The term “farm-to-table” jumped the shark a while ago. Still, while most of us probably don’t want to know the name of the chicken we’re eating, à la Portlandia’s “Is it local?” sketch, chef and restaurateur Kristina Evans believes “you have to know who’s growing your food.”
So Evans partnered her Montrose restaurant, Rest Farmhouse Inspired, with tiny Pasadena home farm the Urban Homestead to create genuinely farm-to-table fare. If you haven’t heard of the Urban Homestead, it’s true to its description: “farming in the city on 1/10 acre.”
In 1985, Jules Dervaes, a man passionate about uncorrupted food and living off the land, planted a vegetable garden outside his 1918 Pasadena home on an ordinary suburban street. Over the years the garden grew and the Dervaes family started selling their edible flowers and herbs, keeping chickens and ducks for eggs, installed solar panels, started a CSA farm box program and much more. The homestead became “indirectly self-sufficient,” providing the Dervaes family with everything they needed, either by growing it themselves or selling what they grew. Dervaes died unexpectedly in 2016 but his son Justin and daughters Anais and Jordanne carry on his legacy by continuing the homestead.
The Urban Homestead isn’t open for regular public visits but you can taste the fruits (and vegetables) of its labor at Rest Farmhouse Inspired or at summer dinners on the farm prepared by Evans and the Dervaes family.
Rest Farmhouse Inspired is an adorable seasonal cafe and coffee shop that’s perfectly at home in Old Town Montrose. It started two years ago mainly for Evans to teach cooking classes, but she says the community wanted more so she and co-owner Theresa Rosette became accidental restaurateurs. In line with knowing who makes your food and what’s in your food, Rest Farmhouse Inspired serves delicious dishes with produce from the Urban Homestead and the La Cañada farmers market, as well as salads, sandwiches and bone broth using local pasture-raised organic meat, house-cured maple espresso bacon, toasts that use sourdough or house-made gluten-free bread and tempting sweets that are gluten-free and sometimes vegan and/or paleo. Anais Dervaes of Urban Homestead makes the restaurant’s towering quiches and luscious soups, which always include a vegan option (the $7 creamy carrot soup hit the spot, even on a summer day).
The menu is peasant French-inspired food that’s “genuine and not highly processed,” focusing on what’s growing locally, Evans says.
In this gluten-free era, the restaurant is dedicated to not using any standard wheat flour in the kitchen; it serves fermented sourdough bread from another baker but is careful to avoid cross-contamination. Its gluten-free bread is dense but tasty, made with a house-created fermented fig starter yeast.
If paleo or gluten-free desserts make you roll your eyes, be advised that any eye-rolling here likely will be from pleasure after you try one of the house-made treats. A gooey, buttery, paleo and vegan berry crumble bar ($5.25) is packed with chunky berry jam sweetened with maple syrup and topped with walnut coconut crumble. It tastes like a berry cobbler married a pecan pie and is to-die-for, not just for a paleo dessert but any dessert. The doughnut cake, a chocolate ganache-covered Bundt cake that looks like a giant doughnut, is apparently so good that Evans tells gluten-free skeptics to just try it and if they don’t like it, it's free. “I’ve never had a single person bring it back to me,” she says.
The extensive drinks menu includes Papua New Guinea organic coffee from Montrose-based Food Alchemy and trendy ingredients like grass-fed butter, MCT oil and collagen protein, plus turmeric, matcha and chai lattes made from scratch (no syrups), house-made sodas and tea mocktails.
Rest stocks a grab-and-go fridge and freezer with soups, broths, house-made bacon cheddar spread, kombucha and Coconut Cult, that $20+ coconut yogurt in every wellness blogger’s fridge. Locally made items like Urban Homestead jam and acorn pancake mix are for sale.
After the patriarch Dervaes died, his children scaled back some of the homestead business and put farm dinners on hold. Now they’re back and joined by Rest Farmhouse Inspired.
If you need a summer staycation, turns out you can feel quite away from it all in a Pasadena backyard. The evening begins with hors d'oeuvres and a drink. On the night we visited, Evans whipped up Gruyère-and-greens-topped bread and we sipped a refreshing cucumber lemon basil drink made by Jordanne Dervaes.
The family then led us on a tour of the farm, starting with the front yard, which their father always wanted to be “beautiful year-round.” We smelled fresh-picked herbs and admired a vibrant purple goosefoot plant we’d see later in our dinner salad. Everything is grown organically, Justin says, but the family hasn’t gotten it certified organic — that’s a lot of work and cost for their small operation. The backyard was bursting with growth in planter boxes and along the walls. We spied large squash, thriving blackberries, a tall avocado tree and greens galore, despite the recent heat wave singeing some of the plants.
About 20 of us sat at a long family-style table for dinner and set up our own place setting. The evening is BYOB and BYO plate and utensils. It’s possible our hosts don’t want to wash extra dishes, but Evans says the idea came from a book she liked, A Pig in Provence, in which a community comes together for an annual festival and everyone contributes and brings their own picnic gear. If you don’t bring your own, they will be provided, but this meal is worthy of more than a paper plate and plastic utensils.
Rosemary butter took the bread up several notches until the family-style meal was unveiled. The spread included green beans braised with garlic and tomatoes; tomato basil pasta salad; green salad with arugula, mustard greens and purple goosefoot picked on the farm three hours earlier; roasted farm vegetables and local organic pastured chicken; and a standout vegetarian option of roasted eggplant stacked with tomato and dreamy homemade cashew cheese. Luckily, there was enough for us omnivores to partake of both entrees.
Just like the berry crumble bar at Rest, the warm peach-blackberry cobbler served here for dessert was perfection. A side of fluffy homemade whipped cream was ready for topping.
More farm dinners will be held on July 26, Aug. 9 and Aug. 23, for $125 per person (if booked seven days in advance; $135 less than that) Menus vary depending on what is available at the farm and elsewhere. Reservations must be made ahead of time online at restfarmhouseinspired.com.
Rest Farmhouse Inspired, 2420 Honolulu Ave., Montrose; (818) 369-7040. Open Mon.-Sat., 7 a.m.-4 p.m.