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Mothers Touch

Two moms strive to turn The Edible Garden into an organic food haven.

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B — Neither of them is a chef.

C — Food from their garden, only recently planted with vegetables and herbs, is not yet edible.

Their main qualifications are a passion for good food, which Goldstein developed living in Manhattan and Berkeley, and Harris while summering in Vermont (it's not just Ben & Jerry's up there).

To offset their shortcomings, Harris and Goldstein buy from some of the best local food purveyors and until they can find a permanent chef they have employed a Swiss-trained consulting chef, Tanya Cauthen, formerly of The Red Oak Cafe in Manakin and The Frog and the Redneck.

While The Edible Garden may never become an East Coast version of Waters culinary shrine in Berkeley, with its emphasis on organically grown food, it has the potential for becoming a pleasant refuge from the suburban sprawl of Goochland County.

Dinner service began April 1 (lunch in mid-February), so there are still plenty of kinks to be ironed out, in food preparation, service and pricing. A slow-roasted pork chop was chewy, belying its pedigree from the Double A Farm in Yale, Va., which boasts that its pigs are raised without antibiotics, to produce well-marbled chops that "taste like pork is supposed to taste."

A lean New York strip steak, from grass-fed cattle on Collins and Ramona Huff's Gryffon's Aerie in Gordonsville, is served only medium rare. If you want it cooked otherwise, you must go elsewhere.

A dish that comes closest to the restaurant's goal of serving quality, locally grown or organic food is a pan-roasted, free-range, moist chicken stuffed with goat cheese, topped with a generous amount of pesto served on a bed of wild rice and string beans.

The menu is limited to the extreme — four entrees plus a soup, salad and appetizer at dinner, and even fewer choices at lunch.

Entrees are $20 to $28, which is not out of line unless you want a salad. Then the only choice is to spend $7 for a variety of greens, albeit topped with roasted beets, goat cheese and walnuts, which looks and tastes like a pre-washed, plastic-wrapped mix from Ukrop's.

At lunch, the entrees came with a salad that tasted more like field greens, adorned with large chunks of artichoke hearts and penne pasta. Also at lunch, a zucchini quiche with bacon achieved the goal of offering fresh, locally grown vegetables. The creamy-textured quiche was a standout with large slices of zucchini and crisp bacon chunks.

A black bean soup was watery and slightly bland, but enhanced with bits of tomato and onion.

A roasted chicken sandwich with brie and bacon, looked more grilled than roasted, and was a bit dry.

Desserts, made in-house, vary depending upon available ingredients. An innovative scone contained dried fruit, strawberry preserves and whipped Devon cream. Homemade vanilla ice cream rescued a Southern pound cake from dryness.

A spare wine list offers four bargain-priced bottles at $20 and $21, but it has its own quirk, noting that the price "includes corkage." Of course it does, unless you are in one of those joints where you bring your own.

The good news is that what's wrong about the place can be fixed, and what can't be changed doesn't need to be.

Because the owners insist on a quality of life that balances their business and their families, dinner is served only on weekends.

The restaurant's setting is perfect for a summer evening, whether indoors in the cheery, 16-seat rear dining room or outside beneath a green umbrella. If your table doesn't have fresh flowers when you arrive, the waitress may pick some for you.

The main building formerly housed The English Garden, a teahouse that closed last November, and before that, an ornamental garden shop. The kitchen is in a separate cottage at the rear. Both shingled-roof buildings are vine covered and surrounded by flowers, giving the place a feel of the English countryside. S



The Edible Garden
12506 River Road
784-2011
Dinner, Friday and Saturday, reservations taken for 6 - 8 p.m.; Lunch, coffee, baked goods and carry-outs 10 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.




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