dill, and much, much more.
You’ll find something from the garden on Extra Virgin’s menu every single day. Sometimes it’s a rooftop garden salad featuring greens and produce grown on site. Tarragon is used in their short rib dish, and herbs from the roof are often used as garnishes or in cocktails. On the day I visited to tour the garden, fresh harvested pumpkin flower was used as a textural element to accompany a seared foie gras dish. Hot sauces are made from chilis and banana peppers grown at Extra Virgin, and can be purchased by contacting the restaurant’s Facebook page. Getting hungry yet?
Extra Virgin has gained quite a following in the nearly three years they’ve been open, and the addition of a beautiful, carefully tended garden where they can source fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs to add to their menu items makes for a really special experience, especially on an island where good, fresh produce is so highly coveted.
“It makes our menu a little different,” says Extra Virgin owner Ryan Costanzo. “We can grow specialty carrots that you can’t get from purveyors down here, or rainbow radishes, and we can grow our own microgreens.”
Ryan and his team actually started the garden before the storm hit, and surprisingly it held up reasonably well. In the weeks after Irma, when there wasn’t much restaurant business to be had, they took the opportunity to build it up and expand.
“We were sitting here for a couple of months with no business, no power, nothing to do,” Ryan says. “My dad’s porch had exploded so I said, ‘Let’s grab that wood and build some planter boxes.’”
Ryan also designed and installed an irrigation system, and they planted flowers to attract bees for pollination. They even ordered ladybugs in the mail, which sounds like a miracle considering how hard it is to find retail outlets to ship to the Virgin Islands, to combat an aphid problem in the garden. The rooftop garden is actually quite a charming space, and Ryan hopes to one day be able to host private dinners up there.
In the meantime, be sure to stop by Extra Virgin for a drink or a meal and see the inventive ways they’ve decided to incorporate that day’s harvest.
How interesting is that??!! Thank you Andrea for sharing such a great story with all of us! Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone! -Jenn