By Aaron de Leon
Several months ago, I was told of a rooftop garden on top of a hotel in downtown Dallas, Texas. Intrigued, I embarked on a quest to locate this garden.
I took a walk one afternoon last fall, stopping at hotels along the way and asking if they had a garden on their roof. My walk was enlightening and enjoyable, yet fruitless in my search for a rooftop garden.
Tired, a little sweaty and even more determined to find the garden, I returned to my office and employed Google to aid my journey. After several minutes of scrolling through the search results, I came upon a promising lead: Pyramid at Fairmont.
After weeks of email communication and calendar jockeying, I was invited to meet with Pyramid’s Executive Chef Brian Armstrong.
Pyramid is a AAA/Four Diamond restaurant & bar located inside the Fairmont Dallas hotel, in the arts district downtown. The hotel itself is a historic icon. Built in 1969, the Fairmont is the only hotel in the arts district.
“Are you okay with bees? Allergic?,” Chef Brian asked me. After my arrival and introduction, we boarded the elevator and made our way to the rooftop terrace. The terrace sits high above the street below, above the hotel lobby, conference and meeting rooms, the several ball rooms and Pyramid restaurant. Towers sit at each end of the terrace containing the 545 guest rooms and suites.
After exiting the double doors from the North tower, we stepped onto the terrace. Directly in front of us, across the terrace was the South tower. To the right, between the towers, was the swimming pool. To the left, I found it: a 3,000 square foot organic garden.
After stopping to smell the mint growing wildly in the first bed, Chef Brian took me to the bees. The Texas Honey Bee Guild has two hives that sit along the east side of the garden section. Two solar panels power a water fountain near the hives for the bees to consume. “We get anywhere from 40 pounds up of honey, per year, depending on how productive the hives are,” he said.
Along with the mint, Chef Brian is growing lavender, wandering jew, strawberries, rosemary, thyme, oregano, multiple peppers, parsley, chives, cilantro and a fig tree. All of which are used in the daily meals prepared by Chef Brian and his staff at Pyramid.
“We use local products whenever possible and ensure our fish, poultry and meats only come from farms practicing humane sustainable farming practices,” he said.
Pyramid partnered with Niman Ranch for their meats. Chef Brian took the time to research and visit Texas farms, careful to choose a partner that met his high standard of sustainable practices. Niman Ranch is a family-owned farm that raises their livestock in a humane and sustainable way to deliver some of the finest tasting meats in the world. “These animals are raised natural, with no antibiotics, no added hormones and on a 100 percent vegetarian diet,” Chef Brian said.
Pyramid orders its Striped Bass from a farm in Danevang, Texas, southwest of Houston. “The fish are raised using no antibiotics, hormones or contaminants and carefully managed from start to finish. The ponds are fed by natural wells providing pristine water for the fish to thrive in. The fish are harvested to order and delivered to us shortly after, providing the freshest product possible,” he said.
Pyramid only uses hand-caught diver scallops and changes its menu seasonally to reflect naturally ripening produce, sourced locally.
After touring the garden, terrace and hotel facilities, Chef Brian took me to Pyramid. There, I was treated to an unforgettable meal of swordfish ceviche tacos, artisan sausage and vegetable broth soup and Pyramid’s signature dish, the Tomahawk Chop — a 32 ounce bone-in rib eye, aged 28 days and carved tableside.
Chef Brian, Pyramid and Fairmont Dallas have gone a long way to ensure their sustainable practices set the bar high. “At Pyramid, we value our role in the health of our environment and guests,” Chef Brian said.
Aaron de Leon is “growing” awareness of the “Farmist” movement via his blog, The Urban Farmist and his weekly LatinaLista columns.