Ordering a cocktail at Garrison on Barracks Row is one small way you can help fight food waste. Chef and owner Rob Weland and his team are giving their kitchen scraps a second chance at the bar instead of tossing them in the garbage.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 percent of food in the United States is wasted, and Weland believes chefs have an obligation to reduce waste in their own kitchens. “I think chefs have always been taught that you have to find ways to use things and not fill the pail,” he says.
Each year, Americans throw away the equivalent of $218 billion of food. Restaurants certainly can’t afford to toss profits in the garbage. “The margins are pretty tight. You can’t throw half of your vegetable away, or a third of your vegetable away,” Weland adds.
Environmental concerns are also driving Weland’s food waste crusade, since uneaten food rotting in landfills produces significant amounts of methane emissions.
Since Garrison opened, reducing food waste has been a top priority for Weland in the kitchen. “We’ve always been very careful. We have clear garbage bags for a reason,” he says. “It’s very easy to throw the ends of zucchini away or the trimmings from potatoes, but it’s just a matter of doing the research and really understanding how to refabricate these into something special.”
Recently though, they’ve expanded their efforts by collaborating with the bar team to turn the scraps into cocktails. “We’re doing our best to extract as much as we can from them, because they certainly don’t deserve to be thrown away.”
Bartender Nick Moyer is leading the mixology efforts, working with oft-discarded items like strawberry hulls, tomato cores, and more. Two cocktails on the menu right now incorporate scraps.
“The Peaches en Regalia is a Bourbon cocktail that uses overripe and bruised peaches with lavender, lime juice, and maraschino liqueur,” Moyer explains. He takes peaches that are past their prime and turns them into a purée.
“Summer's Last Hurrah is a gin and tonic made with a watermelon tonic syrup,” he adds. The syrup uses watermelon juice extracted from scraps leftover from the kitchen.
Shrubs (vinegar-based syrups) are another great way to use scraps. The bar team made a strawberry peppercorn shrub from strawberry hulls and a tomato basil shrub from tomato cores and trimmings.
This ingredient-swapping goes both ways—the kitchen will sometimes use leftovers from the bar as well. For example, a fig Manhattan is in the works for the fall, which involves soaking figs in a mixture of bourbon and vermouth. The bartenders will use the infused alcohol to mix a stiff drink, and then Weland will take the boozy figs to create a roasted fig dessert.
Repurposing food waste in drinks and dishes can also serve as a way to educate diners. “It’s a nice story to tell your guests,” Weland says. “I don’t want to get on a pedestal or anything, but if a guest is interested, we definitely want to tell the story.”
Weland explains that it requires a lot of coordination to orchestrate these trades between the bar and kitchen staff. “It’s hard to get everybody in sync,” he says. “Right now we have a lot of good momentum because our brains are on the same wavelength.”
But ultimately, he says it’s worth the effort. “The gift is you’re extracting flavor and getting a phenomenal result.”
Garrison’s Peach Purée
- 1 qt. chopped overripe or bruised peaches
- 1/2 c. raw sugar
- 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1 c. lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. dried lavender flowers
- Let the mixture soak overnight. Purée in a blender and strain.
Garrison’s Peaches en Regalia
- 1 1/2 oz. bourbon
- 1 1/2 oz. peach puree
- 1/2 oz. lime juice
- 1/2 oz. maraschino liqueur
- Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, strain, and pour over ice. Garnish with a lime wheel.